by Katherine N., Age 14
, Grade 8, Trinity Christian Academy, Addison, TX USA
Teacher: Sarah-Graham Turtletaub
Old Man Chicken-Spiggins Ate a Child (Well, Sorta)
Sixty-four years, seven months, twenty-two days, ten hours, and fifty agonizing seconds had marched on steadily since Jack Spriggins’ trek to the giants’ home in the clouds. Fifty-one. Fifty-two. Fifty-three. Each one dug the dagger of regret deeper and deeper into his conscience. Fifty-four. Fifty-five. Although, this wasn’t because he wished to have been more considerate in his youth. Oh, no. He only grieved he did not get away with the scheme.
Everyone in the neighboring counties remembered the tale of Jack, and most had passed it down to their children as a popular bedtime story. The septuagenarian was known amongst the townspeople as “Old Man Chicken-Spriggins”, and he was rumored to eat children for breakfast. Thankfully, none of the gossip ever reached his humble abode. (5)If it ever were to, however, bets had already been placed on which children he would eat first after he sprinted down the mountain. Vincent’s mother was especially fearful, for little Vinnie had a big mouth, no filter, and enough audacity for the entire town.
The day came when Vinnie’s friends had triple-dog-dared him to climb to the very top of the peak and leave a chicken dipped in yellow dye outside Old Man Chicken-Spriggins’ door. (8)To prove to everyone he was not a sissy, Vinnie puffed out his chest, lifted his chin, and began the voyage to his potential doom and demise. His ears popped from the altitude, and his knees nearly gave way more than once, but the boy and his accomplice managed their way to the front door of the rickety farmhouse. Raising one fist to pound on the pathetic excuse for door, Vinnie stopped short. Unsure if he had truly heard the low grumbling, he yawned silently to pop his ears. Peering around the corner gave the affirmation that Jack was indeed the source of complaints. Not only that, but he was… weeding his vegetable garden? In the vast amount of time that had followed the event, Jack began gardening as a coping mechanism. Vinnie, of course, did not know this. While most people take up this hobby as a stress-relief or simply because they have a green thumb, Jack hopped on the bandwagon in the hopes of finding another magical bean. Another chance. Opportunity. Prospect. Fill in the blank.
Whether the cause of his alarm was from seeing Old Man Chicken-Spriggins in person, or discovering he gardened, the young boy did not know. He did know, however, he dropped the creature and it scurried aimlessly before stumbling back behind the house to Jack and his agricultural practices.
Even if the chicken did not start pecking at the grain in a separate patch, the old man would have been furious. Chickens had been a symbol of failure ever since the incident. In one fell swoop, Jack snatched up the blindingly yellow feathered sack of meat and locked it away in a cramped pen.
The setting sun had become too much for his weak eyes to take, so Jack retired to his bedroom for the night, plotting what exactly he would do with the chicken. The most logical approach was to eat it, since he had no use for it, so that became the decision.
Meanwhile, Vinnie sprinted back down to the village to relay the events to his friends.
“You didn’t do the dare!” The first one whined. “You were supposed to leave the chicken on his doorstep, not lose it!”
“I know, I know!” Vinnie rolled his eyes and threw his hands up exasperatedly. “But what do you expect me to do about it? It’s not like the chicken can talk its way out of the cage and place itself on the doorstep.”
The other three boys exchanged looks, furrowed brows shifting into smug, knowing looks. “Maybe it can’t, but you can,” another one piped up with an elbow nudging Vinnie’s ribs.
The next morning came with a bang, streaks of oranges, pinks, reds, and all combinations of the shades painting the sky with a fury. Vinnie was not able to appreciate it due to his quick power nap before Old Man Chicken-Spriggins woke up. Unbeknownst to him, that time would come quicker than anticipated, for the boy’s snoring outside Jack’s bedroom window was enough to awaken the elder. Heavy footsteps on the porch, accompanied by the slamming of a screen door, sent Vinnie into a half-conscious frenzy. As the sun glinted off the large, albeit rusty, blade, he spoke up with a squeak, “Wait! Wait! What are you doing?” The knife clattered noisily to the gravel path. Vinnie cowered further into the shrub, hoping to wedge himself perfectly between the branches and wooden side of the house.
“Who- who is it?” Jack’s shaky voice was higher than the boy thought it would be, and he tried to stifle a snicker as the elder comically lifted his eyes to the heavens.
“It’s me, the chicken.”
“What do you want with me?
“I, uh… I laid an egg,” the statement came out more like a question. Almost as if the real chicken could understand, it sidestepped to reveal an actual egg.
“An egg!” Jack marveled, eyes wide with greed. “Are you magical, chicken? You must be- you can talk!”
Vinnie cackled. “You could say that. Every one in one hundred of my eggs are golden. Sorry, but this one isn’t.” He had no earthly idea where these thoughts were coming from, but they were certainly entertaining.
“Well I’d hate for it to go to waste… Do you mind if I just eat all the plain, boring eggs?”
Vinnie was certain that if he were a chicken, that statement would be highly offensive. It was probably a good thing he was not a chicken, then. “Go ahead. Mi casa es su casa. Er, mis huevos son tus huevos.” He made a mental note to thank his Spanish teacher when September rolled around.
“Such a clever chicken! An intelligent chicken! Not only can you speak, but you’re bilingual!” Jack Spriggins lunged toward the pen, leaving the blade on the ground, and gingerly picked up the egg. “I’ll leave a cup of grain for you and be back in the morning!” He called on his way inside, light as a feather.
When Vinnie was certain the coast was clear, he ran as fast as his legs could take him back to his own home and let out good, hearty laughs all the while.
It wasn’t long before Vinnie had settled into a routine of waking up early to keep up the charade, have a few chuckles, and hurry back down the mountain before anyone really noticed he was gone. Besides, it was normal for someone of his age to be going on adventures.
After five weeks, Old Man Chicken-Spriggins increased the chicken’s feed to two cups. The chicken, whom the boy had secretly been thinking of as Pollo, laid two eggs every morning. A month later, Pollo had laid nearly a full one hundred eggs. Jack was growing impatient, Pollo was growing fat and lazy, and Vinnie was growing worried that Jack truly would eat a child like him. The unthinkable happened next.
Pollo stopped laying eggs.
Of course Jack noticed, and to say he was furious would be the understatement of the century. He had quit tending to his garden, thus throwing away the chance of harvesting magic beans. The golden egg had been his “get rich quick” plan! It was supposed to be foolproof!
Vinnie arrived at 5:07 AM on the dot, just as always, but something was different. The kitchen window had been shattered. When Jack finally emerged from the creaky house, it was like déjà vu. Grasped in a meaty fist was the same large, albeit rusty, blade from weeks ago. Vinnie pushed down a lump of bile and forced himself to remain silent. Jack roared with all his might at the poor hunk of poultry before killing it with a swift movement of the wrist.
The second the aroma of roasted meat wafted through broken windows, Vinnie was off like a bullet. His arms and legs pumped as fast as his heart until he reached home. From what he could tell, Jack was back to square one. No friends, no chicken, no eggs, no one to talk to.
Vinnie, on the other hand, finally began writing his “What I Did This Summer” essay. Inspired by the past couple months, he entitled it “Old Man Chicken-Spriggins Ate a Child (Well, Sorta).”