Sonny drifted into a trance. He felt lost, as if he had been caught up in a whirlwind and was being tossed about the sky, not knowing what direction he was facing or if his feet would ever touch the ground again. He seemed to have to fight to stay upright, wrestling until exhaustion. After struggling a while he discovered it was easier to lie back and let the wind take him. Hours passed. Gradually the whirlwind subsided and Sonny felt he had returned to earth. He opened his eyes. It was dark, and quiet.
The clouds had gone from the sky, and the calming presence of dusk had settled over the farm. He stood up and ruffled his feathers, pecked at an unfortunate grasshopper that landed in front of him, and then walked back up to the chicken yard. He took the back way, up the hill behind the henhouse. It wasn’t until he was almost at the top that he saw Alfred, alone and staring up at the first stars. It was unusual for the goose to be there so late. Sonny slowed down and tread softer, and took a wide arc around him. He could hear him whispering, “What if the old rooster didn’t crow?”
He made it past Alfred, and then slipped around the side of the henhouse silent and unnoticed. The hens were gathered in the yard for their evening chat; it was more subdued and serious than usual. Sonny heard Winston’s name mentioned, Ivan’s too. At the henhouse door the little grey rooster turned and looked out over the yard. In the dim glow cast by the farmhouse porch light, the chickens were almost silhouettes: the hens clucking away; the young roosters nearby, listening to Nelson’s latest poem, an ode to corn; and Ivan with his chest puffed out, strutting up and down the dirt path for all to see. In the henhouse the chicks slept, and Sonny listened to their tiny peeps, talking in their sleep, as he passed them on the way to his own bed in the back corner. He nestled in and was soon asleep.
When he awoke the next morning, it was already light outside. He jumped up, ran past the sleeping chickens and out into the yard; a couple of chicks were scratching in the grass. Sonny looked up at the farmhouse and saw the warm red reflection of early light in the upper window. Eastward the top of the sun peeked above the trees. For the first time in Sonny’s life dawn had come without a crow. He ran down the dirt path to the big white fencepost. Winston wasn’t there. Sonny looked up by the apple tree and saw Ivan was also absent. He waited a while, pacing back and forth; the light shone brighter until the sky was perfect blue, but there was no sign of any rooster but himself. A loud, raspy sort of clucking sounded from up the hill. It was disturbing. It was the chicken equivalent of a bloodcurdling scream.
© 2018 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED