A friend of mine … I’ll call her “Lynette” and I had a touch of insanity recently after she decided she needed chickens.
Personally, I think she is jealous of the two fine egg-laying factories I’ve got in my backyard.
She asked me to join her on a road trip to pick up a bunch of chickens — 16 of them. Or 14. Or a dozen; her daughter who owned them wasn’t quite sure. (And she’s a math major. Makes me feel a LOT better about my counting skills!)
I was a little leery, however, when Lynette told me we were taking her truck. I’ve seen it bobbing down the highway before. And leerier yet, when she said we were doing the chicken “exchange” in Orick, California. I have one memory of this little burg, and it’s not so great.
I stayed in a “motel” there on my way to Brookings to take this job, I told Lynette on the way down there. I was tired. The cats were really tired — of being in the cab of a U-Haul for three days. It was 3 a.m. I had just come over Highway 299, which makes Highway 199 look like a Texas interstate: broad, straight and smooth.
YIKES! “Hey, Lynette, I think your truck needs a serious alignment,” I interrupted myself. “Either that, or you’re driving to the right. Pull the wheel left. NO! Your ‘OTHER’ left! Jees!”
I just wanted somewhere to lay my head that wasn’t a U-Haul truck cab, I continued, and pulled into the first place I saw. I should’ve known better when I saw a man on the porch in front of one of the units. But, like I said, I was tired.
I gave the, uh, “proprietor” of this fine establishment a small amount of currency, and she gave me a key affixed to a log, like the system you used in grade school to go to the restroom.
My room, she said, was just around the corner.
YO!! “Hey, Lynette. I think your truck needs its wheels balanced, not an alignment. Oh. And your left blinker needs a new bulb.”
“I know, I know,” she replied. “The Orick hotel story? Continue.”
It was late. And dark, so I didn’t see the hole in the motel room door — about the size of a baseball bat, now that I think of it — until we were “safely” in the room.
I flicked on the light. Well, I tried to. There were four lamps in the room, and only one worked. There were no drawers in the bureau. The towel in the bathroom was ripped. The “washcloth” had been torn from a towel.
I checked the bed for bedbugs.
The cats, who’d had days of sleep, were eagerly exploring all the smells.
WHOA!! “Slow DOWN around these curves! There’s a REASON they call it Last Chance Grade!”
“Jees,” Lynette said.
Back at the hotel I saw a shadow. Gulp. Banging on the door.
“Hey! I’m from the apartment next door! Y’wanna c’mon out and talk? Share a bottle of wine?”
“NOTHANKYOU IDON’T DRINK!”
“Well, I’m a regg’ler here, and I wone hurtcha’ll or nutin! Just … glass of wine.”
He finally shuffled off.
I laid in one position the whole night, trying to have as minimal contact with the bed. I think I blinked twice.
WHOA! “Hey, Lynette. I think you need a brake job, too. Your rotors feel shot.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she retorted.
Soon, we were in Orick. Gulp. It is in Humboldt County, which had two murders in the first five days of 2018. We slowly drove past the motel. It was still standing. The door still had that hole in it. That man was still sitting on the stoop, a bottle of wine at his feet.
We drove by that place four times, like witnesses to a bad car wreck.
But we got the chickens! And we counted them, just to see who was right: 15. Red, black, checkered, speckled, orange — beauties all of them! And they’re tough, too, as they come from Humboldt; I call them my Humboldt homies. I swear the white one has a gangster tattoo.
We dropped two off at my house — Checkers and Eleanor — and another four at a friend’s house. It was then we realized we’d counted wrong. There were 16 chickens.
One of them had laid an egg on the way home.
I blame it on the brake rotors.