“Winston didn’t want to talk about Leon?” said Rosie, “Well, I’m not surprised. It’s a frightening tale, the Ballad of Leon the Rooster.” Rosie stood proudly and cleared her throat. She took a deep breath and prepared to weave her storytelling magic.
“Just give me the abridged version,” interjected Sonny, just in time.
“Fine,” lied Rosie, ruffling her feathers. “Leon’s identity is no mystery. I remember him. Half the chickens alive today knew him. He is Ivan’s older brother.”
“Ivan has a brother?” Sonny was stunned.
“Oh yes,” assured Rosie. “He was even bigger than Ivan, though not particularly clever. Yes, a lot of us knew Leon. We’re just not supposed to mention him—Winton doesn’t like it.”
“Winston told me a fox ate Leon.”
“Ah, yes, the fox theory—that’s one possibility. But here’s where the mystery comes in—Winston never actually saw a fox take Leon. No one knows what became of him. He disappeared shortly after he fought Winston.”
“He challenged Winston?”
“Oh yes. I remember the fight, though I was young. They fought right there in the yard, just in front of the henhouse. Leon was strong—stronger than Winston—but he was too inexperienced. Winston was just a better fighter. In fact, Winston could see if Leon challenged him a second time he might not be able to defeat him, so he made sure he wouldn’t be able to fight again.”
“He kept attacking Leon even after he yielded. Winston broke Leon’s wing and crippled his foot. It was hideous. It wasn’t right for him to do that, but no one was game enough to say anything.”
“Well,” said Sonny defensively, “I’m sure Winston had his reasons. After all, he had to look after the chickens.”
Rosie was taken aback. “That’s exactly what Winston said.” She looked at Sonny curiously. “Anyway, everybody just accepted the result and forgot about it—except Ivan. Even though he was just a chick he never forgot. For a few days Leon remained with the chickens, and then he started wandering around the farm. He would come back at night to eat and sleep, and then go wandering again the next morning. Then one night he didn’t come back. No one saw him after that.”
“Well, if he was wandering around the farm at night, a fox probably did get him.”
“Maybe,” said Rosie sceptically. “But I only said that since the fight Leon has not been seen.” Sonny looked confused, to Rosie’s satisfaction. She paused, and then looked around for dramatic effect, though she knew there was no one within earshot. She leaned in close to Sonny. “There are some,” she whispered, “who think he is still alive, wandering the farm and plotting his revenge. They say sometimes at night you can hear him hobbling about under the henhouse, scavenging for food.”
Sonny gave a little shiver. “I’ve never heard him,” he said. “Well, what about the goose? What do you know about him?”
“That’s an interesting story,” said Rosie. “You know, Winston and Alfred were friends when they were younger. They used to spend a lot of time together. Then apparently, about the time Winston became chief rooster, Alfred went mad and went off to live alone.”
“What made him go mad?” asked Sonny.
“Well that’s the thing,” said Rosie. “The only ones old enough to remember are Winston and the old brown hen, and neither of them will say. I tell you what though—the old brown hen doesn’t like him being here. Have you heard the things he’s been saying? He really is mad. The old hen says Alfred was acting the same way just before Winston became chief. She doesn’t like it.”
“Have you talked to Alfred?” asked Sonny.
“Yes,” said Rosie. “You really must go see him. He’s a little strange, but so funny! I’ll come with you if you like.”
“Yes, I’d like that,” said Sonny.
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