This afternoon I framed the invitation to my daughter’s wedding in one of those two sided plastic frames that stand on their own, the two sides opposite each other. On the facing side I placed a picture of her when she was about 8 or 9. In the picture she’s sitting on the kitchen floor, her three chickens vying for her attention and all three sitting in her lap, an overturned bowl of chicken food nearby. She was a chicken lover, and the funny thing is that given three chickens now she’d do the same thing. She had names for her chickens which I can’t remember, but she would. She’ll never forget them.

She’d like time to write someday and I bet that her stories will include chickens.

My novel. I like the sound of that. I even like the story though no one else seems to. Outside of my group anyway. My novel has a cat. We weren’t around chickens a lot, growing up in Queens, but we always had cats and I remember each and every one. Cats in stories always add coziness to a cozy, make a thriller more thrilling and a fantasy more bizarre. I don’t know why but a cat has all the potential of an extra character with paranormal abilities even if they are just being themselves.

My fictional cat, Woodrow, does nothing but eat and sleep. He does sniff out the antagonist in one scene but the humans are not perceptive enough to recognize his odd behavior as significant. They give him food which shuts him up. He’s ordinary. But, as a cat he has the potential to deliver ALL that cats are known for: sneakiness, faithfulness, ruthlessness, bravery, devotion and otherworldliness. Woodrow just doesn’t deliver any of that. Maybe (sardonic laughter) in the sequel.

Could a chicken add as much to a story? Can anyone remember a story they’ve read where the protagonist is bound up in a relationship with their chicken?

Dogs figure largely in novels and no denying they are fun, but they don’t have the cache of a cat. Try thinking of what dogs symbolize and they’ll fall flat and short of a cat. In fact they are usually the fall guy in a book with a cat AND a dog. They bite and growl. If your story needs that, throw in a dog or two.

Elephants. They’re like large cats. Mysterious. You never know what they’re thinking. I loved the ending of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. A cat would do that. Or get the elephant to do it for him. They have the same mindset. The trouble with elephants is their size; far too big for anything but a circus or the African veldt.

Parrots. They think like cats and elephants. And they add color. Suspense, too, if you’ve ever been around one. They’ll rip into you if you’re not careful. And they’ll talk and spill the beans if someone is killed in their presence. But only if they liked the victim. They can come in handy for that special story.

Monkeys are underused. They could deliver some intrigue as in, I wonder what the monkey over the mantelpiece is going to do, and when. Like the proverbial gun they’re way too obvious, however. They stand out like a sore thumb in a typical setting. Cats patrol the floors, just under the radar, always on the alert, as invisible as the old family retainer who waits. Monkeys are not subtle.

I’m waiting for the chicken story. And I’m looking forward to the big day.

About Eleanor Ingbretson

Native New Yorker. Transplanted to New Hampshire years ago, but still considered a flatlander by the neighbors. Writer of fantasy and mystery and whatever else takes my fancy.

Posted on January 13, 2018, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. My favorite fictional chicken is Billina from L. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz (also my favorite Oz book, perhaps not coincidentally.) I’ve never lived with chickens but have always loved them (if family stories of my toddlerhood are to be believed). I have however known several chickens of whom I was quite fond, and I hope some day to live in circumstances that will include chickens.
    Your observation about the latent potential of cats in fiction, regardless of whether or not they deliver, is spot-on.

    In honor of your daughter’s big day, here’s a wedding story that involves chickens:
    My grandmother was married in her family home. At the appointed hour, all the guests were assembled in the parlor and everything was in readiness, but no one knew where the bride was. She was found out back, feeding the chickens. She said it was the time she always fed them, and she figured the people would understand a delay but the chickens would not.

    Enjoy the big day!


  2. The trouble with chickens is that they are just naturally ridiculous. Vaudevillians know this: they whack each other with rubber chickens. And BTW, this post was a standard Eleanorean stream of consciousness, a sobering reflection for us all.


  3. I loved this!! I think the anticipation of the big day has flamed your creativity! Now you have me thinking about the judicious (or not) addition of some animals to my Woodbury series (and I like the sound of that!). Must have animals if we have farms, right? Chickens, even!


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