I enjoy walking through the suburban streets of my neighborhood in the fall. There is something comfortable yet foreboding about it. Halloween is weeks away and a long winter hangs in the background like a presence that is felt, but yet to be seen. I like to feel the cooling breeze swipe itself against my aging face as I walk. Leaves whisk past, fallen from the branches which once gave them life and I contemplate things like my mortality and the speed at which life seems to pass by. I look into the windows of other people’s homes and meditate upon all the ways that we humans try to create a feeling of security and permanence within the never-ending windmill of time. My walks tend to be more contemplative in the fall, more so than at any other time in the year. I think it has something to do with the end of summer and the beginning of a darker more introverted time of year. Sometimes in my contemplative state I sniff flowers and pay attention to things that I would normally ignore, such as a chicken.
The large chicken was grazing the front lawn of a nicely landscaped home. I looked around to see if anyone was keeping an eye on the chicken but there was no one around except a few elderly people hanging out on their front porch, far down the street. Since I live in an agricultural town, with farms all around- it is not unusual to see various kinds of livestock wandering aimlessly around. However this particular chicken took me by surprise. He (I do not know what the chicken’s sex was but for the sake of this story I will refer to him by the masculine gender) seemed to be larger, less fearful than most other chickens I had seen and he had this bright red mohawk running from the top of his head all the way down to the bottom of his spine. Since I stopped eating meat almost a year ago I felt like it would be possible for the chicken and I to get along. I had never met a chicken before and felt like this introspective fall day would be a perfect time to meet. I bent my legs and clasped my hands on my knees. I called the chicken in the same high-pitched voice that I use to talk with babies, cats and dogs. “Hello there chicken, what is your name?” I kindly inquired. The chicken lifted its regal head, turned its beak towards me and stared directly into my eyes. He had finely sculpted cheekbones, large all knowing eyes and a beak that looked like the helm of a pirate ship. Without wasting a moment’s time, the chicken began to walk right towards me. I did not expect this kind of unflinching courage from a chicken and I felt a bit intimidated by its forthrightness. So I withdrew my invitation to meet and quickly turned around and walked away. I had never touched or been close to a chicken before and the limited space between us created a mystery that I suddenly became too afraid to explore.
The chicken backed off as well and went back to grazing on the front lawn. As I was walking away, I could not help but feel like I missed an opportunity to meet a chicken. I also felt like I was acting like a coward and allowing fear to get in the way. I remembered something I heard from a Buddhist teacher about smiling at fear rather than running from it. So I turned around and walked back over to the chicken who seemed to be preoccupied with pulling green grass out of the ground. I was within five feet of the chicken when I bent my legs, put my hand on my knees, smiled and said in my high-pitched baby voice, “You’re a good chicken. What are you doing out here all by yourself? What is your name? My name is Randall.” I proceeded to call the chicken over to me in the same way that I would call a cat. I was determined to pet a chicken without fear getting in the way. Again the chicken lifted its head, looked at me straight in the eyes and then he opened his mouth allowing a large handful of grass to fall out. Without giving me a second to understand what was taking place, the chicken pointed the helm of its beak straight at me and began to charge. I felt a wave of fear overcome me- to powerful to ignore. My smile went away and immediately my fight or flight instinct over powered me. I ran.
As I was running I realized that that the chicken was chasing me. I could hear a demonic cackling sound coming from its throat. I do not know what the cackle meant but it sounded like very primal fighting words to me. I could hear the chickens winged feet slapping against the sidewalk as it started to catch up with me (I had no idea that chickens could run so fast). I remember thinking to myself “no, no, no, I am not ready to die!” as the chicken got closer and closer to me. My horror and desire to live allowed for me to run at a speed that I no longer knew I was capable of. I ran for two very long blocks at top speed until the chickens horrifying cackling began to gradually fade into the background. I gradually slowed down and turned my head. I noticed that the chicken was walking back the other way. He had given up. I stopped, put my hands on my knees and tried to catch my breath. I felt like I had just escaped what could have been the end of me. Beads of sweat began to drizzle off of my forehead and make a drip like painting on the sidewalk. I looked again at the chicken whose red mohawk was sticking straight up as he walked back towards the lawn. I then looked across the street, where I could hear two elderly people laughing. They were sitting on their front porch and enjoying what had become a show for them in which I was the main actor. The old lady who sounded like she had no teeth yelled out at me, “chicken!” and then made a kind of inhumane cackling sound. All I could do was mumble under my breath “okay, whatever,” shake my head in recognition of being the one who was being laughed at and walk away.
The following afternoon I went for another walk. I was observing the piles of leaves on the ground and listening to the various sounds that the leaves made as they tumbled down the street in the afternoon breeze. I decided to stay away from the street where I was chased by the chicken. I felt slightly embarrassed to show my face on that street. I was also afraid of the chicken. So I walked in the opposite direction. I observed various flowers and contemplated various episodes of my youth that I had not thought about in years. I recalled the time that I was attacked by two white poodles while on my way home from school and how I had run away from them in tears with my ankles bleeding and pant legs all torn up by the poodles teeth. Maybe I ran from the chicken because I was traumatized by this episode in my youth? I then thought about all the ways that our past experiences affect our behavior in the present. And then as I was walking and thinking, I noticed a large piece of paper stapled to a telephone pole. In large, bold, black letters it read: MISSING CHICKEN! Below this was a picture of a large chicken with a red mohawk. It was the same chicken that had chased me the day before. Beneath the picture was written: HIS NAME IS MILO, IF YOU SEE HIM PLEASE CALL 916-748-1175. HE IS A VERY SWEET CHICKEN BUT HE CAN ALSO BE AGRESSIVE AT TIMES. REWARD.