Ah! What’s this? A postmark from St. Poulet? A missive from my sainted maman, no doubt. The poor chicken. She worries so. I am the only of her chicks to pursue life on such a—how shall we say?—grand scale. Dancing along the knife edge of danger is not for everyone, oui? But it must come as a particular shock when held against the lives chosen by that clutch of spectacular dullards with whom I was hatched. So, alors, I shall read her little letter then compose a reply which shall put her pretty head at ease.
My dearest son,
Ah, you see? Dearest? I am her favorite still!
I hope this note finds you well.
If you consider lying in wait on the decks of a private yacht anchored near St. Tropez well, then yes, I am. Indeed.
I know that you are very busy in your international business.
Business which I shall endeavor to wrap up as soon as a certain wily adversary shows himself above deck. Any minute, I expect. Any minute….
Oh yes, yes. I know there are many roads to cross to be as successful as you are but it is a mother’s hope that you will spare some time for your maman and…many of your other relatives.
Ah, my quarry appears! I crouch and….I spring! And karate CHOP and jujitsu KICK and a slash-slash-slash of the…
Un moment. Relatives?
Yes my boy, it is that time once more. Time for our family reunion.
Cousin Delta is hosting it at the old family homestead in St. Poulet, LA. Ah my, the flock has spread far from the coop but all are making an extraordinary effort to attend.
But of course. My ne’er-do-well relations would sooner surrender to the Colonel himself than forsake the chance to importune me for favors, money, liquor and women.
I know you will not disappoint, ma petite.
I shall not, maman! Though it shall try my patience exceedingly to rub feathers with my déclassé brood-mates for even that short time.
It will be June 30th well before the celebration of Independence when all poultry of worth seclude themselves away from the dangers of deep fryers.
You will attend and make this mother proud.
With all my love, my little hatchling,
And so I begin the long journey back to the broken shell of my youth. To St. Poulet.
Two weeks later…..
A lone vehicle maneuvers its way down SunnySide Up lane, past rows of rice fields to a dilapidated brick mansion.
Bypassing the house, the driver steers down a dirt road to the rear of the property.
Oh, these cursed country two-tracks with their paint-eating gravel! What it is doing to my new coupe!
Aghast, I look at the rusted wire fence beneath spreading oak trees. The din is already more than my nerves can stand.
The squawk makes me cringe. With the fortitude for which I am renowned I step out of the vehicle and (dear Lord) am enveloped in the wings of Cousin Delta.
Normally I have not the slightest objection to being seized to a woman’s breast but merde, ma cousine, a little air? A minor application of pressure at the wing-joint and, ah, sweet oxygen!
“Bonjour, Delta. You have not changed a bit, my dear.” A most unfortunate circumstance, that.
“Why mess with perfection?” she laughs, with a saucy twitch of her considerable tail feathers.
“You ain’t changed much, either, cuz.” She jabs a wing tip into my chest. “No more meat on your breastbone than when you left.”
“Yes, well, an excellent diet and a dedication to the martial arts—“
“And your coxcomb still does that weird thing. Har! Har!”
My wings fly up to my head and….sacred bleu! Ah, this accursed humidity! I have not suffered this particular indignity since my late and unlamented youth here on the family compound. I have done well to shake the dust of this place from my feed scratchers years ago. Perhaps my impressive physique and accomplishments will distract the flock from this most unfortunate nod to history? A rooster can hope, can he not?
But duty first. “Delta, my beauty. Where is Maman?”
“Oh! Your sister’s here. Yoohoo! Junebug! Over here!”
Ahhh, my sister. Elder by two eggs. The pecking order always took on a new meaning when she was around. “Bonjour, Junebug.”
"Oh, sweetie, I'm so glad you came! When Mama said you might, I almost busted a gut, I was so excited. I can't wait for you to tell me about your world travels.”
“Vraiment? Shall I begin with Paris or Prague?”
“I always dreamed of getting out of this stuffy old coop.”
“Budapest is lovely this time of year.”
