First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous: The Yard
Mélanie froze. Oh, dear wasn’t the sort of phrase that normally led to angry owners, but there had been that one…
That had been a long time ago. And that was not Jasper. “Oh dear, sir?” she breathed, as quietly as she could and still hope to be heard.
“Be careful, Mélanie, but come around to the side of me, if you wish. Just be ready to duck…. ha.”
Those were not particularly calming instructions, but Mélanie did as she was told, of course, slipping to one side of Jasper to look at the chicken pen. Hutch? No, the little building to the right was the hutch. But she didn’t know what the pen was called.
Whatever its name, the pen was one of the tidiest parts of the whole yard – nice, big, several roosting places, a mesh roof overhead. Which made the thing sitting in the middle of the pen even more confusing.
It was… probably… poultry. She could see why Jasper had laughed at duck, because it had, more or less, a duck bill. But the rest of it looked like an oversized chicken. A very brightly colored oversized chicken.
And it was being pecked at by a much smaller, normal-sized, normal-beaked, normal chicken. Well, “normal.” It appeared that the house liked to keep fancy chickens, chickens with ridiculous feather colors and crests and – “Is that one neon rainbow-hued?”
“They came that way,” he protested. “The lot of them. Well, the chickens, I mean. But that – that thing. uh. I don’t know what that thing is.”
“Well, let’s see.” Melody looked over the area. The duck-chicken didn’t seem like it wanted to attack anyone, more like it was waiting to be fed. “There’s where it got in.” She pointed at a rip in the wire. “I have the mending Words, if you want-” What had she done? Offering to use magic? She was going to get slapped so hard…
He made a thoughtful face, still considering the duck-chicken thing.
“Well, I suppose if it’s not bothering the chickens too badly, we can see what it lays. Yes, please.”
Mélanie pretended it wasn’t a big deal. After all, he was being casual about it. But it was the first time she’d been allowed to do magic without very stringent rules in – well, in longer than she cared to think about.
She brought the Words to mind, remembered the Greek with a little bit of effort, and threw in a flourish because she could. When she was finished, she stepped back and smiled at the repaired and embellished cage.
It took Jasper a moment, a moment in which she grew increasingly nervous. Then “Oh! Are those ribbons?”
“They’re… wire decoration ribbons. But they reinforce the top so it can’t be broken as easily again. So… now we feed them? And, ah. We gather the eggs? These aren’t cows; they don’t need milking.”
He didn’t laugh at her. She liked that. He smiled though. “We feed them first. The feed is here,” he showed her, “and it goes in here. And then we check the water. I usually need to fill it every other day or so. About twice a week I clean it out. They’re not the tidiest eaters. And then we walk around over here…”
He lifted little doors in the back of the chicken hutch and showed her where the eggs came from. On the fourth little door, he made a thoughtful noise. “Guess we’re keeping the turducken. Look at those eggs.”
Two big eggs with green shells stared back at her. “Not golden.” She bit her lip, but she’d already said it.
He snorted. “No. We’d need a goose for that. Never found one of those, but you can bet I’d climb a beanstalk and steal from a giant if the opportunity arose.”
“Are you sure your name isn’t Jack?” She let herself smile. He hadn’t called her stupid once. She might come to like this.
“No, more’s the pity. I’m still Jasper all the way through. Well, let’s get these eggs inside, and then we can decide what we’re doing next.”
We. Decide. Well, if the house did eat her at least it would be pleasant and entertaining until then.