It all started when my lawyer and I, on holiday with a few others, came up with a plan to get a chicken and put it in a mate’s tent. The chook would flap around, our mate would do the same and we would stand outside bursting our sides with laughter. That’s ordinarily where it would have ended – as a silly plan – had an even sillier plan not been devised. A mutual friend who lived in the area was heading out for the night and thought his wife would be a bit grumpy on his return. His wife owned four chooks. If she was to find one of her beloved chickens missing he mused, it might take some heat off his behavior. Genius.
If this sounds slightly mad, we had considered taking a Shetland pony, something that was only ruled out due to the logistics of getting it in the back seat of our car. And the fact it was ‘a biter’.
So as night fell my lawyer and I crept into a garden with a chilly bin. The chilly bin was because we thought the chook might not be as a complicit in this plan as the rest of us, and scaring the wits out of our friend’s wife was not warranted and may precede a 111 call.
There was also a chance a neighbour, seeing prowlers, may also call the cops. Lucky I was with my lawyer I thought.
As we stumbled through bushes making what seemed to be a racket, we got to the coop and proceeded to lift a rather large brown hen out of her roost. It didn’t seem to bother her in the least bit. I wondered how many times she’d been stolen before. Then a light in the house went on. The idiocy suddenly became rather serious.
This plan made sense to us, but I feared that those who dance among common sense, or indeed any type of conventional reality, might see it all rather dimly. We did not utter a word. We moved not a muscle between us. The night fell silent. Although silence isn’t really silence when you actually listen to it. As we sat frozen to the spot looking at each other holding a chicken in a chilly bin, we heard noises everywhere. Natural movements around us were suddenly filled with menace, each possibly ending with a high-pitched scream and a trip to the police station.
Our minds were playing tricks on us. Oh the cruel irony. The very minds that had devised this brilliant plan were now being undermined by wind through leaves and the natural contractions that occur in the cool night air. Pull it together man, I thought, if the cops are on the way we best not be here when they arrive. My lawyer was of the same mind. We lifted the chilly bin and made a clean escape.
The hen, unbothered, was sleeping. As she was loaded into the car I actually wondered if she might lay an egg. I also wondered how long air lasts in a chilly bin.
As we got back to our campsite, our intended target was still up. Like two Peters waiting for the cock to crow, we shared a beer until he retired. We waited 30 minutes and then approached. One was to open the zip while the other threw the bird in the tent. Then the fun would begin.
But it didn’t. We threw the bird in, and again as if this was just a routine Saturday night for her, the hen did not react. She landed with a soft thud before looking to nod off again, mildly inconvenienced at best.
“What the hell is that?” our mate asked. It was dark and with the chicken being brown and acting like a loaf of bread he failed to identify it.
At this point my lawyer and I had a Jedi moment, we were of the same mind: why the fuck did we not get the pony?
So there we were driving back to the scene of the crime. In the evening chill my lawyer and I had come to a significant realisation. We were complete twonks. Our plan was not genius and it was hardly a plan at all. We were suddenly stuck with a hen in a chilly bin that by 10am would be needed to keep beer cold. So we crept back into the garden to put the chook back.
The headline in the paper for being caught stealing a bird would not be great, but I tend to think it might be better than the one that tells the story of being caught returning the bloody thing. I wanted out of there quick and there was a gap at the top of the run. The gap was roughly chicken-sized. I went to squeeze the hen through and what do you know, she gripped on to the bar. Seemingly pretty happy with her Saturday night so far she thought it too early to go home. Or maybe in a mad case of interspecies Stockholm Syndrome she had fallen in love with my lawyer. Either way she began to make a fuss. Thirty minutes too late, I thought and shoved her through the gap but I didn’t even see her drop. We were off like a shot, both of us knew in our heart of hearts that our burglary days were over, but later my lawyer did tell me that even in that mad flapping panic, he’d a done a quick sweep for eggs. He was, he told me, a little hungry.
As we went to McDonalds and ate a McChicken we vowed two things: 1. We would never rip anybody off ever again, and 2. That this story would never be told. Then we realised he’s a lawyer and I am a writer.