Serial Fun Office Fiction Riley Justice by Don Clark

Riley Justice, Another Day at the Office

The Daring Adventures of Riley Justice!

Riley Justice, the hard-working (or is it hardly working) accounts-receivable cog helping to keep the corporate machine grinding on, while occasionally foiling Corporate Raider’s sinister plots.

Serial Fun Office Fiction Riley Justice by Don Clark

Riley Justice, Another Day at the Office

Where Riley Justice Attempts to Stop an Activist Investor’s Slashing Attack on the Bottom Line


Accounts Receivable is as seemingly endless as the cosmos itself. Walking its maze of corridors, filing rooms, and cubicles one could only theorize what lies at it’s perimeter. If the last lonely desk is found, does the junior accountant there fold in upon himself? Just as light is bent by the overwhelming gravity of a black hole, do the laws of finance bend upon a budget surplus?Accounts Payable, on the other hand, has known boundaries. It’s like a small city state of medieval times. Too small to do anything of note, too insignificant even for it’s surrounding larger rivals to bother with. The head of Accounts Payable is well aware of his little fiefdom’s shortcomings. His stunted staff works tirelessly in the fields of past-due invoices.

At department-head meetings he complains that he’s undersized by a factor of three [there is no truer truth]. He details the backlog that seemingly has no end. He relays scores of complaints pouring in from all communication avenues.

His bosses nod and make idle promises. He raises his voice and bosses’s bosses are forced to comment. And every three months bosses’ bosses pass on a critical mass of vendor complaints that reach the Vice President of SomethingOrOther.

Heads roll!

Action ensues!

Groans are loud and frequent as some Accounts Receivable staff are taken from their dual monitors and well-ordered file storage, and transferred to Accounts Payable.

The department the office forgot.

There they are confronted with stacks of boxes full of month’s past due invoices, supporting documentation, and a dizzying amount of receipts.

Riley Justice, as nimble on the analog adding machine as its digital cousin, is temporarily placed in a cubicle literally made of those month’s past-due invoice boxes. Formerly white boxes yellowed by age, marked by ancient water stains, coffee rings, and blotches from too-many lunches eaten at the desk. Or, as it were, lunches eaten on a makeshift table of old boxes.

It was time for those boxes to be emptied, invoices to be paid, and vendor complaints neutralized. Hundreds of complaints, perhaps more, certainly thousands of invoices. And just a half-dozen accountants.

It is task worthy of some beleaguered third tier ancient god. Like Precipice or Dauntless.

If those are even gods.

Riley Justice doesn’t know. Riley Justice can’t remember much of the world outside the prison of boxes. Riley Justice has seen sunlight for only a few slim minutes this past week. Riley Justice is going a little stir-crazy, speaking so much in the third person in that prison of boxes.

Boxed meals are brought three times a day, bathroom breaks given four times daily, and promises of overtime are frequently hinted at, but never committed to. Each day is the same, never-ending, no different than before.

Then, sometime in that early-afternoon, post lunch sleepy time, the rhythmic chatter of adding machine calculations is broken by the shattering of glass. It’s those fancy plate-glass doors breaking!

Screams of “Stop Immediately!” carry through the Accounts Payable department.

“I’m an investor!” In strode a smartly-dressed middle-aged man. He looked mid-forties, but was probably an easy-living fifty-three. His hair was well cut and sharply combed. His clothing, though it didn’t so much look it, almost certainly costs more than yours.

“Oh, I know who you are.” Riley stood up to confront the interruption ot the day. “You aren’t fooling anyone with your tailored blue jeans and crazy expensive blazers! You’re an activist investor.”

“That’s right, I’m an Activist. And what of it? Nobody has a problem with activists who want to save the whales or hug some trees. Well I’m even better! Because no one seems to care about people anymore. Well, I look after the best interest of the common investor. I’m looking after the bottom line! Something this company doesn’t seem to be doing. Why are they giving away all this money?”

“They’re way past-due invoices.” Riley replied with a shoulder shrug and eye waggle that said, DUH.

But the Activist was blind to visual cues, he only understood quarterly profit reports. “I will put a stop to this.” He made a threatening movement toward the stack of invoices on Riley’s desk.

“Watch out! I made brown belt.” Riley’s hand poised to strike.

