February 18, 2015 – Last night’s debate between me and Eunice the librarian over the library trustee position was an exhilarating experience! The large meeting room in the town hall where the debate was held was decked out in all its glory. A large stage occupied much of the room, draped behind by a luscious curtain of cornflower blue. Flanked on each side was an American flag. Center stage, stood two wooden podiums with matching microphones. The moderator table was on the floor below the stage. The room was packed. At one point, I peeked out from the wings and saw all of my friends sitting in the two front rows. Behind them were other citizens from town; Mrs. Turner, Lola the nice librarian, Eunice’s sister who works at the police station, the man who drives the recycling truck and Rick the mailman. I didn’t know everyone, but there was definitely a buzz in the room waiting for the event to begin. I couldn’t tell if the energy was in support of me or Eunice. My stomach lurched and a shudder of nerves gripped my body. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I was about to become a politician, for better or worse.
A cameraman counted back from three to zero, and then pointed to the moderator who made his way from a side door to the stage. It was Barry Dimmsdale, the portly, balding, no-nonsense Overseer of Elections and owner of Pastrami Pete’s Butcher Shop. I’ll admit the man’s occupation has never set well with me; the least issue being that his name is Barry, not Pete. But that couldn’t detract from the very noticeable smoky scent that followed him as he made his way to the moderator’s chair. It reminded me of worm jerky.
I was presented first. I took the stage and climbed the three-tiered platform someone had placed behind the podium on the left. It was a lovely introduction. Mr. Dimmsdale highlighted the many areas of interest that I pursue, focusing particularly on my role as a small business owner. Then he gave us both a plug stating how well the Happy Chicken Brewing Company’s Lite Feather Ale pairs with the center cut pork chops currently on sale at Pastrami Pete’s. This received a fervent round of applause.
Next, it was time to introduce my opponent; Eunice Ignatia Tightklutcher. Eunice pushed a stage hand out of her way and marched to her spot behind the podium on the right. I looked straight at her, waiting for her to return the gaze so I could wish her well – exactly as I had practiced with Addie. But Eunice refused to acknowledge me. This did not go unnoticed by the audience who squirmed uncomfortably in their seats. Mr. Dimmsdale merely said of the former librarian, that she had once been employed by the town and was stepping back into the arena of public service. Blah phooey! She’s a nasty person if you ask me. I didn’t want to start out by saying that though, less I come off as being nasty myself. To my great surprise, Eunice didn’t scream or carry on like she typically does when she sees me. She also didn’t look in my direction; Interesting strategy.
The questioning was brutal and carried on for several rounds. Mr. Dimmsdale wanted to know how I felt about being a chicken, which I thought was odd, until I heard the rest of his query.
“If elected,” he posed, “you will be our first non-human trustee. How do you feel about this?”
“Thank you for asking, Barry,” I replied with kind eyes. “First of all, let me start by saying that I am humbled and honored to be here tonight and at the thought of representing my fellow citizens as the next Library Trustee. I promise to represent not only my human constituents, but those from the animal world as well. I believe that our forefathers – and their livestock, believed in an inclusive society.”
“No they didn’t!” Eunice rudely interrupted, looking at me for the first time through her wire framed glasses. “If you actually belonged inside a library, (where by the way, you don’t), you might have learned something about American history. It was all about the boys, chicken brain. There was nothing inclusive about their thinking. Women blended into the scenery with no impact on the birth of our nation.”
How did a debate over a small town political office turn so quickly into a dispute over the American Revolution? The audience leaned forward in their seats waiting for my rebuttal.
“Actually, Ms. Tightklutcher, women played a critical role in our early success. They listened in on conversations held between members of the other side and warned our militia in time for them to respond. I read that in a book at our town library. I’ve learned many things at our library, and will fight for the right for every chicken, donkey, and yes… feline, to do the same!”
The crowd erupted with clapping. Eunice fumed.
“Ms. Tightklutcher,” Mr. Dimmsdale continued nonplussed. “It has been reported that you recently were at the center of a disturbance on a flight from New Hampshire to Paraguay, and were barred from entering that country when the plane landed. Some might say that your behavior makes you unsuited for the position of Library Trustee. Please comment on this.”
“Yes, Barry. Thank you for bringing this up, as I have waited a long time to explain my side of the story. The man travelling in the seat next to me had in his lap, a pet carrier. I assumed, as would most people, that it was a small dog. It was not. It was a dirty, dreadful, feathered barn rat.”
