Once upon a time there was a chicken named Charlotte who, like most chickens, lived on a farm. Like most chickens she spent her days pecking up corn and laying eggs. Like most chickens she rolled her eyes when the rooster came strutting through the barnyard. But unlike most chickens, Charlotte dreamed of a different life.
Charlotte wanted to travel, to see the world, to have adventures. She didn’t talk much about her dreams because she had learned long ago that the other chickens would laugh. “Chickens don’t travel,” they would say. “It’s just not done.”
Though she never stopped dreaming, Charlotte did stay on the farm. It wasn’t because she thought the other chickens were right. She didn’t mind doing things that had never been done. No, she stayed because of the road.
The only way off the farm was to cross the high road. Charlotte was terrified of the high road. Shiny cars and enormous trucks zoomed by on hot black asphalt. The high road was a place of terror. .
Charlotte’s best friend on the farm was a possum who lived in the tree that shaded the hen house. His name was Owen, and he had lost his whole family on the high road when he was just a little kit. He would never go anywhere near the road. In fact, he didn’t often leave his tree at all. The story he had told Charlotte about the high road was enough to keep her away from there forever, or so she thought.
Things would have continued like this forever, Charlotte laying eggs and dreaming of far off beaches, if it hadn’t been for the visiting cousins.
The kids who lived on the farm were far too used to all the animals to have much interest in them, but when their cousins came for a visit one summer, they couldn’t stay away from the farm yard. They chased the chickens and threw rocks at the barn cats. They hunted for snails and tried to ride the goats. But the worst day of all was the day that they climbed the tree and found Owen.
Charlotte watched as they oohed and ahhhed over Owen. They had never seen a possum before. Charlotte started to get really worried when the biggest one went back to the house for a box. Sure enough, they put Owen in the box and carried him away. Charlotte could see them sneaking the box into the back of the car. Pretty soon the whole family loaded up and said goodbye. To Charlotte’s horror the car began to drive away with Owen still in his box in the back seat. She had never imagined that they would actually take him away from the farm. Suddenly, the car screeched to a halt. The back door flew open. Charlotte could hear yelling, and then Owen’s box was rudely thrown out while the car drove rapidly away.
Charlotte was frozen with terror. There was Owen’s head peeking out of the box.
And the box was sitting right in the middle of the high road!
A car rushed by, narrowly missing Owen’s box. That was when Charlotte completely lost her head. Ignoring the clucks of all the other chickens, she dashed out of the farm yard and up the bank to the road. At the edge of the road, she paused for a moment and looked. It was clear that Owen was completely unable to move. With a deep breath, Charlotte ran out onto the road. She could see a giant truck coming in the distance. Running as fast as her legs could carry her, she dashed to Owen’s box, gripped it tightly in her beak, and began to drag it across the road. The truck was getting closer and closer. Owen was so heavy. Charlotte didn’t think she was going to make it. Her heart was beating so hard that it hurt her chest. The truck was almost on top of them. Suddenly Charlotte fell backwards, dragging Owen and his box down with her. She had backed right off the edge of the road. Just as the truck rushed by, they fell to safety. Charlotte just lay there, thinking she would never be able to move again.
Owen was beginning to recover, though. He was looking around. “Charlotte,” he said. “Look where we are.”
Charlotte still didn’t move.
“Charlotte,” said Owen. “You did it. We’re on the other side of the road.”
Now Charlotte did sit up. She looked around. Suddenly, she didn’t feel the least bit tired. Owen was right. They were on the other side of the road. Charlotte was free! She jumped up and did a little dance just for the sheer joy of it.
Crossing the road had been just as horrible as she thought it would be, but now that it was over, Charlotte couldn’t believe that she had waited so long. She did just as she had always dreamed: she traveled the world. She lay on exotic beaches. She wandered the streets of foreign cities. She even visited a wonderful place called the Corn Palace. And everywhere she went, her friend Owen went with her. And they were very, very happy.
Moral: Crossing the road is the hardest part.