In today's story, Chicken à la King, farmyard friends can have big dreams
Today's prompt came to me randomly, inspired by hunger and thoughts of what to make for dinner. I don't think I've ever had chicken à la king, but it's one of those recipe names I often hear and it seemed like it could lead to an interesting story.
As always, today's story was free-written from the prompt with no planning and very little editing. It might be a little twisted, but no where near as dark as it could have been with that title and a farmyard setting! If you enjoy today's story, please share it with your friends and leave a review for Freely Written. Thank you!
More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 88 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Chicken à la King.
If this is your first time listening, welcome. This podcast is a place for me to play with some creative free-writing and maybe encourage listeners to try their hand at writing, too. I sit down with a prompt and write a quick story, with no planning and very little editing.
The writing prompts I use sometimes come from friends and listeners. More often, I choose them randomly. Today’s prompt was a free association between feeling hungry and wondering what to make for dinner later.
I’m not sure why chicken à la king popped into my head. Actually, I don’t really what that is. Something creamy I think? Maybe with noodles? I’m allergic to milk so that won’t be on my dinner menu, but it sounds like a phrase I could take in a lot of directions.
Let’s see where the story will wander:
Chicken à la King
When Charles Poulet was a young chick, everyone called him Chip. Just Chip. No last name. Like all the other chickens. He got his name from the farmer’s son, just as all the chicks were named by various members of the farmer’s family.
Chip happily scratched and pecked in the farmyard with his many brothers, sisters, and cousins. He and his closest friends had all hatched within a week of each other. Penny, Frank, Clucky, Hopscotch, and Jan.
This clique of chicks got along quite well. They’d been hatched not long after Easter. Too late to be brought into the house like their older siblings, but soon enough after that they didn’t get as much attention from the farmer’s children.
They considered that a good thing.
Their slightly older relatives had spent their first few weeks being dressed up in ribbons and doll clothes, posed for pictures, and clutched a little too tightly by eager young hands. Those who made it back to the farmyard—once the children lost interest in them—had wild stories to tell about adventures the younger chicks were happy to have missed.
For Chip and his friends, the farmyard was a lovely place. There was plenty of space to run and play and a fence kept them safe from the passing fox. Still, they were warned to stay in the coop once the sun went down because a fence could only do so much.
The hens fussed over all the chicks as if they were their own. Shooing them into the safety of the coop at night and shooing them out from under claw when the sun was up. Beyond that, the chicks were largely left to entertain themselves.
Sometimes, when the chicks were feeling daring, they would slip through a hole at the back of the fence and run across the farmyard, pass the barn and to the edge of the reed-lined pond.
There were all kinds of interesting friends at the pond. Frogs and turtles, fish and birds. Mostly, the chicks liked to play with the ducklings.
“Hello! Hello!” Chip and the others would chirp as soon as the pond was in sight.
“Greetings! Salutations!” the ducklings would quack back, as they were more worldly and sophisticated than the farmyard chicks.
Unlike the hens, the ducks were more protective of their ducklings. Quacking at them to leave the chicks alone and come swim in the pond. But when the ducklings begged, their mothers always let them play with their visiting friends. As long as they stayed close to the pond.
“I wish you could come see our farmyard!” Hopscotch told the ducklings one afternoon.
“Oh, we’ve seen your farmyard,” one of the older ducklings told her.
That excited the chicks. They chirped many questions while the ducks preened and waited for silence to reply. They very much liked the attention of the simple little chicks.
“We often fly by on our way to and from the pond,” another duckling explained, before shaking out his still damp feathers.
“We’ve never seen you fly by!” Jan and Clucky insisted.
“I’ve seen them,” Frank said, copying the duckling’s casual air and rustle of feathers.
“You have not!” Penny accused. She did not like the way Frank pretended to know more than the rest of them, just because he hatched a few days earlier.
“I doubt any of you have seen us,” another duckling laughed. “You’re all so busy scratching around in the dirt. Whyever do you do that?”
The chicks eyed each other. They could tell from the duckling’s tone that she thought it was strange behavior. The other ducklings’ bright interest seemed to agree. But none of the chicks had ever questioned why they would scratch at the dirt.
“To see what’s in it,” Chip answered.
“What’s in the dirt?” the first duckling quacked unkindly. “What would you want in the dirt?”
The chicks eyed each other again. Chip waited for one of his friends to speak up, but they all held back, nodding at him to explain.
“Lots of stuff,” Chip said. “Bugs and plants and sometimes worms. And we scratch for dust baths.”
“Dust baths?” The ducklings quacked amongst themselves in gleeful surprise.
“Yes…” Chip confirmed slowly. Again, his friends stayed silent. “We scratch and roll in the dirt, then clean it off.”
“In dirt?” The ducklings openly cackled at the idea of a dust bath. “Why not clean yourselves in water like a normal bath?”
Chip did not have an answer, but Jan did.
“Who says your water bath is normal?” she asked in a shrill chirp. “Everyone we know takes a dust bath!”
“A water bath is just plain silly!” Hopscotch added. “Dunking yourself under the pond like you don’t know water is for drinking.”
The pond was a mystery to the chicks, but they understood rain and did not like the cold puddles it left behind.
Feathers ruffled among the ducklings and the chicks.
“Oh, you silly chicks,” one of the ducklings scoffed. “Go back to your fenced yard.”
“We like our fenced yard!” Chip announced as they turned to skip home.
“Good for you!” another duckling called. “Go back and someday you’ll be chicken à la king.”
Chip joined the others, but he never forgot the duckling’s sharp call. In his world, a rooster was the closest the farmyard had to a king. At least, that’s what the farmer sometimes called their rooster. King of the henhouse. Chip assumed chicken à la king was the duckling’s worldly name for a rooster, and he quite liked the sound of it.
From that day on, Chip secretly hoped that he might one day become a rooster. It was a big dream for a young chick. Everyone knew adult chickens were almost all hens or capons. Very few chicks grew up to be roosters and all but one of them were usually taken away from the farm.
The roosters’ mysterious disappearances didn’t mean much to Chip. The farmer often took hens and capon away from the farmyard. The chicks heard many stories of where they went to live next, but no one really knew for sure.
The rooster who was chosen to stay though held a special place among the chickens. He got to wake them all each morning and strut around with his large red comb and prominent tailfeathers.
Chip never told anyone of his dream, but each night, as he nestled into his nest, he hoped to become the chicken à la king of their farmyard.
Finally, after countless nights of wishing, there came a day when the farmer separated Chip from all the other male chicks. Chip chirped nervously as the others were herded into the barn, but the farmer scooped him up and told him not to worry.
“Your friends will back soon. But you, my fine feathered friend, will be our next rooster.”
Chip’s heart nearly burst at the glorious news! It was happening!
“Chip isn’t a very good name for a rooster though,” the farmer went on, now speaking to his wife who had come over to offer Chip a handful of seed.
“I know!” the farmer’s wife laughed happily. “Let’s call him Charles! Charles Poulet!”
The farmer quickly agreed and from that day forward, Chip was known among the chickens as Charles Poulet. And though he like the sound of his grand new name, he knew that when he was the sole rooster, he would insist on being called the chicken à la king.
Okay, that one might be a little twisted, but it made me laugh. And it’s not as dark as I could have gone when I set this story in a farmyard!
If you enjoyed the story, please share it with your friends. You can also leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts, which helps more people find Freely Written.
These quick stories are a fun exercise, but my main focus is on writing my novels. You can learn about them on my website, SusanQuilty.com. Links are in the show notes. Thank you for listening and for all of your support!
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]