Recap #249: Goosebumps #53: Chicken Chicken by R.L. Stine
Title: Goosebumps #53 – Chicken Chicken, a.k.a. “The Clucking”
Author: R.L. Stine
Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus
Tagline: It’s a finger lickin’ nightmare!
Summary: Don’t Call Them Chicken Legs!
Everyone in Goshen Falls knows about weird Vanessa. She dresses all in black. Wears black lipstick. And puts spells on people. At least, that’s what they say.
Crystal and her brother, Cole, know you can’t believe everything you hear. But that was before they made Vanessa mad. Before she whispered that strange warning, “Chicken Chicken.”
Because now something really weird has happened. Crystal’s lips have turned as hard as a bird’s beak. And Cole has started growing ugly white feathers all over his body…
“Chicken Chicken” is notorious among fans as the absolute worst of the original 62 books, even more so than the “Monster Blood” books. Reading the book as a kid it wasn’t something I picked up on, given I probably sped through it and put it back with my other books. Re-reading it now I can see why this book is so reviled, though I personally think the worst book out of the entire franchise is “Revenge R Us.”
The problem with “Chicken Chicken” is its villain goes completely overboard in her punishment on the main characters to the point there’s nothing funny or endearing about it. She’s so borderline sadistic it just makes her awful, and it’s especially hard to stomach the treatment main character Crystal gets. What compounds this is Crystal doesn’t do anything wrong.
But don’t take it from me, here’s what Crystal has to say:
Crystal wants you to know right now she fucking HATES chickens. She doesn’t mind eating BBQ chicken, but she can’t stand dealing with the living birds. They’re gross, they’re noisy, they’re ugly, they have soulless black eyes (Like a… like a doll’s eyes!) and they always peck at her feet and legs whenever it’s her turn to feed them. Her younger brother Cole feels the same way and they’re always trying to convince their parents to get rid of the nasty little fuckers.
Even though Crystal’s parents live in a farmhouse, they aren’t actual farmers in the broader sense of the name. Chickens are the only animals they keep, and they don’t raise crops to sell or do any other farmer type stuff. In fact, they’re computer programmers. Yet apparently it was always their dream to leave the noisy, polluted Bronx and move out to the country town of Goshen Falls where they can raise chickens. So when Crystal was 4 and Cole was 2 they got dragged to Goshen Falls where their parents expect them to help tend the chickens. Isn’t it great how parents put their kids first?
[Wing: There’s nothing wrong with kids having chores, and it’s quite possible that getting the kids out of noisy, polluted Bronx is putting the kids first for the parents. I disagree, because I love cities, but lots of parents move their kids out of the city to give them a better life. (Which can be in and of itself, e.g., white flight.)]
Crystal hopes someday Cole is finally punished for being such a smart mouth and has to take care of the chickens by himself for the rest of his life. If her parents can dream, why can’t she?
It’s a lazy Saturday and most of Crystal’s friends are on a 4-H club trip, so her mom asked Crystal to keep an eye on Cole. Crystal wandered into town trying to make sure her brother wasn’t fucking things up for anyone. She checked out Mrs. Wagner’s bakery knowing Cole likes to beg for free doughnuts. Mrs. Wagner saw Cole and his friend Anthony heading to the nearby pond. Then she makes a totally not creepy compliment about how Crystal’s red hair is so dark and beautiful, she should be a model because she’s so tall and thin.
Crystal doesn’t have to search for long because she spots Cole and Anthony hiding by the bushes near the home of Goshen Falls’ resident weirdo, Vanessa. She’s a strange, mysterious, beautiful woman who dresses all in black down to her lipstick and fingernail polish. Oh, and she keeps a black cat too. No one knows anything about who Vanessa is or where she came from, but Crystal’s heard frightening stories about what she’s done to other people. Even though kids are afraid of Vanessa they still play tricks on her. Which is what it seems Cole and Anthony are doing.
Because they’re morons.
[Wing: PRETTY MUCH. Here’s this creepy woman who allegedly does terrible things to people LET’S PLAY MEAN TRICKS ON HER BECAUSE THAT’S A GREAT PLAN. KIDS. Come the fuck on.]
Cole and Anthony are watching Franny Jowett and Jeremy Garth pour water into Vanessa’s mailbox because they got dared. Crystal can’t believe how mean that is, but Cole thinks it’s hilarious since the two are clearly gonna get caught. Anthony tries to talk Franny and Jeremy out of it by telling everyone about Tommy Pottridge. Tommy was caught sneaking up to Vanessa’s house one day, so she cast a spell on him. She made his head expand like a balloon before it turned all soft and squishy, like a sponge. That’s why Tommy’s family moved away, because of his horrible spongy head.