“Transcribe this fool. I’m a Sigma 6 Ninja!” He jumped into the air and delivered this old-guy with a bad-back watching-his-cholesterol kick. Honestly, it was kind of lame. He played it off and lunged for the invoice in Riley’s hand.

Nimble Riley Justice laughed and leapt onto a stack of boxes. “Come on and get a foot-full of Justice!” Riley prepared to deliver the ultimate crane-kick blow to the Activist. And he seemed to walk right into the Johnny trap, but just as Riley’s hammer-foot came up, the box pile gave way, sending Riley onto the floor.

Riley’s leg was hurt, the Activist poised to strike. But the tumbling boxes had knocked over a whiteboard that had been blocking a tunnel in the mountain of boxes. What luck! Riley crawled in.

The Activist tripped over an adding machine and grumbled about his knee.

Riley crawled on. There was a string of lit Christmas lights strung along the side of the tunnel. Back a few more feet, there was a small pillow and one of those space foil blankets. ‘Did someone sleep in here?’ The Riley’s hand touched a pair of old dirty socks. “Gross.”

“Aha!” The activist, old-guy back and all, was hot on Riley’s heels.

Riley crawled to the end of the box tunnel, but was trapped! It was a cubicle partition! And before Riley knew it, the Activist Investor snatched away the invoice and immediately tore it up. “No! Stop! It’s only for three-hundred dollars. What’s it matter?”

“I’m looking after the bottom line.”

“What? There won’t be a bottom line if word gets around we won’t pay invoices. It’s nine months old for comma’s sake! Even with our ridiculous Net 150, it’s still four months overdue.”

“I only need one more quarter.”


“One more quarter and the profit margins will force the stock prices to gain 23% at minimum! I’ll make millions!”

“You’ll ruin the company though!”

“I’ll make the common investor so much more money than your Board can.”

Riley though for a moment. “Wait. We’re not even a publicly traded company.”

The Activist only said, “Riley, Riley, Riley.” As if lecturing a child. “Riley? Riley?” But it wasn’t the Activist.

Riley’s eyes blinked open. It was the head of Accounts Payable. “Riley?”

Riley woke up in the tunnel of boxes mumbling. Either Riley doubled in size, or the tunnel halved. ‘Was that real?’ Riley’s hands fell on the old dirty socks. “Ugh. That’s certainly real.

“Stupid job.”

Committee of Camels designs the perfect ostrich logo

Where Do People Come From?

Where do people come from?

Our children are always interested in where they come from. We do our best to explain. We show them baby pictures and old scrapbooks. This leads to more questions. So we speak of parents, then of parent’s parents, and so on. Eventually our children ask the question that we’ve all asked. The question that, aware of it or not, always lingers in our mind. It is perhaps the first question ever asked.

Committee of Camels designs the perfect ostrich logo

Where Do People Come From?

We have an answer, my wife and I. It’s not universally accepted, and try as we might, we have located no “hard” evidence of its truth or exact origin. But we believe in this answer. For the answer is a story that speaks in the quiet of the still darkness that is the Truth.

As with all narratives made of whole cloth, the origins of this story are difficult to track down. I’ve tried, believe me. But every time I find a group that swears by their argument, another faction presents some worn ancient parchment to document their claim. The pursuit of this particular truth is near-impossible. Not to mention so unsatisfying.

I’ve concluded that pulling back the curtain just lets go an unending string of confusion. Sometimes it’s simply best to lose one’s self in the story.

Sometimes the story supplies all the voracity that is necessary.

Before There Were People There Was The Ostrich

And before the ostrich, there was the need to create the ostrich.

Long ago was the Age of Chaos when existence was ruled by the few. Then came justice and equality from which dawned the Age of Meritocracy. It was in this time that the ostrich was created.

Created, more accurately designed, naturally, by committee. In that age of meritocracy numerous committees were formed from the then existing animals. Each committee set about to design and create new creatures. Possibly thousands of committees met, debated, formed quorums, discussed, argued, and debated some more.

Though, only the record of the committee of camels and their work to design the ostrich survives.

Scores of camels came together in the middle of the desert at a shallow oasis. Surrounding the meager pool were only a few scrubby trees. Some camels laid down in the little shade there was, others in the full sun. Many stood, while a few padded nervously about; for their task was great. The ideal ostrich was to be created:

Long thing legs that bent backwards, a thick squat feathered body, small useless wings, and a long neck topped by a tiny head.

