CHAPTER ONEA Delicious Breakfast and a Kidnapping
On the day that Dandelion Floofums rescued her boy, battled the Death-Kitty, and met the rooster of her dreams, she had fake bugs for breakfast.
Hmmm … it may have taken more than a day. Either way, she’d eaten some fake bugs right before her quest began. Why her people took the time to cook up a pot of fake bugs when there were plenty of real bugs, she didn’t know. The plump white kernels were delicious, though.
Her people bought them in large feed bags. When they were hungry and couldn’t be bothered to run around the yard finding real bugs, they scooped the hard, white kernels into a pot. They added water, brought it to a boil, and then let it sit. Then they scooped out delicious morsels that looked like plump lice eggs but were really some kind of grain.
Floofums approved. If they didn’t have the sense to catch real bugs, at least they found a tasty alternative.
Jonathan always shared his fake bugs with her.
Sometimes her people ate the fake bugs under a sauce or with some kind of mouse meat. When her boy had butter, cinnamon, sugar, and cream on his bugs—those were the best mornings.
Floofums heard Jonathan open up the magic window on his way down the stairs. The magic window produced any number of yummy treats and all the hens rushed over whenever the people slid the glass open. Floofums was at the top of the pecking order, so she was the only one allowed to land in the windowsill. She flapped up for a look.
Jonathan held out a bowl full of fake bugs with all the toppings. Floofums took a few pecks, pronounced them delicious with a soft cluck, and then stepped aside so he could share with the flock. After her boy had scraped the treats into the chicken yard, he scooped her up into his arms.
This was the most important part of the morning. Floofums fluffed out her feathers and snuggled into Jonathan as though he were the world’s best nest. Which is exactly what he was. She clucked soft comments about the flock and he told her about his day and how he was nervous about his new school and the move and whether or not the paper he wrote for his old English class would count in his new English class.
As the leader of the flock, Floofums got busy calming him down. It was her job to keep the peace and if their boy was stressed, he wasn’t the only one who would suffer. The whole flock would be rife with unrest.
She clucked and burrowed deeper into his arms. As he patted her back and scratched her under the chin just how she liked, Floofums could hear his heartbeat begin to slow. She felt his tense muscles relax and his hold on her loosened to a snuggle rather than a firm squeeze.
Yes, there was a reason that Titan, Ewok, or Painty were not heading up the coop. No one could calm their boy like Floofums. With a successful snuggle accomplished, Floofums gave a firm cluck. It was time to check on the flock.
“Are you ready to go back outside, girl?”
Floofums clucked again. Wasn’t that what she’d just said? People were so strange. Jonathan opened up the magic window. Floofums waited for him to give her three pats on the back. She clucked her goodbye with each pat. Cluck, cluck, cluck. Then hopped out the window, flapping down into the yard.
Ah, it was just as she’d feared. Quicksilver was hording food and Ewok had started darting around the yard in a furious attempt to seize control of the coop.
Floofums gave a low warning cluck. She tipped her head to the right so she could meet Ewok’s gaze with her nearsighted eye. Did the other golden hen truly want to joust over this? Ewok scuttled off to look for bugs. Good, order was restored. Now, had the flock left her any of the fake bugs?
After the fake bugs, a late season grasshopper provided an early lunch. Floofums scratched around the chicken yard, looking for any delicious aphids or beetles the others had missed. The people were industrious that morning, carrying box after box out of the house and piling them into a large truck. Were they going camping? Floofums, didn’t see any of the giant colorful worms made out of coat material that the people slept inside during camping trips. Instead of unrolling giant worms on the lawn and setting up tents, the people carried box after box out of the house. Were those nest boxes?
Floofums tipped her head to the left and perused the scene with her farsighted eye. Some were the correct size for nest boxes. She had never seen her people lay an egg, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t start. But why on earth couldn’t they share four small nest boxes like her flock? People were so odd.
The nest box relocation finally slowed. Jonathan scooped her up and walked her across the driveway to the portable coop. The people would hook it behind a car or truck to take them to the fair or visit Jonathan’s school on pet day. The portable coop was nice, but not home.
“You’re the first one, Floofums. If you move in, the other hens will feel safe.”
Well, that was true enough. The other hens needed constant care and reassurance. Floofums waddled into the portable coop and flapped up to the top roosting bar. She peeked out the tiny window. The large truck was just visible.
Jonathan transported all fifteen hens to the movable coop. Then his mom waved him into the house to carry another nesting box. The people would attach the rolling coop to a car or truck soon. Then they would be off on their adventure.
Instead of hooking up the trailer coop to the truck, Jonathan sat on the porch steps in that crumpled way that told Floofums he was upset. His shoulders sagged and his eyes even leaked. Floofums clucked at him through the coop window. Didn’t his parents see that he needed his hen?
