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“What a horrid day!” complained Millicent, her beady eyes bright and her head bobbing with irritation. I listened impassively. I was really only listening with half an ear because my attention had been captured by Edna who was strutting around, chest thrust out, in a comical imitation of Dali.
“Dame Edna doesn’t think so!” I commented after a few minutes.
“Dame Edna indeed!” Millicent muttered. “What airs she has and for no good reason. She prances about like Madam Muck. Just look at her! And she isn’t the slightest bit attractive. Actually…” she exhaled pretentiously, “I find her to be rather common!”
In truth, Millicent or Millie Moaner as the others referred to her behind her back believed herself to be not only handsome but also superior to us all.

“Oh Edna doesn’t really have airs and graces.” I responded warily for Millicent was not one you could cross. “She’s just a born actress! She really ought to be on stage.” Then in an attempt to change the subject, “What a pity we have to be locked up at 4 o’clock.”
This had the desired effect and Millicent rattled on, now off on a new tangent,
“Hmph! I do not like being locked up either. I am completely innocent of any crime and it is not easy for me to have to mix with others who are not of my class or ilk” she sniffed indignantly “but I have accepted my lot in life and try to make the best of it!” - this said with the injured air of a martyr. She was convinced the others looked up to her and had great respect for her – after all they ought to. Her behaviour, in fact did not endear her to us at all. Even dear old maternal Mavis who fussed over us all had a hard time maintaining her sensibilities when Millicent got going.

Later that afternoon, after lockup, an obviously upset Penny accompanied by Marilyn, a beautiful but rather stereotypical dumb blonde, approached Mavis who was chatting amiably with Edna. I listened with amusement as Penny complained vociferously about Millie but did not get involved. I knew the drift because I had heard it so many times before. Millie had once again claimed the choice food and left them with scraps.
“She is insufferable!” Penny burst out. “I do not think I can go on living this way!” “It’s bad enough being raped by that lout almost every day without having her around making our lives even more miserable!” “Have you noticed he never touches her?” The others all nodded their heads in agreement and commiserated. Penny was the smallest of us all but she had the most pluck and was always the first to speak up when there was an injustice. The commotion was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of Dali. None of us knew his real name but we called him that because he bore a more than a passing resemblance to the arrogant madcap artist Salvador Dali. As if on cue he rounded the corner, his chest puffed out and his eyes glinting with excitement. Who would be the recipient of his attentions this night?

The new day dawned in a warm flush of amber and gold and I was excited to be getting out into the fresh air. I was not the only one. The moment the gate was unlocked we all burst out into the warm sunshine chattering gaily, so happy to be out of our cramped quarters - all, except for poor young Marilyn who had been the recipient of Dali’s attention the night before. She was still feeling bruised and tender and refused to get up and could not be coerced out. We were used to this sort of thing happening all the time and so did not allow it to put a damper on our day. It was simply splendid to be outside in the beautiful gardens so in contrast to our concrete and wire-fenced quarters and so we ignored the more unsavoury aspects of our existence. I strolled around the yard, noticing that most of the others had gathered in little groups and were gossiping - probably their favourite activity. I could clearly hear Millie’s voice rising above all the others and I smiled sympathetically. The day seemed to slip by so quickly and it was only when we were being herded back to our quarters that I noticed that Edna was not among us. “Had she escaped?” I wondered. Dame Edna, as everyone referred to her, was well liked. Nobody could call Edna attractive but she oozed character and was always able to inspire a laugh with her playful antics.

Later that evening, we found out Edna had been attacked. Nobody seemed to have any details except for the fact that she had sustained an injury to her neck and shoulder and was in a serious condition.
“It must have been The Black Shadow” someone averred in hushed tones. ‘The Black Shadow’ or rather Roxanne was a source of great fear in the compound and at the mere mention of her, we all quivered in unison. Nothing was said after this for each of us had a fear we would be next. Everyone, that is except for Millicent! She rattled on and on about how careless Edna had been.
“It serves her jolly well right for not staying with the group!” she muttered. We stared at her with open antagonism. Nobody bothered to conceal their resentment and anger at that moment but we wisely avoided arguing with her. She simply could not be convinced of anything that was not in line with her own opinion and she could skewer anyone with that sharp tongue of hers. Nobody suspected that deep deep down Millicent longed for love and acceptance. She simply could not break the mould she had set for herself. Her acerbic manner was merely a cover up but she knew no other way.