[Wing: That is one of Stine’s more disturbing images, to be honest.]
Annoyed at Franny and Jeremy’s supposed cowardice, Cole decides to fill the mailbox himself. However, Jeremy grabs the pitcher back and decides to do it alongside Franny, whom Crystal now apparently believes are brother and sister despite the different last names and not mentioning it earlier when she described them. Divorced parents or editing mistake? It’s Goosebumps, so…
Crystal still thinks this is mean, but Cole finds it all too funny as the kids hurry to wreck Vanessa’s mailbox. Just as Jeremy’s emptied his water pitcher, Vanessa bursts out of the house and scares them away. However, instead of focusing on Franny and Jeremy, Vanessa’s venomous gaze is aimed at Crystal, Cole and Anthony. Crystal is scared and hopes Vanessa doesn’t believe they were the ones who did it, quickly leaving along with her brother and Anthony.
The three run all the way back to Crystal’s house when Cole and Anthony start laughing because that was SO funny. Crystal still feels scared; the look Vanessa gave them was enough to shatter glass because apparently she didn’t see Franny and Jeremy. She points out to Cole and Anthony how Vanessa may do something awful to them for the mailbox, and now Anthony’s scared. Anthony proposes snitching on Franny and Jeremy to avoid a squishy head, but Crystal’s worried Vanessa won’t stop in the middle of her hexing long enough to listen.
When trying to get a pitcher of iced tea from the fridge, Crystal accidentally slams the door on her hand. Cole jumps at the chance to joke about this being Vanessa’s doing. Anthony joins in, declaring Crystal’s hand is gonna swell up like a cantaloupe. She’ll have a hand to match Tommy Pottridge’s head! Legit feeling a bit scared, Crystal asks the boys what’ll happen if Vanessa really DOES have powers? What if she DID make Crystal slam the door on her hand? Cole finds that a fucking hoot and declares Crystal is now a sponge head. After dinner she can soak the dishes with her face!
Crystal’s parents overhear the laughing, see Crystal cooling her hand off in the freezer, and want to know what the 411 is, yo. The minute Cole mentions Vanessa, Mrs. Mom demands to know if the kids were bothering that woman. The boys keep mum to Mom (Geddit Wing :D) about the mailbox prank while Crystal asks what her folks were doing all this time. Seems the parents were readjusting the fence for their vegetable garden because the chickens keep getting into it. Crystal mutters they wouldn’t have these problems if they got rid of those dumb mothercluckers. But guess what! It’s Cole’s turn to roundup the chickens that wandered too far from the pen! Cole whines it’s supposed to be Crystal’s turn before she points out she fed them earlier even though it was HIS turn to do so.
That night Crystal has trouble sleeping, trying to convince herself Vanessa’s not gonna do anything to them. What’s not helping is Crystal keeps seeing a cat-shaped shadow appear on her bedroom wall. She tries closing the curtains to solve that problem, when Vanessa appears in her room!
Only no it’s Cole dressed in a black veil trying to scare her because he’s an idiot.
Cole leaves after laughing some more at Crystal while Crystal is left dreading how he’s gonna tell everyone the next day and humiliate her. When she finally does fall asleep, Crystal has a nightmare that feels like it came out of an 80s Dario Argento movie.
And when I finally drifted off, I dreamed about a cat.
An ugly black cat with bright yellow eyes and a bloodred tongue.
The cat hunched in an all-white room. But then the room became my room.
In the dream, the cat moved to the end of my bed. It opened its mouth wide. The bright red tongue darted over its yellow teeth
And then the cat began to screech.
A sharp, painful sound — like fingernails dragged over a chalkboard.
I couldn’t stand the sound. In the dream, I saw myself cover my ears with both hands.
But the shrill screeching grew even louder.
The cat floated closer. Closer. Opened its jaws wide, as if to swallow me.
Crystal wakes up and heads down to breakfast. Mrs. Mom notices Crystal doesn’t look well and asks what’s bothering her. Crystal avoids mentioning Cole’s prank but does mention her nightmare. Not helped is that today Crystal has basketball practice and she finally has a chance to show the coach she can be a starter. Mom figures that’s what’s bothering Crystal before asking when she’ll be buying a birthday present for her best friend Lucy-Ann. It’s her lucky thirteenth, you know. Crystal figures she’ll go shopping the next day when Cole staggers into the room with horrible red marks on his face, claiming Vanessa did this!
Why yes it IS another prank, how’d you guess?
Crystal and Mom panic before Crystal notices the red smears on Cole’s hands and realizes it’s marker. She’s furious and Mom tells Cole to stop bothering Crystal, to which Cole genuinely asks why he should stop.
