Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Legend of the Christmas Chicken

Letters are written, stockings are hung, fruitcakes are baked, and children have been as good as they could be nearly all year long. On Christmas Eve, they snuggle under their quilts, dreaming of quiet footsteps on their rooftops and brightly wrapped gifts at morning’s light -– all of them hoping that the Christmas Chicken will visit them again this year.

What’s that you say? You don’t know the story of the Christmas Chicken? Well, if you’ll spare a moment or two -– I realize it’s hard at this time of year. We’re all running around like chickens with our heads… OOPS!!! Best not to say that! Anyway, sit back and let me tell you all about The Legend of the Christmas Chicken.

Nearly a century ago on the twelfth day of Christmas, a small egg hatched in western Africa, and a yellow chick was born. His father, a Rhode Island Red, and his mother, a white French Hen, eventually settled on the name Chris: Chris Cluckle. His parents raised him in a small ramshackle pen on the Boumtje Nog Farm in Equatorial Guinea, where they pecked out a meager existence. The farm owners, Mr. and Mrs. Boumtje and their fourteen children, toiled long and hard, but their nog business had turned seasonal and was not thriving.

One day, as the children fed the chickens, little Yul√© Boumtje began speaking to Chris, and lo and behold, Chris found that he could parrot Yul√©’s speech. Small words… nothing fancy. Words and phrases like "hello" and "pretty chicken." However, as days went by, Chris’ vocabulary continued to grow. He even made up new words, just to hear himself talk. Chris quickly became the children’s pet and moved out of the pen and into the house.

With all the hoopla surrounding his unusual talent, Chris might well have become quite full of himself had he not developed a taste for Mrs. Boumtje’s special recipe fruitcake and become quite full of it instead. Chris loved the fruitcake, and he loved the children. The children loved Chris but did not love the fruitcake, and so a perfect match was made. However, the faster Chris ate the cakes, the faster Mrs. Boumtje baked them, flattered that her children loved her cooking so. Chris was the cock-of-the-walk, and he was extremely happy.

However, a new beverage called wassail was sweeping the Trans-Pan-Atlantic area, and its popularity caused the Boumtjes’ nog sales to suffer even further. In desperation, Mr. Boumtje formulated a plan to improve the family’s fortunes by capitalizing on Chris’ curious ability. He built a special pen for Chris, four times the size of the pen that the other chickens shared, and decorated it with strings of popped chicken corn and whatever shiny trinkets he could muster. Before Equatorial Guinea’s annual market held in the capital city of F’Gy Pdding, Mr. Boumtje tacked up signs touting, "Talking Chicken -- Boumtje Nog Farm -- 50 barnas." And his ploy worked! Rumor of a talking chicken soon became the talk of the market, and Mr. Boumtje was swamped with interested customers.

For his part, Chris grew anxious about his public debut. He had never spoken to anyone besides the Boumtjes, and Mr. Boumtje and the children whom he loved were counting on him. Not only that, but the other hens now cackled to his mother, "Look at Chris, perched up in that fancy coop talking like a person. He thinks he’s too good to be one of us chickens."

All this negative squawking worried Chris something fierce, and the more Chris worried, the more fruitcake he ate. Now, perhaps I’ve been remiss, but at this point, I should note that no one really knew what the secret ingredient in Mrs. Boumtje’s special recipe fruitcakes was. No one was sure because the cakes were usually buried instead of eaten. This fact is important, you see, because at this most unfortunate time, Mrs. Boumtje’s fruitcakes began to have a strange effect upon Chris.

On the very day that most of Equatorial Guinea filled the Boumtje farm brimming with curiosity about the famous talking chicken and buying nog to quench their thirst as they waited, Chris simply disappeared. No, he didn’t run away, he actually faded away… into invisibility. So when Mr. Boumtje collected everyone’s money, made a grand introduction, and threw open the door to the pen, the crowd rumbled, pushed, pummeled, and stumbled forward only to see nothing but an empty coop. There was no chicken to see at all, talking or otherwise.

"We’ve been robbed!" the mob roared. "Boumtje has only dragged us here to sell his nutmeggy nog!" they accused.

Chris stood on his tippy-toes and crowed, "I’m here, I’m here!" but no one heard him, and Mr. Boumtje was humiliated.

After refunding everyone’s money and making a thousand apologies, Mr. Boumtje sat down and wept. "We are ruined," he lamented. "No one will ever buy our nog again. How shall I provide for Mrs. Boumtje and the fourteen children?" Mr. Boumtje was a proud man, and unaware that Chris stood nearby, even threw in, "It is all the rooster’s fault. I swear, if he ever returns, we will feast on chicken pot pie."

Heartbroken, Chris took off and flew out of the pen (invisible chickens are far better fliers, you see) and soared away across land and sea until he reached a deserted island. "Here, I cannot harm those that I love," he thought. Only, he missed the children more than he ever thought that he would, and as it turned out, the island wasn’t completely deserted. It was actually inhabited by bucktoothed, invisible-chicken-seeing little rodents that looked like balls of brown and white fur.