The big people locked the door of their house and pointed to the truck. Their faces were stern and their words were quick and firm. But Jonathan didn’t want to leave. Couldn’t they see this? The big people pointed at the family car but Jonathan ran to the big truck, jumped inside, and slammed the door. His Dad came over to hook up the chicken trailer, but turned aside when the family dog jumped out of their car window and went tearing around the yard barking. Jonathan’s uncle Jack walked over and sat beside him in the big truck.
What was going on?
The neighbor’s cat darted onto the roof of the coop and the dog was off again, barking and leaping and bouncing all over. By the time Floofums could see out the window again, everyone seemed ready to go. Everyone but Jonathan. Floofums craned her neck but couldn’t catch sight of her boy.
The parents slammed the car doors and whooshed away, gravel flying as they took the turn out of the drive a bit too fast. Floofums looked around. Who was going to hook up the trailer and pull the flock along behind them?
Jonathan’s Uncle Jack wandered toward the big truck. Oh, good, Uncle Jack always had good snacks and never ruffled her feathers the wrong way when she hopped into his lap. He would be sure to take … .
Uncle Jack hopped into the large truck and slammed the door! The engine roared to life and the big truck rumbled away without the chicken trailer. That truck could easily have fit all fifteen chickens, or pulled their movable coop. Instead, they were forgotten.
But no, Jonathan would never forget his chickens. Floofums clucked and waited for her boy. Only silence answered. The wind zipped through the twin pine trees that stood on either side of the garage. The garden gate slammed open and shut: creak, bang, creak, bang, creak, bang. A cricket chirped from a clump of grass at the edge of the driveway.
Jonathan was nowhere in sight.
He must have been kidnapped, that was the only explanation. Jonathan’s parents had kidnapped him! Now Jonathan’s own uncle was stealing the truck with all their nest boxes.
This was uncalled for. She had to save her boy, no one else could do it. Even his own parents had turned out to be kidnappers. Who would have known that such wickedness resided deep inside people who fed her such yummy treats?
Floofums paced back and forth across the top roosting bar, plotting out exactly what it would take to save her boy. Great flights from tree to tree across the country came to mind. Plus, a wild charge down upon the family car using attack dogs that Floofums would ride. Also, a giant egg that rolled faster and faster until it cracked right in front of the kidnappers making the road all full of sticky yolk and halting their mad flight would be great.
But the very first obstacle she had to overcome stood before her, mocking all of Floofums’ grand plans. The coop door. It was locked shut lest an unfortunate hen fall out while they were traveling at super-chicken speeds on the highway. But they weren’t even moving. It must be locked because the kidnappers feared her attack. Yes, they were quaking in the driver’s seat of the family car, looking over their shoulders, wondering when she would appear.
“Is that a chicken up ahead?” the mom would cry out, waving wildly and gripping the handle above the door.
“No, surely we are safe since we locked the coop,” the dad would say, right before flinching as a hawk darted by. “Oh, phew! Just a deadly hawk. I thought it was a chicken.”
Floofums glowered at that door, gave it a stern peck, and flapped her wings in anger. The door did not budge. What she needed was a really dumb human to walk by. She would con the dumb human into opening up the coop. Then all of her other amazing plans could unfold. But where could she find such a human?
The crunch of car tires made Floofums sit higher on her perch and peer out the window. A young woman with long golden hair and a list in her hand approached the coop. Now was the time! Carpe diem! Seize the day! Attack of the chickens!
Floofums cocked her head to the side. Ooh, the human had brought dried meal worms.
The woman opened the coop door. “Come, come, Floofums!”
Oh, well, a little bit of practice before enacting her grand scheme wouldn’t hurt. Besides, there were meal worms! She hopped down from the roosting bar and hustled to the coop door. Floofums hopped out of the trailer and went through each of her tricks for the strange human. Then the person talked into the tiny TV in her hand and forgot all about doing tricks. Floofums heard Uncle Jack’s name and then her boy was mentioned.
Her boy! She had to escape and then find a bear that she could ride. If she was riding a bear, then she could definitely rescue Jonathan! Floofums charged into the brush just outside the yard, in search of her battle bear.
Sadly, bears were in short supply.
Plus, the lady had brought additional help … and snacks. A fun little girl named Avery ran around really fast, almost as fast as a chicken. Finally, Avery found Floofums and told her all about the many reasons to come down and go for a ride.
Well, a ride did sound nice and those snacks sure looked good.
Before she knew it Floofums had not only been fed some very tasty treats and gotten a ride on the little girl’s shoulder, but she was grabbed by the lady and stuffed back into the coop.
This was an outrage. Kidnapping a hen as well as a poor defenseless boy who just wanted to stay in his own house and do tricks with his chicken?
No, no, no, this flock of kidnappers and chicken-nappers had messed with the wrong hen. By taking her boy and thwarting her riding-a-bear-into-battle plan, they had declared war. A war that Dandelion Floofums, queen of the flock, would most definitely win!
Jonathan was counting on her and she would not disappoint her boy.