One day Chicken Little was sitting under a tree reading a book called The End of Nature, which gave her a serious fright. “Oh my,” she thought, “the sky really is falling; I should go at once and tell the Queen.” Not knowing quite how to do this, however, she went to a party at her friend Henny Penny’s instead.
All the best people were there–poets, professors, filmmakers, some of them famous, in a local way. Henny-Penny’s house was a newly renovated brownstone in the best section of the city. Its interior gleamed with polished woods and shelves filled with African bric-a-brac. “Henny-Penny certainly has a lovely place to live”, Chicken Little thought, “her children must be very happy”. In fact they were, as was Henny-Penny’s husband, who was in banking.
It occurred to Chicken Little as she sipped her lime-and-Perrier that she should tell Henny-Penny about the End of Nature; perhaps she would know how to get in touch with the Queen. When the opportunity arose, she broached the subject, but Henny-Penny’s response was to flap her wings in alarm. “Goodness, Chicken Little,” she hissed, “this isn’t the place to talk about depressing things like that, you’ll spoil my party.”
“Another time then,” Chicken Little said hopefully, but Henny-Penny slipped from her chair and went off to greet a newly arrived guest.
Chicken Little sighed and looked around for someone else she might communicate with. The book was an astonishing compendium of scientific predictions about the future, involving global pollution, climate change, species extinction, the disappearance of the rain forests and viable topsoil, rising sea levels, unpredictable patterns of fire, flood and drought, the devastation of our immune systems because of holes in the ozone, more frequent and more violent hurricances and tornados and tsunamis. Its message was quite clear: the sky was falling, or about to fall, which seemed to Chicken Little much the same thing, and highly serious in either case.
She wondered how many other people were aware of what was happening. She suspected quite a few were; but surely if they really knew the consequences, in detail, they would be doing something? Obviously the Queen must not know, or there would have been a royal pronouncement of some sort: plans to ameliorate the situation would have been set afoot, appeals and exhortations made to the public, laws passed. Chicken Little had heard nothing of the sort, and she prided herself on being a faithful monitor of the television news.
She was very anxious to talk about the situation, so when a few minutes later Goosey Lucy sat down in s near by chair, Chicken Little greeted her eagerly. “Hello,” she said, “I’m Chicken Little. I doubt if you know me, but I’ve seen some of your films so I know who you are.” Goosey Lucy smiled and preened. She and Chicken Little chatted for a bit quite pleasantly, but when Chicken Little ventured onto the subject of the End of Nature, Goosey Lucy’s manner cooled. “I’m afraid I don’t know much about all that,” she lamented, “I’ve been so terribly busy lately. I’d give anything to be able to just sit under a tree and read books the way you do. I do so envy you.”
“Well,” Chicken Little suggested, “since you don’t have the time to read, perhaps I could tell you about it,” but Goosey Lucy had already risen from her chair. “I’m sure it’s all very important, but I think I should freshen my drink,” she said, and before Chicken Little could say another word she was gone.
Alone again, Chicken Little frowned into the fire. Turkey Lurky, seeing her from across the room and thinking she looked soulful, sauntered over and took Goosey Lucy’s vacant seat. “You look as if the woes of the world are weighing you down,” he said cheerfully, for openers.
“Oh they are, they are,” Chicken Little said, quivering with gratitude that someone should finally care. “I’ve just read this book, you see, about the sky being about to fall, and I’m very upset. Are you aware of the peril we are in, really aware, I mean? Shouldn’t we all be doing something?”
Turkey Lurky, who was a professor of psychology, stroked his pointed beard. “The problems are serious, yes,” he said thoughtfully, “and of course I am aware of them, but I can’t agree that all of us should be “acting politically,’ if that’s what you mean to imply. Some of us should, to be sure, some of us in fact do; but some are legitimately engaged in other, equally worthwhile activities.”
