At night the chicken dreams continued in an ordered sequence, like episodes of a favourite soapie. When Leanne closed her eyes she knew she would hear the familiar voice of the giant chicken.
During the day she tried making small talk with her fellow workers during lunch breaks.
“What’s in your saamie?”
She’d interrupted two women discussing the jazz dance contest.
“I was just wondering what is in your sandwich?”
The women stared at her. “You’re Toppie’s girl aren’t you?”
Leanne nodded and the women smiled but went back to their conversation.
Leanne decided to run a survey. She wrote up a basic questionnaire and distributed it amongst some of the workers a few days later. Two of the questions read:
Do you think conditions at Bright Star are inhumane for the chickens?
Is there a more humane way we can farm chickens?
And then there was a blank section at the bottom of the page with the heading: Suggestions.
Most of the workers laughed. Toppie’s daughter had been found a job but the majority of the workers thought she was too young. “Who let this kid in?” a few asked.
Management heard of the survey and Leanne was reprimanded.
“What are you playing at girlie!?” Leanne’s father was upset. “What? This not good enough for you? It puts food on the table. It got you through school.”
When he was this upset there was no point in talking back. He would only get louder and it wouldn’t be too long before you had a blue eye.
That night Leanne took her problems into her dreams.
“You got me into trouble!”’ She wasn’t happy with the chicken.
“I didn’t say revolution would be easy,”’ he replied.
“But why do I care anyway. I’m not a chicken. I actually like eating chicken. I don’t want to be a vegetarian.”
“That was never what this was about, Leanne,” the chicken said.
“How old are you?” the chicken asked her.
“I’m older than I look,” he told her.
Leanne didn’t know what an old chicken looked like but she believed him when he said he was old. She settled on the bench, which bent under her weight and squeaked in a way she had, over the weeks, become accustomed to.
“I’ve studied a bit about you humans. Your wars. Did you learn anything about the Atlantic slave trade?”
“You should read up on it. I believe there is a right way to treat all living things. A good way.”
“But we eat you. How can we treat you right and eat you at the same time?”
The chicken fluttered his feathers and Leanne wondered if that was his way of shrugging his shoulders.
“Hunting is a noble thing,” he said, once he was settled again.
“But most of us don’t hunt anymore. I go to Shoprite for instance,” Leanne told him.
“And what if shopping is modern-day hunting? The hunter has codes. What if the shopper had codes too? A line not to cross.”
Tell us what you think: How can people eat animals but still treat them properly at the same time?