“Best to get started then.” As camels are generally calm animals, each spoke politely and in turn.

The Issue of Legs

One camel opened, “Two legs then right? It is a bird after all.”

“Why only two?!” Replied another.

“Well an ostrich only has two legs.”

“Says you! I say four! Four good hairy legs.” A lounging camel added

There came about some clamor and debate.

Finally compromise emerged. “How about two legs? With some minimal fur.” Go on. “We’ll put on thicker feet so they can walk across the sand easier.”

“I like this. But four legs would make weight distribution easier when crossing the dessert.”

Hmm. “Just make the bottom of the legs long and wide so they won’t sink in the sand.”

“What would we call them?”

“I don’t know.” The camel shrugged, “how about feet?”

“Like the unit of measurement, won’t that cause confusion?”

“Should work out just fine. Things usually do work out just fine.” The lead camel agreed, “A great attitude! So then, how about two legs, some minimal fur, feet, and let’s say all the knees bend forward?”

“Fine, fine then! Let’s move on.”

The Body

Onto the body. “Squat and fat, like a proper ostrich body I say.”

Seconded another, “Certainly! Covered in feathers to keep the animal warm.” Came the chorus in response, “Right!”

“A move to approve the body?”

“Wait a minute,” interjected another camel, “the thing only has two legs. You put them in the front, it’s back falls over. Legs in the back, front falls down. That’s why any superior animal has four legs.” All the camels vigorously nodded their agreement at this.

This was a fair point. What a wobbly ostrich they would have with two legs and a squat body. “It’s a matter of physics you see. How about we revisit the leg situation?” There was merit to this proposal. The camels looked hesitantly at each other for a few beats. Could they revisit the leg situation? Just how did these things work? What was the procedure?

“No, I have it!” Said a camel from the side, “What if we flip the body around so it’s tall and skinny. That way two legs could hold the thing up.”

“Yes?” The committee of camels could not argue with the physics of the thing. “Yes then?” There was a great nodding of heads as if to say ‘okay?’. “This seems to be acceptable.

“Now how about the feathers?” Came a voice from the back, “How do you keep them clean?”

A young camel spoke for the first time and suggested, “licking?”

“Licking is gross!” Spat out a camel. Another camel spat, “Gross!” As she rose to her feet in anger.

And there preceded a great spatting of camels. Accompanied by a cacophony of “GROSS!”

Now wait a minute. Just calm down camels. Licking it shall not be. “You have one thing correct!” There followed many hurumphs.

“How about there be a breakout session of small groups to examine the issue. Say we divide by bactrians, Dromedaries, and Alices?”

And so the camels divided themselves into the groups.

And after some debate the small groups regrouped into one large group. The Bactrians presented first. “We suggest the ostrich live in the sea where the water will continually clean it.”

Yes, I see. What say you Dromedaries? “Soap. We propose soap to clean the feathers with.”

Fair enough. Alices. Do you have a solution? “Remove the feathers, have bare skin with a little fur just as the legs.” What if the animal is cold? “Clothes, we propose the invention of clothing.” And the invention of quite a bit more! Says the author of this story, but let us not quibble with detail as the telling of the tale is more important than its analysis.

A show of humps was counted for each solution and the narrow winner came to be the sea. “So counted. The ostrich shall live in the sea then.” The Alice’s spoke up, “We feel very passionate about clothing. It can be removed and cleaned.” “By soap,” added the Dromedaries. “In the sea,” contributed the Bactrians.

Beautiful! Is there anything more perfect than compromise in the democratic process!

Onto the wings then.

“Stubby and useless for flight naturally.”

“How about we make the wings be able to do something?” A particularly thoughtful camel added, “how about flying? We are designing a bird after all.”

Fair point. “No,” the first camel replied, “how about we make the wings so they can pick things up.” Like what? “The soap, the clothes perhaps?” There was a considerable amount of nodding at this.

“So how would the useful picking-up-things wings look?”

“Uhm. I’m just spitballing this. But let’s say, long and skinny like the legs. How about, in the middle, we give them little knees, maybe there’s a better name for those. These little knees would allow the useful wings to bend more. And on the end some sort of mouth like thing to pick things up with.”

