Home to Roost

By Vivian Wagner

January 6, 2020

Home to Roost

I liked the hens, with their kind eyes and soft, red feathers. I was seven, and I wanted to sleep with them, to nestle with them, because they felt like a dozen mothers, all watching out for me. My real human mother said I could, so I took a blanket down there at bedtime and laid it out on the floor of the little wooden triangle coop that used to be my playhouse.

The hens clucked, and I started drifting off. Soon, though, my mother came back.

“Come on,” she said, tugging at my blanket, shining a flashlight in my eyes. “You have to go to sleep in your own bed.”

“But why?” I cried, feeling betrayed. The hens, too, ruffled and clucked, protesting the disruption. We’d all finally started to settle in.

“Your father got mad when I told him what you were doing,” she said, shakily. I understood something of her fear, of his anger, of everything unspoken. “He said you’d get bugs. That you belong in your own bed.”

I looked at the hens as I crawled out of the coop, sad to be leaving them and returning to our trailer. I could just make out their small black eyes shining as they murmured their disapproval and rearranged themselves for the night.

I followed my mom as her light bounced on the path among the weeds. A chorus of frogs down in the creek droned as we walked back, and she said nothing more.


Vivian Wagner lives in New Concord, Ohio, where she’s an associate professor of English at Muskingum University.  She's the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music; a poetry collection, Raising; and three poetry chapbooks: The VillageMaking, and Curiosities.

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