"We're out of chicken," she said as she pulled her head out from the deep recesses of the freezer. Frost clung to her hair.
"How long have you been in the freezer?" I asked. She took a towel and wiped her hair. Her face shone pink from freezer burn.
"A while. I was looking for chicken for dinner. The grandkids are coming over and requested chicken."
"You didn't find any chicken at all?"
"I found a piece of fish dated the time of Adam and Eve."
"That's old," I said.
"Your job is to clean out the freezer," she told me. "Make room for lots of chicken."
"What's a house without chicken," I said.
"We have to go shopping," she said.
"Old fish would be good," I suggested. I had been reorganizing a closet, the only one in the house that had escaped becoming a storage room for fabric. My closet. Mine. I didn't have time to go shopping when my poor closet was in chaos.
"Chicken," she said.
"Do you want free-range chicken, organic chicken, chicken that died by accident from overeating?" I asked her in the market. There were more choices for chicken than I had time to decide about.
"You decide," she said. "I'm going next door for a minute."
"Next door? We're in the middle of shopping here," I said. "What's next door that can't wait?" I asked. Foolish question number one. Next door was the fabric shop.
"I'll be back before you get through the check-out line," she said.
"You have something in mind?" Foolish question number two. Either she did or she didn't have something in mind. Either way was an excuse to go to a fabric shop.
"I need to start a new project," she said.
"Oh, that," I said, waving her on. I stared at the chickens. Fresh chicken? Frozen chicken?
She had just the past weekend finished a large quilt. Whenever she finished a large quilt, she swore a quilter's oath that she would do a small quilt next. She had broken that promise lately as her last three quilts were all large, but no one from any quilting association or quilting guild had come to punish her for breaking her word. Beyond the quilter's oath she had taken, and more important, was a quilter's law which said quilters can always change their minds when it came to quilts. She changed her mind a lot. A law is a law.
I chose the frozen free-range chicken, paid the cashier, and waited for her by the front door of the market. And I waited for her--and waited. I assumed she was buying out the shop, but when she came back to meet me, she carried a very small package. How odd.
"A fat quarter is all I need," she said. "It's going to be a small, small, quilt."
"What kind of small, small quilt?" I asked.
"A chicken," she said.
"Oh," I said. I wouldn't dare say one more word.
"My sister's taken a liking to chickens," she told me in the car.
"I thought she liked frogs," I said.
"She likes chickens now. I'm going to make her a paper-pieced chicken wall hanging."
"I just bought chickens. Send her one of these," I suggested.
"Just something small. I need to be quilting something while I decide what I will do for my next quilt project," she said.
"A small chicken wall-hanging doesn't count for a quilt project?" I asked. Just wondering.
"It's a filler, something between quilts."
"You mean something between big quilts which you seem to have fallen in love with lately."
"I had beds and tables to cover," she explained. "Now I need to think small."
For the next few hours she was busy with her chicken. I told her a lot of chicken jokes, about chickens crossing the road, the chicken that walked into a bar, the chicken and the priest and the rabbi, but she knew them all and told me to scat. I clucked at her a few times, and cleaned out the freezer.
"I'm making a simple chicken," she answered after I asked her what kind of chicken she was making.
"A simpleton chicken? A crazy chicken? A Chicken Little? A chicken that will lay eggs?" I asked. "You'll need a rooster next."
"My chicken is smart and knows its way around," she said.
"Chicken-hearted? A cowardly chicken?" I went on. "How about chicken soup?"
"Get back in the freezer," she said to me.
It didn't take long for her to finish her chicken. "Do you want to see my chicken?" she asked.
"Do I have to feed it or clean up after it?" I asked. I know chickens.
"This is a quilter chicken. It is a friendly chicken that knows how to get along."
"It's still going to go to your sister?" I asked. If she decided to keep it for herself, it might not get along with the heron and koi and dolphins and other creatures she had quilted into our lives.
"In August. Until then it can hang around the house."
"As long as it takes care of itself," I said. I wasn't about to chickensit any chicken, paper-pieced or not.
"I promise Little Chicken will behave," she said.
"Little Chicken? Is that a name of your chicken? I remember another chicken with the name of Chicken Little."
"It's only eight inches tall. It's a little chicken, but it's a smart chicken and deserves some respect.
"Absolutely. "Hello, Little Chicken. How about joining us for tea?" I said to her chicken quilt.
"Don't mind if I do," said Little Chicken.
I made tea.
Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Little Chicken Quilt"
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