“Tiny useful wings perhaps? Arranged opposite to each other?”

“Yes, but make them tiny tiny useful wings, opposite each other that are like little claws.” Like a beak!

“Allright. Is everyone on board with the useful wings without feathers, little knees, and tiny tiny useful wings on the end that are opposite each other like little claws?”

“That can’t fly.”

“Yes of course, all I said before about the bird’s wings, but not able to fly. Agreed?” The sun was dipping in the sky; everyone would have to be getting on to the next oasis soon. Agreed.

The neck and head is all we have left.

“Long wobbly looking neck with a small head on top right?” The camels all turned their necks and looked at their companions. A Dromedary spoke up, “Seems like a good solution.” What’s good for the goose and all that.

Another camel suggested, “How about a really short neck and a bigger head.”

“What’s wrong with a long neck?!” A great commotion erupted. The standing camels argued, turning about in the sand. The lounging camels rose adding to the confusion. There was a great collision of necks. Heads were knocked together. This is how headaches first came to be known by the camels.

“Alright. Fair point. Short neck it is.”

Let’s review then. “Legs are a little thicker, with a some fur, and at the bottom are wide feet so they can walk across the sand better. The body is tall and skinny, no feathers. The wings are useful, have little knees in the middle. On the end are tiny tiny useful wings that can pick up things like a claw. The neck is short with a well-proportioned head. We will also invent soap and clothing.”

An Alice interjected, “About the name. I’m never certain how one spells ostrich. I propose we change the spelling and pronunciation.” What do you suggest? “I suggest the name person.”

All right. “For the consideration of the ostrich design. Everything I said previously regarding the body, except we will call it a person. All in favor?” And with the lowering sun there was a great show of humps. “Opposed?” A few humps were shown, but the faction was small and without popular support. “This design of the ostrich is officially adopted then.”


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Wooden Safari Toy Camel handmade from Sassafras by Happy Bungalow

The Camel, Nomadic Dessert Wonderer

The Camel, Nomadic Dessert Wonderer

I’ve always been a bit unclear on those words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  Are they homonyms?  Something like that, I forget.  But what I’m 100% certain about is the camel.  You know, the dessert wonderer.

The animal who dreams of sweet deliciousness.  Cake, pie, cookies, and perhaps even pudding.  We’re guessing camels are wondering about desserts while wandering across the desert.  It’s so dry and endless – I’d think about cookies too.


Our wood toy take on the camel is below.  If you’d like to pick one up from our online toy shop, click here or on the camel below.

Wooden Safari Toy Camel handmade from Sassafras by Happy Bungalow

Inside the Small Maker DIY Mom and Pop Struggling Business by Happy Bungalow

Inside the Small Crafty Maker Business aka Inside the SFCHDMSMP Business

Inside the Small / Family / Crafty / Handmade / Diy / Maker / Struggling / Mom&Pop Business.

Inside the Small Maker DIY Mom and Pop Struggling Business by Happy Bungalow

It’s a new year! Hoorah!

We resolution that running your own business is downright hard and it’s time we talk about it.

In 2016, once a month, Happy Bungalow will be pulling back the curtain on the wood shop to show what life is really like owning a small business. Well, that’s not totally accurate. Small business doesn’t quite describe us.

How about instead we call it a small / family / crafty / handmade / diy / maker / struggling / mom&pop business (further referred to as SFCHDMSMP business). We plan on showing everyone our accomplishments, just as we’ve always done, but we want to give some consideration to the struggles, disappointments, and hard work that is required to be successful (whatever that means).

But why?

It’s easy to find the glossy images and blog posts that highlight the success of the SFCHDMSMP business. A few well composed photos hide the clutter and dirt. Instead they show owners ditching work on a sunny afternoon for a beach-side picnic. Happy kids helping with the making of another product that just flies off the shelves. etc. etc. And never does a picture show the emotional toil, lost sleep, self-doubt, and the arguments.

And it’s so easy to present the image of the SFCHDMSMP business as being a full-time full-income generating operation. When many SFCHDMSMP businesses are moonlighting side-jobs, with the intention (serious or not) to take it full time in the future.

But quite a few SFCHDMSMP businesses aren’t that at all, instead they’re just hobbies with no intention of running it full time, without a serious concern for the business to return a profit.

