I am a Virgo. This might not mean much to you if you are not a Virgo, but if you are then you know what it means. It means I prepare for months so I know that when my birthday comes I can be at peace. I clean closets over the summer and organize the garage. I try to get all these things done so that my house will be in order when I inevitably age another year. This year I did not succeed in completing all these tasks. My closet was started, but never finished. The garage although cleaned has been ravaged by multiple children looking for a variety of books, colored pencils and junk drawer organizers. Although the railing and the eves were painted, the porch never got sanded nor stained. My bathroom drawers were completed, but the files and the guest room were not. This is how I tally my life. I think given half a chance, I could have been a type-A , if it weren’t for the animals. In fact, I used to have nightmares about heel marks made by my roommate Shannon’s shoes. The animals and the kids made my life messy enough to enjoy. But here the day before my birthday with dishes in the sink and the laundry undone, I realized that if I couldn’t finish the house then I needed to concentrate on cleaning up me, and I truth be known needed to be completely detailed. I must dye my greying hair, and get a pedicure.
In the morning, I did get my hair handled and thought I was off to a good start. We thought we’d let Irish out so he could come with us to the pond, well the hole in the ground formerly known as the pond. No sooner did the over-amped extra-large pup start romping around than he decided he’d chase petite Gnatalie. I wasn’t worried at first, she’s a pretty tough cookie, but she got scared and took off. And that was the beginning of the day I wish had never started.
Gnatalie ran half out of her mind doing laps around the apple trees and then in blind fear she blast through the wire fence ripping her lip open. Irish followed with glee having no idea he was terrorizing the poor bovine. Luckily, at this point Gnatalie found refuge with Abe and Andy through the open pasture gate where she settled down. Irish was quickly rounded up and Gnatalie taken up to the barn for treatment. We cleaned her up a bit and put a little Neosporin™ on her wound.
As I looked the fence over it became clear, that even though I'd just put it up with Alexis, I was going to have to put up a whole new one. Fixing this one with the same kind would be just throwing good money after bad. A wood fence was needed.
Eventually we got to the pond minus Irish, and were happy to see at least some water remained. Things seemed to be looking up when Henry dug a little at an underground spring and increased the flow noticeably.
Afterward Awesomez, Nick, Henry and I drove to Burlington for gymnastics. Nick stayed to watch while Awesomez and I went to go get a pedicure. This is not to imply that Awesomez, who neither believes in the ritual of moisturizer, nor the idea of base make-up, and is allergic to perfume was even entertaining the idea of a pedicure but she had conceded on accompanying me. Unfortunately, getting Quinn from soccer practice was putting a kink in my plan. I’d agreed to go to a new and untested nail salon near her soccer practice so I could pick her up and had even driven up to said salon when I panicked. This was my birthday pedicure; a cherished ritual. I sat there in the car thinking about the last time I’d gone for a pedicure. I’d given in and had a less than perfect nail experience. The last time was in California during my sorority reunion and I was going to indulge a $12.00 desire when I was pressured out if it, I still had regrets. Here in Washington prices are $25.00 for a pedi (no mani) so I wasn’t about to squander my money and compromise. Disappointed, I pulled away with unsightly toes.
In an effort to get some birthdayness going, Awesomez bought me a brand spanking new waffle maker just like I had before. This because Quinn broke my pride and joy, the Warring™ Pro Plus, a couple months ago while she was trying to clean it. It’s clear she didn’t pay enough attention in Miss Noelle Ikanda’s fourth grade class when circuits were being explained or she would have known, you don’t submerge electrical appliances, she must have been talking to Kaitlin Maroney or Hannah Dorman or Mackie Miller or someone. I am grateful she at least seemed to retain the part about not having it plugged in when running it under water.
“Is this really something two friends should be fighting over?” Nick questioned all too reasonably.“Mom can’t you just say your sorry” Henry wondered as the long uncomfortable drive home labored on me in the way back seat while I sang “Happy birthday to me” softly into Henry’s ear while, Nick was in the front with a sullen Awesomez and Quinn sat somewhere in no-man’s-land. To tell the truth, I don’t know how long this tawdry little fight would have continued if the cell phone hadn’t rung from my home number.