[Wing: Because you’re being a shit to your sister who has asked you to stop. Also, now your mother has, too. Damn, kid.]
At the very least, after that latest prank Crystal forced herself not to think about Vanessa for the entire day.
Too bad it didn’t last for long.
The next day Crystal was on her way to the minimart to search for a CD for Lucy-Ann’s birthday. Cole and Anthony are pretty much tagging along for no particular reason. She tries to get rid of them, but then the boys start playing a game that annoys Crystal a lot. Cole takes an egg from his pocket and starts tossing it back and forth with Anthony. The idea is both boys have to keep moving to see how far they can throw the egg back and forth, but the game never lasts long. Predictably the boys don’t heed Crystal’s warning and Anthony ends up with egg running down his head. Enraged, Anthony tackles Cole in the middle of another laughing fit, screaming Cole did it on purpose. While Anthony starts smearing egg all over Cole, Cole tries to fight him off. Crystal attempts to get between the boys so she can pull Anthony off her brother before they hurt each other.
None of them saw Vanessa leaving the grocery store until it was too late.
The three kids stumbled into Vanessa and she dropped her grocery bags on the ground. Seeing the big mess, Anthony broke free from Crystal and ran away, shouting “Sorry!” to Vanessa as he escaped. Crystal’s shocked by the mess, but is even more startled when she looks up to see Vanessa’s face contorted in a mask of pure rage. Crystal instinctively takes a step back, overcome with a chilling sensation as if Vanessa’s stabbed her in the chest with an icicle. She shields Cole when Vanessa points at them and says [INSERT TITLE HERE].
Having no clue what this is supposed to mean, but terrified by the smile on Vanessa’s face, the siblings run all the way back to their house. Safe inside the kitchen, as Crystal catches her breath she realizes they should’ve stayed and helped Vanessa with her groceries. Cole exclaims Vanessa’s nuts, but Crystal points out they DID knock her bags out of her hands. There’s no sympathy to be shared from Cole, who figures Vanessa wanted to destroy them or something because she’s a nut. Crystal wants to know what [INSERT TITLE HERE] meant and Cole starts to mimic Vanessa. His sister isn’t amused and fears something bad’s going to happen.
At dinner, Crystal avoids mentioning what happened on her aborted shopping trip and has no fun talking about how she screwed up at basketball practice. Because of how tired she’d been the night before, Crystal messed up an easy move and looked like a total klutz. The parents try to be sympathetic as Cole incessantly tries to get their attention about an imaginary sprained thumb. The conversation moves along to the kids talking about choir practice the next afternoon, as Cole brags HE gets two solos because he is teh shit.
Choir practice is led by Mrs. Mellon, a small music teacher whose feathery hair and all gray ensemble makes her resemble a sparrow. Crystal says Mellon calls the kids her “Canaries.”
YES WE GET IT ABOUT THE BIRDS THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT BIRDS MCBIRDS THE BOOK’S ALL ABOUT BIRDS GOD STINE DID YOU HAVE TIPPI HEDREN GHOSTWRITE THIS?????
The kids are singing at the junior high graduation the following month. Aside from Crystal and Cole there’s Crystal’s friend Lucy-Ann, who’s a soprano. Oh there’s also Larry, a boy who apparently has a crush on Lucy-Ann because he always insults her. Can YOU spot the future sex offender, everyone?
After a brief kerfuffle with a spider scaring Lucy-Ann, Mrs. Mellon gets the kids to focus on rehearsing “Beautiful Ohio.” The kids do pretty well… until Cole’s solo. On cue, instead of singing the actual words, Cole starts clucking. Everyone stops and stares at Cole, who’s just as confused as the rest. Mrs. Mellon advises him to use actual WORDS, but every time Cole attempts to sing he keeps on cluckin’. Like how it says on the bumper stickers.
Surprisingly, only Larry’s laughing while everyone else is confused and rather annoyed. Mrs. Mellon orders Cole to stop joking but too bad because Cole’s performance is one giant cluck-up.
Crystal’s in no mood to speak to Cole after school. While she’s wrapping Lucy-Ann’s present, Cole tries to explain it wasn’t his fault. Crystal naturally doesn’t believe him. She accuses him of ruining the rehearsal, and adds how everyone is sick of his terrible jokes. Cole pleads with Crystal to understand he wasn’t doing it on purpose and he thinks it was because of Vanessa, but now his past pranks are biting him in the ass. Crystal scoffs and doesn’t want to hear a repeat of his old material, saying he had no right to ruin everyone’s hard work and demands he get out of her sight. Dejected, Cole doesn’t argue and heads back to his room as Crystal seethes.
