With some effort Sonny helped the chief to his feet. Winston leaned upon him and the two limped along together. Glancing over his shoulder, Sonny spied through the fog a shadowy figure pacing back and forth up by the apple tree. “Ivan is watching,” he said. For the first time, he saw fear in the old rooster’s face.
“We need to move,” said Winston. “I need to get to my shed.”
“Walk as tall as you can,” said Sonny. “Don’t let Ivan see you leaning on me. Quickly, he is following us.”
The two roosters climbed the hill back up toward the henhouse: Winston, struggling to stay upright, and Sonny employing every ounce of strength to uphold him. It was a delicate balancing act trying to keep the pace bearable for the both of them, all the while staying ahead of Ivan. If he were to see Winston’s weakness he could overtake him, and challenge him in front of the other chickens; the old rooster would stand no chance in his current state. Sonny had to get Winston to the safety of his shed before Ivan figured out what was going on. As they passed the stables Sonny quickened the pace. It was a strain for Winston to keep up, but now that they were no longer hidden by the fog they had to make a run for it. Sonny looked over his shoulder again, but Ivan was not there.
When Winston and Sonny reached the shed, the old rooster collapsed across the threshold. Sonny had to practically drag Winston to his bed, into which he slumped, looking like a deflated football. He was barely animate. The dash up the hill in his weakened state had done damage. His breathing was slow and pained, and a sickly gurgle accompanied each inhalation. For now though, he was safe. Even in his fragile condition, no other chicken would dare enter Winston’s shed. After a few minutes the old rooster realised Sonny was still there with him, and he heaved himself upright. Sonny tried to help him but Winston insisted it was unnecessary. “I’m all right,” he said. “The weather… affected me… that’s all… Early winter… I will rest today.” He summoned his remaining strength and looked fiercely at Sonny. “I will be as strong as ever by morning.”
“Of course,” said Sonny. For the first time in his life he did not believe Winston.
“Yes… I have a job to do… the chickens must be looked after.”
“That’s right, Winston. The chickens must be looked after.”
The old rooster closed his eyes and nodded. In a moment he was asleep. Sonny viewed him lying there: a poor, haggard imitation of a once mighty fowl. Sonny quietly left the shed. It is not easy to witness the decline of a hero, even for a chicken.
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