To lighten up your Monday, here is the last week’s winning story, “Peckers Honour” by Avalina Kreska. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Note, since this is a global magazine, the writers are free to use the spelling conventions of their own country.
“THERE! There’s the sign, oh, you almost missed it!” Simone yelled, tugging at Roy’s sleeve. Slowing down, Roy waited before crossing lanes then turned down the steep hill towards the farmhouse. The road was really just a track; his four wheel drive would have a real challenge for a change. Like being on a stormy sea, they were tossed about inside. Roy inwardly groaned at the clean-up job he’d have to do when he got back.
“Oh look, there’s one!” Simone shouted, pointing at a raggedy tailed cockerel. The cockerel lifted its scrawny neck and crowed. It was more like a squeak. Roy looked at Simone and chuckled.
“Bit pathetic wasn’t it?” he said. Simone giggled. Arriving, they carefully stepped out of the Land Rover, gingerly walking over towards a group of outbuildings. Damn it, Roy thought, all this mud will be inside the car. Another chicken ran past them, again, not looking it’s best, in fact, Roy thought it looked decidedly shifty.
“Ahoy there!” a man’s voice was heard coming from a side building. They both turned.
“Ahoy!” Simone said, waving.
“You the chicken woman that rang?” the man said, emerging from a dilapidated doorway.
“I am indeed, and this is my husband, Roy.” The man came towards them, wiping his hands on his overalls. Roy dreaded touching the man. The man stuck out his hand; Roy shook it, his hand was rough but slimy, Roy resisted the urge to sniff his fingers.
“Ay, you come to the right place, chickens, we got chickens, what you looking for?” he said, glancing down at Simone’s low cut top.
“As I said on the phone, some good layers. I used to keep chickens as a girl, thought it would be fun to start again,” she told him, hoping his eyes would rise to meet hers. Roy wandered towards the buildings.
“I, er, I wouldn’t go in there if I were you, the chickens you want are this way,” the man said, lighting a cigarette. Roy looked through a crack in the door, thought his eyes were deceiving him, there were rows of green army uniforms, too small for even a child.
“How old are these birds?” Roy asked as they walked to a large coop with shitty food bowls and no fresh water. He was starting to get a bad feeling about this.
“All young-uns – good enough for you, all one-year-olds they are, you’ll have no problems with these.” Roy got a whiff from the enclosure; he looked at Simone, who shrugged her shoulders.
“You said you’d kept them before like? So how many do you want?” the man kicked the coup startling the hens inside, they rushed out squawking. They only looked marginally better than the ones they passed on the track. Simone bent a knee and peered closer. Something was wrong about them; she looked closer still. Then she realised, they were each missing an eye! She stood up in amazement.
“But – but – these chickens have only got one eye,” she swung around to look at the others, “and this one’s only got one leg!” The man sniffed. Simone could’ve sworn that it was an emotional sniff. He put one leg over the fence and with the quickness of a ninja he scooped one up, the hen didn’t resist.
“War wounds. This one is Daisy; she’s a good layer, she’s a year older, shot through the eye, she was. What a trooper! Night raid it was.” The man stroked the top of her head. Roy caught Simone’s eye; she knew that look, what in the crazy world of mothers is going on? Simone looked closer, just under the top feathers, something caught her eye.
“There’s something under its feathers,” Simone said, Roy joined her, peering closely. The man swept a bunch of feathers aside. Staring back at them all was the smallest medal they’d ever seen.
“She’s a war hero is our Daisy! Awarded the Peckers Honour for bravery!” Simone tapped it gently; it was definitely metal. Roy gave Simone a little nip on the back of her buttock with his fingernails like pincers. She stifled a guffaw.
“My God! That’s amazing! I – We’ve never seen a chicken war hero have we, Simone?” Roy said, hamming it up. She shook her head, biting her lip. The man beamed, glad that they were interested.
“Oh yes, all these birds I’m letting go, all have seen a battle; every single one deserves a good home, someone kind to love them as I do-o-o-o!” he burst into tears. Roy’s eyes said I can’t stand much more before I burst. PLEASE!! Simone pulled herself together fast.
“But Mr, if you love them so much, why are you giving them away?” she asked sincerely. He wiped away the tears.
“More war coming, from the North, haven’t got the time to give to them, no, better they go, more will take their place…” he sniffed and put Daisy back down, then changed his mind, searched around for a container, and shoved her inside.
“How many more Miss?” She looked at Roy, he shrugged and quickly turned away.
“Two more should do it, for starters, maybe – er -after the war, I might come back…” The man nodded, and again, with the swiftness of a ninja, grabbed two more. Safe inside, the birds settled quickly.
“That’ll be all then?” the man asked, tears glistening in his eyes. They both nodded, glad to get away from this crazy farmer. They walked back past the buildings, Roy looked, the uniforms were gone. He must have been seeing things for sure. Walking back up the path, Simone looked back, the man had gone.
“Soon be home my ladies,” she said to the housed chickens. Roy burst out laughing making Simone laugh too.
“Oh my GOD, how did I keep a straight face? Chicken war! Hahahaa!” he leaned over like he was going to vomit. Simone loaded the chickens in the back of the car.
“Peckers Honour,” Simone said, tapping the skin of the car. That was enough for Roy to start a fresh round of hysterics, he hung onto the car door. Simone held her stomach.
“Dooon’t – Sh-shushhh, he’ll hear us, come on let’s go, let’s get these war heroes home!” They climbed into the Land Rover, Roy looked behind him and backed his way up slowly.
“Tell you what, he was one fast dude for an old man, though,” Roy said, head out the window. They were near the top when they heard distant shouts. They looked at one another, faint at first. Roy continued up the track, the car precariously swinging side to side. He paused.
“Can you hear that?” Simone wound down the window and stuck her head out.
“Voices I think.” Roy reached the top; he had to back out onto the main road, all the cars had stopped both ways. Crossing the road were at least one hundred chickens, dressed in army uniforms, marching in perfect unison, their wattles flapping as they strode. Most had tiny, shiny rifles, others swords. A large cockerel marched off to the side, shouting commands. Simone’s mouth was open so wide she dribbled.
“From the North…” Roy said absentmindedly.
“Yes, more peckers…” Simone said.