“I’ve got some bad news,” Amy said solemnly. My mind raced was it Luther, Vivian, Emmett, Irish?
“What? Tell me.” I demanded.
“It’s one of the chickens. The turkeys, well, I think it was the turkeys because I saw one over him when I walked in. The turkeys pecked him. It’s bad. I don’t think he’s going to make it. There’s a lot of blood and I think at least one of his eyes are gone,” Amy said methodically, her EMT training evident as she gave the status report.
“Oh my gosh, ” I yelped.“What? What?” Henry and Quinn asked worriedly.
“Shhh, not now,” I hushed them trying to hear Amy. “Should we kill it? Where is he now?”“I’ve isolated him in a box with a heat lamp and I was just wondering if you were coming home,” she said sadly, “he has an orange band on his leg.”
“That’s Michael alright. Can you call my sister? She might have some suggestions.” Henry’s favorite, my favorite, everyone’s favorite “We’ll be there soon, we’re on our way.” I said not looking forward to explaining to everyone.When we got home, I went straight to the coop to assess the injuries while Lisa went inside with the kids. Amy was vigilantly sitting with Michael who was about as bad as you can imagine, yet he was alive.
Henry walked in tears filled his eyes at the sight of his baby. “Michael my little Michael come here,” Henry cooed. Michael responded to Henry’s voice and tried to stand up and despite Michael’s horrific appearance Henry leaned over and picked up his friend holding him close. My heart ached. “Why Michael? Why? Is it because he's the runt?” Henry kept asking over and over.“Maybe. Maybe it's because he’s so sweet and he didn't want to fight. Poultry can be vicious. it's why they keep them in little cages on chicken farms. Honestly, right now I don't blame them. There really is a pecking order and maybe he was just too much of a sweetie,” I said. Michael was the first chicken to be named, he was named because he did a moonwalk and hence was dubbed Michael for Michael Jackson, but we were never sure if he was going to end up being named for Michael Jackson or if maybe he might be Michael for Michael Learned.
“I hate the turkeys. They’re like a gang. Where are they? “ Henry asked finally cognizant they weren’t in the coop.
“They’re out in the chicken run, they’re just going to stay outside tonight, it's not that cold. Unfortunately, I was going to separate them earlier, that’s why your dad and I worked on the turkey enclosure, but then we got the ducks and we were trying out different animals in different living quarters and frankly, I didn’t notice the turkeys getting soooo much bigger recently. And of course they are, they’re ginormous. Uh, do you think you could eat one?" I asked.“Yep.” Henry said with a resounding tone, “no question.”
“Absolutely.” Amy agreed.
Amy and I put together a little intensive care unit. We found the Lucite box the chicks had used when they first came. We’d searched the shop, the garage, the laundry room and the barn when I realized we’d moved it to the side of the chicken coop in an effort to “clean-up” when Gnatalie arrived. We also got a screen to put over the box to prevent Michael from getting maggots. Next the kids got some old towels, and the small gate we’d had over the box when the chicks first arrived. Amy and I considered having him come in the house, but we feared the sounds of cats and dogs would be too taxing on his little system and even though the turkeys and maybe some of the chickens had turned on him, the sound of the chickens cooing would be comforting. Socrates sat next to the Lucite box for as long as I was there.
After we got the intensive care unit outfitted, we tried getting him some water. Quinn and Nick went and found an eyedropper and some luke warmwater. We started with a healthy chicken for practice. My sister had given us some direction – we were not to get water under the tongue, as chicken anatomy is very different from humans. The eyedropper proved to be upsetting so we moved to dipping his beak in water. He took some, but not much. I washed his wounds out with medical eye wash and put triple anti-biotic on to keep him from getting an infection. He stood up which was encouraging.
“But will he make it to morning?” I asked.“I don’t know, but I didn’t think he’d make it this long. I didn’t think he’d make it until you got home.”
“He’s such a sweet guy. I never thought I’d like a chicken so much. We’ll have to say a little prayer. “
“Happy Birthday,” Amy said quietly “some start huh?” How my focus had changed. The day had gone from bad to worse, but I no longer cared about my toes, or the macaroni, or even the extra weight I’m carrying, I just wanted to help the little life I’d taken responsibility for. I just wanted Michael to live.
WARNING - Graphic Pictures of Michael Below