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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Monday
Jul222013

The Hitchhiking Chicken

The chicken appears to strut right out of the glass doors of the McDonald's. From my vantage point, parked in the drive-thru surveying the morning menu, I watch as the chicken casually clucks its way down the sidewalk towards my car.

I reach for my phone because when will I ever watch as an apparent future McNugget escapee makes its move? And of course, OF COURSE, I realize my phone is missing. Must've left it sitting on the counter of the YMCA where I had paid the bill after dropping off Henry and Violet for pre-school. Kind of like how I left the car keys in the kitchen sink beneath a stack of dirty dishes that I was too tired to load into the dishwasher. Pregnancy brain is for real, people.

The drive-thru speaker crackles to life. "Would you like to try a freshly toasted Sausage McMuffin today?" No. If I want a Sausage McMuffin I'll order one. "Can I get an Egg McMuffin, minus the Canadian bacon?" I ask as the chicken pecks at the landscaping beneath the drive-thru menu. Thank god I'm a vegetarian. Can you imagine rolling up to order a slew of McNuggets? Apparently they're really fucking fresh at the Lock Haven, PA Mickey Dees.

I roll forward and the chicken keeps the same pace as it clucks across the grass and bushes. By the time I'm pulling up to window one, the pay window, the chicken is strutting between my car and the building. The cashier opens the window and looks down in amazement.
"What the..."

His voice trails off as we watch the chicken stroll ahead of my car, claws scritching at the blacktop as it takes the drive-thru by storm.

"Is that your... I mean, do you know whose chicken..." I'm not really sure what question to ask. The cashier shrugs his shoulders and takes my debit card. Oookay. He's not going to be much help. I watch as the chicken heads for the dangerously busy road that runs right in front of the McDonalds.

Shit.

I drive up to the second window where a woman is waiting with my McMuffin. She holds the bag toward my window but she isn't looking at me, she's staring at the plucky chicken, her mouth gaping as the bird strolls past. I grab the bag and whip my car into one of those parking stalls they tell you to pull up into if your order isn't immediately ready and then jump out.

I'm not sure what I'm doing. I just know that I can't drive away and leave a chicken in peril. I don't want to scare the thing into the road so I cut a wide path around the animal and position myself on the sidewalk between the McDonald's and the road. I tear off a piece of my McMuffin, throw it back into the parking lot in some crazed effort to lure the thing back toward McDonald's and safety, relatively speaking. I'm not sure any chicken anywhere on the planet considers a McDonald's safe. But somehow, the thing circles me and steps right into the road.

Oh, god. Here we go.

This ain't no country road. This is the busy, main street in town. Four fast-moving lanes. I lumber into the road after the chicken, putting my hands up like a police officer directing traffic, forcing drivers to stop. A pick-up screetches to a halt about ten feet in front of me and the rogue chicken and, afraid of me, the chicken immediately ducks under the truck. I stand there staring at the driver, he's looking at me and I'm not really sure what to do.

THE CHICKEN IS UNDER YOUR TRUCK, I mouth to him. He just stares at me. Which, fair. How would you react if a McMuffin wielding stranger ordered you to stop on a busy road and then mouthed that sentence at you? I crouch down and peer underneath the truck, afraid I'm about to witness the thing get sucked into some secret engine compartment with a squawk and a burst of feathers, but there it is, staring at me with an expression nearly identical to the driver of the truck. I make lunging attempts to scare the thing while sing-songing Here Chicken-Chicken. HERE CHICKEN-CHICKEN, because everyone knows chickens respond to that, right? After what feels like two hours of The Monica and the Chicken Show, the chicken scrabbles out from under the truck and thankfully heads back to the sidewalk.

This chicken chase has been underway for at least five minutes and not a soul steps in to help. The chicken, unperturbed by its close call on the road, struts back into the McDonald's parking lot and begins walking toward the very doors it had originally appeared to exit from. We have now made a full circle around the joint.

At this point the morning sickness that prompted the unusual McDonald's pit stop in the first place reminds me that if I don't put food in my belly pronto-like said belly will empty its contents immediately in revolt. I take a bite of the mangled McMuffin I'm clutching in my hand and contemplate the chicken. I don't know what to do. What a sight. A chicken and a bedraggled woman hoovering a McMuffin circling the McDonald's.

I mean, what am I going to do if I catch the thing? Put it in the back of my little SUV? Visions of crazed flapping and chicken talons wrapped around my head as I swerve all over the roadway cause me to question that plan. And yet I continue to chase the chicken, all the while assessing my surroundings because where did this fucker come from? We are in the middle of a fairly large city here. Ain't a farm in ten miles. Backyard coop, maybe? I keep hoping to see a relieved owner heading my way but there is no one.

Could McDonald's really be slaughtering chickens in some back room death chamber, I briefly wonder. Some squirrely looking employee packing a broom/dust pan combo saunters across the parking lot. "Hey!" I yell. "Do you think you can help me corner this chicken?" The shocked look that transforms his dull expression goes a long way toward reassuring me that this chicken likely did not escape from McDonald's.

He stands there, mouth gaping, as the chicken struts right past his feet. I can see he isn't going to be much help. But assistance is on the horizon. A man in a suit appears from nowhere and together we kind of scuttle the chicken into an area behind the fire station next door to the McDonald's. But the chicken ain't having it. It makes a break for it and runs right into the open door of some kind of shed that stores firefighter equipment. The man astutely slams the door to keep the chicken inside.

