Jerome “Jerry” O’Malley had the floor. He was speaking and had Edith Towmey in his eye.
‘There has been a lot of talk this afternoon about cows and their pats but what we need to remember is that there other animals in the farmyard that can provide an good afternoon’s worth of entertainment. Have you not thought about chickens?’
Edith Towmey drew herself up and sucked in her breathe. ‘I’m not spending an afternoon with the children stood round some grass waiting for a chicken to do its business’ she said.
‘Now Edith you are missing the point. Don’t go worrying about me suggesing that we should spend an afternoon waiting for a chicken to take its shit. No I have a more subtle game we could play. It’s the laying of a chicken’s egg that we are waiting for. Have you not ever waited for a chicken to lay an egg.’
‘Now Michael Hegarty tells me that the hens that his mother keeps are such good layers that each of them will deliver up to at least two eggs in a day. Now I am not going to suggest that we have the one hen on a patch of grass but we could put two or three of them out there and the odds will be such that we will be bound to have at least one egg in the space of an afternoon.’
Patrick Tobin took up the theme now. ‘Jerry I’m not going to argue with you over the laying ability of Mrs Hegarty’s hens. They are each of them fine birds and their ability to lay is all but down to the care that she gives to them but if you think that those birds can be taken away from the comfort of her loving hands and put on a patch of grass away from all that they have that is comfortable and be expected to lay an egg for a crowd then you know nothing about hens. You’d be better off waiting for one of those hens to take a shit in those conditions than wait for it to lay an egg.’
Edith Towmey drew in her breathe again. ‘Will you stop on the subject of chickens and their business and can we not settle upon a more pleasant theme for the day.’
But Patrick Tobin had more to say on the topic. ‘And Jerry have you not thought about the lack of excitement there is in watching a hen lay an egg? Have you not done your homework? Have you not spent time observing what goes on. I had cause once to watch a hen lay an egg and I can tell you that nothing happens. The hen sits down and makes itself comfortable and twenty minutes later it picks itself up, shakes a few feathers, and the egg has been laid. None of this, Jerry, makes for an entertaining afternoon.’
But Jerry liked the idea of the hens and their eggs. ‘Michael I think you are determined to knock back a good and worthwhile idea. The lack of excitement you complain about will for many be part of the attraction. Do you not think that we are too caught up with the whizz, bang need for excitement. The kids,’ and here he nodded at Edith,’ the kids are all for the the flash and something rude but it’ll do them good to settle down and watch a couple of hens on their backsides to see which one stands up first and leaves an egg behind. And if you are worried about the possibility of some of those hens being shy then I have an answer to that too. We could set the grass with some boxes for the hens to lay their eggs in. Now Edith there can be no objection to that, the boxes will ensure that anything unseemly will be covered from view.’
‘Jerry are you suggesting that one of the highlights of this years festival should be a field with some boxes in and the crowd waiting to see out of which box a proud hen emerges having laid its egg. Jerry, the crowd will not be baiting its breathe for this entertainment.’
The committee lapsed back into silence for a few minutes more. The tea which had been tepid cooled further.
Jerry did not let the silence go to waste. He continued to think on the theme of the hens until he came up with another idea.