Coming of Age Contemporary Speculative

The sky out the window was brighter today. The sounds of the birds outside; louder. Harriet sat on the bench, contemplating the chores she had to do today.

Harriet remembered to tie her laces. When she didn’t the chickens liked to peck at her feet as if she’d brought them worms. She bent down slowly her boots seemed further away today, somehow, than yesterday.

The kettle whistled on the iron stovetop. Harriet turned to move the kettle to the counter when she noticed movement near the door.

A small beak nudged the door, and it slowly swung open. Harriet laughed. Benita stood in the open doorway, a small Araucana chicken who moved in a way that seemed almost human.

Harriet moved quickly now, the kettle’s whistling was getting more insistent.

Harriet poured herself a cup of tea, and then a tiny cup of water for Benita. Harriet put her tea on the big oak table that she’d carved with a chainsaw the year before. She’d spent ages sanding it, and smoothing its surface. The blue ceramic mug she’d made herself against the dark wood made the moment seem like a picture from a cottage country magazine.

Harriet pulled out a chair for herself, and another for Benita.

Benita fluttered up on to the chair, and then made to hop to the kitchen table and dipped her beak into the small cup of water.

Harriet sat down.

“Good morning Benita, how are the chickens today?”

Benita lifted her head from the cup.

”Quite fine, thank you for asking. How did you sleep?”

Harriet took a sip of her tea.

”I dreamt of the city again last night. It’s rarer now, but sometimes I think it is trying to beckon me.”

Benita shook out her wings and settled her feathers.

”Do you miss it? The hustle and bustle of the office? The people? Do you get tired of your only companion being a chicken?”

Harriet sighed.

”Do you never get tired of being a chicken? Do you wish you could be human again?”

Benita grinned, as much as a chicken can. Her eyes sparkled. She shook her head, a small nearly imperceptible movement.

“No. I quite like being a chicken. Do you ever tire of being human?”

Harriet looked down at her shoelaces which were becoming a daily frustration, but as frustrations went, it seemed minor.

”I do. Most days I wish I’d asked her to change me too.”

Benita chuckled.

”I didn’t exactly *ask* her to change me. But I’m not sure I’d take it back if I could. I do wish I could be of more help around here.”

Harriet took another sip of tea. She stared out the kitchen window into a beautifully maintained garden, with flowers and ivy and a gorgeous vegetable garden nearly ready for picking.

“Your company is enough. It’s more than enough. If it wasn’t for you being transformed, we might never have moved out here to the farm. I might have stayed working in that office forever. Sometimes things happen for a reason, and sometimes the universe turns your girlfriend into a chicken and you realize nothing ever really made sense at all.”

Harriet stood up to begin preparing their morning oats. Cooked for herself with hot water from the kettle, and a handful of dry oats for Benita. Harriet put Benita’s oats on a small blue plate in front of her.

”What did you dream of?”

Benita ate a few oats delicately before responding.

”I dreamed I couldn’t speak. That I finally became more chicken than human. That I forgot you. It was scary.”

Harriet turned away from her love. A tear burned at the edge of her eye.

“Even if you never spoke another word. I would love you, and care for you.”

The odd couple sat, and ate their oatmeal in comfortable silence as they did every day.

When they were done, Harriet washed the dishes, and put them away. She and Benita went outside to tend to the garden, feed the creatures and sit in the sun.

A few chickens hung out next to them. Their clucking soothed Harriet whose dream had made her feel anxious. This life, without televisions or cell phones or much needs beyond the garden gate wasn’t what she thought she’d be doing with her golden years.

…but love makes you so funny things. Like moving to the middle of nowhere to live out your days with your chicken-girlfriend.

Clink-clank-jangle. The bell at the garden gate was making noise.

Benita startled and the other chickens scattered. No one came to the farm, usually. Except her.

The sun went behind a cloud. The garden grew dark. The birds stopped singing. Time stopped.

Standing at the gate was Harriet’s elderly mother. Harriet’s heart sank.

The older woman walked slowly into the garden and Benita hid behind Harriet.

