Two black beads vanished and appeared again. One eyelid synced with the other in a slow, synthetic rhythm that only a vacant bird like a chicken could blink to. Binky, on the outside, was disappointingly placid. The lights weren’t on and even if they were, there was definitely nobody home. Hell, if you had picked Binky up and placed him to your ear, you could probably hear the Great Sea. You almost certainly would not have expected anything malicious from the stupid bird. Nobody did.
Mr Grimsby, a rotund and dumpy little man with kind sparkling eyes, wasn’t sure how Binky came to be on his farm. But it would be difficult for such a benevolent man like himself to turn away any creature, particularly the terribly average chicken that just appeared one day on his novelty welcome mat. If anything, it was awkward. Just a man and a chicken. Both staring at each other, one in surprise and the other apparently in the middle distance. For a very long time. Just imagine that. Imagine it.
After mutual gormlessness was had by all, Grimsby picked up the feathery vacuum with his stubby toe-hands and took him in. He bought some wood and chicken wire, and set to work. He hammered away for an afternoon, muffling pained expletives when he got slightly too overzealous with his tools. After all, he didn’t want to accidentally influence the small children feeding the goats in the farmyard petting area. By the end of the day, Grimsby pushed himself onto his feet, dusted off the gravel from his knees, and looked up his wonderful creation. A perfect hutch. He chuckled haughtily as he wiped his hands, all chuffed “and that”. Binky was by his heel. He clucked abruptly. Grimsby watched on expectantly, awaiting approval from a 20” tall chicken. Binky blinked. He nudged his head to one side, the sole “expression” the bird had “expressed” so far. The farmer’s head darted from the chicken to the hutch and back again. It was quite tense, indeed. Then, Binky lifted his foot, his eye fixed on the hutch, slowly made a 180° turn in 3 drawn out steps, and wandered off in the opposite direction.
Grimsby hung his head. When he finally recovered from his shame, he lifted his head and saw that his miniature critic had made its way to the gate of the petting area. The farmer frowned curiously, and headed over to him. Binky gazed forward. Grimsby’s wellingtons landed and squelched next to the chicken. The bird, who until now had been vertically comatose and walking, seemed… interested. Grimsby ducked to Binky’s level to try and see what the devil he was looking at. After a bit of muttering, Grimsby gasped. He chuckled in a way that also gagged himself, the sort of unexpected joy you get when you realise something that should have been so painfully obvious. The chicken was lonely. He had been for some time. And somewhere in the distant past, he had been hurt. This majestic, vacuous beast was watching Dunnughae Farm’s petting area. A safe haven, a place that man and beast could co-exist and love each other. For the first time, Grimsby gulped, this wonderfully dumb creature had a chance to be happy. He sniffled, placed a hand on Binky’s back, smiled and nodded.
A prim mother, who had been staring with concern at the farmer for quite some time now, declared with a twee swiftness that it was “probably time to go now, Hugo”.
In the blink of an eye, a year passed in the petting area. Binky, Grimsby thought, blinked more enthusiastically these days. But perhaps he had spent too long staring at a chicken hoping for change. Anyway, it was far too hectic at the farm to pay that much thought. Today, they were hosting a farmyard party for an obnoxious 8 year old city boy.
A little toddler of a girl hung from her papi’s hand, bored by her brother’s farmyard party that she was entirely too young to understand. Dressed in green, her fat little legs stomped in misplaced footsteps as she ditched dad and flitted from grandma to the parents of the party guests. To each, she burbled a sort of greeting from her smushable face, one donned with a party hat that matched her sweet little dress. It was only in a sort of crossed eyed drunkenness that she’d stumbled away from the lunch benches and towards the direction of the petting zoo. When she looked up, any memory of the excitingly colourful party was erased and all she focussed on was Binky. He blinked at her. It became quiet.
The stumpy girl spluttered a dirty giggle, and thudded forward with grabby hands. Reaching for Binky, she began to pad his back repeatedly with an uncoordinated hand. The poor girl was just trying to stroke him. Binky nudged his head sideways on his neck ever so slightly, as though a faint yet instinctive grudge was seeping into his bones. And maybe, maybe if she had been too young to grasp the human language nothing would have happened. It was regrettable, really, that she had just about mastered a repetitive greeting ingrained into her by a hundred broody men and women. Happily, the girl slurred:
Binky didn’t blink. Instead, his eyes widened and squinted in the same moment.
What happened in that day was a blur. No one knew what had caused the docile bird to rampage. Or where the hoard had come from. Some of the guests, those that got away, say they heard a shrill squawk piercing the air with the rage of a thousand suns, a ca-caw against the injustice of one’s own kind. Children and their adults cried aloud. They spat out the feathers that had caught their bloody tongues as they pelted to their cars, followed by rabid flapping clouds of red and white. There were just so many chickens.
No one expected that.