Towards the end of summer, when the trouble began, Charles began to walk like a chicken. He kept his back perfectly straight, moved his head stiffly to and fro and waggled his elbows solemnly in time to a chicken music that only he could hear. As he moved, he would pick up his feet slowly and carefully put them down again, never shuffling or dragging them like other children. It was when Charles walked around the house like this and started to eat like a chicken that his parents began to get concerned.
-Charles, his father said one night at dinner , don’t flap at the table, it’s very rude.
“I am Charles, King of Chickens” , chanted Charles
“ No bird will be soup who follows me”
-That’s all very well, said his mother, but could you please still use your knife and fork when you eat instead of bending over your food and pecking at it like that.
“I am Charles, King of Chickens
No bird will be soup who follows me” replied Charles.
-Well, his father said, with a pea on each prong of his fork, you can’t be a chicken at school, which starts tomorrow, remember!
Charles’ face dropped dramatically and, instead of a king, he looked like a little lost boy.
-You’ll have miss Grimgrotch as your teacher. That will be nice, said his mother.
Miss Grimgrotch was a witch who expected you to do math in your head. Charles was dismayed.
-Who will play with the chickens when I’m gone? he asked.
-They’ll play among themselves, said Charles’ father. They’ll be very happy, because
that is how things should be: chickens play with chickens, boys play with boys.
-And girls, said Charles’ mother.
-Of course, said Charles’ father.
-Children’s games are stupid, said Charles, beginning to cry.
-Nonsense, said his father.
-I’ve finished my food, shouted Charles, jumping down from the table. I’m going to see my chickens.
-Don’t you leave the table before you’ve been excused! said Charles’ father.
But Charles was already gone.
-I’ll go out there and drag him back in! Charles’ father shouted.
-Give him a few minutes first, said his mother. He’s very upset about his chickens.
-Five minutes, no more, said his father, folding his arms.
Five minutes was all that was needed to change Charles’ life forever. Outside, it was already dark as Charles crept quietly into the chicken roost, so as not to frighten the birds. He snuggled down between two hens and cuddled them. He thought about school the next day and Mrs Grimgrotch and the children who would bully him and call him names. He thought about math, and softly began to cry.
-Why are you crying? said one of the hens
-Pardon? said Charles.
-Why are you crying?
-You can talk! shouted Charles, leaping up.
-No, you can talk, said the hen.
-We’re talking Hennish. not English.
-Yes, can’t you tell?
-See, you are so fluent in it, you’re doing it without even thinking. But, I mean it. We’re not clever enough to learn English. This is Hennish, isn’t it, Hilary?
-Yes. yes, yes, said the other hen grumpily. No go to sleep. And get that boy out of here, he’s unhygienic.
-I’m as clean as the next boy, said Charles.
-Precisely, said the hen