That night, Crystal tries to sleep when she hears a soft clucking sound. At first she thinks one of the chickens escaped, until she realizes the sound is coming from Cole’s bedroom. Crystal’s well and truly disturbed at how far her brother’s trying to take this supposed joke.
Lucy-Ann’s birthday arrived and Crystal was really excited because Lucy-Ann’s birthday parties are always fun. Seems Lucy-Ann has a really big family, with SEVEN siblings, and her parents are both super successful farmers and really nice people. Their house always feels very welcoming with the smell of pies baking and chickens roasting.
Lucy-Ann went out of her way to invite their entire class, and there are a lot of younger cousins running around the big farmhouse. Crystal meets up and gives her a CD, Lucy-Ann being super grateful because her parents got her a Discman (Because it was the 90s, you see!) but they didn’t buy her any CDs. They briefly talk about Cole’s behavior the other day while Crystal has no idea how to explain what her brother’s problem is. The party was a real blast as Crystal hung out with her friends, they sang, dance and ate…
I really had fun – until birthday cake time.
And then the fun turned to horror.
That’s one way to end a chapter.
Lucy-Ann’s family usually gets two birthday cakes for these parties because no one can ever agree on one flavor, one store bought and one homemade. They also prepared a blueberry pie the size of a deluxe pizza. While everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” Crystal noticed Lucy-Ann was staring at her for some reason. That was when Crystal realized she was hearing a weird metallic noise, and it was coming from her! Her lips are making a clicking noise, and they feel very dried and cracked.
Crystal has trouble saying “Looks good,” and eating suddenly proves to be a nightmare when she starts choking on the cake. She can’t chew or swallow her food! Clearing her throat, Crystal asks if Lucy-Ann has any chap stick, or “Chpsttttcck.” Crystal hurries upstairs to the bathroom, glad no one else is around, and is horrified by what she sees in the mirror.
Bright red, my lips poked out from my face.
I ran a finger across them. Both lips were bumpy. Hard and bumpy.
I tapped my lips with my finger. It made a soft click.
My lips were hard. They didn’t feel like skin anymore! They felt as hard as fingernails!
Crystal thinks for a moment she’s grown some sort of crust over her lips and tries to pick it off, but she almost yanks her lips off instead. She runs her tongue over her hardened lips, and she scratches her tongue. There’s nothing underneath the “Crust.” Crystal fails to convince herself this is some sort of allergic reaction, looking at her reflection in disgust and not wanting anyone to see her like this. She leaves the party without saying goodbye, watching from a distance as Lucy-Ann enjoys her birthday cake. Crystal wonders if she’ll ever eat cake again, or if she’ll have to pull worms out of the ground with her beak.
Running back to her house in a state of panic, Crystal sees her family’s car isn’t in the driveway and runs into Cole. Cole’s not feeling too good, telling Crystal their parents aren’t home as he removes a towel from his neck to show her HIS “Allergic reaction.”
Cole has white and brown feathers growing out of his neck and shoulders!
When Cole starts to cluck again, Crystal gets so mad she briefly thinks he’s STILL trying to prank her. Cole cries he can’t stop clucking, so Crystal reaches up and yanks out one of the feathers. Assuming it was glued on, Crystal’s horrified by the hole in her brother’s skin as he yelps in pain. She does it again to prove this is for real, he’s actually growing feathers out of his skin.
It takes a long time to remove the feathers because it hurts each and every time. Cole’s neck and shoulders are covered in small black holes. When Cole sees Crystal’s lips he can’t stop from exclaiming how nasty they look, so she pulls the last two feathers out especially hard.
Crystal tried applying cream to her lips and the two waited up for their parents, but Mr. and Mrs. Mom and Dad were out hella late so the siblings went to bed. The next day Crystal woke up to find feathers were growing out of her body too! White and brown feathers on her arms and shoulders, and her lips were as hard as bone. When she cried out, Crystal sounded like a clucking hen going “Goggle goggle goggle.” Cole entered her room looking just as feathery and miserable.
Immediately Crystal rips off the feathers no matter how much it hurts. When the siblings finish, Crystal notices that Cole’s lips are shifting too, and his hands are starting to look like chicken claws. Sister and brother have no choice but to admit Vanessa did this to them by saying [INSERT TITLE HERE]. They dash downstairs to find their parents, exclaiming Vanessa cursed them in-between random clucking. Mom’s in the kitchen when the kids scream they’re turning into chickens.
“That’s good news,” Mom replied calmly. “I need two more chickens for the barbecue this afternoon.”