“But...well.. .you know, along came Spur.”
Spur? That bow-legged, self-styled, one-rooster Elvis tribute? She married him?
“Now I have Cogburn and Auspice and Augustus (you remember, the twins?) and Octavia, Sebastian and Putt Putt to chase around."
*sigh* "I don't suppose I'll ever get off the farm now..." *sniff*
Zut alors! Not to be uncharitable but have you considered keeping your drumsticks together once in a while? I pat her wing sympathetically and scan the yard for the nearest exit. Or at least something shiny. Junebug’s attention span is not her most formidable trait.
Suddenly a long silver limo pulls up outside the hen house. The driver, complete in uniform hurries around to open the door, and who should step out, but cousin Delilah, the madame of the best little henhouse in Texas, dressed in her Coco Channel suit, dark glasses and big hat, she kisses her driver and joins us.
"Hey, y'all, it's been ages since I've been back to see y'all! Hey Junebug, how're all those little chicks? And Delta, lovely as evah!"
Delilah lifts one brow, shakes her tail feathers and saunters toward me...
"Well, well, well, I do declare, if it isn't the Golden One himself.”
I incline my coxcomb graciously. I have a small fondness for Delilah as her hen house is the site of some of the—how to put it delicately—more memorable incidents in an otherwise unremarkable youth. “In the flesh, madame.”
“So, what have you been up to these days, ya old fake frenchie you!"
Fake frenchie, indeed! It seems my original plan—doing my familial duty with as much haste as decent manners allow—is a sound one. But as the finest tail feathers in the entire parish fall under Delilah’s purview, I muster the strength to do the pretty. “Nothing of note,” I say. “But I feel certain you’ve been leading life a merry chase.” She brays out that rough, two-packs-a-day laugh of hers.
“Ain’t I just! I got this new girl—prime bit of thigh-meat, see? Lord, she’s a pistol…”
I lean in, intrigued for the first time all day, but then a dilapidated yellow bus rolls into the yard. It sputters to a stop, belching exhaust fumes from its rear. The antiquated bus driver down the steps and holds out a hand to an elderly hen.
"Git yer cotton-pickin' paw offen me, you smarmy fella," she snarls, leaping to the ground with surprising grace for one so ancient.
I freeze. I am terrified of Great Granny Henster, and rooster enough to admit it. GG is tiny, fierce and extraordinarily rude. She has been, in the lamentable past, particularly cruel about my coxcomb situation. I remain still and pray her eyesight has faded with time.
Immediately GG whirls around and opens the luggage facility beneath the bus.
"Where's my stuff," she demands. "I need my Depends, dammit! I need 'em right now!"
Oh. Mon Dieu.
A sporty Italian roadster roars up the drive to the lair, pulling in behind the school bus. A svelte hen steps out, unwrapping the Hermes scarf and tips down her elegant designer sunglasses.
"Where is that reprobate brother of mine?" Dominique D'Or drawls. "I've flown in from Paris for this, he better have done what he SAID he was going to do."
Pardone? I implied I would perform some…service? For my poseur of a soeur? Ridicule!
She scans the various family members scattered about.
"Interesting digs big brother's found, and such an interesting group of people to attach himself too. Oh, Lord, he invited GG. How does she get around in that bus?"
Dominique thinks I called this meeting? Heavens. She’s delusional. Either that or she’s been drinking breakfast again.
One of the hired cockerels hurries over and asks after her luggage.
"Well, aren't you johnny on the spot," she says, with a throaty laugh. "Of course you can carry my bags. You can polish my eggs too, rrrrrrrrowwww!"
Rrrrrrowwww? Perhaps lunch was of the liquid variety as well.
Leaving the roosterling staring after her, she struts up to the front of the coop and calls, "GOLDIE! Come say hello!"
Seeing no better choice, I trudge after her. S’il vous plait, I pray to whatever diety will have me. Please let it be brief. And if it cannot be brief, at least let it be amusing. I march forward to meet my fate, whatever—or whomever—it may entail….