“I’m listening to this show, and the music is Harry Potter,” Callaghan just announced, ever diligent in reporting critical documentary details. He tells me these things absent-mindedly over his shoulder while he’s working and I’m sitting at my desk doing whatever. Since there’s no door between the main room (his desk) and the bedroom (my desk), we’re always in sight of each other. In fact, there are barely a few steps between us. That’s how small our house is. Very convenient for talking to each other. And for strangling each other, as the situation demands.
But I digress. My porcelain hen is sitting here next to me, and I wanted to tell you about it.
I noticed the hen (which turned out to be a bank) one night while walking with Callaghan down a small street in Nice; it was sitting in a shop window. I had no prior interest in hens, so I was maybe as surprised as he was when I went back the next day and bought it and unveiled it before his very eyes. For one thing, he couldn’t believe I’d found the shop again “against all odds,” since it was already dark when we strolled past it, and I didn’t even know where we were. (I couldn’t believe I’d found the shop again, either, since I’m directionally challenged and have been known to get lost on grounds I’ve stomped for 20 years. How I managed to navigate myself out of the woods with only a compass when I was in the Army remains a mystery.)
But I found the shop, and the hen was there, black with red flowers, and I couldn’t resist. This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands in Nice.
Since then, I’ve graciously taken it upon myself to be the hen’s guardian. To tell you the truth, I’m kind of obsessed. Every time I pay with cash, Callaghan looks over and says something along the lines of, “Hmm… you’re using paper money so you’ll get coins back. For the hen.” Or we’ll be at la boulangerie getting sandwiches and I’ll take out a 10 and he’ll be like, “Why are you paying with that when you have the exact amount in coins? Oh. Yeah.” It’s almost a joke between us, but it’s actually thrilling to me, coming from the States where real money doesn’t exist in coin form. Here in Europe, there are one and two-euro coins, so if you stick them in a piggy (hen) bank, they add up quickly. We come home from the store and I rush to the hen to deposit my high-value coins, and after four months, there’s already 124 euro in the hen! This cannot happen as easily with dollars in the States. It’s almost as fun as watching an hourglass.
Callaghan doesn’t seem to share my glee, but he will. It’s one of those he’ll thank me later things.
“So your idea of managing household finances is the hen,” he says to me one day.
“Yes. It’s for emergencies.”
“Okay, then let’s use the hen to stock up on water, in case the pipes freeze like they did last winter.”
“No… the hen is for real emergencies.”
“What kind of emergency are you talking about?”
“If the pipes do freeze again, we’ll need to use the hen to do our laundry at la laverie. We’ll need coins.”
“By then we’d be dead of thirst.”
“Parking? How do you figure that’s an emergency?”
“We might need to pay for parking when we go to la laverie to do our emergency laundry.”
“I’m not kidding.”
“What is it about you and lau… oh, never mind.”
Okay. Maybe he has a point. But isn’t it true, in fact, that we used the hen for laundry once already? Last month, when we’d finally spilled enough coffee in bed and we wanted to wash our two large comforters before the coffee stains merged into one huge brown splotch and we needed super industrial-capacity washing machines to do the job? “See?” I’d said to Callaghan. I was trying not to gloat. “If it wasn’t for the hen, we wouldn’t be able to wash these comforters. We wouldn’t be able to park at la laverie, either.”
He couldn’t really argue with that. All he said was, “You’re right. The hen is powerful because it can do the laundry.”