The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

[23] “The Urban Coop”

on March 2, 2013


Zydo had been dehydrated and confused. He’d snapped when they lifted him into their boat. Desperate and lonely, he had swum a mile in to the open sea.

I kind of have this problem where I personify my animals to, like, an unhealthy degree. I wonder if Mrs. Megan Mayhew Bergman and I don’t share some of this same trait. “The Urban Coop”, the story that lies about half-way through Birds of a Lesser Paradise, is a story about what happens when we, in a single second, perform an action we end up greatly regretting. It’s also a story about finding peace where you’re at, not where you may one day be. And it’s a story about chickens. And urban farming. EGADS, it’s a story that was basically written with a giant blinking sign calling my name.

Like all the stories from the collection we’ve talked about thus far, a majority of this story revolves around a couple, their animals, and the issue of fertility, motherhood, and parenting. Mac and his wife, the narrator of our story, own a neighborhood garden, keep chickens in an urban coop, and badly want a child, although they’re unable to conceive. One day, when out on the boat, some friends come along and Mac and our narrator leave their dog Zydo on their boat while they leave. When they return, Zydo is gone. And suddenly or narrator doesn’t know if she can trust Mac anymore, herself anymore, or parents anywhere anymore. Describing the plot makes the story sound so much more simple than it is – a running theme with Mrs. Bergman’s stories, I’ve noticed.

Getting on to some of the things I did and didn’t like, the thought that always pops back in to my head when I think of this story is “Oh yeah, that one at the Merc.” Let me explain, for those not from Lawrence/the Kansas area, or for those who don’t give some of their favorite grocery stores adorable nicknames. The Merc is the affectionate moniker for The Community Mercantile, a locally sourced co-op in Lawrence that offers local organic meat, produce, and other fare. It’s also got a community garden, gives back to the community through initiatives, and, lets be honest, draws in a certain kind of shopper. And it’s this shopper (a camp in which I would place myself most firmly) whom “The Urban Coop” so directly brings in to light. It wasn’t the main focus of the story, but in a collection that covers our connection to nature as its primary premise, I thought Mayhew-Bergman did a great job personifying this whole culture that seems to exist in our society of trendy environmentalism, in ne0-foodies picking up unpronouncable ingredients because, well, they look cool in the basket. Maybe I’m being too cynical – I will say that I believe I’m being more cynical than the characters within the story. And, although this entire paragraph is ranty, I will say that there’s some great social commentary on urban eco-living wrapped up in this beautiful little story.

This story wasn’t my favorite, other than the aspects I mentioned earlier. I mostly decided to write about it because, in addition to the above, there is also an awesome paragraph on chickens. Which I would someday like to own.

I kept an urban coop in the backyard stocked with silkie bantams. An ornamental breed, they produced tiny eggs and paraded around the coop like Solid Gold dancers, their legs ensconced in black feathered pantaloons, heads topped with Afr0-shaped tufts.

SolidGoldDancers  versus    15872_1_chick_008

Yeah, I can see that.

Rating: Okay



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