The Chicken Maggot

“But why?” the five-year-old wailed as she kicked her feet against the chair she was sitting in. She crossed her arms and slumped down. Her face contorted into a twisted mess of wet tears and puffy eyes.

Her mother took a deep breath and gave a wistful look at her husband who she knew would be no help as he hid behind the newspaper he was pretending to read. She knew he was avoiding her as he had the fashion section up. “Dear, that’s how it is.”

“But how can they not be girlfriend and boyfriend anymore. That is forever.” Blue eyes blinked back the tears that were pooling up once again.

“Not forever, Laura.” Her mother reached down and pulled the stick out of her son’s hands. He was at the stage where he could crawl and reach for items which usually were not good for him to put in his mouth. He squawked in protest before zeroing in on another object on the other side of the patio and commenced to crawling. “That is what being boyfriend and girlfriend is about. You have different ones before you actually find one to marry.”

“No! Jason is Andrea’s boyfriend. They can’t break up.” Laura raised her hands up and kicked her feet again.

Laura’s mother moved quickly to stop the baby from picking up a suspect object from the grass. He began to protest as she moved to put him in the portable playpen. The cries quickly hushed when he found his favorite toy in the enclosure waiting on him.

Laura’s mother was unable to think of any other explanations for her daughter’s traumatic reaction to her teenage cousin’s breakup with her latest boyfriend. This one had lasted six months which everyone was quickly being reminded was a lifetime in the eyes of a five-year-old. Her young memory could not recall Alex, Nathan, Xander, and Bobby. Jason and Andrea were a couple, like those in the family who were married. Her young mind could not grasp the dating concept. The result was a tantrum of sorrow when she found Andrea coming to the family picnic alone.

The entire ride home was of Laura crying and demanding Jason to come to the house with Andrea the next day for her grandmother’s birthday party.  Now sitting on the patio trying to get the baby to take a nap, they found it impossible with Laura’s cries. Nothing eased her mind.

“They cannot get a divorce!” Laura jumped up and kicked a ball lying nearby out into the yard where its bouncing led it to a tree and a loud thump. “I don’t want them to divorce!”

Her mother ran her hand over her eyes. She was exhausted from staying up late the night before with a fussy baby and getting the pass around dishes finished for the big picnic. Her husband had been late getting in from helping his brother load tables and chairs as well as the large tent they would use to cover the food. The morning had come quick for her, as did the dashing of the hope of enjoying the event.

All had gone smooth as they woke up and had a light breakfast before gathering their own supplies. Her husband dug into the garage under his fishing supplies to find the lawn chairs they would need. He then got the cooler she would need to put the potato salad in, as well as the fluff salad and the pies she had spent hours making.

Though frantic, they managed to get it all together, including dressing the children and getting them into the minivan without mishap. It was a short fifteen minutes drive to the large park where the family was gathering. It was their annual family reunion with relatives coming from all over the world. They had a hard time finding a parking place while the children squirmed in their seats.

Laura screamed for her cousin, Andrea, when she saw her through the window where she was helping her mother lay out the food. Andrea had always been one of Laura’s favorite family members. Since she was a baby, Andrea had babysat Laura when her parents went out. A tight bond had grown between them. And, of course, wherever Andrea went her boyfriends tagged along; which was one reason Laura could not see Andrea without Jason in tow. They were a couple and she could not distinguish them as being apart.

Rushing up to Andrea and jumping into her arms, Laura looked around to grab hold of the young man. When asked where the boy was, Andrea informed everyone of the dramatic breakup. Laura began crying immediately and could not be consoled. Nothing Andrea said or did could ease her pain. She refused to eat and sat on a picnic bench and colored while everyone else played and had fun.

Every time her mother sat down to visit with someone, Laura would crawl up in her lap and start bawling again. Finally, she had convinced her husband they had to go home as her baby was getting fussy and mixed with Laura’s lamenting, she was developing a splitting headache. She didn’t feel too guilty leaving as she would see the family again the next day in their large backyard for Great-grandmother’s cake for her one hundredth birthday.

It was to have been at the picnic, but the elderly woman’s back was acting up and she couldn’t come. Everyone figured she’d be more comfortable at the house where she could lie down if need be.

Laura began crying about the breakup as soon as she was strapped into her car seat. The ride home was her asking question after question about why it happened. Even after getting home and sitting down, she was still going on about it.

“Listen, Laura. Having more than one girlfriend or boyfriend is normal.”

“What do you mean?” She sniffled and wiped the back of her hand across her runny nose. Her mother reached in her pocket and pulled out a wadded up but clean tissue to hand to her.

“Well, most people date more than one person until they find the right one to marry.”

“Why?”

“Well, you don’t know someone really well until you date them. Think of it as an experiment. You might like someone, but enough to spend the rest of your life? You usually don’t know, so you date them. If you find out they are not for you to marry, you breakup and look for someone else. I mean your dad had several girlfriends before he met me.”

Laura paused and with wide eyes blinking she turned to her father. “Did you, Daddy?” Her voice was full of wonder.

Her father lowered the paper and smiled big. His ego forgetting he had been trying to avoid the conversation, he puffed out his chest and grinned. “Why, yes! I was a chick magnet.”

Laura blinked again and then again as her face screwed up sideways, this time not in tears but in confusion. “Dad, you were a chicken maggot?”

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