Weeks went by and life on the farm continued as usual. Well, almost. On the chickens’ side of the farm there had been a few strange developments. For one, Alfred the goose had been hanging around behind the henhouse, talking to some of the chickens. For years Alfred had lived alone on the other side of the pond, having almost no interaction with other animals. He was considered by most to be harmless, just a crazy old hermit. Only Esther, the old brown hen, found his presence at the henhouse unsettling. Esther had been around long enough to have known Alfred before his life of seclusion, and seemed to view his return as a bad omen. Another oddity was the mention of a mysterious rooster named Leon. One of the chicks was overheard talking about him. How the chick came to know his name nobody could say, for it had not been spoken in a long time. The chick did not seem to know much about the rooster other than his name, but that was enough to spark a great deal of interest among the adult chickens, as each one tried to guess what this could mean. The most disturbing development though was the owl. Rumours began circulating of an owl having taken up residence on the farm. The rumours varied and grew wildly, but the most reasonable ones had it living in Winston’s shed, and hunting at night for chicks that strayed outside the henhouse. It was unlikely, but still enough to bring a mood of uneasiness to the chicken population. Even Ivan looked nervous at the mention of an owl. Only Winston and Sonny seemed to regard the idea as nonsense.
While Sonny gave no credit to rumours of the owl (the most popular of which now had the mighty beast standing three feet tall, with a scarred face and red eyes), he did take an interest in the other mysterious birds, Alfred and Leon. Sonny asked Winston one morning about these two, and Winston abruptly told him that Leon had long ago been killed by a fox, while Alfred was once a bright young goose who had now gone mad. With the chief rooster obviously unwilling to share any more information on the subject, Sonny went to a different, though almost as knowledgeable source: his own sister, Rosie. She was about two years older than Sonny, and was one of the best laying hens on the farm. Laying eggs was only her day job though; her dream was to become a documentary filmmaker. Her good friend the sheepdog (who, thanks to his many hours of watching Mr McGinley’s television through the living room window, had come to know quite a lot about human ideas and behavior) had once told Rosie about documentaries, and she was instantly infatuated with the idea. The sheepdog thought Rosie would be interested in the art form because she was a gifted and passionate storyteller. Actually, Rosie was interested because she liked watching others when they didn’t know they were being watched. Anyway, whether because of her love of a good story, or simply because she was a bit of a pervert, Rosie had become a depository of gossip, rumours, scandals, conspiracies and even true stories involving nearly every animal on the farm. Sonny went out to the shady patch of grass behind the stables, where Rosie was hunting grasshoppers. She was more than happy to answer his questions.
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