Just as we're staring at each other wondering what to do next an elderly man exits the McDonald's and ambles over to us. "You guys see a chicken out here?" He asks as if it's a perfectly normal question this morning in the parking lot at McDonald's. "I heard there's a chicken here and I b'lieve my neighbor's chicken has hitched a ride into town in my truck again." He gestures toward a pick-up truck with a camper over the bed of the vehicle. "She's done it before. Musta done it again today and hopped out while I was inside getting breakfast."

Of course. A hitchhiking chicken. I should've known. "She's in here." I tell him. I crack open the door and we creep into the shed together. She's casually standing there in a beam of light filtering through a high window, as if she's been waiting for us.

"Yup. That's her." The elderly man walks right up to her and she makes no move to get away. He scoops her up in one arm, pivots and walks out of the shed. "I'll get her home again." He thanks me and climbs into his truck with her.

Uh, okay? I raise my half-eaten Egg McMuffin in a half-hearted goodbye. A chicken salute, maybe? Then I climb back into my car and head back to the YMCA to retrieve my phone.

Reader Comments (21)

I swear to God, this is the best post ever. You are Ellen DeGeneres! You know the one when she stopped her car in the middle of LA to try to let a stray dog stuck into the median into her car, right? Turns out it was a coyote.....

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

First I thought the chicken was trying to tell you not to eat it's unborn family member, then I thought maybe a pregnant hallucination? Wouldn't you love to find a video from McDonald's security camera to see yourself chasing a chicken?

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBonnieLee

Awesome. Just awesome.

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

OMG Monica, I usually don't laugh out loud at things I read, but this post has me chuckling like crazy! The pictures in my head as I read this are priceless. Thanks for that after a hard night working. Congrats on your third kid and be sure to keep us in the loop. Have a good one.

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

If you haven't watched Orange is the New Black yet (and you should), this reminded me of an episode I watched yesterday. You should watch it. :)

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiary of Why

Also, now I REALLY want an egg mcmuffin. :)

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiary of Why

This is hilarious! I went to Lock Haven University, so I know exacty where this McDonalds is....and Monica's right. It's smack dab in the middle of town and that road is very, very busy! So nice of you to think of the chicken before yourself!

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJessie

This is the best thing I've seen all day. Thank you!!!

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternadine

That is hilarious. Love it. The joys of country living. When I was growing up, we lived off of a big highway in a part of the world famous for its chicken industry. Huge tractor trailers of chickens bound for the slaughterhouse would thunder down that highway, leaving tornadoes of white feathers swirling in their wakes. One day, by some miracle, a chicken fell off the truck, survived and wandered onto my street, where she proceeded to make her home for, I kid you not, several years. Everyone fed her and she'd strut around like she owned the place, picking at bugs and clucking softly to herself about her good fortune. I always loved that chicken.

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

I was terrified at how this story was going to end. Such relief! Maybe the chicken is your spirit animal...
Belated congrats on 3# too.

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterE.

I loved reading this story and can appreciate your natural desire to protect the life of this chicken and other creatures who have wandered onto your path. I am amazed that the bird was secured just as someone came to claim it. This particular story strikes a chord as the the other night while driving in town, I had to brake suddenly for two teen-aged girls who had decided to jaywalk across the this busy double-laned street. It was a hair-raising moment, as I knew that they could not be seen by the car swiftly coming up along my right side. Somehow they managed to cross in front of him...but it was sickening just the same. I loved Veronica's story about the chicken who fell off the truck. Don't you just love it when someone manages to make a break for it. Reminds me of OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU. Well, prisoners are scary but man, more chickens should get loose. I've see those trucks down in Maryland or Virginia on their way to Perdue. Good story,Monica. Hope you feel better soon.

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

I second the Orange Is The New Black reference! If you aren't interested in watching the whole season, just watch the one episode (you'll know which one by the title). You'll love it! And, when i was pregnant, al I wanted was fast food egg and cheese sandwiches to cure my morning sickness. :)

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdani

I, too, went to Lock Haven University and could totally see this happening there!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Sister!! You just made my day! Best story EVER!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShannon b

Yes!!! I thought this was a hallucination a la Orange is the New Black...you will love this show and be able to watch the WHOLE season

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Anyone who has been to kauai,, there are roosters and chickens roaming everywhere, and it's completely normal. We saw a chicken with her 5 little chicks in a Walmart parking lot and no one blinkded an eye. They were on the beach, at the hotel, everywhere. It's part of Kauai's charm...Loved it!

July 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermama

Did someone just said chicken... you made me real hungry ..;)

Jokes apart hey this is my first visit to the post and I absolutely loved it

That chicken owes you some fresh eggs.

July 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Lee

next time, ditch the LH mcdonalds. the one near the nittany mall is only 11 minutes from bellefonte. and they have a "no live chickens" guarantee! ;)

July 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I love Orange is the New Black! Anyone else think the girl looks like Dooce? It's uncanny.

July 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCassandra

No picture, it didn't happen... Yet, it's just too strange to be made up. Too bad you didn't have your camera. God bless men in suits. And elderly farmers who are known to their chicken neighbors. Great post, Monica, like old times.

July 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSouthernMan

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