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Original Short Fiction: "The Celebration and Mrs. Rita Hen’s Story"
The fable, "The Celebration and Mrs. Rita Hen’s Story," is the sixth story appearing in Jigger-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.
Mrs. Rita Hen is known for her gossip and constant blabbing, but she is also known for spinning a good yarn for an audience.
Big Corn Harvests and Celebrations
The Seth Gardner Family had celebrated their good fortune every year since the year of the First Big Corn Harvest. Many times they combined the celebration with some other important event. The year Seth Junior was born, the Gardner Family celebrated the corn harvest and Seth Junior’s birth. The year Ana was born, they celebrated the corn harvest and Ana’s birth. They celebrated each time they hired a new farm hand, and they celebrated each time a farm hand retired. The Gardner Family loved to celebrate their good fortune and important events with the residents of Eden Valley. And all the residents of Eden Valley looked forward each year to the celebration, because each year the Gardner Family provided the best food and the best entertainment in the Valley. This year the celebration included the hiring of a new farm hand—the Stranger, a reformed badsnake.
“Jiggery-Jee, are you looking forward to the Gardner Family celebration this year?” asked Miss Fuzzy Bunny as she was pouring tea for breakfast.
“Oh, yes,” answered Jiggery-Jee. “I’m looking forward to meeting the Stranger who caused all of Eden Valley to go hay-wire for a day. He must be pretty powerful to have turned this peaceful valley upside down for a whole day.”
“Yes, that’s true, but you know, Ana Gardner told me that she had hoped the information wouldn’t have been circulated. She was afraid the Stranger would have felt uncomfortable if the residents of Eden Valley knew his hatred had upset their lives and the TV station. Nobody knows how that news got out. Some say that Mrs. Rita Hen spread that news around, but nobody knows how she found out.”
“Well, Mrs. Rita Hen is pretty powerful herself when it comes to finding material to gossip about. But at least the residents of Eden Valley have welcomed the Stranger and have not made him feel bad for what he did,” explained Jiggery-Jee, “and I think the celebration will certainly help everyone be comfortable with the Stranger. I know John Mutt hasn’t caused any trouble or anything, but he told me if anything went wrong in Eden Valley again, he would ask the Gardners to fire the Stranger. I really think that the celebration will help residents like John Mutt, when they can see the Stranger and enjoy spending some time at the Gardner farm with good food and entertainment. By the way, Miss Fuzzy Bunny, what will be the entertainment this year? Have you heard?” asked Jiggery-Jee.
Mrs. Rita Hen Will Tell a Story
“Oh, yes, Mrs. Rita Hen will tell a story. I’m so glad. You know Mrs. Rita Hen is really very lonely. That’s why she talks so much and bores so many of us with her constant gossiping, but she really is a good storyteller, and it’s too bad that she doesn’t have more opportunities to tell stories,” explained Miss Fuzzy Bunny.
“Yes, you’re right, she is a good storyteller. I can’t wait to hear her story,” agreed Jiggery-Jee. “Well, I have to go over and help Mr. Cat Fink put up a fence. What are your plans for the day?”
“I’m going shopping with Penny Grass. We want to buy some new outfits to wear to the celebration. Penny said she found a new boutique with fabulous clothes just over in Tulip Grove. I’ll be back by dinnertime. Do you want to make dinner or shall I?” asked Miss Fuzzy Bunny?”
“Oh, I’ll make it tonight,” said Jiggery-Jee. “You take your time and shop as long as you like. I’ll have dinner ready by 7 o’clock; is that all right?”
“Yes, that’s fine. See you then, Jiggery-Jee,” said Miss Fuzzy Bunny.
Conversations like this one could be heard all over Eden Valley as the residents all anticipated the Gardner Family celebration on Sunday. As the week wore on, every resident of Eden Valley became more excited about the celebration.
The Big Day Arrives
Finally the big day arrived. The sun was shining. The air was warm and flower scented. A perfect day for a big celebration at the Gardner Family Farm. About noon the residents of Eden Valley began to arrive at the farm. Ana and Seth Junior greeted them and introduced each resident to their new farm hand. Ana explained that the Stranger had already mended fences and plowed seventy acres. And he had planted several bushels of winter wheat. He had also picked strawberries and blackberries. And he had kept the barns and horse stalls spotless. Yes, Ana and Seth Junior were very happy with the Stranger’s work, and they were very pleased to be able to celebrate their good fortune in hiring him.
