Tag: chickens

The Alchemist’s Garden

Once there was an alchemist who was scanning through the real estate listings hoping to find the perfect home. Apartment buildings are not really well-suited to alchemy. People kept knocking on his door and interrupting his experiments to say things like,

“Can you stop all the sulfur smells and explosions? I just got the baby to sleep.”

He needed to get away from all the sleeping babies and grumpy telecommuters so that he could get back to his life’s work. And, if there was room for a garden so that he could save money on ingredients, that would be even better. He circled the most promising listings with a smile.

It took weeks of touring homes and meetings and paperwork, but finally the alchemist had a new home with a lovely yard that bordered on the forest. It was far from the center of town, and there were no neighbors close by to be disturbed by silly things like smoke or smells or loud noises. It was perfect.

Except that the previous owners said that deer lived in the forest and would probably come eat his garden. Luckily, he had a solution. He would grow a magic hedge around his property. The deer would be repelled by the magic in the hedge and stay far away from his garden.

During the terrible drudgery of house-buying, the alchemist had spent many hours concocting an extra rapid plant growth solution for his garden. He bought the seeds for the hedge from his favorite apothecary before he left town. Before he unpacked a single box, he dipped the seeds in the potion and planted them. He had a tall magical hedge in place by dinner.

The next morning, the hedge was gone. The alchemist raced outside in his slippers and pajamas and crouched down in the empty space, looking for clues. The hedge had been chewed to the ground.

Deer were supposed to be repelled by magic hedges. He must have been sold nonmagical seeds. What an outrage! He called the apothecary and complained just as loudly as a neighbor who was woken up at 3am by an explosion of twenty glass beakers.

Within an hour, he had new seeds, guaranteed to be magical. He dipped them in potion, planted them, and his hedge was in place by lunch time. In the morning, it was gone.

Perhaps it wasn’t the seeds, after all.

He used the last of the seeds to plant a third hedge. Then, that evening, he waited out by the hedge in the dark. When he heard chewing sounds, he shook the corked vial of light solution. It glowed brightly, showing his hungry visitors. They were much larger than deer.

Dragons? Why were dragons eating his hedges?

He went inside and pulled a few books off the shelves to read in the morning. The next day, after a lot of reading, he learned that dragons liked to eat magical hedges. Of course. It would have been nice to know that before spending a fortune on magical hedge seeds. But, how was he to know that there were dragons in the forest? The previous owner never mentioned that.

He hired someone to build a non-magical fence out of wood. The deer and dragons had plenty of wood in their forest to eat, so they certainly wouldn’t go out of their way to eat his fence. Sure enough, the fence was there the next day. And the next. And the next.

Once he was certain that the fence was going nowhere, the alchemist planted his ingredients and set up his workshop. He had so many ideas to try! It would take months just to go through the first pages of his notebook where he jotted down ideas.

The garden grew quickly and well. It grew so well, that he had more ingredients than he expected. The magical beets were especially prolific, and he had more than he could turn into potions or eat. He developed a new potion that turned beets into chickens. Soon he had a yard full of chickens that all wanted to eat his garden full of potion ingredients.

He hired someone to build a chicken coop. The garden recovered, the chickens laid boiled eggs, and he was able to get back to his notebook. The alchemist had time to experiment as much as he liked.

And then winter came. The garden stopped growing. The hens stopped laying eggs. During a particularly long storm, the road to town was blocked for weeks.

Deprived of the sun, the chickens finally turned back into beets. The alchemist ate them. It was a nice change from eating canned food and food substitute potions. When he ran out of firewood, he burned the coop. Then the fence.

Finally, the storm ended. Winter ended. The alchemist stepped into his backyard and looked around. No plants. No chickens or coop. No fence. He was back to the beginning.

Yet, he wasn’t. Not really. He had survived the winter. He knew what to expect. And, he knew what to do next.

He hired someone to build a non-magical fence out of wood. Then he called the apothecary to order some more seeds.

Flashback Friday: Another New Invention

This story was first posted on June 20, 2017. I wrote three stories about Charles and Esther. This is the second one. I like all three, but this one is my favorite.

Charles grinned as he strode out of his laboratory. “Esther, I’ve done it again,” he said.

Esther looked up from her book. “Another new invention, Charles?” she asked.   “What does this one do?”

“This one is the best one yet. The world will never be the same,” Charles said. “Follow me as I reveal the answer to one of life’s greatest mysteries.”

Esther followed Charles out to the yard. It was evening and the hens had already gone to their coop to roost.   Charles opened the door with a flourish. The hens scolded him sleepily.

Charles pulled something out of his pocket. It looked like a flat microphone, or maybe a metal lollipop.   He held it in front of his mouth.   “Ok, ladies, I have a question,” he said.

The hens perked up and looked at him. It was disconcerting to see their silent unwavering attention. Charles smiled. “What is the most common flavor to you? What does everything taste like?”

He held out the microphone. Flappy, the most bossy of the chickens, leaned forward. “Corn. Everything tastes like corn,” she said.

Esther looked at Charles. “That’s amazing. A chicken translator. Ask it why it crossed the road.”

Charles frowned. “It’s a universal translator, and our chickens have never even seen the road.   Why would I ask them that?”

Esther laughed. “It’s a classic question. Just ask.”

“Fine.” Charles held up the translator.   “Why did you cross the road?”

He held out the translator and Flappy leaned forward again. “What’s a road?” she asked.

“Never mind,” Charles said. He looked at Esther. “See?”

Esther sighed. “How disappointing. I was sure they’d say to get to the other side. So, why were you asking about flavors?”

“I’m trying to discover the foundational taste. Everyone says everything tastes like chicken, but now we know that to chickens everything tastes like corn. What’s the next step?” Charles turned and strode away. Esther hurried to catch up.

Charles hurried to the kitchen and began opening and closing cupboards.   “What are you looking for?” Esther asked.

“Where do you keep the corn?” he asked.

“In the freezer,” Esther said.

Charles rummaged through the freezer and found a plastic bag filled with corn. “Aha!” he said. He held up his translator.

“They can’t talk to you,” Esther said.

“Why not?” Charles asked.

“They’re dead,” Esther said.

Charles dropped the bag of corn. He backed up looking horrified. “Do you mean to tell me that you’ve been feeding me dead things all this time?” he asked.

“You don’t really want to eat things that are still alive do you?” Esther asked.

“Good point,” Charles said. “You have the soul of a philosopher, Esther.” He picked up the corn, gave it a pat, and returned it to the freezer.   “So, where will I find living corn?”

“In a garden or field, I imagine,” she said.

“Esther, we’re going on a drive,” Charles said.

They drove around and finally found a field of corn just outside city limits.   It was nearly dark out. Esther sighed and followed Charles to the field.   “Charles, the corn will still be quite small,” she said. “Even if corn can talk, which I doubt, this corn may be too young.”

“Nonsense,” Charles said. “Help me look for an intelligent looking ear of corn.”

Esther pointed to a small ear nearby. “This one looks good,” she said.

Charles rushed over and held up the translator. “What is the most common flavor to you? What does everything taste like?” he asked.

After a moment, a small high-pitched voice replied, “What does taste mean?”

Charles smiled and put the translator back in his pocket. “There you have it, Esther. Corn is the foundational taste. I’d always wondered.” He started walking to the car. “I wonder what I should invent next.”