”It’s been five years. Are you ready to give up on this chicken yet?”

Harriet shook her head. It was the same determined shake of her head that she’d given every year on the anniversary of her mother’s fowl curse upon Benita.

The old woman gestured and Harriet felt a hand on her shoulder.

Benita was behind her. A woman again. The woman to whom she’d given her heart all those years ago. Harriet’s breath stopped in her chest.

Harriet’s mother turned around and walked out of the garden.

Harriet and Benita hugged one another so tightly they nearly became one.

Five years had passed so slowly, and their love had only grown in the absence of computers, and the demands of a system that didn’t see them as full beings.

The sun came back out. The birds sang a new chorus. The chickens danced back into the garden.

Harriet reached for Benita. Their eyes locked and they fell into each other. Fingers grasped for fingers. They held hands for the first time in one thousand eight hundred and twenty four days and walked back into the kitchen for a cup of tea.

They didn’t talk about curses, or capitalism or anything else of import. They drank tea, and kissed, and just were; together.

February 04, 2023 19:59

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Julia Dragu
20:46 Feb 15, 2023

What a sweet story! I always love stories that take influence from fairy tales and classics, and that spin them into something modern readers can enjoy. Your characters are very lovely and sympathetic, and I couldn't help but smile at the end! Indeed, drinking tea, especially with a loved one, is often all we need to be happy. Wonderfully done!


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Bonnie Zel
03:10 Feb 14, 2023

Hi, Wake, I'm glad I got to read others' remarks before commenting on your story because their impressions enriched mine. I looked deeper, understood more. You've brought about a community of readers. Thanks for your story.


Wake Lloire
10:53 Feb 15, 2023

Oh Bonnie. That is more than I could have hoped for. Thank you so very much for reading the story, and the comments. I appreciate your words more than I can adequately express right now.


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Susan Catucci
02:04 Feb 13, 2023

This is heart rendering, beautiful tale. With so few words, Wake, you have created a gem of a love story. I was at first captivated by the avian connection, because I am a bird lover by nature, and so the chicken was an instant draw (and couldn't know which way the transformation might sway.) Then, as it all unfolded, I thought it was a golden surprise and beautifully realized reward, because the lovers had remained true. No wizard or whatever force should never mess with true love. Yes, and I thoroughly loved this.


Wake Lloire
04:36 Feb 13, 2023

Oh goodness, Susan. Your words were so uplifting that I had to read them to my partner, to whom I have stayed true for the past seven years despite hardship and distance and a large amount of time where we couldn’t be together. I am happy to report that we are together now, and that things are just lovely. Thank you for reading this and for your emotional and evocative review of this story.


Susan Catucci
14:03 Feb 13, 2023

So lovely - thank you for sharing such a lovely story (on both fronts).


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Jack Kimball
17:05 Feb 11, 2023

Hi Wake. I enjoyed reading it. You have a flow. I was surprised the elderly mother reversed herself and turned Benita back. Your description of the love between the two was genuine. Even 'Harriet and Benita hugged one another so tightly they nearly became one.' sounded right for the story. Great job! Nice sound btw 'Clink-clank-jangle'


Wake Lloire
04:33 Feb 13, 2023

Thank you Jack. I really appreciate your kind words, and the time you took to read and thoughtfully write here. Your comments make a difference, they really do.


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Delbert Griffith
15:25 Feb 11, 2023

This was a nice little tale, Wake. I see it as representing certain sections of society that look at gay people as something other than people. That the mother cursed the girlfriend speaks to some parents' bias toward their gay children. All in all, a nice tale with moral underpinnings. Nicely done, Wake.


Wake Lloire
04:31 Feb 13, 2023

Delbert! Thanks so much for taking the time to read my story. I definitely left the interpretation up to the reader. But as a member of the LGBTQ2SIA community I definitely have experienced the slow come around of my mother to understanding my partner’s gender. So there was definitely an allegory involved. But she has come around. And I’m not sure what caused it, and I think it was just love + time.


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