WRITTEN BY GILL McKINLAY
A lovely story for Easter… Ryan gets his wish and his mum, at long last, can answer the question of which came first
“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Ryan asked.
Anita sighed. Ryan was always asking difficult questions, or at least questions that she couldn’t answer.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
Ryan kicked a chair leg. He was playing up because she’d banned him from the latest-fad computer game, WeekNite.
“Well, let’s get some chickens of our own,” he said, not for the first time, either.
Anita wondered how that answered the question, although from his point of view of course, the chicken would have come first.
“Yesterday, at Luke’s, we had to stop playing WeekNite,” Ryan complained. “Luke’s mum ran out of eggs, so we had to go shopping to buy some more. We’d just reached level five, too.”
“Oh, what a shame,” Anita replied, sarcastically.
“I wish Julie would shop online like you do,” Ryan said. “She wouldn’t keep running out of stuff…”
Last year, on a farm holiday, Ryan fed the hens and collected the eggs in a wicker basket, and he’d loved it.
They’d put up with endless why-did-the-chicken-cross-the-road jokes read out from a book bought in a gift shop, and discussions about whether the egg or the chicken had come first.
“Let’s get some chickens of our own,” he’d suggested on the drive home. “The farmer says they’re pets with benefits.”
“So are dogs,” Julie retorted. “Taking a dog for a walk is good exercise, plus a dog is part of the family – there’s mutual love and respect. Chickens don’t sit on your lap while you’re watching TV and you can’t throw sticks for them to fetch,” she added. “Keeping fowl is a lot of bother, what with having to protect them against foxes, rodents and cats…”
There had been no further mention of chickens after that. Until now…
“Well, why not?” Mark said, when Julie updated her husband that evening. “There’s plenty of space in the garden for a few hens to roam about…”
“Please, Mum,” Ryan said. “If the hens lay eggs, it’ll save us going to the shops – we had to go again yesterday – me and Luke will never make level seven of WeekNite at this rate…”
“Somebody would have to give them food and water,” Anita pointed out.
“I’ll do that,” Ryan volunteered. “It’ll be just like being on holiday again.”
“It’s not a bad idea – the responsibility would be good for him,” Mark said.
“All right then,” Anita replied. Maybe it’d keep Ryan off the computer, and stop him asking questions…
Mark started building a henhouse, but it was more difficult than he had imagined.
“Stop swearing,” Anita scolded. “Are you making them a run, too?”
“A run for it, more like,” he joked. “But no, I don’t think I’ll bother with a run – the hens can wander freely.”
“You’ll have to make good the fences, then,” Anita remarked. “We don’t want them getting out…”
Visions of combing the streets at midnight yelling “Clucky” or “Beaky” or whatever daft names Ryan decided on did not appeal to Anita.
Ryan named them White, Yolk, Shell and Toast.
Anita eyed the foursome as Mark showed them their new home. Speckled white, with sharp-looking beaks, the hens were bigger than she’d expected.
Ryan enjoyed looking after them and he was delighted when he found the first two eggs.
Soon, they had more eggs than they needed. Anita carefully placed some in a box and told Ryan to give them to Julie.
“Then she won’t run out of eggs this week.”
“But how will Julie know these eggs are from our chickens?” Ryan asked. “They’re in a supermarket box – you could have just bought them.”
“He’s still asking awkward questions,” Mark laughed.
But then they found Toast dead by the back door…
“It’s not your fault,” Julie said as she comforted Ryan. “You’re the best chicken keeper in the world.”
“Can we get a replacement?” he asked. “The other three will miss Toast – and I’ll miss her, too.”
At last: a question Anita could answer!
When Ryan arrived home from school the following afternoon, she handed him a computer printout.
“I’ve ordered another chicken off the internet,” she said. “Here’s a picture of it – I’ve ordered some eggs, too. So, we’ll see which comes first…”
Our My Weekly Favourites series of short fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
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