outstretched arm and tightly clenched fist of his mother. Willy’s arms were still extended as if he continued to hold the bike’s handlebars in his grips; and his feet, raised high off the ground, still moved slowly around and around in a pathetic pedaling motion; but without a bicycle under him, the pedaling was for naught, and looked fairly stupid besides. Their tormentor now vanquished, the googly-eyed chickens ran for the safety of their coop. The surrounding cacophony of noise and action quickly collapsed in upon itself, and the resultant silence was so eerie and complete that one could hear with a deafening crash the final few chicken feathers falling upon the ground as they floated down out of the sky. And then all was calm. Willy’s legs finally quit moving, and his arms dropped to his side. The children’s fearful screams subsided into quiet, heaving sobs, and the chickens quit clucking. Seemingly, the wind itself was stilled. The final curtain had just fallen.
Only I, of all the human beings remaining on the battlefield, was either not clutching or being clutched by Willy’s mother. I stood alone. Soon, all eyes turned to me—the dull, pitiful eyes of the helpless Willy; the moist, red eyes of still sobbing children; the angry, flashing eyes of an infuriated mother seeking revenge for the turmoil of those same children; the little beady eyes of a multitude of stupid chickens peaking out from their chicken coop door. With only two eyes of my own to look back upon the numerous eyes that stared upon me, I knew the battle was lost. Willy’s mother’s mouth began to open as if to speak, but my own internal defense mechanisms began to function, and my body on its own accord, apparently without any conscious thought required, decided that exact moment would be as good as time as any to run as fast as I possibly could in any direction whatsoever so long as it led away from Willy’s house, and so I headed home at a pace that I would have thought quite impossible only moments before.
By the time I arrived home I was fairly calm, and I was determined to put the whole unsettling chicken episode behind me. But as I entered the front door, I was met by an irritated-looking woman whom I knew as “Mom.” Hmmm, I thought, an unsettling look, but maybe she doesn’t know anything specific—moms typically look irritated. Yet, as I moved on into the house, she continued to eyeball me as if I had done wrong. Which, in fact, I had, but I didn’t really like her attitude about it.
“Hi, mom,” I said cheerfully, in an attempt to break her icy glare.
“I just got a call from Willy’s mother—” she began, not very cheerfully at all—ice not broken.
“I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no chickens,” I interrupted.
“No need to start swimmin’ ‘till you hit water, boy,” said my mother.
“Willy’s mom exaggerates things,” I said, realizing too late that I had somehow just entangled myself in my own words.
“And just what is it she is exaggerating?” my mom asked, devious in her questioning.
“Nothing,” I said, finally figuring out that the less I said now, the better off I would be. But my mom still stood there looking at me. I could not meet her eyes. Thinking quickly, I spouted out, “Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men go awry,” hoping to impress my mom with my show of literary knowledge.
“Sometimes the best laid plans of boys and chickens don’t work out so well either,” said my mother.
“But we were just out ridin’ bikes and them chickens went crazy,” I said.
“You should be more concerned with crazy mothers than crazy chickens,” said my mother.
I was not quite sure what that meant, but I was quickly becoming aware that all my verbal attempts at negotiation were being skillfully rebutted, and the situation was beginning to look mighty bleak for the welfare of my backside. So I quit talking and began to slowly ease back out of the house whilst trying to act innocent: I crossed my arms, began to whistle, and gazed about in the air—an absurd ploy that never fooled anyone, but, what the heck, I was desperate. Besides, it was my word against Willy’s mom’s; her accusations wouldn’t hold up in a court of law, I thought.
But my mother, showing no concern whatsoever for the court system, the U.S. Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, dispensed with the legalities and convicted me right then and there without benefit of either a trial or a jury of my peers. Thinking back on it now, it was rather un-American.
“You know,” said my mother, grabbing my ear, leading me back into the house, and bending me over her knee, “This is going to hurt you more than it does me.”
And so began my essay, “It was my mother’s fault…”