This bit of almost entirely true flash fiction appeared in the Southern Indiana Writers Group’s very first anthology in 1994. The anthology is no longer in print, but here is the story.
THE DAY THE DOG ATE POPCORN
by Marian Allen
We moved from Louisville in search of a clean environment and got chickens. Go figure.
It was what you might call a minimalist flock–three. The smallest was Hennessy. The middle one was Chickabiddy. The biggest, most aggressive one, was Popcorn. Open the henhouse door, and Popcorn would be there, alert, balanced, beak and claws loose in their sheaths. “Go ahead,” she seemed to cluck. “Make my day.”
We had two dogs. Honeybunny was a big dumb blonde; her hobby was rolling in compost heaps. Lizzie (officially, Lizzie Diggumsmacks Allen), was a Cairn Terrier; her hobby was growling.
There were six of us: Myself, Charlie, and the kids (Annie, Beth, Ruthie, and Meg). Six people, five critters. That should have given us the balance of power. How was I to know Mother Nature had her thumb on the scale?
~ ~ * ~ ~
Now, we raised the chickens in a cloistered henhouse, but a day came when we remitted their vows, and they roamed free.
As the day passed, Lizzie studied the chickens, and apparently concluded that these were creatures she could do business with. She shook herself, as a man might roll up his sleeves, and moseyed toward the hens.
“Lizzie’s going after the chickens,” Ruthie warned me.
“She’s not going fast enough to be after the chickens.”
Lizzie began to pick up speed.
“There she goes!” Beth shouted.
Ruthie snatched up a switch: long, slim, whippy, and more suited to elevating impressionable young minds than to driving off determined carnivores.
The terrier struck. Popcorn, surprised by a rear attack, tore herself from Lizzie’s jaws.
I was raised in the inner city; I wasn’t accustomed to the random violence of the barnyard. I screamed. Little Meg, in my arms, tried to climb my head for a better view.
“Charlie! Lizzie’s killing the chickens!”
Popcorn streaked around the edge of the cleared land. Lizzie was right after her, her mouth foaming with feathers. Ruthie began to gain ground.
Lizzie caught Popcorn and Ruthie caught Lizzie. Ruthie thrashed at the terrier while Popcorn flopped, like a boxer saved by the bell.
Charlie pelted around the corner of the house, brandishing his weed-cutter.
The new cry rose: “Daddy’s going to kill Lizzie!”
Charlie dropped his tool and went at the dog hands-on.
Lizzie bit him.
“You bit me, you dog!”
Lizzie knew when to fish and when to cut bait. Now she ran, dribbling feathers and a drop or two of the Master’s blood.
Popcorn yet lived.
~ ~ * ~ ~
“How do you treat a chicken who’s been bitten by a dog?” I asked the vet.
He didn’t answer. He didn’t quite laugh.
“You don’t get many calls about chickens, do you?”
“Not chickens with dog bites, no. Most people–if there’s enough left after the dog finishes–most people turn the chicken’s legs over its head and stick it in the stew pot.”
How practical. How robust. How impossible.
We healed Popcorn’s wounds, but perhaps her heart was broken. Perhaps the shame of being outmaneuvered, then taken in retreat, was too much for her code of honor. Popcorn passed away in her sleep one night and was mourned by all who knew her.
Sic transit gloria chicken – so passes the glory that was Popcorn.
WRITING PROMPT: Your character has a “food animal” for a pet.