Shanghai proved to be a kinetic collage of the high and low, old and new, and clean and dirty–with a drivers exercising complete anarchy, whether behind the wheel of cars, buses, electric motorbikes (sneaky and soundless), or bicycles. One ventures out into the street only in large groups of pedestrians; drivers stop for nothing less than critical mass. Vehicles muscle in on one other in a honking, endless game of chicken (any mention of “chicken” excites My Favorite Chicken so please do not speak the word aloud in his presence, but rather spell it out. Fortunately, he reads at about first-grade level–for now). My Favorite Chicken has now demanded brothers and sisters, and, since I have taken him away from the bosom of his plastic brood I have begun the process of locating twenty-three suitable siblings. Once they begin doing small group work their reading levels will quickly improve, especially with literature such as Fowlkner’s The Sound and the Chicken, or Shakespeare’s immortal Romeo and Chickilet. And what about Chronicle of a Chicken Foretold? I can see it now, teenagers and chickens, learning together, from the epic Sumerian Gilgachicken to Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, Animal Farm, revised edition twelve (as in a dozen), where the chickens vanquish the pigs by relentless egging them.
But I digress. With My Favorite Chicken this is so easy to do! I knew San Francisco would be good for him. In Shanghai I constantly had to keep my eye on him or he would try to cadge a puff from any nearby smoker. He is a wily one. And vain. Unmoved by my assertions that he would soon burn holes in his squawker, I warned that he would lose his looks if he continued. I could tell he was reconsidering. Plastic chickens think they will remain young and live forever. I don’t know how old they are when their frontal lobes finish developing. I fear he may not have one. But, as My Favorite Chicken will tell you, who needs brains when you are (and this is a happy coincidence with Creative Writing) the pure yellow of enlightenment. You see, My Favorite Chicken believes that his kind came from the Great Sun Chicken, who shed heavenly golden plastic on The Formerly Beige and Naked Fowl, bestowing upon them their undeniable, mass-produced originality. Has plastic ever been wrought so wonderously? Has any a squawk more charmed? Can you imagine my ninth grade students’ excitement when, while reading creation myths this morning, I slyly asked, would you like to see a real mythic hero?
What. If. I. Had. ONE. RIGHTBEHINDMYBACK! SQUAWKSQUAWKSQUAWKSQUAWKSQUAWKSQUAWKSQUAWKSQUAWK!
Pandemonium, I assure you. I almost felt as though I were back in Shanghai trying to cross the street. I held My Favorite Chicken aloft and shouted above the fray, “Remain calm! Return to your seats! My Favorite Chicken will receive each one in his turn!”
Stick that in your chariot, Phaeton.
I digress again. Yes, I have returned from Shanghai.