I refuse to be charmed, calmed, and kumbaya-ed by the chicken project, no matter how much I love it. Sorry. To the man who murdered my parents I say, “Methinks’t thou art a general offense and every man should beat thee. (Like my Dad, I quote Shakespeare to keep myself anchored. “Let grief convert to anger” comes to mind now too.)
It’s the evening of the coop-construction day. Pop and Mimi and I are spread out on the couches in the sunroom. I’m sketching the chicken run plans, Pop’s figuring out what supplies we’ll need, and Mimi’s scanning the morning paper. On our old-timey (1968 vintage) TV trays we’ve got hot spice tea and ginormous Morning Glory Muffins left over from morning, but still full of glory. Papers, drafting pencils, clipboards, laptops, and dishes carpet the couch cushions where we aren’t sitting. It’s precarious, but it works. (We can’t do this when Sam and Clyde are around, for obvious reasons.)
Mr Grim and I discussed the chicken run. He was delighted to help. Who knew that chicken runs are a classic in math! When I described what we were trying to figure out, he pulled open a drawer in his old file cabinet where he stores his ancient lessons, his recent work being on his laptop which is connected to the white board. He rummaged for a while and then pulled out a yellowed lesson plan. He read the problem aloud. The farmer is putting a new chicken run up against a brick wall. He has 20 feet of wire to put around the run. If he makes a rectangular run, how big an area can he enclose?
He used the classic chicken run lesson with my class. First we considered how we might approach it. Then we broke up in groups and investigated the problem further. He gave each group string to model what we wanted to do. We used the formula area = length X width and applied our knowledge of parabolas. Then we started thinking about equations. We worked on reducing the number of dependent variables to one. For homework everyone was to figure out my chicken problem.
The plan is to make it 6’ X 10’, with one end up against the coop door which the chickens will get to via one of the ladders. We don’t want to undersize it or “our girls” would fight and get sick. We’re using hardware cloth which has smaller openings than traditional “chicken wire” so as to better protect them from snakes, possums, raccoon, foxes, hawks, coyote, fisher cats, and bobcats. (Yes! We have these carnivores around here!) Maybe we’ll layer regular chicken wire with the hardware cloth. We need guidance on whether or not to lay wire over the top too. But at least we know to make the width no more than four feet. Factoid: A hawk will not land in such an narrow space even if we decide not to make a wire roof.
I’m so into this, I can’t think on anything else, if you get my meaning. Anything.
Pop clears his throat and closes his laptop. Isabel? On another topic? Mimi folds the paper she hadn’t gotten to this morning.
I sense a pre-arranged scheme here.
Hmmmm, Pop? I’ve been multiplying length and widths to get an idea on how much hardware fabric we want. I’ve got figures scribbled on five sheets of chart paper.
Isabel, we have more information about the preliminary hearing.
And then while one part of my brain spots my math mistake, the other part sees my mistake in allowing myself to be chicken-lulled. I hate that guy so much, I mutter.
Isabel, let’s call him by his name. Mimi is stern.
What is it, anyhow?
A. Spinoza Smith. Mr. Smith.
Okay, so, what do you know about what happened in Mister Smith’s preliminary hearing?
Pop opens the laptop. The prosecutor e-mailed me a rundown on how it went.
I interrupt. Olivier said that the police would have pictures of the crime scene and measurements and test results and stuff like that.
Pop looks surprised. Yup, a report was given to the judge. What else did Oliver tell you?
The prosecutors will accuse the guy, er, they’ll accuse Mr. SMITH of breaking a specific law. He didn’t know what law. Maybe “Murder One.”
Pop and Mimi look shocked when I say Murder One.
Pop studies the e-mail. Mr. Smith will be prosecuted based on the law that says he caused a death by being criminally negligent with a motor vehicle.
TWO deaths, Pop. Morning glory muffin crumbs fly out of my mouth. I’d say he’s a CRIMINAL all right.
Well, Pop sweeps the crumbs off my math figures and into his hand, at this hearing, the defendant–Mr. Smith–entered a plea. It was his opportunity to say whether HE thinks he’s guilty or innocent of breaking this particular law.
Mimi elaborates: Mr. Smith entered a plea of not guilty.
I snort. That figures.
Pop nods. And we agree. We don’t think he’s guilty of being criminally negligent either.
What?!!! How can you two say this! He killed Mom and Dad. They’re DEAD. I stomp my feet; I can’t jump up because I have How to Talk Chicken, my iPad, the spice tea mug, half a huge muffin top, and the litter of math computations on my lap.
Stop! Mimi holds my chin between her thumb and pointer finger. LISTEN TO US!
This shuts me up. Immediately.
But not because I want to listen.
It’s because the last time anyone held my chin and told me to listen was this summer. And it was Mom.
-isabel scheherazade who’s remembering another Dad-Shakespeare quote: “Days of absence, sad and dreary, clothed in sorrow’s dark array, days of absence, I am weary; they I love are far away.”