The old lady lived on a farm that matched her heart.
It was vast, fertile, and overgrown with many years of weeds and neglect.
She lived alone, with no one left to care either for her farm or for her heart, and her sanity
seemed to be fading with the years.
She was lonely, and, the neighbors would tell you, crazy.
It wasn’t so much that she talked ot her old hen as to her best friend, or even as to her
child, but that she honestly believed the hen talked back.
She and her feathered friend, whom she named Jessie, would have daily conversations,
sometimes for hours at a time, and she would entrust the secrets of her weathered
heart to the hen’s patient ear.
Their favorite topic of conversation was their children.
The old lady listened as her hen spoke fondly about her chicks, all of whom had
“flown the coop” for one reason or another.
Some had grown up and winged away, never to be heard from again.
Others had been baited away by neighbor kids; several wandered off into disaster.
She feared that many of her brood had been snatched and swallowed by the fox in the
How she longed to have them back one more time, to gather them all together in the
warm safety of her wings, to protect them from the dangers they could not wait to
The old lady understood.
“Human children are the same way, Jessie,” she told her friend.
“I once had many children, and I dreamed that they would live here together and work
my farm, but all of them have gone away for one reason or another.
One felt like I couldnever love her because she was adopted...she never understood that I
adopted her precisely so that I could love her.
Another didin’t think he had what it takes to work a farm.
Still others were drawn away by the excitement of the city.
One of them was seduced by a human “fox” who later turned on him and killed him.
They have so many reasons to go, and they can see no reason to stay.
I wish I could gather them all together myself, to hold them all in the circle of my arms
and spoil them rotten with sweet love...birthday presents and new clothes and big
Oh, sorry, I forgot who I was talking to.”
Jessie smiled: “I understand.”
“I know you do.
I am so sick with heartache now...I don’t know what I would do without you, my
The years continued to fade, and so did the old lady’s health.
Her ventures outside to the henhouse became shorter, less frequent.
For several weeks she didn’t go to the henhouse at all, and Jessie began to grow worried.
The aging hen summoned her strength and flapped her way to her friend’s window.
She saw a thin, sickly old woman, stumbling from bedroom to bath, bent over beneath the
weight of too many lonely years.
Something had to be done, so Jessie did the only thing she knew to do: she flew.
She flapped and flutte