No wait it turns out Mom’s on the phone and doesn’t even notice the kids. Crystal surveys the kitchen; Mom’s in the middle of preparing for some big barbecue dinner and the place is a mess. Vegetables, pots, pans, an entire tray filled with raw chicken parts. Again the kids try to get their mom’s attention, but she can’t even bother to look at them as she admonishes them for sleeping in late. As mom goes on about all the guests that will be arriving soon and the help she needs, Crystal almost vomits looking at the chicken meat.
Nearly every time Crystal and Cole tell their mom they need help, she cuts them off complaining about them missing choir practice and how Mrs. Mellon called asking what happened. Um, so you just didn’t try to wake them up or anything lady? Like you’re gonna complain about needing help, but it was too hard to get them out of their room? No of course not because if she’d gone into their rooms she’d have seen the feathers sooner and Stine couldn’t have that.
Mom blathers on about Mellon bringing some roasted chicken over to contribute to the dinner, since not everyone likes Mom’s spicy breasts. Seriously this woman is in her own fucking world, caring more about some stupid barbecue than the fact her kids are begging for help! STOP FOR A FUCKING MINUTE!
Crystal screams at her mom to listen to Cole’s clucking, to look at Crystal’s hard, bumpy lips. Mom FINALLY takes a moment to look at Crystal… and thinks she has chapped lips. YOUR DAUGHTER’S LIPS ARE PROTRUDING FROM HER FACE AND HAVE THE TEXTURE OF FINGERNAILS. Finally Mom tells the two to either stay out of her way while she prepares the food or they can go help their dad.
The kids figure their dad would be just as oblivious when Crystal suddenly remembers Anthony! He was there when they knocked Vanessa’s groceries down, what if she cursed him too? The kids think if their parents see all THREE kids have been cursed, they’d have no choice but to help. The kids hurry to Anthony’s house when they see the infamous Vanessa casually strolling across the street.
Cole is pretty terrified, and Crystal actually feels bad for him.
Cole’s head started bobbing up and down on his neck. Just like a chicken. He let out a frightened cluck.
My poor brother.
Crystal tries to get Vanessa’s attention when the witch stops and stares at them like she doesn’t know who they are. Cole can’t stop from clucking in anger, which Vanessa finds hilarious.
“BLUUUUCK BLUUUCK!” my brother clucked angrily.
That brought a smile to her black-lipsticked lips. She laughed, her dark eyes flashed.
She brushed back her straight black, hair. “Bluck bluck to you, too!” She called. “Chicken chicken!”
Wing keep this in mind for later.
The kids beg Vanessa to come back and help them, but she hurries down the street and out of sight without looking back.
Crystal and Cole find Anthony in his front yard, practicing with a golf putter. They ask him if anything weird’s happened to him in the last couple of days and it turns out yeah, some weird stuff HAS been happening to him. The siblings exclaim the same thing’s happened to them, which confuses Anthony since when have they been into golf?
Yeah see up until this weekend Anthony was REALLY bad at putting, but now he’s really good. He can putt his nuts off! Cole starts sputtering about the feathers and the clucking, confusing Anthony further and thinking this is one of Cole’s jokes. Crystal pulls Cole away since obviously, Vanessa hadn’t cursed Anthony. Dejected, the two head home as Anthony asks them to save him some roasted chicken. *shudder*
The kids see a number of cars pulled up to their house, so they sneak in and remove the feathers that have grown between now and when they left earlier. It still hurts every time, but now Crystal has to use tweezers to remove the smaller ones and the ingrown feathers. OW. She can smell the barbecue chicken from outside and feels like she’s gonna puke, putting her hand over her mouth/beak.
Going downstairs, Crystal hopes no one else notices her transformation and crosses her fingers for good luck. Said fingers have become bony and scraggly, with pointed nails. Her oh-so-loving mother tells Crystal to get outside and play hostess until she’s done cooking… and then looks out the window and cannot BELIEVE what Cole is doing.
Outside, Crystal watches her brother get into the chicken pen and starts crawling on his hands and knees. Crystal’s heart sinks as she realizes Cole is pecking at the seeds on the ground. Mom is outraged wondering what the fuck is wrong with her son, and tells Crystal to make him stop embarrassing her-I MEAN stop embarrassing himself in front of company.
SERIOUSLY WHY CAN’T YOU JUST STOP HIM YOURSELF IF HE’S SUCH AN EYESORE YOU KNOW HE DOESN’T LISTEN TO CRYSTAL.
Crystal hurries outside to stop Cole only, only…
M-maybe she’ll have just a nibble.
The next day Crystal is stewing in total anguish all throughout school, thinking of how she couldn’t control herself in the pen. The guests all thought it was some joke, but their parents were furious. Crystal and Cole couldn’t bring themselves to eat their mom’s roasted chicken even though they supposedly love it. Before they left for school, the siblings had to remove more feathers and hid them so their parents wouldn’t find out just yet. They’d probably assume it was another joke.
