Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Urban Chickens and Survival Kit


Ah, this glitterati life!  Marianne and I went out to dinner last night in the backyard of a friend who keeps chickens.  I'll bet you thought it was illegal to keep chickens in Philadelphia.  Well, yes, it is, but there's a loophole.  It's perfectly legal, provided only that none of your neighbors care enough to complain to the authorities.

Above:  There I am with Elvira.  She's a perfectly charming dinner companion, actually.

And the story du jour is . . .

Survival Kit
Michael Swanwick

Three days after the end of the world, Nicholas Young’s French bulldog, Spud, dropped a rat at his feet.  Horrified, he stared down at it, repulsed not so much by the vermin itself as by the sure knowledge that he was going to eat it.  He was too hungry not to.

So Young got out his survival kit and dug out some spices, the flint and steel, and the Rodents and Road Kill Cook Book.  The result wasn’t bad, if you were starving, though Spud still got most of it.

In the morning, Young slung his knapsack over his shoulder and hiked onward.  He came to a river.  There was just enough rope in his kit to build a raft.  He went with the flow.  There were hooks and monofilament line in his kit so he had no trouble catching a few fish.  When there was enough for lunch, he made for the shore and built a fire.

Halfway through lunch, there was a rustling in the bushes.  Six ragged people – two of them women and three children – came into Young’s campsite.  They all had pointed sticks aimed right at him.

Young smiled.  “Hey, there’s no need for that.”  He pointed to the untouched fish cooking slowly over the campfire coals.  “Take ‘em all.”  Then, when they were snatched up avidly, he said, “Let me get you some plates and napkins.”

He reached into his survival kit and came out with a gun.  “The apocalypse probably caught you guys by surprise.  Me, I’ve spent years working on my survival kit.”

“We’ll go quietly,” one of the women said.  “Just don’t hurt any of the children.”

“Sit.  Eat,” Young said.  “We can always catch more.”  And, suiting word to deed, he got out the fishing gear and taught the children how to use it.  Then he made them a frog gig.  By the end of the day, they were all friends.  By the end of the week, there was a flourishing village of thirty.  When predators moved into the area, he dipped into his survival kit for wolf repellent.  When a child got sick, he doled out antibiotics.

One evening, though, after the corn harvest, the tribe was sitting around the communal fire when they started talking about things they missed most:  breakfast cereals, reality television, romance novels, and the like.  “I miss civilization,” somebody plaintively summed it all up.  There was a universal murmur of agreement.

“Well, heck,” Young said.  “Why didn’t you say so earlier?”  And digging deep into his kit, he hauled out Robert’s Rules of Order,  Fundamentals of Democracy, Water and Sewage System Design Made Simple, Civilization for Dummies, a fist-sized fusion reactor, and a gavel for whoever they named head of the Supreme Court.

The tribe gawked.  “How come you got all that stuff in your knapsack?” a teenager asked.

“Hey,” Young said.  “This isn’t just any survival kit – it’s the ultimate survival kit.



David Stone said...

The backyard chicken movement is riding the urban farming movement into popularity, so it is probably just a matter of time before chickens are legal in Philly. It doesn't make since that the law in most places allow us to raise inbred wolves in the city, but not chickens.

Nick Young said...

Thank you Michael. Exactly how I pictured life in the post-apocalyptic Northwest!

Kim Helsley said...

I, for one, living and working in the Ag community, see the abuses of the animals, know what is being done to the animals to grow them unnaturally and how this tainted food ends up on our tables. I keep wondering, "how many of our children need to die before we make a stand against these practices." Even one child is too many. We, as a society, need to re-evaluate our priorities and demand that the people who are supposed to be protecting us against criminal behavior in the food industry, actually do their job!

Chickens are just the beginning.