October 15, 2014 – Wilma was the last chicken called to the stage during last night’s talent show. Everyone was having a grand time up to that point, but as the elder, self-proclaimed queen made the slow walk to the microphone, the air in the chicken yard grew thick with apprehension.
“I can’t believe Tim is having Wilma close the show,” Sawyer leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Why didn’t he get it out of the way sooner,” she asked about our well-dressed master of ceremony.
“Maybe he’s going to pull the plug on the mike so we’ll all leave before she opens her mouth.”
Of course, no one left. Staying to watch Wilma perform was like slowing down for an accident on the highway. You don’t want to look, but you always do.
The auburn-plumed, pleasantly disagreeable hen took her mark on the stage. One spotlight, (the result of two flashlights held by Waffles from the rooftop of Coop #3), illuminated a single spot into which Wilma stepped. Not a sound was uttered. Then, with her eyes closed, she transported us to a winter night in Paris. She opened her beak and sang a capella, Che Gelida Manina, (“How Cold Your Little Hand”), an aria from La Bohème.
I stole a glance at the audience. Sawyer, Charlotte, Violet and Emaline were in tears. Addie dabbed her eyes with a napkin.
When Wilma finished, she left the stage ignoring the standing ovation and walked straight to the punch bowl where she bypassed the paper cups and stuck her entire beak into the berry-flavored liquid.
Tim signaled to Waffles to raise the lights and cue up the background music. The younger hens rushed the stage to practice their break dance moves which immediately eased the tension created by Wilma’s masterful performance.
“Puccini wrote that song for a male tenor,” Peaches remarked innocently.
“I don’t think we should mention that little nugget to Wilma,” I advised.
“Oh, Wilma already knows,” Peaches replied. “She’s the one who told me. La Bohème is her favorite opera. She listens to it on her iPod when she’s working her shift in the brewery. She has a beautiful voice, doesn’t she? She sounds like an angel queen.”
Well I’ll be. I don’t know if I learned more last night about Wilma, or about my misplaced judgment. I approached her at the snack table and shared with her how deeply her music touched me.
She pecked me in the eye.