Crystal uses all her willpower to stop from scratching at the new feathers she knows are beginning to grow, and hopes no one calls on her because it’s getting harder to avoid clucking. She can’t even get excited for the basketball game after classes. Coach Clay says Crystal can start at forward since the usual girl’s out sick, and is really happy to give Crystal this chance not knowing how Crystal fears she might humiliate herself again. Crystal tries to look on the bright side and hopes this really IS going to be her big chance-yeah right anyway almost immediately things go bad because Crystal can’t stop bobbing her head up and down as she runs. Now Crystal’s tucking her hands under her armpits like wings. Her teammates and Coach Clay are all angry as Crystal tries to pry her arms loose when she sees feathers on her legs. The minute the ref blows the whistle Crystal runs out of the gym as fast as she can.
Okay there’s more of the parents being neglectful morons who leave later that night for some parent’s association thing. Cole’s totally traumatized and asks Crystal what they can do to stop this. Another needless cliffhanger ending and Crystal decides they need to go to Vanessa’s house and get her to end this nightmare. It takes longer than you’d think because their legs are getting stiff and it’s hard to bend their knees. On the way the kids pass the bakery and Crystal can smell the donuts Mrs. Wagner’s baking for tomorrow. Crystal almost starts crying wondering if she’ll spend the rest of her life eating seeds off the ground.
By the time they get to Vanessa’s place, the kids’ hands have become hard and bony. The house is completely dark and Cole thinks Vanessa might have gone out, but Crystal asks what kind of night life could you have in Goshen fucking Falls? Crystal says they’ll apologize for what happened, plead for Vanessa’s forgiveness and beg her to change them back. If that doesn’t work, Crystal’s not sure what they’ll do.
PECK HER FUCKING EYES OUT, AND THEN PECK YOUR GODDAMN PARENTS TO DEATH.
Vanessa doesn’t answer the door so it looks like she really isn’t home, but Crystal takes a peek inside one of the dark windows. The siblings spy a dark living room and a couple of stacks of books on a table. Crystal wonders if those might be magic books since they certainly look old. Even though Vanessa’s not here, Crystal’s grown desperate enough she’s willing to sneak into the house to steal one of the books and change themselves back, Vanessa be damned. Cole thinks this is dumb, but Crystal reminds him they don’t have any other options.
Apparently despite Vanessa getting pranked all the time she doesn’t bother to lock her front door. The inside of the house has a very spicy aroma of coffee and pepper, and for a moment Crystal panics when she hears a shriek and Cole thinks it’s Vanessa. Crystal suddenly remembers that black cat Vanessa owns, which takes a swipe at Cole with its claws.
Searching in the dark, Crystal picks up one book and tries to make out the title. She tells Cole not to turn on a light in case Vanessa is nearby and realizes someone’s in her house. Cole doesn’t listen, and the light illuminates a huge oil painting Vanessa has of herself hanging on the wall. Crystal forgets about that when she reads the title of the book in her hands, “CHICKEN CHICKEN CHICKEN.” Surely this MUST be the spell book.
The kids hurry out of the house when they hear a banging sound. Well they move as fast as they can considering how stiff their legs have become. Crystal can make out a tuft of feathers growing on the back of Cole’s neck. They avoid the cat on their way out and return home. Too bad because Crystal really should’ve read the book BEFORE they left. It’s not a spell book.
Crystal I know you and your brother are not in the best state of mind but seriously YOU COULD’VE AT LEAST LOOKED AT THE FIRST PAGE BEFORE YOU LEFT.
The siblings are both disgusted at the recipes inside the book, Crystal’s revulsion intensifying as more feathers sprout from her skin. The transformation’s speeding up at this point because Crystal feels her teeth sliding back into her gums as her beak extends, making it harder to talk. Oh but don’t worry Wing, it’s much worse than that.
I stopped in shock when I glimpsed my reflection in the dresser mirror.
My eyes! My head!
My eyes had changed into small, round circles. And the shape of my head was changing, too. rowing narrow. My eyes were far apart now, moving to the sides of my head.
Crystal screams in agony as Cole grabs her and tells her to hurry, Crystal noticing the backs of their hands are covered in feathers. The two retreat to Vanessa’s place, which is even more tiresome because of how hard it is to see with their eyes facing different directions.