We stepped out cautiously when the gate was unlocked the following morning. The sky was somber and oppressive as if mirroring the dismal atmosphere and reflecting our heavy spirits. Roxie was usually locked away securely but if she was out, we were all in mortal danger. In the bible, Job says “What I have greatly feared has come upon me!” And so it was that day. Nobody spoke about Edna but all of us were acutely aware of her absence. Was she going to die? Would she be yet another victim of this cold-blooded murderess? Why was Roxie allowed out after the last bloody massacre? Our fear led to heightened sensitivity and every noise or movement would cause us to jump almost in unison. We stuck together, somehow believing that there would be safety in numbers. In spite of our vigilance, none of us were prepared for the fear that slid down our spines when we saw Roxie sashay into the yard. Her friendly black face and big smile belying the evil that inside. There were a few nervous titters and we all huddled closer to one another, hoping that she would see we were a united group, lose interest and stay away. We heaved a collective sigh of relief when we saw that she appeared to be going in another direction. Then a gasp! I saw Mavis at almost the same time as Penny who had emitted the gasp.

Mavis had strolled off and was enjoying a stray sunbeam that had broken through the clouds. She was not far from us but she was alone and this made her an easy target. It was unusual for Mavis to be away from the rest of the group. Her maternal instincts made her the mother of all and she fussed over all of us constantly. We were struck with horror by what we were about to witness. We could see it now on Roxie’s face. No longer smiling, her dark eyes intent, she moved with sleek determination towards her victim. We were all frozen with fear and unsure about what to do when suddenly to the surprise of all, Millicent broke away from the group and charged towards Roxie looking as ferocious as she possibly could. Millie could be frightening, we were all in agreement, but at that moment we looked at the scene before us not only with complete amazement but also growing admiration.

Mavis alerted by the sudden noise, turned suddenly and dashed back to the safety of the throng. We welcomed her into our midst and then watched in disbelief as Roxie turned her murderous stare upon Millicent who had in an instant been elevated to the status of a heroine among her peers. We were all cheering her on. Imploring her to come back and join the safety of the crowd. Millie, however, was blocked off by Roxie who was now directly in the path between her and us. We distracted Roxie just long enough for Millie to get away and she tried to hide behind a tree but Roxie was not to be deterred. She lifted her face and seemed to sniff the air, her eyes now demoniacal. We watched as saliva trickled from the corners of her mouth. She was insane, we were convinced of it! Suddenly Millicent made a run for it. Wildly she ran, making loud terrified noises but Roxie was far too swift and almost directly in front of our horrified eyes, Roxie tackled Millicent, brought her down and snapped her neck in an instant.

Later that night we spoke of Millicent’s heroic act with reverence and awe. Many of those who had avoided her like the plague now claimed to have been close friends. I thought about the irony of it all and shook my head sadly, feeling a deep inner pain inside. Not even the sight of a wounded, but obviously on-the-mend Edna, could cheer me up. I was despondently thinking that it was only a matter of time. We were all in terrible danger. How many would be killed by this monster? Would I be next?

For a chicken there really is no such thing as freedom!
Especially when there is a psychopathic dog on the loose.

Open wide the eyes of the mind.

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The following comments are for "The Yard"
by Chanti

Okay, I'll tell you what went through my head as I read this. At first, as you probably intended, I thought it was a women's prison, and I thought it was funny and unusual that they spoke the way they did. A few paragraphs in, I realized that they were chickens, and began to smile (*but*, I think I caught on quickly because I read that essay of yours; I don't think the average reader who doesn't know your work would catch on so quickly). I actually grinned through most of it. Very clever, Chanti, and entertaining.

The problems that I saw are mainly that you need to go through the sentences and add commas to break it up, separate dialogue from the narrative, etc. I don't remember any misspellings. I think the biblical reference is ill-placed; why would chickens know the Bible? Even thought you're misleading the reader into thinking the chickens are women, that reference didn't work for me.

"For a chicken there really is no such thing as freedom!
Especially when there is a psychopathic dog on the loose."-- For me, the exclamation point is distracting. Those sentences might work better with an ellipses between them.

I thought Roxie was an axe for a while. It was a surprise that she was a dog. Good job. :)

( Posted by: Elphaba [Member] On: November 14, 2003 )

Elphaba - re:chickens
Dear Elphie,

Wow what a fantastic critique. I am glad you found my story entertaining. I wrote it in response to a challenge entitled 'Freedom' and of course I was being tongue in cheek. You cannot live in this country and not have a sense of humour. There is danger on every side and my chickens are an entertaining distraction. I enjoyed your critique for a number of reasons. Firstly you did not break me down, secondly you offered valuable input for improvement and thirdly you offered your critique from your own perspective. I write impulsively (impulsive behaviour, I hate to admit is one of my character flaws) and don't put a lot of thought into my recreational writing. It simply spills out. I believe that the reason I do this is because when I write for publications I have to be more technical and so when I write for fun I tend to loosen up. Here is to learning.

Thanks SO much!

( Posted by: Chanti [Member] On: November 14, 2003 )

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