"Heeeeeelp! Help help help! Death! Dead! Deaaaaaad!" My chickens screamed at me from the back porch. I sighed, closed my book, and went to see what was the matter.
"What's up, Looney Goons?" I asked as I took stock. Water, check. Food, check. Grass, check. Heat lamp, check. "You seem to be fine," I told them.
"Noooooo! Aunt Marge opened her beak wide and screamed at me. "Deaaaaaad!"
I looked at her in suspicion. Clarice, laying behind her, ruffled her feathers and yawned, easing into sleep by the heat lamp.
"I really don't think anything's wrong," I repeated.
Three eerie howls sounded from far off. "Seeeee?" Aunt Marge screamed again. "Death!"
Agatha ran up and shoved her head under Aunt Marge's stomach. "Hiiiiide meeee!"
Bagpipes sauntered over, curious as to why they were still awake. "Ladies. . ." he began. Then he heard what they were saying. "What, death? Really? Death? Deaaaaath?" He began to screel loudly and tried to hide underneath them both.
By this point, Tabitha had wandered over and was staring at the trio with her head cocked. "Whaa?" she asked. Then, "Death? Deaath?" she tried out the new sound, then decided it wasn't for her. She headed over to sleep next to Clarice.
Agatha, her head finally under Bagpipes's belly, decided this was good enough for her. Ruffling her feathers, she settled herself down. Bagpipes took this as a good sign and started to lay down beside her. But Aunt Marge would have none of it. "Noooooooo!" she screamed. "Deaaaaaaath! Heard it! Dead! Death! Deaaaaath!"
Agatha perked up again at this. "Death?" Then remembering that she was supposed to be terrified, "Right! Death!" She spun her head around, crazy-eyed.
Bagpipes, eyes closed, gurgled a soothing rattle in his throat. He was much too tired for this. "It's okay, loves. . ."
"No death, no death," Bagpipes gurgled again.
"Nooo. . ." His eyes closed.
"Death?" Aunt Marge looked around, but no one was listening. "Death," she muttered to no one in particular. "Dead death. . . deadness!" She scuffed the ground, then settled down for an uneasy rest, still calling out at irregular intervals, "Death? Deaaath?" but much softer now.
A buzzing sounded near Tabitha's ear. Her eyes sprang open and she saw a long-legged flying thing in front of her eyes. "Eat it!" her brain called. "Taste like cricket! Maybe!" she jabbed out her beak and caught the flying thing. "Yum!" she yelled, then carefully tip-toed away from the fuzzy group of sleeping bodies. "Yum yum yum. Bug of mine! Bug for me!" she sang, bobbing her head back and forth as she tried to maneuver the struggling insect into her throat. Then suddenly, as she flipped the insect to get a better hold on it, it jumped out of her beak and flew into the light. Distraught, Tabitha watched as it spun wildly around the metal cone, its buzzing becoming ever louder.
Aunt Marge, who still wasn't quite asleep, heard the racket and glanced up. As she watched, it came within her reach. She thrust her head forward and. . . "Got it!" All thoughts of death forgotten, Aunt Marge gobbled down Tabitha's insect as the smaller chicken watched in dismay. She smacked her invisible lips, scratched at the sand a few times, then settled down to sleep. Tabitha gave what appeared to be a chicken sigh and laid down beside her. As the mass of feathers and fluff finally fell silent and began to breathe in unison, a train whistle sounded in the distance.