When I was about eight or nine or ten years old, my mother brought home a couple of library books for me. She handed them to me with a strange twist to her mouth and told me to read them all the way through. The cover of the first one had an illustration of a chicken on it, and the cover of the second one had an orange-hued, soft-focus photograph on it. I picked the chicken book. At the time, artsy photographs symbolized the grownup world of stultifying boringness. At least the chicken looked like it had some potential, even if did seem a little babyish.
The chicken book started off innocently enough. It talked about spring and kittens and puppies and new tree growth. I was just about ready to call it quits, though, when early on it started asking those rhetorical questions that you're not supposed to answer because you are supposed to be ignorant and the book is supposed to set you straight. That's how the Jesus books went that we signed out at the library at church, and I was pretty certain that Jesus was going to pop up every time I turned a page.
Surprisingly, there was no Jesus, at least aside from from the Christian-centric morality that was passed off as biological imperative. When the author of the book decided that it was time to get down to the point, a picture of a chicken was there on page eight to punctuate it. There was, of course, also an egg sitting on the ground just under the chicken's butt. The punctuated point of the book suddenly became clear to me: it was about The Facts of Life™, and I was the chicken.
My mother had chosen what had otherwise been a blissful summer afternoon to illustrate, with farmyard animals mind you, the science behind the propagation of our species, and I was glad that she didn't actually want to talk about it. There was no way that I wanted to sit through my church organist mother's discussion in which she had to say things like vagina and nipples out loud to me while pointing at my GWGs or the pockets on my western style shirt with the pearl snap buttons.
The thing was, I had already learned most of the basic bump and grind stuff during recess at my elementary school. I'd learned about penes (which is, indeed, a plural form of penis pronounced pee-knees) and how boys could die when kicked in the sack, which supposedly hurt way more than when girls got kicked in the box, and how lesbians used really creepy voices and stroked your wrist while they said Hi, I'm a lezzie. Boys got girls pregnant, but only the girls got into trouble because boys could leave and go to college. Girls made out in closets and didn't tell anyone, unless it was at a birthday party, and then no one at the birthday party told anyone else. Boys did something called circle jerking, but why twirling their penises in circles was so exciting was beyond me. Boy parts went into girl parts, but only when you were grownups who were married, because otherwise all kinds of nasty fates could befall you, most of which included becoming unlovable and very itchy.
So, I found myself looking at this drawing of a chicken with an egg that had obviously just been birthed from its butt, and I wondered how that happened. I mean, I knew about human males and their penises, and I knew that this chicken must have had sex (the egg's fertilized state was implied by the nature of the book), but it had never occurred to me how it worked with chickens. Not having much farm experience, I wasn't aware that chickens weren't their own complete animal set. I thought that their must female and male chickens, which would mean that, hey, wait a second, boy chickens must have penises!
That boy chickens must have penises had never occurred to me. Where did the boy chickens keep their penises, then? I was sure that I had never seen a penis on a chicken (except that now I have, but only in the very worst of bestial porn pop-up windows). Were they extremely tiny so as to be unnoticeable? Did they somehow fold up? The option that truly creeped me out for its alienness, which, you must remember, stemmed from my lack of interaction with farm animals, was that chickens might have penises that they could retract into their bodies. Shudder. I had seen aliens busting through people's chest walls on television not too long before, so this idea seemed altogether repellent to me.*
What has confounded me to this day is that there was nary a rooster in that book about The Facts of Life™. Not one. The author used the chicken to illustrate the idea that females had something called eggs (which I have always thought to be a horrible metaphor, because we do not birth giant ova and are not in possession of cloaca) but never carried it through to explain about roosters. Without the rooster part of the equation, I was left with the vile mental image of half of the world's chickens running around with retractable penises, which I, of course, imagined to be very large when erect in relation to the chicken sporting it. In my mind, their massive erections hung to the ground, and they had to swing their skinny chicken legs wide around them as they pushed them along the hen house floor and occasionally thumped them against cages.
I also wondered what was done with chicken penises if you cooked a boy chicken. Did people eat them, or did they throw them away? The turkey neck that my grandmother brought out as a treat during Thanksgiving dinner never looked the same to me after that.
I certainly wasn't going to ask my mother the chicken penis question, because the last time I had asked a question related to sex, it had not gone so well. The tag on my sweater said "virgin wool", and so I asked her if they kept all the girl sheep in a separate pasture in order to be sure they were virgins, and also, was the wool of non-virgin girl sheep not as good? She laughed outright and asked me how I got such strange ideas in my head. I kept my ideas about rubbers and why my grandfather wore them on his feet to myself.
One thing the book did teach me, though, was that adult men and adult women were the only humans who had sexual intercourse, ever, and that its purpose was for the creation of babies, who everyone loved and wanted to have. I also learned that dogs made dogs and cats made cats and that the scenario below with the bunny and the chicken was likely going nowhere near making the babies that everyone would love and want to have** (at least not people who know the way things are supposed to be done). Buckens? Chinnies? It's anyone's call.
I do wonder, but I promise not for long, how those bunny parts jived with that chicken's cloaca.***
* You should have seen the look on my face when, the next summer, I saw my first fully erect horse penis on a large male named Apache Eagle. I swore that I would never, ever, ever have anything to do with something so hideous and obviously pain-inducing. I had heard that term "hung like a horse", and I was having none of it.
** One thing that chicken book didn't cover was the chupacabra. Chupacabras have been on my mind lately, because they, too, enjoy their sweater vests in my dreams.
If the chupacabra exists, its population is sparse. Does it get to use its soft bits for making babies that it will love and want? Does it get the benefit of having a mother to tell it about its sexy parts and biological fulfillment. If not, at least it has the sweater vests for comfort.
*** Did you know that birds with cloaca join them together in a cloacal kiss? Bird sex sounds dirty.