birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Little Chick

As a kid, I carried a wind-up toy I called Little Chick most everywhere. Those were the days post-Honey Bear, meaning I still slept with my stuffed bear every night. I cried and pitched a fit if I couldn’t find him, but I didn’t keep him constantly tucked under my arm, squishing the stuffing out of his middle like I once had. Little Chick fit my hand, was a sunny yellow, my favorite color. Little Chick didn’t appear to be a security blanket. He did stuff. He hopped. He gave me autonomy because I could pocket him. A particularly tight fitting pair of jeans finally broke his legs, so he never hopped again, but he had hopped once. 

His only downside was he didn’t float. I thought he had passed the float test—placing him on the water’s surface, holding my hand beneath him in case he sunk. Maybe he had just enough air stored in his plastic body, maybe a boat wake tipped him over, maybe the weight of his gears got to be too much and took him down. That was ok. I had an extra Little Chick or two, a good supply. That winter when the water was low, I recovered him from where he was stuck in the mud. He was my favorite and fit in my pockets best. 

But then my grandfather let me build to keep me occupied. By then Little Chick’s legs had broken completely off, so he rolled into the fire and burn his head just above his right googly eye before I could save him. Then I didn’t know what to do. We were camping at a Rock Show, where my grandparents sold gems and minerals, at Wind Creek State Park. I only had Honey Bear and Little Chick and a wind-up goose with me. Who should I turn to? Honey Bear would make me look like a baby and stuffed animal wasn’t great for playing creeks. And the goose was a goose, not very congenial, he reminded me of the real goose at home that pecked at my eyes when I didn’t pull the crust of wonder bread out of the bag fast enough. I tried rubbing away the black burn. That helped but he still looked bad: no legs, mud encrusted belly, brown spot burnt on his head. He looked worse than the tiny green Tupperware bunny with one ear gnawed off that I carried on days I needed to be very surreptitious with the small thing I had to have with me. I carried the goose for a few hours but gave up after not being able to conjure up any warm feelings for him. I tried going for a walk all by myself, but I felt naked and unsure. I cleaned up Little Chick and told him I loved him anyway, but it wasn’t the same. I didn’t feel quite right as if his brokenness made me more vulnerable. 

I’d like to say I got over my need for a small thing in my hand that weekend. I didn’t. I tried. I gave Honey Bear to my grandmother when I turned sixteen, but I took him back when I turned 26. He is my bed still. And now I can’t leave the house without lip gloss. I feel the same anxiety of choosing the right tube for the day as I did choosing between Little Chick and the one-eared rabbit. I have other wind-up toys. But Little Chick, The Little Chick without legs and with the burn head and mud gummed gears, is the one that still makes me feel the most tender. 


I misunderstood