He said this with such conviction Chicken Little leaned forward so as not to miss a word: perhaps she could learn from this man. “All these predictions should be taken with a grain of salt, don’t you think?” Turkey Lurky said in a soothing voice. “Scientific predictions, after all, are mostly extrapolations from past events: they don’t always take into account the future dimension–the changes that will occur in response to the changes you speak of. There will be considerable technological reaction, you may be sure, which will considerably modify and perhaps ultimately invalidate any present predictions. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you, my dear, things do have a way of sorting themselves out.”
He gave Chicken Little’s knee a fatherly pat. She was about to ask him if he was referring to the Gaia hypothesis when he took a new tack. “Is it possible there are other things bothering you,” he asked, “personal issues, perhaps? You might be projecting your worries about them onto the sky, you know.”
Chicken Little considered this, but shook her head. “I don’t have any issues that I know of,” she told him. “I quite like sitting under a tree and reading books. I am perfectly happy with my life, but if the sky is about to fall it seems to me someone should inform the Queen.”
Turkey Lurky chuckled. “The Queen knows already,” he confided.
Chicken Little gave him a puzzled glance. “But if that’s true, why is so little being done?” she asked plaintively.
“Because the Queen has the problem in proper perspective,” Turkey Lurky answered firmly, as if that settled the matter.
Chicken Little felt confused, but nonetheless drew herself up to protest. Just then, however, they were joined by Turkey Lurky’s colleague, Ducky Doodles, and the conversation turned to the stock market. Chicken Little tried politely to listen but at length she interrupted. “Excuse me,” she said, “but I have reason to believe the sky is falling and because no one seems to care, I’m feeling very alienated. Do you think one of you could get me a drink?”
Both men apologized for their thoughtlessness and went as a team to the bar, which Chicken Little considered rather rude. When they get back, she thought, I shall ask them to apologize.
Turkey Lurky and Ducky Doodles, however, didn’t come back. Instead Foxy Loxy approached and offered her his Scotch and soda. He had been standing nearby and had overheard her.
Foxy Loxy was quite the most attractive of the people Chicken Little confessed her anxiety to that night. He was a producer of television documentaries, serious ones that had a social conscience. Perhaps, Chicken Little thought, she could interest him in the subject of the coming End of Nature. Television was obviously the way to get peoples’ attention, and the more people knew about the situation, the more likely it was that the urgency of it would reach the ears of the Queen.
Foxy Loxy, however, seemed to think there had been too many films devoted to the subject already. Such ideas had had too much exposure, he claimed, not too little; the market was saturated. He offered as evidence the fact that the book she was talking about was in fact a mass-circulation paperback.
Chicken Little objected to this: it wasn’t in “mass circulation,” she said, “certainly not like Time Magazine was, or People or Vogue”; and her experience at this party suggested that not even the best people had heard of it, let alone find time to read it.
“People weary of the same old thing,” Foxy Loxy explained. “A decade ago the media were on the environmental bandwagon. but then they took up terrorism and the economic crisis. Earth’s perils are by now way over-exposed.” He smiled, then mentioned his current project, a film he was making on New Age therapies. He was going out to the west coast tomorrow, he said, to interview a world-renowed aroma therapist.
“A world-renowned aroma therapist,” Chicken Little repeated.
Foxy Loxy explained that it was a New Age form of healing, like herbal medicine. It involved inhaling the specific set of aromas your sensorium was deficient in so that your balance of yin and yang (or negative and positive ions, if you will) was restored.
Chicken Little was feeling disoriented, as she usually did when made to feel ignorant. Nonetheless she stood her ground. “But surely that’s not as important as the sky falling, no matter how therapeutic it might be,” she said, but she caught sight of Henny-Penny glaring at her from the other side of the room and didn’t pursue her argument.
Foxy Loxy took her hand and pretended to examine the Celtic ring she was wearing. She finished the drink he had given her, which was rather strong. After two more she went home with him.
And thus it came about that she never got to tell the Queen.
Claudia Morrison retired a few years ago from John Abbott College. She has authored two daughters, a novel, a short story collection, and a memoir. Her Collected Poems was recently published by Broken Rules Press.