Tender Mercy

We’ve been keeping a few chickens for some years now, but last week I discovered one of them is masterminding a plan for world domination. Anyone who knows chickens understands that they are destined to rule the world, it’s just they’re not big enough. You only have to see one pounce on a careless mouse in the yard, stun it with a savage peck and swallow it whole, to realise that there is no mercy there at all. When a hen pecks, it hurts – I’ve still got a tender bruise on my thumb from one yesterday. The best anyone can hope for that mouse is that was at least unconscious when it went nose-first down a chicken’s throat.

We only have five hens, and a pair of ducks that I never really wanted in the first place, but my eldest insisted. The hens are white, except for Ace of Clubs, who has this black blob on her back, between her wings. Mostly we just call her Ace, and she spends her life pecking around the yard and plotting how to get inside the netting that protects my little vegetable patch. Before last week I didn’t worry about anything more serious than defending my tender shoots.

Last Tuesday, just after breakfast, Ace slipped out of the yard and headed into the centre of town, which I thought was odd and so I followed her. It’s a small place, and we live near the edge, so you have to ask yourself, why would a chicken bother with the mile or so walk to the shops? It’s not like feathers or chicken-poop are legal tender.

She spotted me following and flew up on to a low branch of a ragged sycamore.

Who? Me? Heading into town? No, just gonna snooze here. In the sun. Maybe count the buses.

There’s only four a day of those, so probably even Ace can manage it.

I went to work, but used my lunch break to check on Ace, who was still perched in that sycamore. When I was done at the end of the day, and scattered corn in the yard, she bustled back to peck with others, but definitely giving me the eye.

See, good bit of tree-sitting. Very fine. I’ll do something different tomorrow.

On Wednesday morning, I went to work as usual, and then doubled-back. I parked well down the road and waited, and sure enough, Ace marched past with a very determined stride, and headed into the little 70s housing development a quarter of a mile from our house.

I followed carefully, and saw her peck on the door of number nine, Piccolo Drive. A young woman opened the door and Ace went in, which for anyone who knows chickens it’s perfectly normal. One of our previous hens used to nip two doors along and tap on the window, persuading our tender-hearted neighbour to put half a biscuit out for her.

Even so, I was suspicious and moved closer. Fortunately, the home owner was one of those corporate event wait staff, you know, white blouse, black skirt, and easy to spot through a lounge window. Along with five other, apparently identical corporate event wait staff.

Anyone who knows corporate wait staff could tell you whether or not it’s weird. I know it’s definitely strange when all six waitress clones sit and pay attention to a small white hen.

That’s when I knew that Ace was planning world domination. I didn’t know exactly how, but I am sure a chicken mastermind can achieve anything it wants, one corporate event at a time, one insidious contract tender after another.

Once I thought about it, the plan was obvious genius. A team of zombie waitress clones influencing business leaders, one at a time. I’m sure someone who really knows wine and canapés can tell you how it’s done.

Now there’s no way I can allow Ace to achieve world domination, but then I can’t kill and eat her either.

Actually, I can, but that’s not an easy option to sell to the kids.

The next day, I shut Ace in the coop and went to watch the zombie waitresses at number nine. They were obviously confused by the loss of their leader, and I saw them pacing in what I can only call an agitated way. Finally, they all emerged, all identical, and drove away in completely different cars, which might have been weird, or maybe normal. I’m sure someone who really knows zombie waitresses could tell.

The next day, my youngest accidentally let Ace out and she was off to number nine before I knew what had happened. I didn’t bother to follow because I knew she would just hop up into a tree and pretend that nothing was happening. So I told my youngest not to let her out again, because Ace was sick. That was a stroke of genius, because if she was sick, she could suddenly die, and that was the end of her plot for world domination,

I watched Ace very carefully on Saturday, and she was obviously watching me in return. In fact, I realised that I had been rumbled, and the next time she got the chance to give orders to her zombie waitresses, I was a dead man. Probably choked on a cocktail stick and buried under a pile of disposable plates.

We had Ace for dinner on Sunday. The kids were upset but I promised them that she was really ill, and it was a quick death, and she really would want us to enjoy a chicken dinner. We cooked her long and slow, and even the kids stopped crying once they tasted the amazingly tender meat.

On Monday morning, one of the ducks gave me a funny look. When we got her I was going to call her Rubber, but my eldest insisted on Mabel. The other one is called Beaky and, as anyone who knows ducks will tell you, is obviously as dumb as a peanut, but Mabel has that spark of malign intelligence in her eyes.