So what? You’re just a bitter jerk?

No, not quite. Well, sometimes, but.  Keep reading.

When I started this company, Happy Bungalow, I looked at these same pictures and accompanying blog articles and thought – “WOW! This looks great! Can’t wait to get there.” Then six months, a year later, I thought, “This is so hard. What am I doing wrong?” Two years in, “I must be a failure.”

I gave serious consideration to quitting, giving up picking up the kids from school, having a FLEXIBLE schedule, the occasional nice-afternoon ditching of work, etc. etc. because I wasn’t making the MONEY like it seemed everyone else was making.

I stuck with it though – more from stubbornness than factual analysis. And my wife, Liz, bless her, said I should keep on trying at a time when she could have thrown in the towel and I wouldn’t have argued. I was selling some online, but not a lot.

Because at two years into this whole SFCHDMSMP business I had no faith in myself. It turns out my expectations were different than who I was comparing myself to.

I’ve traveled the art and craft show circuit, first local and a bit regionally. The plan was to spread the word of handcrafted wooden toys. People would buy toys, they’d tell their friends, and their friends and so on. And those who didn’t buy would ask, “do you have an online store?” Sure do! It’s right there on my business card. They’d buy later, tell a friend, who’s friend would tell and so on.

It would be a classic case of word of mouth advertising. I’d read all about it. Every third SFCHDMSMP business advice article is about generating word of mouth. Another third of SFCHDMSMP business advice articles are about guerrilla marketing.

You know, guerrilla marketing.

Pin up business cards on community boards, comment on blog articles, participate in online forums, like, comment, and share other SFCHDMSMP business’s products for sale, etc. etc. Build your product line, but focus on a single market.

So I do all this. I was doing well enough at art and craft shows, but not what my peers seemed to be making. I would ask people, how did you do? “Great!” “Best show ever!” “Really well, how about you?”

Uhm, ok, I guess.

I changed tables and displays, built new display furniture, added back-drop banners, new business cards, postcards, email signup lists, and on and on – but the sales didn’t to change all that much. One year I did something like 40 shows, convinced from online forums and show conversations that I could make a living that way.

But the SFCHDMSMP business word of mouth wasn’t generating many online sales. Some, sure, but not like I expected.

Like I said, had Liz thrown in the towel, I wouldn’t have argued. I would have gone back to an office job (humbled and broken no doubt).

Now though, we’re four plus years into this and I’m more confident than I’ve ever been. Despite not making the money that my bank account tells me I should. Despite not knowing how much money I’ll make next week or month. Despite still not thinking myself as the success I should/need to be

Here’s why:

All those glossy happy SFCHDMSMP business pictures are [expletive]!
Mos of those SFCHDMMP business blog articles are written not to educate, but to convince the author they’re right. Write?
Most of the businesses are just a hobby supported by a full time day job, so success for them is not the same as for me.
Most of the “advice” you read is written by people with little or no experience.

So in the interest of, I don’t know, telling it like it is. Of transparency? Or perhaps just in the name of helping out some other SFCHDMMP business owner who’s wondering if it’s them.

Or just because I can gosh-darn-it! I made up this business, this website, this blog. That’s one of the perks of a SFCHDMMP business – you can do whatever you want. For good or bad.

Once a month I’m going to write about the realities of this SFCHDMMP business. These 12 articles will show what happens when you pull back from that instagram perfectness to see the big kids fighting on the couch, the spaghetti sauce burning on the stove, and the baby?!

Where’s the baby?

The baby’s fine. Don’t worry. He was just under the dining room table. So yeah, once a month, we’ll tell it like it is.

Like the idea of this? We have a newsletter that will deliver this series of articles (and nothing else) directly to your inbox (before it’s published anywhere else)! Sign up below.

And this isn’t a sales pitch. I’m not trying to sucker you into some online training course, ebook, or facebook support group. When I figure out the secrets to success I won’t be selling it because:

A. It won’t be really aplicable to you.
B. I will have purchased the information at too high a cost to resell it.


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The T-Rex and The Chicken relationship explained

The T-Rex and the Chicken

A Tale of Distant Relations


A Consideration of Abbreviations


The T-Rex and The Chicken relationship explained


Once there lived the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex. King of all the dinosaurs. The beast who made up for the smallness of his arms with the doubled ferocity of his ripping bite.

