Ally didn’t always have the nickname Range, but it, like many things in that town, showed up one day then stayed. Perhaps that’s why she ran to town limits and stared down the road. Then Ally’s chickens strutted across her mind and pecked away the townsfolk. She was then ready to face the old metal-roofed barn that her family called home.
To Ally, the seasons and her chickens were the only ones who said what they meant—rain, worms, puddles, mud, cold, go away, crunchy, dead…straightforward. Sure, the hens gave her a little drama, but Ally allowed more from them than the folks in town who stirred the turd for fun.
Andrew Pillar came up with Range. Ally had no proof, of course, except for his open confession. Pillar was seven, so Ally figured his nastiness grew right along with him. After all, her grandpa liked to say, “Mean don’t know age.”
It was June, and the May flowers had just sprouted. Ally was out in the yard, singing a new song to the hens and the rooster, Wayne. Mama had helped her find the right words. “Here in the mornings, we fill up, up, up. Here in the mornings, we cluck, cluck, cluck. Let’s dig for worms before the ground goes firm.” They could’ve fed off of grubs and grass, but it took more than that to raise a farm.
That’s when Ally turned to see a boy running down the drive. He tucked his arms tight like he feared getting pelted with grain for what he’d heard. But it wasn’t till school that Pillar shared what he had witnessed.
“She was yodeling like my Nana’s teapot,” Pillar said. “Poor chickens couldn’t help but stay. She had grain. My daddy thinks that’s her pillow stuffin’. That Ally is strrraaange.”
Range. It’d come and stuck before Mama and Daddy could defend her. What good was their word, anyway? They lived in the same old barn; the same old barn that leaked rusty rainwater onto the sheets; the same old barn with Ally’s flower mural, intended to attract bees and happy people.
Ally thought the name was fine. She didn’t understand their problem with her, though, considering half their families bought her eggs. Besides, they all showed up wearing mystery mud just like hers. Wayne and the hens never gave her that run around. They were happy to listen to her songs, even when she ran out of grain.
Maggie Maize (she/her) holds a BFA in writing from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her work has been published in Funicular Magazine, Harness Magazine, Tiny Seed Journal, and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her spinning her compost and whispering to her seedlings.