At two o’clock after everyone had taken a tour of the farm and had had a chance to sample the corn, tomatoes, and fresh-baked bread and fresh-churned butter, all the residents of Eden Valley gathered around a small stage where the entertainer for the evening, Mrs. Rita Hen, would tell her story. Mr. Rat Narby had been chosen to introduce Mrs. Rita Hen. As soon as everyone was seated, Mr. Rat Narby walked up to the microphone and began: “All of the residents of Eden Valley would like to thank the Gardners for their generous offering of food at this gathering and for the wonderful tour of their farm. The Gardner Farm is the biggest and most productive farm in this area, including not only Eden Valley, but also Tulip Grove, Carrot Valley, Bunnyville, Faultner Grove, and Flower Town. We, the residents of Eden Valley, are fortune to have such a fine establishment in our own valley. Let’s hear a big Eden Valley cheer for the Gardners,” said Mr. Rat Narby as he raised his hands to applaud the Gardners. The crowd followed Mr. Rat Narby and clapped and whistled and cheered, showing their appreciation to the Gardners.
“Thank you for helping me show our appreciation for this celebration,” continued Mr. Rat Narby, as soon as the cheering had died down.
“Also we include in our cheer a congratulations to the Gardner’s new farm hand, the Stranger. We welcome him to Eden Valley and hope his new life with us is happy and rewarding,” said Mr. Rat Narby. Then he turned to his job of introducing Mrs. Rita Hen.
“Now, we will be entertained by Eden Valley’s own storyteller, who has won prizes for her storytelling. She came to us from Faultner Grove, where she spent most of her life as an egglayer for the Omlette Farm. She has resided here at the Richardson Farm for ten years, and her reputation for storytelling has spread to all the surrounding areas. We are happy to welcome her. I present to you, Mrs. Rita Hen,” said Mr. Rat Narby, who led the applause, welcoming Mrs. Rita Hen to the stage.
Mrs. Rita Hen's Story
Mrs. Rita Hen walked up to the microphone, took a bow, and began:
Not so long ago and not at all far away, there lived a young rooster named Earl of the Woods. He worked hard for the family farm he lived with. He woke them up early so they could get into the fields before the sun began to bake the ground. He was alert and always let the farm hands know when Jake Fox and his Band of Chicken Snatchers were about to invade the henhouse and snatch a hen. He was an excellent worker and always quite loyal to all of his friends.
One year Earl had a very special birthday party. He planned it all himself. He made decorations of colorful leaves; he prepared food and even hired a band to play music for his guests. He did everything right, except one thing—he forgot to invite one particular hen. This one particular hen was the one hen in the whole world who loved Earl the most. She always praised him above all the other roosters in the valley. She said he was the most beautiful of all the roosters. She said his crowing in the morning was the loudest and the most forceful of all the roosters around. But despite the fact that she loved him the most and praised him the best, he did not invite her to his party.
When the day of the party arrived, Earl’s best friend, Elmer, a rooster from the nearest neighboring farm, came to help Earl finish the arrangements for his party. Elmer said, “Earl, is Florette bringing her sister Monette, I really like Monette. I’d like to get to know her better.”
“Oh, I didn’t invite Florette or Monette. I invited BeeBee and Shezette, though. They are new around here, and they are two really cutie-pie dames,” said Earl.
“I can’t believe you, Earl. Are you losing your senses? Florette will be crushed if you don’t invite her. You know she loves you best out of all the hens around. I thought you loved her best. I know she thinks you love her best. What is going on with you, Earl? Talking about ‘cutie-pie dames’—that just doesn’t sound like you. Are you all right?” asked Elmer, concerned about the change in his friend.
“What do you mean? Of course, I’m all right. Can’t I invite whomever I want? Is this not my party? I just think it would be neighborly of me to welcome those two new cutie . . . I mean . . . those two new dames . . . hens. Don’t you think that’s being neighborly?” stammered Earl.
