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My dream of publishing for young readers is getting closer to reality.  The book cover is ready.  The manuscript is at the printers.  I am anxiously awaiting the proof.  What a great new adventure!  In anticipation of the book release, I decided to introduce you to Blessen.  Here is Chapter One: Blue.

Blue is cackling something awful this morning. That’s how she tells me she laid an egg. I flip-flop down the concrete steps from the trailer backdoor jingling the matching gold bracelets, full set of three that I got yesterday at the Family Dollar.

I’m sure Blue can hear me coming, and I call out to her, “Blue! Bluey!” My voice rises up to a high pitch. She knows it’s me.

“Bock, bbb bock!” She starts her cackling again.

Momma says she cackles when she’s cursing. She says if laying eggs is anything like giving birth, then Blue is cursing out loud. I say she is rejoicing.

I walk toward the coop. I’m still small enough to be able to walk in and stand. I push the straw under my big feathery hen, and sure enough, I find a small tan egg under her thick breast. I hold the egg up to her close, so she can see the fruit of her labor. She smiles at me her chicken smile, cocks her head, and gurgles proud.

Blue has been my chicken ever since the New Iberia Sugarcane Festival last fall. She was my first place prize for 4th and 5th grade division 4-H. I grew the sweetest sugarcane right in my own backyard. The judges told me my new hen was called Blue Cochin, but I just call her Blue for short. It was love at first sight, I must say. She knows my heart. She knows when I’m happy and when I’m sad. I know she’s wise ‘cause she’s what they call a thoroughbred hen.

“Momma’s in a foul mood today,” I tell Blue in confidence. “She told me I had no business wearing this tiny t. She says I out-grew it last summer. Why was I keepin’ it around? I told her it was my favorite, and it is, even though it shows my belly button. I kinda like bein’ able to see my belly button. It’s a fine belly, don’t you think?” Blue just nods her head at me, agreeing.

“Blessen? You come back in and finish this mess of a breakfast you made. What you thinkin’ puttin’ sugar all over your buttered toast? You made a mess in here. Your teeth are gonna rot out for sure.” Momma calls out from the back window.

I pull Blue out of her roosting spot, cuddle her close like I’m holding a precious baby, and smile into her beady black eyes.

“How do my teeth look to you?” I show all my pure white teeth in a wide grin. “I don’t think Momma knows what she’s yappin’ about.”

Blessen is the name Momma gave me when I was born. It’s not a nickname like some people think. It’s from the Bible, Genesis:

 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.

Momma changed the spelling because I am special. Blessen LaFleur, that’s me.

I don’t know who my father is. Momma says he was the fertilizer. I imagine a knight in shining armor on a white horse lowering his golden sword over my momma’s belly and poof! I was created. Some people say he must’ve been an African American man ‘cause my skin’s so dark compared to my momma who is pure white like the Gardenia she is named for. My hair is thick and curly-brown while hers is fine and blond. The last time I asked Momma why my skin was so dark, she said, “That’s how God made you, Blessen.” I don’t ask her anymore.

I have a dream that a man comes to the door, standing tall, but silhouetted. All I see is a wide bright smile. Momma turns and runs into his arms.

Momma says we are enough, the three of us, but I can’t help but wonder who my daddy is and why he left me.

We live on True Friend Road in St. Martinville, Louisiana. My Pawpee’s old house faces the street. He built that house with his own two hands. Momma says it’s falling to ruin. The last hurricane sent a water oak through the roof. With the FEMA money, Momma got a trailer. That’s where we all live now—me, Momma, and Pawpee.

From where I stand next to the chicken coop, I can see Pawpee’s old house and the two rows of crape myrtles in full bloom lining the gravel driveway. Pawpee still trims those trees every fall with a cherry picker from his wheelchair. He says he’s topping the trees to make the blossoms fan out like a fiery bouquet. Pawpee’s quite proud of his trimming skills.

I chase Blue a little around the chicken yard, give her a little hug, and then flip-flop back to the trailer to meet the disapproval of my momma.

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