Chapter 2: A Chicken's Tail

At the end of the day Thursday, children in bed, chicken on porch, I realize that cannot load this chicken by myself, so I find myself texting coach something along the lines of, "Hey, can you follow me home from school tomorrow and help me load a six foot metal chicken onto the roof of my van?"

Coach, who began teaching at this school the year before I was born and was probably thinking, "This is the weirdest music teacher yet," is a man of few words who replied merely, "Sure."

I call Kevin, dad of the family we stayed with last year, to ask if he can be my Plan B in chicken loading. He is agreeable.


The next morning, as I drive my family to school in the pre-dawn moments, I find myself seriously wishing I had the chicken already strapped on. Belly down, beak over the windshield, tail held high. A racing chicken. Alas, it was not to be, so I merely went to work.

At some point during the day, Coach did turn to me to ask me just what it was I needed help with, but to his credit, said not a word. Followed me home, loaded up the chicken, strapped 'em down. Mid-hoist, his cell phone rings. He tells his wife, "Uh, I'm helping the music teacher with something. I'll, er, explain it later."

No you won't, Coach. This defies explanation.

Chicken strapped into place, we head down the road. At a light, I text Kevin's wife Mindy, "Tell Kevin 'The Chicken has landed. The Agency thanks for your willingness to participate, but your assistance will not be needed at this time.' "

Mindy, not hip to the mission, wondered why delivering this message through the bathroom door inspired such fits of laughter.

When we stop for gas halfway to grandma's, I check out the straps to make sure, well, that my chicken is choked. Then, about ten miles down the road, the steady rapping of the flapping tarp is suddenly louder. I look out the side window to see the shadow of PennyVann on the shoulder of the road and notice the distinct shape of a flapping tail in the shadows.

I wish I had a video. (Shoot, I wish I had pictures of any of this right now. They're on my phone and HYSTERICAL but technology currently hates me. I happy I can type right now.)

I pull over to the side of the road, unload my foot stool and, there on the side of the lonely West Texas two-lane highway, I use my remaining ratcheting tie-down to batten down the hatchling. As pickup trucks drove by, nobody stopped to help. This in itself is unprecedented.

With no further ado, we arrive at Grandma's to gather her and daddy, who are probably rather glad my monstrosity is not currently occupying their seats.

Four hours later, we arrive at the hotel.

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