by Mary Louise Van Dyke, 1650 words

Tim groaned and woke up as the van stopped in the Animal Farm’s parking lot.

Outside the window, darkness draped the horizon. He didn’t want to go anywhere else today. He just wanted his bed. Nasty as the doublewide might be, Tim just wanted to be there. – and he had to see how the chickens were doing. His mom must have seen them by now. Maybe she would finally think he was worth something. More than just a drudge who couldn’t do anything much

“Where am I?” Audrey had already disappeared and Lynn’s face stared back at him. “I’m taking you to someone who can help, Tim,” Lynn said in a voice that she probably thought was soothing. “But we have to hurry.”

“No! NO.” he said and pushed himself up, trying to ignore the blood dripping down his face. “Let me of here.”

“But you have to help us find M.T.” Lynn said. “So they can help you.”

Tim gritted his teeth. “I said no and I mean it! I can take care of myself.” He reached for the side door handle and yanked the handle back. “Just leave me alone.”

Pain jackknifed through his body as he jumped down and Lynn rolled down her window, heedless of the rain. “Tim, stop it. You know your mother isn’t going to help you. We can.”

He forced his eyes to open wide and stared her down. “I said no. You can’t make me.”

Tim put one shaky foot in front the next and the next, willing himself to not trip and get her clucking at him to get in the van. But he wouldn’t. He would show them – all of them – and he would show his mother he was a hero.

“Tim, please?” Lynn called again. “It’s raining!

Duh. Tim ignored her and plodded on. The rain eased as the van lights faded into the distance. He would catch a bus home. All the way to the bus stop, he shivered, wanting to fold up and drop onto the rocky drive. Instead, he found a puddle with clear water and splashed his face to wash off as much blood as possible.

The bus driver stared at him but didn’t comment as Tim found a seat in the back and waited for his stop. 

Home. What passed for home. Ahead he saw the dark shadow of the doublewide and heard the cluck, cluck, clucking of the chickens he’d saved. They wouldn’t end up being served extra crispy at the local Cluckers drive-thru.

The buck-buck-bucks intensified as he reached the edge of the scrabbly patch of land the trailer sat on. The moonlight allowed him to see a sea of white and brown feathersters shifting from side to side.


Hades, his face hurt. Tim rubbed his forehead. At least it was crusted now. He wanted to be done with all them, chickens, people, everything.  If his mother would just finally realize what a hero he was – this whole thing would be worth it. No more being called good-for-nothing.

She would call him good-for-something.

The porchlight wasn’t on. Was she still at work or gone out for the evening with one of her pick-up guys? He started into the yard and was suddenly aware that every buck-buck-buck was stopped and beady eyes gleaming at him in every direction.

One brown chicken with a weird two-colored nose stepped toward him. Bu-ck, bock – od and the beak opened wide.

More fowl voices joined into a gigantic buck-ood – buck–ood.

Blood? His heart stopped and his legs felt like playdough as he stepped back. Or were they saying food? Food? Food?

His heart sank. They needed food. Chicken food. There wasn’t any chicken food here at the doublewide unless the cans of creamed corn kept in the pantry might work.

But the fowl-hearted feathersters weren’t about to let him any closer to the front door.

He wanted his bed. He wanted to wash his face, his hands free of the blood and feathers. The cluster of clucks appeared ready to attack him again.

He cringed. Hungry chickens foraging on him, on his hands, his face, his legs.

With a cry he turned and ran conscious of the brown hen nipping at his heels. Bood. Buck-buck Buck-ood.

“I’ll get you food,” he hissed.

But how? The van and the Tesla were gone and the Cluckers farm where food awaited, miles off.  The only thing available without keys was the ancient adult-sized tricycle and rattly trailer that belonged to a neighbor.

He was just borrowing it, he soothed himself as he rode into the night. Just borrowing it and would return it soon. He was a hero after all.

Yes, a hero indeed wA as he and a tough one indeed,

He would fetch the life-giving kernels the hens did need,

Upon those beaksome morsels (and not him) they would graciously feed . . . .

