Henpecked

PECK PECK PECK
EAT EAT EAT

‘Wicked and useless hen!’ The Farmer did mutter. ‘Wicked and useless hen! All the others give me two or three eggs a day. Why do you only give me one? Or none some days?’
The Hen did not reply, for she was only a hen. She continued to peck at the grain that had been put before her.

‘You’ll eat my food but give me close to nought in return,’ The Farmer continued, muttering and stuttering his way along the hutch, shovelling out the grain as he shuffled his feet down into the darkness of the hutch.
Collecting the eggs, two or three at a time, The Farmer congratulated the other hens, slothful and docile who pecked at the grain put before them.
‘Good hens, all of you,’ The Farmer did say. ‘Good and faithful hens. You take my food and then graciously you give me more back. Such good and faithful hens. I love you all. But not that one in the corner. No, that is a wicked and useless hen, isn’t she?’
The hens did not reply, for they were only hens. They continued to peck at the grain put out before them.

‘Good hens, all of you,’ The Farmer did say. ‘Good hens. I will go and take your eggs to market to sell to the entire town. Such good and faithful hens. I know that I can do this today and every day. But if I had to rely on that hen, the wicked and useless hen, I know we all would starve! Carry on eating, my good and faithful hens and I will return tomorrow!’
The hens did not reply, for they were only hens. They continued to peck at the grain put before them.
The slothful and docile hens pecked pecked pecked. And they did eat eat eat.
But not the agile and quick hen. No, she did jump from her place in the hutch alongside the slothful and docile hens down onto the ground upon which The Farmer did walk.

This is the first excerpt from a new short story, Henpecked. I was fortunate enough to go to The Shrewsbury Folk Festival this week, and I got back my writing mojo. I have been inspired by songs from Lady Maisery, particularly The Lady And The Blacksmith and then The Grey Selkie, and so I have been wanting to write about animals who take charge of life circumstances. My ability to write this story was sparked by John Jones (Oysterband) talking about the background of his song about a magpie in a plastic bag. Bam, the cogs started turning.

Henpecked is a story about mental slavery. I have deliberately used language from the Bible, such as ‘good and faithful’, inversely to represent the control some church leaders have over their congregation members. The slothful and docile hens could be congregation members who don’t mind being controlled and not thinking for themselves. Or the slothful and docile hens can represent pack mentality of any group where people don’t think for themselves and are happy to keep the status quo. A workplace, a sports club… The Hen – the agile and quick hen – is the one who doesn’t bow to The Farmer, and she takes her revenge upon him…

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About catherinehume

Catherine Hume: Writer, social care worker and a liver of a life less ordinary.
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