The Fables of Aesop is out now!

The Cellar

The shower was hot and wonderful. I could feel the cares of the day – the obligations, the worries, the responsibilies – drain away. Washing armpits, I made tentative after-shower plans that included an adult beverage and sitting on the couch with my wife. Turning off the water, I heard the sound that causes every parent to despair late in the evening.


Our sixteen year old was awakened by blood-curdling shrieks coming from downstairs. Once I had dressed, my wife and I investigated. Sure enough, there were eerie, hair-raising sounds emanating from below the floor of the dining room. It sounded for all the world as if an animal was being eaten alive. As my wife and I stood there, two large claustrophobes wondering how we should investigate one of the most constrictive places in our house, the cries and banshee-like wails excited our imaginations and turned us both into cowards. As I bowed to the inevitable and grabbed my coat and flashlight, my wife encouraged me with these words, “Don’t get your face eaten off.”

I was about to make a scathing rejoinder when God decided to let some of the tension out of the room.

The shrieking turned to clucking.

Fear and confusion turned to incredulity.

There was a chicken trapped in the crawl space.

Investigation proved the hypothesis to be correct. In the part of the crawlspace inaccessible to human beings, as far as possible from any means of rescue, a pair of chicken legs marched back and forth, legs attached to a brown hen, and illuminated by the beam from my flashlight.

If anyone ever tries to tell you that some other animal is the stupidest creature in all Creation, remember to remind them of this chicken. Contrary to all instincts, common sense, logic, reason, and the laws of Nature, there was a hen trapped under our house.

I wish I could tell you that we came up with a brilliant plan, or called some reality-TV master chicken wrangler. The reality is quite pathetic. I got a lantern, and a candle, and placed the lit lantern in front of the crawlspace access.

The hen stopped screaming, and I went to bed.

In the morning I checked on the lantern, the crawlspace, and the hen. The lantern was still lit, the hen was nowhere to be heard or seen, and the crawlspace appeared to be empty. I closed up the crawlspace, extinguished the lantern, and went off to the rest of my day.

I related the story of the hen to my 8th graders. They were highly amused and sympathetic to my loss of sleep. My 7th graders even said that the hen was analogous to us, trapped and without hope save for the Light. By the end of the next day, I could even laugh about the absurdity of the whole event.

Until the next evening.

As if it had been exactingly planned and excruciatingly timed, I had just finished my shower when I heard a now-familiar blood-chilling squawk. This time, the cry emanated from under the kitchen floor, closer to the crawlspace access panel.

My wife did not wake up.

The 16 year-old did not wake up.

I got my flashlight, opened the crawlspace panel, and at 11:15 PM yelled, “GET OUT of there, YOU STUPID, STUPID, STUPID CHICKEN!”

And out she came, dazzled by the flashlight, clucking mournfully and wandering in circles around the yard.

I put her under an empty bucket for the night. The next morning, my wife put the hen in a proper cage, gave her food and water, and then systematically went round the house, blocking up anything that might allow access for a chicken.

What does this have to do with Christian Classical Education?

The 7th graders immediately made an analogy out of a true story, applying it to our need for the Gospel.

The 8th graders empathized with their teacher.

My colleagues thought I was pulling their leg.

And, sometimes, a good story is just a good story.

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