Outside, there was a universal look of disbelief; the hens were crying. Many were staring at Sonny, and it made him uncomfortable; he wandered off to the side of the crowd and sat on the grass. A few of the chickens wailed in their grief. The image of Winston’s shattered and lifeless form was carved into Sonny’s mind. He closed his eyes and forced himself to view it—he had to come to terms with what had happened. The communal mourning hushed and Sonny opened his eyes.
Ivan stood in the doorway of the shed. A cold and uncompromising aura emanated from him as he scanned the shell-shocked brood. Watching from the side, Sonny saw the stark contrast between the chickens: Ivan looked enormous, commanding; the rest of the birds, huddled in sorrowful uncertainty, looked pathetic. Ivan stepped forward and addressed them.
“Winston is dead. A fox killed him.”
Fear rendered most of the chickens speechless, but a few just looked confused, and asked among themselves how a fox could have killed their chief—wasn’t he invincible?
“A fox killed him,” repeated Ivan. “Too bad. Winston always warned us about foxes. He should have heeded his own advice.” The crowd parted as Ivan strutted through. “It was lucky for him a fox got him,” he boomed. “Today is the day I was going to challenge the old chief, and I tell you he wouldn’t have gotten off so easily with me. Winston was old and weak, and I would have punished him! It’s time for a new chief rooster. It’s my turn to be chief.” He looked at the faces around him. “If anyone wants to challenge me, you know the tradition—you have until the new moon.”
Not a peep sounded. The eyes of every rooster in the crowd, which until then had been fixed with great interest upon Ivan, dispersed in all directions to examine the ground, the farmhouse, the stables, or distant clouds.
Hurried flapping and footsteps came from up the hill, and Alfred rushed out from around the shed. His eyes darted about at the strange scene; his breathing was frantic. He waddled around gesturing and mouthing at the chickens, but it was some time before he could produce any words. “It’s… is it… what did… wait. Winston—where is he?”
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