“Well, your are right. You can be neighborly, if you feel you should. But couldn’t you still invite Florette? What does being neighborly have to do with not inviting your oldest and dearest hen-friend?” asked Elmer.
“Oh, El, don’t badger me. I just didn’t want to invite Florette. Can’t you leave me alone,” Earl wanted to drop the subject, because he knew Elmer had a good point.
As soon as Earl and Elmer had finished the party preparations, the guests began to arrive. All the old rooster gang arrived and had begun drinking and eating. Earl kept watching for the two cutie-pies, BeeBee and Shezette. Elmer kept watching Earl. Elmer thought Earl was acting very strangely. But time wore on, and Earl began to think his cutie-pies were not going to show up.
All the roosters were having a great time, talking and drinking fresh cherry cider and eating fresh shucked corn. Earl was looking very unhappy and had begun to mope around, not talking and not enjoying his party at all. Finally, he looked down the road and was very shocked to see four hens hastily heading his way. Elmer saw them too, and he rushed over the Earl.
“Well, Earl, would you look at that—not only are your ‘cutie-pies’ showing up, but Florette and Monette are with them. What a surprise! Hey, what do you think of that?” Elmer teased his friend.
“I think I’m going to go hide; El, old buddy, will you talk to them for me,” Earl said and started to rush off, when Elmer grabbed him and said, “Oh, no, you don’t. You have to face this yourself.”
“But what if Florette hits me and screams at me. El, old pal, this is my birthday. I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of all the old boys. And that would ruin the wonderful party for them. Look at them, El, they are all having such a good time,” Earl pleaded with his friend to let him hide from Florette.
But he was too late, because as he turned around, Florette was right beside him. He was so afraid of what she would say. He knew that the new hens surely had told her about being invited to the party. And he knew that Florette would wonder why she had not even heard about the party. As a scene of embarrassment went through his mind, he hears Florette say, “Hello, Earl. Looks like a fine party you have here. I’m sorry I couldn’t have helped you with it. I had to go over to Pullet Lake to visit my sick grandmother. I was just on my way here to bring you this nice shawl Granny made for you, and I met these two nice hens, who told me about the party. They are new to the farm, and they weren’t sure if they were on the right road. So I showed them where you live. They said this was the first party they had been invited to since they’ve been here. That is so nice of you, Earl, to invite the newcomers. And here, along with the shawl Granny made you, here is my present for you—it’s matching slippers to go with the shawl. I know how cold it gets some mornings, and you have to get up so early to go out and crow to wake the farmers. Granny and I hoped these gifts would keep you warm on those cold mornings,” explained Florette, without any anger at all, much to Earl’s surprise.
“Oh, my, these are truly beautiful, Florette. Thank you so much; I’ll have to write a note to thank your grandmother. I do hope she is feeling better,” said Earl, who was much relieved that Florette was not angry with him.
“Yes, she is, she is much better. And you will be able to thank her in person. She is coming for visit tomorrow,” said Florette. “Earl, I think I’d better go back to my new friends to see if they need anything. And I want to get some of that fresh cider.
“Florette,” said Earl, “I am glad you are here. I’m glad you and Monette will be friends with BeeBee and Shezette. They do seem lonely. And they need hen friends.”
“Thank you, Earl,” said Florette. “You are very thoughtful and considerate of others’ feelings.” And Florette looked deep into Earl’s eyes, and he could tell that she knew he had deliberately not invited her, but she also knew that becoming angry would only make things worse. She cared too much for Earl to become his enemy. She never acted angry or upset, and she found that Earl was nicer to her after this than he had ever been before. Even though the “cutie-pies” settled permanently on the farm, Earl seemed to prefer Florette’s company to all the other hens, and Elmer got to know Monette better.
Big Applause for Mrs. Rita Hen
Finishing her story, Mrs. Rita Hen said, “This little story was told to me by my aunt Sadie Hen. Aunt Sadie told it to me to try to teach me to be nicer to roosters. But you know it never worked. If I’d have been Florette, I’d have kicked some serious rooster feathers. And all of you know that.”
At that, all the residents stood up and gave a wild Eden Valley cheer, applauding Mrs. Rita Hen’s story and her honesty about how she would have handled the rooster, Earl of the Woods.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes