The lady asks us over her shoulder, heading towards a bunch of sleek, befeathered show-hens.
“No,” we affirm, absent-mindedly.
The lady bypasses the show-hens with a cackle, and veers towards the deepest depths of the shed.
Shortly afterwards, Short Tony and I are speeding back along the A-road, a half-dozen chickens confined to the dogg cage on the back of his truck.
We discuss our new family, thoughtfully.
“We should decide a few things. Are we going to give them names?” he muses.
“I hadn’t really thought about that,” I reply.
“Maybe we should leave that to the kids.”
“Let’s be clear, though,” I say, resolutely. “No comedy names. Like Gregory, or Princess, or Livingstone, or Ganley. And no bloody post irony, like when people call their cats Chairman fucking Miaow.”
“Fair enough. Can you still see them?”
Short Tony is looking at the rear-view mirror in some alarm. I turn to peer through the glazing at the back of the cab. No chickens whatsoever are visible. I undo my seatbelt and strain my neck. There is no sign of chickens. I have a brainwave and remove my phone from my pocket; reaching up as far as I can, I take a picture through the glass into the base of the load area.
The result is inconclusive.
“I’d better pull over,” mutters Short Tony, indicating for a lay-by. We hop out anxiously and hasten round the back. Six chickens peck away at us from the security of the dogg cage. We are relieved. I give a weak smile to a lorry driver who is staring down at us from his parking space.
“Vets?” asks Short Tony as we continue on our way.
We agree that running up a vet’s bill for a chicken is bad economics.
“And no puns,” insists Short Tony. I nod vigorously in agreement. “No ‘oooh, aren’t they egg-citing!’ or ‘This one is egg-strordinary!’ or that sort of stuff.”
We are reassured that we are both singing off the same hymnsheet on that topic, and subsequently also agree that neither of us will attempt sexual intercourse with one.
“How much were they again…?” asks Short Tony as the truck rumbles on.
“Seven pounds fifty each,” I report. “No V.A.T.”
“Forty five quid,” calculates Short Tony. “That’s a poultry amount.”
We continue the journey in silence.