by Pam Sears
“Momma, she followed me home!”
|“Mamma! Mamma! Look! She followed me home. Cans we keeps her? Peeeeease?”
Sarah turned to look at her 4 year old daughter and nearly squealed aloud.
“Madalynne Anne! What. Is. That!”
“Her name’s Hen’retta, Mamma. She followed me home. Peeeeease can I keeps her?”
Big, soft brown eyes gazed up at Sarah as she pressed a hand to her heart to stop the pounding. “Henrietta” was the biggest chicken she’d ever seen. Right now Henrietta was eyeing a caterpillar crawling across the doorjamb that led to the back yard.
“Maddie, really, love, where did she come from?” Sarah took a hesitant step forward and the hen’s head cocked in her direction.
“She followed me, Mamma. I pwomise she did.” Those big brown eyes were working too hard at looking innocent right now.
Placing her hands on her hips Sarah fought back a laugh as she eyed her daughter. Maddie’s little blue and green checked dress was dusty, the hem a bit muddy, and her little black shoes had scratches on them along with water spots. Her hair bows were a bit off kilter as well and a few strands of hair had pulled free of her pigtails to wisp about her face.
It was all Sarah could do not to laugh or groan out loud. Her daughter had the worst timing when it came to getting dirty and today was supposed to be special. That man with the new-fangled photo-graphy box was coming to town and Jim had managed to get an appointment for them to have a family picture taken. It hadn’t been easy, either, because everyone wanted to get a family picture.
“Well, sweetheart, we need to make sure, uh, Henrietta doesn’t already have a home. You know we can’t keep an animal just because they follow us. Sometimes they’re lost and need to be taken back to their real home.”
Maddie’s little eyes teared up and her lower lip quivered. “But, Mammaaaa…” she wailed piteously.
“No, Maddie. I’m pretty sure chickens are more likely to be missed than a kitten or some such. People rely on them for eggs. Now, really, love, where did she come from?”
But Maddie got a stubborn look on her face. “She followed me home. Honest!”
With a sigh Sarah took her daughter’s hand and led her to a chair. “Well, for now, let’s clean you up. We’re going to go have our picture taken when Daddy comes home and we need to look nice, sweetie.”
Maddie’s eyes lit up. “Can Hen’retta come, too? I needs a pic’toor wi’v her!”
Sarah inhaled then coughed as she swallowed wrong. “Well… uhm… as to that…” She coughed some more then finally shook her head. “Let’s see what Daddy says when he gets home.” She finally managed.
“You *know* she probably got that hen from Old Man Jones’ yard, Sarah.” Jim groused softly to his wife, eyes on his little girl as she sat on the floor, petting and cooing at the chicken sitting calmly between her chubby little legs.
“I know, Jim, but I couldn’t just take it away and we’ve been promising her a pet for forever.” Sarah still thought it was the funniest thing, that Maddie wanted a *chicken* for a pet. “What should we *do*?” She appealed.
Sighing Jim scrubbed his hands down his face, eyes on the two on the floor before giving his wife a sidelong glance. He groaned softly. He’d never been able to tell either of the women in his life no over anything. Not that either actually asked for much. And at least a chicken was an investment of sorts, what with laying eggs.
He sighed. “I’ll talk to Old Man Jones, see if we can buy “Hen’retta” from him for a fair price. He seems to have a slightly softer spot for Maddie than he does the other kids in the neighborhood.”
Sarah leaned up to kiss his cheek. “He’s not the only one with a soft spot.” She murmured lovingly.
Jim tried to glare at his wife. “Well, would the both of you stop giving me things to have to end up being soft over? I’ve got a reputation, you know.”
“My big, bad farrier. Only man tough enough to shoe the town firehouse horses.” She giggled as he nibbled on her neck in retaliation.
“Fine. I’ll get it taken care of. Are we ready to go?” He glanced at his daughter with loving eyes.
“Uhm, well, about that, dear…”
Jim glanced at her to see she was fighting another smile. “Oh, now what? Did Hen’retta come with a rooster?”
“No, no, dear. I just wondered if the price of the picture included a family pet.”
And Sarah burst into laughter at the look on her husband’s face.