Back at the Boumtje farm, the children missed Chris too, especially little Yulé. Roaming the villages of Equatorial Guinea, he called to his beloved pet as loudly as he could, but to no avail. He blamed himself for teaching Chris to talk and for feeding him fruitcake, and he refused to partake in any chicken pie dinners.

To make amends, Yul√© decided to confess his naughty actions to Mr. Boumtje and promise to be as good as possible for a really long time (maybe a whole year). Maybe then, his father would forgive Chris, and the little rooster would come back. Yul√© also made up his mind that instead of simply calling for the chicken every day, he would write letters to Chris explaining his plan (didn’t I mention that he had taught Chris to read, too) , put them into bottles, and throw them into the ocean in hopes that one would somehow reach Chris.

Fortunately, near Chris’ birthday, as he moped down the beach, one of the bottles did wash ashore onto his island, and after reading Yul√©’s letter, he began laughing and crying at the same time.

He told his new furry friends about Yulé and all the other fourteen children who had loved him.
"We would like to play with children," they begged. "We are tired of only playing amongst ourselves, and no offense, but whiny, invisible chickens are no walk in the park, either. Please take us there."

Then, Chris had an idea. Perhaps there was a way that he could still see and interact with the children he loved without causing more problems for anyone. So, late at night on the day before his birthday, Chris scooped fourteen of the little furballs into a large leaf and flew back to Equatorial Guinea. Finding an open window at the Boumtje farmhouse, he placed the bundled, leaf gift with Yul√©’s note attached under a small plant. And snatching up a fruitcake or two that lay nearby, he flapped back to his secret island home.

The next morn, the Boumtje children shouted ecstatically, each finding a pet for themselves. "They look like little furry piggies!" one exclaimed.

At Yul√©’s urging, the children all started writing letters to the chicken and tossing them out to sea. And every year on his birthday, Chris returned like clockwork and left different gifts for them.

Word spread across Equatorial Guinea about the mysterious Christmas Chicken. And while some believed, others remained skeptical. "It’s just that Boumtje trying another of his schemes!" they supposed. Nevertheless, more children across the Trans-Pan-Atlantic and beyond began writing letters and throwing them into the ocean for Chris, and he always found gifts for each of them, because he loved the children so.

It is rumored that when Yul√© grew up, he sailed off and found Chris and named the secret island, Christmas Island. I've even heard that Yul√©’s children and his children’s children now help Chris carry out a nearly worldwide gift distribution system. But that’s a story for another day.

So now that you’ve heard, I hope all you boys and girls plan to be good this year. Send your letters to Christmas Island. And don’t forget to leave some fruitcake out for Chris.

Merry Christmas and may the Christmas Chicken visit you too this year!!!

7 comments:

Rich said...

Mary Ann gave me a Guideline for the Highlights for Children 2006 Fiction Contest. The category is: stories that explore the true spirit of holiday celebrations. Up to 800 words.

Think you can cut, I dunno, a coupla-three thousand words outta this monster and still have it make sense?

I mean, heck, what's more "true spirit of holiday celebration" than the true-to-life story of the utterly real Christmas Chicken?

Rich said...

Oh, and you couldn't find a pic of the Christmas Chicken anywhere? This post really needs a photo.

What about the malls where bunches of children line up to sit on the Christmas Chicken's lap and tell him what they want for Christmas? Or all the "Christmas Island Christmas Villages" that have sprung up all over cities across the map? Heck, Wal-Mart has tons of "holiday" stuff... nothing with a, achem, "Holiday Chicken?"

Sure seems like we could get a picture at one of those places.

DugALug said...

Rich,

Be careful! Perhaps you should refer to Chris, as the 'Holiday Chicken'. Afterall, we wouldn't want to offend any of your readers who may actually see the word 'Christ' and assume that your are imposing your religious beliefs on them: You Right-Wing, Bible-Thumping, Fanatical Bigot.

In any case, the Christmas Chicken selection here in Florida stores is rather poultry (Sorry I couldn't resist).

And this is the stuff that legends are made of?!

Merry CHRISTmas
-Doug

Rich said...

Doug,

Have you ever gotten toys at Christmas? I know you have. Then, yes, absolutely this is the stuff legends are made from.

Now, somebody find me a picture of that chicken! [in my best J. Jonah Jameson voice]

Merry Christmas to you as well!

Wanda V. said...

Seems to me that children wouldn't sit on a lap (do chickens have laps?!)

Maybe sit underneath a wing. That makes it kinda hard to get a photograph, though.

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Wanda V.

Rich said...

Merry Christmas, Wanda!!!

Scot said...

This may not be the Christmas Chicken, but it is hands-down the most entertaining chicken on the internet:
http://www.subservientchicken.com/
Type in just about anything and he will do it. My favorite is to command him to "moonwalk".

I suggest that this chicken play the role of the Christmas Chicken when they make the TV movie based on the story.