Not many wheel revolutions later Tim wished he’d been able to enter the trailer and get an energy drink before taking off. Tim wanted to ditch his rattly three-wheeled vehicle and lay down in a ditch somewhere and sleep and sleep and sleep.

But the chickens needed food and the only way he’d get safely back into his house was by the front door. To bed. To shower. And to hear those hoped for words from his mother.

The sun was scratching away the darkness when he spotted Cluckers farm. Tim sighed with relief and pedaled onto the dirt driveway. He would surely find feed in the barn and with luck, he would be home in a few hours. Mom never woke up.

What was that?

His right hand tightened reflexively on the brake and the bike skidded to a stop.

Why was there a cop car here? Two of them crowding the way back to the barn and the food. Without thinking, Tim slid off and flinched as his feet met the pavement. Had Mr. Tyson Cluckers already noticed the hens were gone?

He would realize much later if he’d been smart, he would have turned around and pedaled away for dear life. Instead he tiptoed towards the house where he heard the sounds of shouting.

“Either the bitch has stolen all my money or she’s been kidnapped and the person forced her to rob me.” Tyson yelled.

Tim peeked through the side window. The chicken butcherer was standing there, face flaming brighter than a Rhode Island Red.

“Now Tyson, you need to calm down,” one of the cops said, patting the man on the hand. “Until we know for sure what’s happened.”

“It’s my entire fortune. All my money. She’s got it – or they’ve got it.”

Someone had taken all the Cluckers money? Tim gasped and managed a lopsided smile. Yes! He wasn’t aware he’d shouted until too late. Three startled faces stared out at his and Tim moved away too slowly as a cop came dashing out of the house followed by the other two men.

“Gotcha,” the cop, whose name badge read Pepper, grabbed Tim’s hen-pecked arm.

“That’s him,” Tyson yelled. “That’s the little bastard who stole my chickens!”

After making sure the dogs all had kibbles and clean blankets, Phil stretched out his legs on the desktop in Delia’s office. Good thing she wasn’t here to see him. The police scanner aka blotter continued to spew out the latest desperado doings of the not-so-fine county citizenry.

Tom hadn’t bothered to come in the office, after reappeared after his outing with the Cluckers earlier today. His car was gone when Phil checked.

Shame that. Hopefully the man would be in tomorrow and would be singing like a canary about his rubbing elbows with the well-to-do Poultry Princes of the county. Phil thoughtfully tapped his pencil on the edge of the desk in a 2-4-2-4 beat. Tom and money. Money and Tom. Why would the Cluckers brothers want to get involved with Tom?

Phil thought about his missing money. He would get it all back,  every last thin dime and all the Grants and Hamiltons. Tom wouldn’t dog the long arm of the law. Not this time.

He grunted and sipped his cooling coffee. What a day. Chickens and kidnappers. Phil grunted and reluctantly swung his feet down. He still needed to check on the cats and the rabbits and gerbils. Looked like he would miss his evening class again.

Deciding the purries could wait, Phil poured himself another cup of coffee and spooned in three teaspoons of sugar. Was the teen the chicknapper?  His detective instincts shouted yes, Tim was the perpetrator. However, Phil’s softer version side, hewn here at Animal Farm, hoped he was wrong. Tim seemed a good kid who should be in school and working towards a goal that featured animal care. Not trying to liberate feathered livestock that couldn’t even fly or take care of themselves.

Wait. His head swiveled towards the police scanner that filled the tiny office with anti-white noise.

A 10-35? A robbery is reported, static flared. Kidnapped. Wife. More static flared.

Growling, Phil thumped the scanner, his police senses tuning in. 10-35 was code for a major crime alert.


Chickens? Wife? Kidnapped? Hat the whell? Did something else occur at the Cluckers farm factory? He pushed the coffee aside, not caring that the liquid sloshed over onto the printed daily report. Delia could do something useful for a change when she arrived in the morning and print out a new copy.

Speaking of Delia. He shook his head. Chasing Tom was challenging enough. But that young woman was another fettle of kish entirely. Brainy, oh yes, brainy. Built, not that he was interested. He wasn’t.

Phil needed to do some under the table investigating and probe what her part in Tom’s underhanded business was. For all Phil knew, she was the real force.

“Phil?” said a voice behind him.