Seattlelandia: Episode One, “Ladies on the Loose”

Sometimes life is too much like Portlandia.

The scene begins with a morning trip to the neighborhood artisan bakery for a scone for her and a ham and cheese (excuse me, ham and gruyere) croissant for him. On the way, he throws the chickens a yogurt tub of chicken food and lets them out to run freely in the yard.

Only much later, as she takes a break from working on her tortured masterpiece of fiction and eats her artisan bread/organic butter/homecanned tomato/sustainably-caught-sardine lunch concoction does she notice that the back gate is open. Dunh dunh dunh…. She rushes down into the yard, the dog at her heels. Ruba, Diamond, and Licorice Chick are gone! Only Puff remains, brocking a lonely brock in the empty dirt.

Soon they are both searching the block for the lost ladies. “Excuse me, have you seen any chickens?” they ask again and again.

“I know how to hold a chicken rully rully good,” says a proud child on a pedalless bike (which, like all modern and trend-setting children she rides instead of a trike so that she will never have to use training wheels).

“We had two hundred chickens when I was a kid,” says another neighbor, who now has three small free-ranging dogs. “If I find yours I’ll chuck ’em over the fence.”

Next thing, she’s putting up LOST CHICKEN signs and he’s wandering the alleyways. Then she has to abandon the search to go to a bodywork appointment, which she has strategically timed so that her drives sandwich rush hour (this is Seattlelandia, after all). When she gets out, walking regally and in pristine balance through the golden Wallingford air, a text: They’ve been found! Someone read a sign! Someone called! Diamond resisted capture, but he prevailed, and the ladies are home!

She drives home listening to an obscure band sing about saber-toothed tigers and drinking water (as instructed) from a reusable glass juice jar. There is traffic on the University Bridge. Two cops have pulled some people of color over on her street. She feels incensed and drives on by, then uses her turn signal on her driveway, just in case the cops care. The chickens pace in their run. He cooks dinner. She walks the dog. Happy violins play and the sun sets behind the construction site.

The Facts of Life. And Chickens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We got chickens this spring, and I built them a coop out of wood scavenged from construction sites, and star-headed screws that really do work better than the phillips head ones, just like the guy at the lumber store said. They worked so well, I was like, “Becca, you’re really good at screwing.” But I guess it really depends on the screw.

Oh, that was bad.

Anyways, the thing is, chickens sort of make me think of sex. Not because I think they are sexy. Don’t worry. It’s some childhood association, formed by asking about where chicken eggs came from right around when I started thinking about babies getting made, or maybe from looking at old men’s crotches at hot springs and then looking at turkey gobbles. I don’t know.

But when I was finishing the chicken run, which is a nice word for chicken cage, I got thinking about how anything we do to thwart nature is almost always really ugly, or has some nasty side effect. Like to keep raccoons from eating chickens, we put those happy, strutting birds in mucky cages. Or to keep makin’ babies from making babies, we ingest enough estrogen to emasculate frogs and stick plastic crosses up our uteruses.

See how short a time it takes to get from chicken to sex? That’s all I have to say about that.