Or so we assume. Scientists are hard at work figuring out all the details; there’s a lot still to learn.

A century ago when there was even more to learn? That’s when the Tyrannosaurus Rex was named by those with a flair for the dramatic, the Tyrant Lizard.  His cohorts? The triceratops, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, and all the other sauruses? They were called the Thunder Lizards.

I think.

Let it be know that I am not a paleontologist. I’m a story-teller, sometimes world-builder. And I love the idea of Thunder Lizards, of the Tyrant Lizard. All of it has a tall-taleish ring to it; like Paul Bunyan as his ox. Once they may have been “just” a real man and beast, but as their story was told and told again they became something much larger. Their story retold and retold again until Paul stood a quarter mile tall. His gate so long and his footfalls so heavy that they created the ten-thousand lakes of Minnesota. Ax slug over his shoulder, his now blue ox babe, equally large, roaming across, and taming, the American wilderness.

A man so large he creates a lake with every step! That’s the way to spin a tale!


Behold! The Tyrant Lizard! The unstoppable flesh-and-bones monster who ruled the diluvian lands for millennia heaped upon millennia. The beast who disliked passivity as much as he disliked the shortening of names.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex, thank you very much. This sounds more like a showman than a scientist. So as long as it’s a showman speaking, let him speak!

The singular dinosaur that grew in stature with the turn of every eon, until he stood a half-mile high. A well timed jump propelled the animal over erupting volcanoes! His roar carried across continents! The other Thunder Lizards trembled at the notion of his coming.

Tyrannosaurus Rex! The king of dinosaurs!

The king of all dinosaurs until there were dinosaurs no more.

Gone. And no one knows why. Perhaps an asteroid even more powerful than the Tyrant Lizard itself.

If you can believe that.

And for tens of millions of years (for which those bent on the long view – mainly stars and their like – remind us is only a short time cosmically speaking), existence saw no living dinosaur. Their remains replaced by stone, buried under the earth. Waiting for some other being to resurrect their memory.

But now there can be no mistaking it. Genuine scientists were at work here. Using elaborate calculations and whizz-bang contraptions they completed labors only capable of learned-individuals. From the forgotten void, they began to pull together the history of existence.

And then quite recently, while piecing together that history, we learned that a dinosaur still walked with us. The towering Tyrant Lizard that stood a half mile high? No. Then, the real animal that stood as tall as three men?! Sorry. It was his distant relation though.

The chicken!

But think not of the barnyard bird, pecking in the dirt, foil of so many crossing jokes. Instead think of it as the feathered cousin of the feared T-Rex. The member of the family who has successfully shunned abbreviation and the pedestrian C-Fowl.

Behold the Mighty Chicken!

So tall it looks down on the tops of silos! A beak so sharp it cuts down great sequoias with a single slash! A body so large it casts a shadow clear to the next county! A crow so loud that on a still evening it’s reverberation carries clear across three states!

Oh chicken. Humble bird no more are you! Instead the progeny of the fieriest brute to ever tremble the earth.

Survivor of the aristocratic line of the Tyrant Lizard, King of the Thunder Lizards. Chicken is not even suitable. Perhaps, Tyrant Fowl? Or, Beaked Brute-Bird? Certainly it’s Lord of the Barnyard! Undoubtedly, Master of the Fertile Lands!

So if you pine for the good old days, as it were, the Pliocene, etc, then take heart when you spy a chicken. Know that no one (or thing) is ever truly gone if we keep them in our hearts.

So for those of you who are curious:

A small bit of T-Rex protein was recovered from a 68 million year old fossil. The surviving protein was molecularly analyzed and compared to 21 living animals. The chicken matched most closely, which corroborates the dinosaur-bird ancestral hypothesis. The dinosaur and modern bird also share a number of skeletal similarities. However, there are skeptics who question whether the protein is from the dinosaur or cross contamination. Also in question is whether the small amount of recovered protein is a large enough sample to yield valid results.

But like I said, I’m a storyteller, a dreamer. A small protein sample is enough for me. When I look at a chicken now, I imagine that towering Tyrant Lizard of long lost eons.

Read more here:

And for a bit of chicken real life that reads like a tall tale, consider Mike the Headless Chicken:


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