Wednesday, January 8, 2014


The Three Sisters and Their Pets
By Laura Beasley

Three sisters lived in a trailer outside of town with nothing of value except their Little Black Hen. She laid three eggs each day providing a daily source of balanced protein. The eldest sister worked days at the diner and the middle sister graveyards at the oil refinery. The youngest sister had swing shifts at the clothing factory.

The eldest sister was tipped in pennies and nickels, but brought home leftover food. The second sister’s paycheck covered rent and car payment; she filled the gas tank of their single car at the refinery for free. The youngest sister was paid by the piece; her money went for lights, heat and taxes. She brought home fabric remnants to make their clothing. They could not afford health care or insurance.

Each sister cared for the pets when she was awake. They had a cat (which chased egg-stealing rats) and a dog (which chased bigger rats). Young men not frightened by the dog’s barking were deterred courting one sister by being teased by the others.

A wise woman used magic to reward the Generous. She travelled disguised as a homeless bag lady. One Monday evening, the wise woman came to the trailer. The youngest sister had left for work and the middle sister was sleeping before her shift at midnight. The eldest sister had refilled the water in the blue dish for the Little Black Hen and was petting the cat.

The wise woman wearing three sweaters and mismatched socks asked, “Could I have something? I’m hungry.”

The eldest sister said, “We have three eggs laid by our Little Black Hen. I can’t give you my sisters’ eggs, but I’ll give you mine.”

The eldest sister coddled the egg to serve on a piece of wheat toast brought from the diner. The sister ensured customers had not touched the food before she wrapped it up.
The wise woman stopped by Tuesday morning after the eldest sister drove the car to work. The youngest sister was sleeping before her evening shift. The middle sister had put fresh straw in the red nesting box of the Little Black Hen and was petting the cat.

The wise woman wearing stockings rolled to her knees and pushing a shopping cart, asked, “Could I have something? I’m hungry.”

The middle sister welcomed her, “Our Little Black Hen laid three eggs. Two belong to my sisters, but you can have my egg.”

The old woman talked with the middle sister while the egg was hardboiled. The sister explained about turning valves with wrenches and carrying a clipboard. She gave the woman a used pair of steel-toed boots.

The old woman arrived past midnight on Wednesday. The middle sister was at the oil refinery and the eldest sister was sleeping. The youngest sister had given fresh grain to the Little Black Hen and was petting the cat.

The old woman with a blanket draped over her head carried a black trash bag, “I’m hungry.”

The youngest sister welcomed her, “We have three eggs laid by our Little Black Hen. I’ll give you my egg.”

After the sister soft boiled the egg, she placed it in a chicken-shaped holder with a hand-knit cap. She brewed hot tea for the old woman and gave her hand-stitched clothing.

On Sunday, the wise woman dressed in a gown rewarded them. The eldest sister was given an MBA and a city block with cafes, bagel shops and antique stores. She mounted the MBA certificate on the wall and started screaming at her employees. The middle sister received a Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering, oil wells, refinery and gas stations. She framed her degree and commanded her staff. The youngest sister wanted a little house. She began to sew curtains, sheets and towels, stuff pillows, upholster furniture and make quilts for the beds.

The wise woman returned in one year as a homeless wretch.

At the E. S. Cafe she asked, “Could I have something to eat?”

“You don’t deserve it. I don’t want filthy homeless hanging around.” Said the eldest sister.

The wise woman said, “You were a better woman when you had only a hen, a cat and a dog!”

The eldest sister lost everything and was returned to the trailer with the three pets.
At M. S. Gas Station, the wise woman asked for food.

“I can’t waste money on beggars.” Said the middle sister.

“You were a better woman when you had only a hen, a cat and a dog!”

The middle sister was sent to the trailer.

When the wise woman visited the youngest sister, she could hear the cooing of a baby.

The youngest sister opened the door with her child over her shoulder, “I had to finish changing the baby. How can I help?”

“I’m hungry. Could I have something?”

“We’re out of eggs. I’ll slice the fresh bread. I’ve ground these peanuts into peanut butter. Do you prefer strawberry or peach jam?”

After the young woman made tea, she brought cream and sugar. She nursed her child while the woman ate.

“You are as sweet and generous as when you had only a hen, a cat and a dog!” said the wise woman.

When the small house was transformed into a palace, the wise woman disappeared. The youngest sister looked for the hen, cat and dog. After finding her sisters at the trailer, she invited them to live in the palace with her husband and child. They brought their pets because they never wanted to forget having been poor.

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Laura Beasley, the Mother who Tells Stories, has been married for 35 years. Her fiction has appeared in Enchanted Conversation, Every Day Fiction, Yesteryear Fiction and other magazines.


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