“BARN RAT?!” I repeated, thoroughly appalled. “The man was carrying his therapy hen, named Milkshake. If it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t have been able to endure the flight due to his fear of flying. Is this what you think of chickens? Do you consider me a barn rat?!”
I could see Wilma out of the corner of my eye clench her wing into a ball. I knew I had delivered a zinger. The onlookers held their collective breath.
“YOU…” she began in a low, sinister drawl, “are a filthy no-nothing who should not be sharing the dais with an educated, professional, highly intelligent HUMAN BEING like me! This debate is an absolute FARSE!” Then she turned and faced the television camera, leaned into her microphone and spoke directly to the voters watching from home.
“Good citizens of this town… are you going to endure this madness one second longer? This… THING!” she spit, pointing a craggy finger in my direction, “has wreaked havoc in our community long enough. Send her and all barnyard animals a message by electing me, Eunice Ignatia Tightklutcher, as your next Library Trustee. Tell them with your vote that animals are not wanted around here. This is the library we are talking about, not a seed bag full of goat manure! I know more about the library than this vile nugget ever will. I am a HUMAN BEING for the love of Mike!! There should be no question that the best candidate is the one who wears shoes!”
A roar erupted in the room with people and animals on their feet reacting to Eunice’s comments. From my vantage point, most of the faces were red in anger. Barry Dimmsdale rapped his mallet on the table.
“ENOUGH!! ENOUGH!!” he demanded, but his voice was lost in the din. He signaled for the cameraman to cut to commercial and then, only after he was sure that the cameras were off, stood on his moderator’s desk, threw his stubby arms into the air and hollered like a pig being chased by a Doberman. (I know this, because once my friend Vivienne was pursued by Lucy, Mrs. Turner’s daughter’s dog. She didn’t want to hurt Vivienne. She wanted to play with the head of lettuce Vivienne was eating.) Mr. Dimmsdale clearly was not in the mood to frolic. It took several minutes, but the crowd finally took their seats just before we went back on air.
Barry’s tie was crooked and what little hair he had on his head poked out in all directions from having run his hands through it in frustration. It was hard not to chuckle.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said somberly, “on behalf of our town administration, I apologize for the outburst and lack of decorum you unfortunately witnessed prior to the break. I’m sure a nice steak dinner would help ease your discomfort. Our T-bones are on sale this week at Pastrami Pete’s. Meet me there when this is over and I’ll take 10% off your order.”
Then he took a deep breath and said, “Happy, I believe it’s your turn to give a closing statement.”
I was going to give all the reasons why Eunice would not be a good choice, but decided it was best to explain why I wanted to be the Library Trustee.
“I am a chicken. I am proud of who I am. I wake up every day knowing that I make a difference in the life of my family. We all have our gifts. I can expel an egg from my lady parts in less than 30 seconds, when so motivated. I could rest on this accomplishment, but I want to do more. I want to make life better for my flock, my human family, my friends, and my community. As Library Trustee, I will work very hard to make our library accessible to those who have been shut out in the cold by my opponent. A library represents knowledge and with knowledge comes understanding and hopefully, compassion. Knowledge dispels fear. It opens doors and creates opportunities. It makes the world a little less scary. Isn’t that what we all want? My name is Happy and I appreciate your vote on March 10th as your next Library Trustee. Thank you very much.”
Mom stood up and blew whistles through her fingers. The hens clapped their wings as loud as they could. Tim, in a classic black bow tie, flew to the back of the seat in front of him and crowed long and loud. The entire room applauded at a feverish pitch. I was overcome with gratitude. It lasted all of two seconds. Eunice reached under her podium and pulled out a banana cream pie. Then she chucked it at me. Having been a coopmate of Wilma’s all these years, I have spring-action reflexes. I ducked in time, but Barry was not so lucky. This time, the television cameras caught it all.
After the debate, a long line of well-wishers promised me their votes. I don’t think this will influence Eunice to withdraw her name from the ballot, so I don’t want to get too excited. After all, she came from somewhere. There must be other supporters in her camp besides her sister. But that is a thought for another day. We headed home as a family to enjoy the triple-layered coconut sponge cake Sawyer baked in celebration. She topped it with whipped cream and strawberries. It was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. She said she got the recipe from a cookbook she borrowed from the library. Need I say more?