Back in Vanessa’s house, the cat doesn’t seem surprised the kids have returned but is just as unhappy to see them again. Crystal puts the recipe book down but becomes enamored by a bowl of sunflower seeds. Cole tells her to stop as he begins flipping through the other books, confirming they are indeed magic. But there are hundreds and hundreds of spells. Crystal manages to locate a section in one book that’s FILLED with chicken-related spells. She finds “Human to Chicken” but there’s no “Chicken to Human.” Crystal thinks they should do the “Human to Chicken” spell in reverse when Cole starts clucking and flapping his arms as he runs around in a circle.
The one upside is this spell doesn’t require ingredients. Just some rapidly spoken words, clucking, and a simple dance. Oh and they have to say [INSERT TITLE HERE] to finish it. Crystal follows the steps in reverse, and she suddenly feels a tingling sensation. She starts to itch like crazy as the feathers stand up. Crystal gets dizzy and Cole sounds miles away, but once the confusion clears the kids are in for a big, and I mean BIG, shock.
We weren’t chickens anymore. We were BIIIIIG chickens!
The botched spell made the kids huge. The cat’s actually scared of how large they’ve become. It’s amazing they still have room to move around. The book’s the size of a CD case in Crystal’s mighty chicken hand. And her scraggly chicken fingers make it nearly impossible to flip through the pages until she finds the right page again. Performing the spell again does shrink the kids down…
Into a pair of tiny, chirping chicks.
Look at this point I’m really getting bored with how mean this book’s becoming by the page. The kids are chicks, they can only cheep, and they’re both frightened. Crystal’s getting angry wondering what gave Vanessa the right to put them through all this. That’s when the cat returns and starts to play with Crystal and Cole. It grabs Crystal in its paws and starts to squeeze her until she suffocates, but stops at the last second and puts Crystal IN ITS MOUTH.
The cat doesn’t bite or swallow Crystal though. It spits her out, and Crystal realizes the cat is toying with its food. Cole’s frantically chirping in terror as the cat bats Crystal around, and that’s when their problems get worse as Vanessa finally comes home and however awful this story was is a fraction of what this monster’s like.
Vanessa’s utterly amused as she swoops up Crystal and Cole in her hands. She knows who they are and gushes over what darling chickies they make. It’s simply too bad she had to teach them a lesson, but Vanessa says they left her no choice. The kids HAD to pay for their horrible, nasty, rotten, behavior. Crystal desperately tries to communicate with Vanessa, but no words come out. Vanessa wonders if she should send them home, but who knows if they’d make it back to their house alive? There are so many dangerous things outside that like to prey on little birdies.
Crystal sees from Vanessa’s palm that there’s a typewriter on a nearby table. She jumps out of Vanessa’s hand and lands on the table, hopping towards the typewriter and pressing down on the keys. Crystal starts by spelling Vanessa’s name, and it takes her a long time to type out an apology for spilling those groceries. Vanessa watches Crystal type the letter by hopping from key to key, coldly telling Crystal it’s too late and there’s nothing she can do.
Crystal tries to spell “Please” but can’t get the last “E” in when she runs out of strength. Vanessa mockingly says she likes the way Crystal spells the word and goes into her big rant about why she’s torturing these two. It’s all about manners, you see. Manners are very important, especially to Vanessa. She believes manners are essential to young people. There’s nothing she detests more than youngsters with bad manners. Crystal and Cole didn’t apologize when they crashed into Vanessa so she had to punish them. Apparently Anthony’s half assed “Sorry” while he ran away was enough to satisfy Vanessa. Crystal can’t believe this, and thinks if they’d known what a manners freak this woman is they would’ve apologize sooner.
Vanessa goes on, gesturing to her bookshelves which she exclaims are FILLED with books about manners and good etiquette. They are her LIFE. Oh if only they had apologized sooner, but now Vanessa can’t change them back even if she wanted to. It’s so sad, really.
As a very, very, VERY last ditch effort, Crystal starts typing up a new letter. She goes the route of THANKING Vanessa for trying to teach them better manners and for explaining why she did this, capping it off with “YOURS TRULY, CRYSTAL AND COLE.”
Vanessa fucking loses it because no one, NO ONE, has EVER written her a thank you note. It’s the peak of politeness! The mastery of manners! The epitome of etiquette!
AND THEN AFTER VANESSA SAID SHE COULDN’T TURN THE KIDS BACK EVEN IF SHE WANTED, IT TAKES A FEW WORDS AND THEY’RE HUMAN AGAIN. INSTEAD OF HIGHTAILING IT OUT OF THERE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE CRYSTAL AND COLE STAY WHEN VANESSA OFFERS THEM SODA, COLE LETS OUT A BIG BELCH AND CRYSTAL LAUGHS AT IT SO VANESSA SAYS “PIG PIG” AND THAT’S IT THE BOOK’S OVER
I’m sorry I just wanted this over. I know I’m probably exaggerating but seriously Vanessa is a fucking monster and not the good kind. She’s not entertaining or funny at all like many of the other villains, and she totally believes she’s in the right the whole time. But here’s the thing.