At that moment, I realised that I had been quite wrong about Ace, who didn’t have the brains for the whole zombie waitress scheme. This was all Mabel’s doing, the only real contender for criminal mastermind, using Ace as a patsy so that if it all fell apart we would have chicken dinner, not duck a la foiled plot.

I had no choice. I had to warn the family and deal with Mabel, but it turns out that they were all involved with the world domination scheme. I did try to tell them that there would be no place for them alongside the ruling duck, but they absolutely refused to believe me and, well, that’s why I’m here.

I need help. Serious help. It’s not just the ducks, you see? The turkeys are behind it all, not only seeking world domination but also outlawing Christmas. I know, because a sparrow whispered it in my ear. At least, I think it was a sparrow. Certainly a little birdie told me.

Just one thing I’d like to ask, Doctor. Do you keep any sort of poultry? Or budgies? Have you recently fed pigeons in the park? Do you, or any of your family, have contact with parakeets? Or have ostrich feathers in the house?

Please sit down. This is important.

Could you loosen these handcuffs? My wrists are getting tender.

# # #

This is a work of fiction.
Yes, we keep chickens, but none of them is called Ace and the nearest corporate event waitress lives at least three miles from here, which is further than even the most determined chicken is prepared to walk in pursuit of world domination.

This story was inspired by the #BlogBattle prompt of Tender, and a very strange dream.

Images from Pixabay.com

13 thoughts on “Tender Mercy”

  1. Back on form Mark. Even if I have been away for a year plotting world domination. I have however named a toy mouse Putin. My rescue kitten seems very determined to ensure nothing comes from said toy. Unless, of course, she is data-mining nuclear codes.. there are four of them too and often sit in formation glaring deeply… Although wasn’t it mice in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? This might explain the numerous presents arriving. They must be purging the program 🤔

    Very enjoyable as ever…even if it has been a year where I was away plotting……

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chickens plotting world domination – I believe it! That’s probably why I was so willing to believe the narrator, and even after he’s been hauled off to the rubber room, I suspect he’s actually correct, which the rest of the world will discover too late. 🙂 Very clever how you dropped hints about the family’s involvement, such as the children insisting on keeping ducks, and the youngest ‘accidentally’ letting Ace out. Sort of reminds me of the saying that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there’s nobody out to get you. Oh, and I loved your footnote at the end how this is a work of fiction … how responsible of you to not start a panic! Another enjoyable read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did leave out a small detail in the footnote. Whilst we don’t have a white hen called Ace, we do have one with *multiple* black patches called Spades. She is approximately the 27 of spades, which supports the opinion from years back that I am not playing with a standard deck.
      Not that this is anything to worry about. Spades wouldn’t hurt a… hmmm… any insect counts as a snack… need to think about that one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a delightful read that was! I inhaled every line, wanting to know what happens next. I could totally envision everything that happened,
    I’m only surprised that your kids did not object to eating a really sick animal…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A funny, macabre and plausible story; I’ve seen chickens intimidate cats. Very entertaining with the twists at the revelation of Mabel’s cunning and the poor guy trying to tell the world, (as if anyone would believe him?). Astute weaving of the word ‘tender’ into the narrative.
    This story is right up there with one of Robert Sheckley’s
    (Sorry fans of Daphne du Maurier- she missed what was really going on)

    Like

    1. Funnily enough, we really do keep chickens, and once had a bird we called Cat Chaser who actively stalked the cats.
      One of our current moggies is terrified of the hens. We have to keep the birds in at the moment due to avian flu restrictions and Piper will get in a panic if he mistakenly follows me into the bird enclosure and the door closes behind him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it’s fair to say that every chicken has its own personality, built on a foundation of troublemaker. They are at least on a par with the cats and the sheep for blog pieces on whatever crazy thing they’ve just done. 🙂

        Thankfully the flu has always passed us by, because even if the disease doesn’t kill all the birds in the flock, the Men from the Ministry come along and slaughter the lot.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My wife has a friend who runs an animal rescue centre for farm animals and it seems everyone from the one legged duck to the goats have their personalities.
        As for those folk who use the term ‘sheep’ or the latest ‘sheeple’; it seems they have never encountered sheep.
        Glad to read the flu has passed you by.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sheep, and personalities… our first ram was one we took on because his owner was reducing the size of her flock and he needed a retirement home. He gave us two major things:
        1: A couple of years of nice lambs.
        2: A regular smack behind the knees if the sheepnuts were slow arriving. (The base of his horns was so thick I couldn’t reach all the way round with both hands – I know this because catching him by the horns was a prime way of stopped the *second* smack behind the knees just in case I failed to notice the first.)

        As for the flu, we’ve just learned that as of Monday, the restrictions are easing and we can let the birds out. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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