Yes, I have yet another career that I am embarking on. This time I am working at a local retirement home as a memory support assistant for elderly residents who have early onset Alzheimer’s. As in numerous times before, I have absolutely no background in this field, but that didn’t stop them from hiring me for the position.
“You’re creative, let’s see what you can do with this job” was the reason the human resource manager gave for granting me this opportunity as she happily welcomed me on board.
It’s true, I am a creative individual, and I tend to think way outside of the box. This could explain why, on my only day off of work this week, I am wading through mud, muck, and mire in a forested area beside a raging creek, scouring the ground for pieces of river driftwood. The main objective of this little field trip is to collect between twenty to thirty pieces of unusual driftwood for an original inspired art project with the residents. I am not collecting any overtime for this excursion, and no one will compensate me for the extra art supplies that I bring from my home, but I adore working with my residents, and seeing their normally hazy looking expressions light up with joy during our activity sessions seems worth my extra time, energy, and expense.
It has been a rainy autumn season this year, which explains why the river is cresting higher than normal, and the ground is much softer than I had anticipated. I look down at my sneakers and note that I will be spending the rest of the afternoon cleaning my shoes, or buying another pair after I am done scavenging. I am alone in this little expanse of woods with only the gurgling river and a lone car cruising down the road behind me to keep me company. I had passed an emu farm on the way here, and it is probably closer than I imagine, I just can’t see it with all of the trees surrounding me. It is a beautifully serene day. There are a few birds chirping in the trees, but I can barely hear them above the babbling river. A dragonfly hovers close to inspect my work before zipping lightly away. The sunlight sparkles on the water’s playful movements. Ahh, there is nothing more therapeutic than nature’s peace.
In the distance, a rooster crows. Hmm, the thought crosses my mind that it must be coming from the emu farm down the lane. Roosters have always annoyed me. My childhood home was located near a large farm and their resident rooster was always waking everyone in the family up at an ungodly hour. I hated his craggy shrieking, and the fact that there was nothing you could do to ever stop it or turn him off. Every morning, like clockwork, his voice would explode over the fields and call us all to rise and shine. Today’s crooner must have his internal clock screwed up, because although it is a smidgen past noon, he lets out another cry and this one seems louder than the first.
I continue to scrutinize the driftwood. Again, his rants pierce the still ambience of the woods and each song seems louder than the last. Over and over again, he sings his warning. Louder and louder it rings “wake up, wake up, wake…..”
I am bent over, retrieving another piece of wood when his last cry breaks the sound barrier. I turn my head in the direction of that irritating screech, and I catch sight of him not ten yards away from me. He is a magnificent looking creature. His red and brown glossy feathers are gleaming in the scattered sunlight. His perfectly formed crown is standing straight stock up. He has one leg lifted and I can see it’s claws; poised and dangerous. He tilts his head to the side and slightly down, and in doing so, focuses one of his steely rooster eyes straight on me.
“What the heck?” is the first thought that shoots into my mind, and is immediately followed by “What on earth is that crazy bird doing?”
He takes a step in my direction, and suddenly puffs all of his feathers out. He is now roughly twice the size that he was just seconds ago. He readjusts his head downward, continuing to glare at me with one eye at a time. He takes another menacing step towards me and hollers again. “COCKLE-DOODLE-DO!!!”
A realization of terror seeps into my mind; his crowing is not an early morning alarm clock like most other despised roosters that I have known. Oh no, this bird is issuing a battle cry and I am his arch enemy, who has unknowingly encroached on his territory. A moment of horror seizes my heart as I imagine my eyeballs being pecked from their sockets and tumbling bloodily to the ground.
I am about to be flogged by this chicken! Wait a minute – I am about to be flogged by a chicken? Seriously, a chicken? I turn to study him again, now that he is only about fifteen feet away from me and I do a quick calculation in my head – even with his false pretense and his aggressive stance – how much can this bird actually weigh? Seven, ten pounds at the most, and didn’t I just have chicken for dinner last night?
He pauses in his advance and we are now at a dueling stand off. It is barnyard foul against me, and although I have never actually fought a chicken before, I make up my mind that I am not going down without a fight. He charges. A sharp gasp escapes my lips and then, lo and behold, I remember I am carrying five pieces of decent sized driftwood! Hello bird! I am armed and at the ready. As he races closer I grab a piece of driftwood and loft it in his direction. Shockingly I hit him. SMACK! The hollow piece of wood thuds off his body and stops him dead in his tracks, momentarily. He squawks as it makes contact with him and pauses for a brief second, then he re-fluffs his gorgeous plume and races straight towards me again.
“Are you kidding me, how tough is this bird? ” He is relentless in his attack, but I am just as stubborn in my quest for survival as he is in his defense of his home. As he speeds in my direction, I take a larger piece of wood and hurl it at him. WHOP! This one hits him dead on. Maybe I should give up this memory support position and take up a career in baseball. My last bulls-eye hit has a noticeable effect on him. He stops and I can see the tiny wheels clicking in his minuscule bird brain. I seize upon the moment of his hesitation and begin to race at him, whooping at the top of my lungs. He freezes. I wallop another piece of driftwood in his general direction and he takes off, squawking hysterically. He is screaming in chicken language. I am screaming in crazed adult female language. We are both careening through the woods in the direction of the emu farm and he has alerted the entire universe to our situation at hand.
After trailing him for several yards, I stop. For one thing, I need to catch my breath. For another and more important reason, I realize that there could be witnesses to our crusades. Not wanting to end up on Youtube or Vimeo any time soon; I abandon my attack and hastily begin my retreat. Grasping whatever driftwood pieces are closest, I stumble quickly towards my vehicle. Thrusting the driftwood into the backseat, I jump behind the wheel of my car and gas it; stones and dust flying everywhere. Flustered and shaken, I drive away, as the persistent, frantic crowing of an embattled rooster continues to echo loudly through the forest behind me.