The hens were still in shock. It had been two days since Sheila had told them they were scheduled to be on the menu for Thanksgiving dinner at the church. Most had quickly passed through the denial stage of grief and were very, very angry. Their anger was divided between Bart, who agreed to donate his entire flock to the church dinner, Anthony, whose idea it was in the first place and the church that wanted to serve them for dinner. There was also some anger at Lemuel, who they felt should be able to come up with a way to keep them alive. He’d survived last Thanksgiving, so why couldn’t he come up with a way to save them?
Lemuel had skipped denial, anger and bargaining and had dropped straight into depression. He’d spent most of his time just sitting in a corner of the turkey run looking at the autumn leaves and wondering what it would be like to not…be. Kid had come to visit on Sunday, and Lemuel had roused himself to talk to her. She was his best friend; no, she was his only friend. They’d forged a close bond last year when she’d made sure he was safe under Val’s deck and after that came to visit him at the farm most every day, aside from a few days when deep snow or torrential downpours had kept her indoors.
On Sunday they’d talked of the emails that Emma had received from her friends and their suggestions. Lemuel had actually chuckled at the idea of cats living on a lake with bunch of Canada Geese. He had to explain to Kid that turkeys don’t swim. They’re bred for size, not seaworthiness. He didn’t mention his own experiences with the Canada Geese that occasionally landed on the farm. They were greedy and rude and from what he had seen, even noisier than his hens. He doubted they’d welcome a flock of turkeys.
The idea of Runa’s farm in New Hamster was alluring, although completely impractical. Kid had talked of Runa’s place before. A nice little pond, a beautiful yard fenced with old New England rock walls – it would be a perfect place for a flock of turkeys, but unless someone picked them up and drove them there, it would never come to be. He also thought Runa would be a lot nicer of a dog to have around than Charlie, who was just so bossy. He sighed, regretting that there was another friend of a friend that he’d never get to meet.
Kid was fishing around trying to come up with a topic that would at least distract Lemuel for a few moments when one of the hens came running out of the coop, yelling for Lemuel. “Tiffany hatched, Lemuel – we have a poult! Come see her.”
Lemuel turned to Kid and told her that he’d explain later and headed for the coop. The thought of a turkey poult would have thrilled him last week, but now his only thought was of what would happen to the orphaned poult after next Tuesday.
Courtney sat proudly in her corner with the poult, surrounded by the hens. Their comments ranged from how beautiful she was to how Bart wouldn’t slaughter them now, as they had a new member of the flock. Tiffany was wedged tightly in between Courtney and Brianna, since they weren’t in the broody coop with all its extra heating. The hens cleared a space so that Lemuel could see the tiny poult. Her feathers were still matted from being squished inside of an egg that had become too small for her, but from what he could tell she looked to be more of a Jersey Buff than a Holland White.
“She’s, um, beautiful, Courtney. You’ve done a good job, hatching a chick when Bart’s been searching out all the eggs.” Lemuel didn’t quite know what to say in this situation. He didn’t usually see the poults when they were first hatched, as Bart moved them to the broody coop before they hatched generally, and the hens had never let him in there at all.
He was pushed back as the hens crowded close again, so muttering polite phrases Lemuel made his way out of the coop and back to his corner. This didn’t change anything. Bart wasn’t likely to go back on his word and lose a tax write-off on the strength of one poult that he hadn’t wanted to be hatched at all. His heart was even heavier, if anything than it had been earlier this morning. There would be a young life that would never be realized, a poult that would never become a jenny, much less brood her own clutch of eggs.
Later in the day, Bart came out to feed the turkeys. They were getting the best of feed now – back to a corn-heavy diet, to ensure maximum meat on their bones. He whistled as he walked, lightly swinging the bucket of feed as he walked. He distributed the feed and decided to count and make sure that he still had all his turkeys. It wouldn’t do to have the church count on thirteen if one had been taken by a fox. A few were on the roost, but it appeared that most were in the coop. Stupid turkeys, he thought. The sun’s still out and they’re all crammed in the coop.
He walked in and saw the knot of hens in the corner. How could he count them when they were all bunched up like that? He walked towards them, shooing them away. All but two scattered, and when he looked down at them he saw a tiny head wedged between them. “I’ll be damned – a poult. How did you accomplish that?” He looked at the two hens who glared at him for even daring to lay his eyes on their poult and shrugged his shoulders. Whatever, he thought. It wouldn’t survive without the heat in the broody coop, so he’d just leave it where it was. Let Mother Nature take its course, as it were.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/cowgirljules/6126063948