Crystal in no way deserved what happened to her because all she tried to do was stop Cole and Anthony from killing each other. If anything, Vanessa had more a right to curse the boys, especially since they’d just previously helped with a prank at her house. Crystal bumped into Vanessa by accident because she was trying to prevent her brother and their friend from hurting each other, and for THAT she gets to experience her teeth getting sucked back into her jaw?!
Vanessa’s also a fucking hypocrite. She at no point understands the kids didn’t immediately help her because they were scared of the way she was looking at them. AND she cursed them before they said anything. Had she done it while they were running away, that might’ve been different. But no, Crystal and Cole didn’t help her or apologize because she’d already put the curse on them and scared them off. And she laughs at them out on the street and sadistically trolls them, how’s THAT for good manners?
I can understand why so many people hate this book because it’s page after page of the curse getting more awful as Crystal and Cole suffer while everyone around them is too fucking stupid to notice what’s wrong. Crystal’s not even as obnoxious or whiny as Evan from the “Monster Blood” books, so yeah she really did not deserve this. It’s no fun when a character is forced to suffer when they truly haven’t done anything wrong, and then the bad guy gets away with it.
This is why everyone thinks “Full Moon Fever” is a rehash of this book, with the differences being the transformation the kids go through is immediate and the book focuses on the torture they go through AFTER it’s finished instead of during.
Believe it or not I really did have a sequel idea that ties this into “Full Moon Fever.” It’s called “Halloween Moon” and it connects the two by making Vanessa the daughter of Mrs. Eakins as my way to explain how Vanessa turned out to be such a nightmare. She keeps Crystal and Cole as her pet pigs while Mrs. Eakins has Robbie and Alesha trapped in jars.
Anyway I’m glad this is done and I can finally put this book away again.
Though somehow I still say “Revenge R Us” is worse due to the interpretation the main character is a transgender girl which is why her 17 year old brother humiliates her by trying to rip her pants off in front of her friends and threatens to blackmail her with photos of her sleeping in her underwear. THAT IS LITERALLY WHAT HAPPENS.
I’m glad you mentioned Revenge R Us early on in this, that’s one I point to in terms of being so much worse than this one.
As for this one, I feel like it’s trying to be be some sort of parody of moral stories instead of actually trying to teach one but boy does it not work as that.
A villain whose motivation is manners could have worked if she were fully seen as a villain, and was called out for it, instead of what we got.
I’ll give Stine credit for making a concept this silly into somewhat effective body horror but the circumstances and overall story make that hard to appreciate.
There are worse books in terms of structure and cohesion (at least this doesn’t feel like a first draft, like Go Eat Worms) but it’s certainly up/down there.
That said, Goshen Falls is charming and was wasted on this story.
It’s basically “Thinner” but without the racism and Richard Bachman
Funny you should mention that: Stine himself admitted to stealing the plot of Thinner for the book in an interview, though I am not sure which one.
That is very interesting!
Maybe it was this one, or one of his Fear Street stories that never made it.
I like your review of this story; it shows both the strengths and weaknesses.
Troy Steele’s one over at Blogger Beware is just him whining over how books made before Harry Potter were bad and immoral. And you wonder why people think American kids (and most adults) are functionally illiterate.
Personally, I didn’t find a problem with this story when I was a kid. I came to see two kids get cursed into turning into chickens and that’s what I got. A lot could have been done with it to make it more disturbing (heck, they could have moved this to either Goosebumps 2000, The Nightmare Room, or Ghosts of Fear Street), but I’m going to chalk it up to Scholastic having editors or censors telling R.L. Stine or one of his ghostwriters to make it more kid-friendly.
[…] fuck, guess I found the seeds that blossomed into “Chicken Chicken.” [Wing: Why. […]
>Though somehow I still say “Revenge R Us” is worse due to the interpretation the main character is a transgender girl which is why her 17 year old brother humiliates her by trying to rip her pants off in front of her friends and threatens to blackmail her with photos of her sleeping in her underwear. THAT IS LITERALLY WHAT HAPPENS.
Well, yeah, if it was written today, you could do that (I’m amazed this hasn’t been done. I mean, if you’re going to show the evils of discrimination and humiliation based on your race, sexuality, or gender identity, why not go the Jordan Peele route and make it a horror story? LGBTQ+ people like horror, too). But, considering the time it was written, I think the reason why there’s a girl named Wade in “Revenge R Us” is because of bad in-story parents or a mistake on the writer’s end (either R.L. Stine or a ghostwriter).