Friday, 13 February 2015

Humpty's Race

"How," Humpty wondered, " have I managed to get myself into this position?" He looked down. It was a very long way and he wasn't entirely sure how he was going to reach the floor. Jumping down seemed to be rather foolish. There didn't appear to be any way that he could climb down and turning back to walk along the thin plank of wood that had lead him to this point wasn't an option. He stared once more at the drop and his legs grew even more wobbly.

"Come on Humpty!" yelled a small but enthusiastic group of supporters far below.

He had been grateful for their support half an hour ago, excited that he had been the one chosen to end the great debate for all time. Now though he really wished he had just kept his big mouth shut and stayed where he belonged, under his mother.

His mother, an elderly brown hen, had been completely taken by surprise when he had wriggled free of the nest that first morning and started to run around the barn. Of course she knew, like all mother birds, how important it was to keep sitting on the eggs at all times. She knew that, unless they were sat on, all eggs were likely to run off. She often chuckled to herself at the people who visited the barn and seemed to be under the impression that the eggs were sat on to keep them warm. The first 12 hours were the most important of course. After that, if they weren't used, the arms and legs would get weaker and weaker until they eventually dropped off altogether after about a day. However, if a young egg was given the chance to use the limbs, they would grow strong and then it was nearly impossible to tackle them and sit on them for long enough for them to drop off.

She remembered her old aunt, who had been forced to chase one of her own eggs for nearly a whole week before getting it back under control. Her aunt had only stood up to get a better view of the handsome new cockerel that had moved into the barn and in that split second her egg had jumped out of the nest and scampered under a nearby trough. Scraping and pecking at the floor, her aunt had tried to get the egg out from it's hiding place, but with no success. The egg simply jogged backwards and forwards in the shelter of the trough, stopping only to do the occasional set of press-ups.

After several days of egg chasing the poor old hen was quite exhausted and all the other hens in the barn were very nervous. They imagined the chaos that would be caused if this one rouge egg encouraged any of their new born eggs to escape the nest. They were too old to be chasing after youngsters. A meeting was called and a plan hatched.

Deep in every egg, is the natural survival instinct to avoid certain dangers. It is a knowledge that is passed from generation to generation, without the need for explanation. The hens knew exactly what to do. They waited until the escapee had taken shelter once more below the trough. While it rested there, the hens set the trap. A large hen leapt onto the trough and stamped her huge feet. The egg awoke with a start. He opened his eyes and what he saw set his heart racing. His shelter was nearly completely surrounded by small rectangles of toast. The dreaded eggy soldiers! He spotted a gap in the army and ran for his life. In his panic he didn't look where he was going and he ran straight into the huge, feathery bottom of his mother. She quickly sat down and didn't move a muscle until she was quite sure the legs were powerless.

It could not be said that Mrs. Dumpty was unaware of the dangers. It was just an unfortunate accident. She was getting old and she felt the cold more than she had done when she was a spring chicken. A thoughtless kitten on the prowl had left the barn door open and a draught had blown right up her tail feathers. She only shuffled round a little to see who to scold, but it was enough time for her little Humpty to leap clear of the nest.

"Oh dear," she thought, "this is going to be trouble." She had no idea just how right she would be.

It wasn't long before Humpty had run his mother to a standstill. She was old and tired and quickly gave up the chase. The young egg felt brave and invincible. He taunted the other hens in the barn as he raced between their flapping wings. "

"You'll never catch me," he cried. "Eggs are much better than chickens."

A wise old bird, who had been watching events unfold, stepped forward.

"Young egg," she began, "perhaps you think you can solve the age old problem."

Humpty stopped, intrigued by the old hen's words.

"What problem?" he asked, his interest aroused.

"Oh, you know," replied the hen, calmly, "the one about who would come first in a race, a chicken or an egg."

"That's easy," scoffed Humpty. "That's no contest at all. The egg would win that every time."

"Hmmm," clucked the wise old hen, " you seem very sure of yourself. Would you care to make a deal?"

The egg looked at her carefully, as she continued pecking at the dirt.

"What sort of deal?" he asked.

"Well," said the hen, "if you think you're so fast, I suggest a face against the fastest hen in the barn. Our champion against you to decide once and for all who is the best. If you win, you can go on your way. If the hen wins, you have to get back under your mother and stay there until someone comes to get you. Do we have a deal?"

Humpty didn't need to think twice. He shook the hens wing and set off on a training run round the hay bales.

The race was organised for the next day. Luckily, the barn was on the royal army training base so it was decided that the egg and hen should race over the assault course. They lined up at the start of the course, with all the formidable obstacles lined up before them. The goat, the battalion's mascot, had been asked to act as referee and he gave the two competitors their final instructions.

"To begin," he yelled, officiously, " you must crawl under the fifty metres of barbed wire. Then you must crawl through the concrete pipes before swimming through the big of doom. After that you must scramble under the netting..."

Humpty gave a shudder. the word 'scramble' had sent sent a shiver through his shell, although he was unsure why. The goat' swords were a drone in the background as the small egg gazed at the first obstacle. His heart thumped in his shell and adrenaline coursed through his yolk. This was it. This was the moment he'd waited for. He would go down in history. Children for years to come would know his name. He would be the one who finally claimed victory for all eggs and end the debate that had raged for so long. He breathed deeply and focused on the barbed wire.

"...and finally you swing across the swamp to the finish. Good luck to both of you." The goat nodded at the starter to indicate that the instructions were complete. There was a shrill blast on a whistle and the competitors were off.

The first few obstacles saw the egg and hen swap places several times. Humpty scuttled under the barbed wire quite comfortably, while the chicken got several feathers ruffled. The mud delayed the egg and allowed the hen to make up lost ground. However, the quick early pace had taken it's toll on the feathered one and Humpty had opened up a reasonable lead. he had teetered across the plank and was now at the top of the large wall and regretting ever having left the nest.

What was he to do? He couldn't back out now. He was winning, not just for himself, but for all eggs. He would have to leap. if he picked his spot carefully, he might be all right. He scanned the floor, far below, for something to land on. There was a tussock of grass that looked hopeful, or a large muddy spot that might break his fall. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

Suddenly there was a tremendous squawk as the hen arrived on the edge of the wall. She had flapped her way over the plank and arrived at the mighty drop,where she was so flustered by the sight of what lay ahead that she had lost all composure. The sudden, ear splitting noise shook Humpty from his focus and he span round quickly to see the cause of the commotion - too quickly. His already wobbly legs lost balance and he stumbled towards the edge of the wall. He desperately tried to regain his footing but it was too late and he tumbled off the edge. There was a gasp from the crowd as the egg toppled.

A sickening CRACK rang out over the assault course and the crowd fell silent.

The emergency services arrived on the scene quickly but, despite chickens using the most modern royal veterinarian equipment, the damage to Humpty's shell was quite beyond repair. As it was reported in all the papers the following morning, 'All the king's forceps and all the king's hens, couldn't put Humpty together again.

All was not lost however. Although they were unable to save the shell, Humpty was able to be rehoused in a prosthetic shell which had been discarded by the royal children. In fact the transformation was quite remarkable and far from being a cause of concern to his mother, Humpty became a Kinder egg - always looking out for others and helping whenever he could.

And what became of the shell you may ask. Well, it was decided that it should be ground into tiny pieces and used in special timing devices - to act as a warning to any other young eggs. Now, whenever a mother hen feels a lively egg fidgeting below her feathers, she simply gets out the Humpty timer and they settle down straight away, which is why you don't ever see eggs running around any more.

Of course, because the race was never finished, no one ever found out which came first.

1 comment: