We have fourteen chickens (I KNOW, right?), which turns out to be exactly the right amount. I know this is the right amount because recently I read about a nearby farm that was going bankrupt, and giving its chickens away, rather than slaughtering them. And I read this in the newspaper, then peered over the top of the paper at my long-suffering husband, looked back at the story, and pondered. Out the window I saw the whole gang of chickens running with wobbly intensity from one side of the yard to the other. One of them had probably just noticed that the yard HAS another side other than the one she was standing in, and her ensuing dash toward this new horizon had incited this riotous race. I looked at Clay again, and then let the idea of driving two hours to adopt just a FEW more chickens go. So clearly we have enough. Just. Either that, or I am growing in maturity and restraint, and should probably be rewarded.
So, fourteen chickens. They are: Nip-Nip, Speck, Haystack, The Empress, the five black chickens, and the five red chickens. I feel sort of bad for the black chickens and the red chickens, but they're pretty much identical. Except for the day that one of the red chickens distinguished herself, and earned her name.
This is Soup. Clay doubts my ability to pick her out from the others, but I totally can. She's slightly smaller than the other red chickens, and the darkest of them all, with a few more black tail feathers.
Oh, and she is always, always, ALWAYS trying to get in the house. Hence the name "Soup." It's meant as a warning to her, and as a defense against Clay. Because if she does succeed in getting in the house, I can remind him that she has a name, and you cannot eat any animal you have named. It's a Rule.
On this particular day, Soup earned her name by sneaking into the house not once, but three times. It was a warm November day, and a door was left open twice. Raphael found her nesting in the school cupboard, which made her the most interesting thing he'd EVER found there. But it was the third time that was the dramatic one.
Max was heading out the back door, and Soup must have lying in wait, because the minute he opened the door, she squirted right past his legs and into the house. This was in the least finished area of the house, and right behind him was a section of wall that was framed but not drywalled, so it was open - all the way down to the crawl space under the house. This crawl space had been...I guess you'd call it "insulated?"...by the previous owners with randomly scattered straw. (Note to homeowners everywhere: this is a GREAT idea, because straw - well, it doesn't insulate all that well, but it's fine down there as long as it doesn't get damp. You know. In the crawl space.)
Soup took one look at this dark, straw-lined cave and said to herself, "THAT is for ME!" She dashed in and was swallowed up by darkness and draped curtains of dust-matted spiderweb.
"GAH!" said Max, and he promptly yelled the rest of us over (Clay was at work and Tre was at school. But Carmi was there to lick our hands and look guilty, so that was helpful). I appraised the situation and concurred.
"GAH!" I said. We looked at the hole, listened to Soup's contented clucking, and repeated our consternation for good measure. "GAH" we said, and we meant it.
"I'll get her!" Raphi announced. I turned to tell him all the reasons he didn't want to crawl under there, and how it was a "crawl" space in name only, because what it should really be called is an "avoid at all costs" space because you never know what might brush the back of your hand down there, I'm not SAYING rabid and mostly bald raccoons, sort of like the Gollum of under-house rodents, but HOW DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE, but he dashed off to get suited up for the crawling.
Sometimes I just don't know how I could have given birth to the child. I swear.
He came back in a hoodie and sweat pants. I made fussy noises about the dust, so he grabbed some safety glasses and a mask off his dad's work bench and moments later he was army-crawling his way into the cobwebby dark, abandoning the flashlight quickly in favor of speed.
"I can hear her!" he shouted back, "I'm really close...she's gotta be...GOT HER!" And then he reverse army-crawled with a chicken under one arm, something I'm not sure anyone in the actual Army ever attempted.
He emerged into the light, positively swaddled in ancient cobwebs and dust, and Soup flapped an indignant exit out the door.
And that's how Soup got her name, and how Raphael found himself the hero of yet another Chicken Story.