Yesterday I read a very short piece written by my dad. Today I’m sharing how I used it in my novel.
From my novel Chicken Charlie’s Year
Even though it had been Bea’s idea to beat the rugs, Charlie felt like he was helping Ma, too. He also knew when he was finished with his job outside, his sister would have a cup of hot milk ready for him. That always warmed him up fast.
That afternoon Ma came home with a treat for her children. She popped a pot full of popcorn. “Bernice, Casimir you both were so good today, you each may have your own bowl of popcorn all for yourself,” she said as she handed each an overflowing soup bowl.
Bea and Charlie took their bowls into the parlor. There, Bea switched on the radio and turned the dial until she found music playing. Charlie would have rather heard a western story, but Bea had gotten to the machine first and when it comes down to it his sister was bigger then him, being almost five years older. Now he had to listen to a guy named Fred Astaire sing Night and Day, which wasn’t so bad until Bea started singing, too.
“Ugh, Bea.” Charlie winced. “You sure will never be on the radio.”
“Sure I will.” Bea laughed as she leaned over the big wood radio and sang louder.
Charlie almost choked on his popcorn when he laughed.
Suddenly Bea turned. “Hey, Charlie, want to play chicken?”
“Baloney! You’re always the chicken and I’m always the farmer.” He remembered the last time they played Chicken. He ended up feeding all his popcorn to his sister while she pretended to be a chicken. It had been fun watching her clucking and scratching around the room. She made a pretty good chicken, but in the end his popcorn was gone and Bea went to her bedroom with her bowl still full to the brim.
“Oh, come on, Charlie. Be a sport.”
“This time I want to be the chicken,” I demanded.
“Okay, you can be the chicken,” Bea said. “Give me your popcorn and I’ll feed you.”
Down on all fours Charlie went, crawling around, pretending to scratch for food. “Cluck, cluck,” he said while Bea scattered popcorn on the floor.
“Here chick, chick, chick. Here Chicken Charlie,” said Bea.
Since chickens can’t talk, Charlie didn’t say anything about how the floor was so clean a person could eat off of it. That would have admitted his sister had done a good job and he would never admit anything like that to her face. He just kept clucking, scratching and eating while encouraged him.
“Chick, chick, chick… Here’s some more Chicken Charlie.” Bea reached into the bowl and threw a dozen or so pieces to Charlie’s left.
He went after them, pecking them up almost as fast as they fell, then something strange happened. Somehow a piece of popcorn didn’t go into his mouth; instead it went up his nose. Charlie felt a wave of panic rush through him. He stood up and with his hand over his nose trying to pick the popped kernel out. His eyes began to water as the salt stung the inside of his nose.
Bea grabbed him by the shoulders, stopping him from running around in circles. She looked him over, figured out the problem, then said, “Just close your mouth and blow.” With her hands still on his shoulders, she spun him so he was facing away from her. “Blow that-a-way,” she directed.
Charlie closed his mouth and tried to blow the air out of his nose. Most of the air went out the other nostril, not the blocked one. Now tears began to overflow his eyes and he began to cry.
“Chickens don’t cry, Charlie. Anyway, that’ll only make things worse.” Bea stepped up behind him and put her finger over the open nostril. “Now, blow real hard,” she commanded.
That time Charlie took a deep breath and blew as hard as he could. Finally, with the addition of a glob of fresh snot, the piece of popcorn came out.
“That’s the way to go, Chicken Charlie.” Bea slapped him on his back.
That stung a little, but he felt so much better, he didn’t care, until he got a look at his popcorn bowl. It was nearly empty. That’s when he realized that as Bea fed him his popcorn and she had been eating from his bowl, too.
By the time Charlie realized that his sister had tricked him again, Bea was halfway to the bedroom she shared with Sophie with her full bowl of popcorn. “You sure do make a good chicken, Charlie. Yes-sir-ree. You’re a real good Chicken Charlie.” She laughed as she closed her bedroom door.
Charlie stood in the parlor holding his empty bowl. He had only five pieces of popcorn left and his nose still hurt from the salt. It seemed to him that his ma’s treat hadn’t been such a good thing after all.
Copyright © 2020 by Susan Manzke, all rights reserved