The Little Grey Rooster (Part 20)

Pandemonium erupted. Wild clucks flew back and forth around the henhouse, all shocked and outraged and incoherent. Even Ivan, after snapping himself free from instinctive fright, was unable to bring order to the room; it was much like parliament question time. In the midst of the mayhem, no one noticed Rosie leave the henhouse. Sonny went to the young chick and tried to speak with her, but he couldn’t hear a thing over the tumult.

“Be quiet!” Sonny yelled. “Will you please be quiet? I must speak with her!”

He looked to Ivan for help, but couldn’t get his attention. Sonny’s frustration grew until finally he stamped his foot and crowed as loud as he could. It was like a trumpet blast in that enclosed space, and every chicken stopped silent and turned their astonished eyes to the little grey rooster.

“I need to speak,” said Sonny.

All eyes turned to Ivan. He nodded.

“Go on, Sonny,” he said.

Sonny faced the young chick. He crouched down to look her in the eye.

“You say you saw the owl?”

She nodded.

“What exactly did you see?”

The chickens leaned in to hear the answer. A floorboard creaked.

“Well,” said the young chick, “when I looked in the shed it was very dark, but high up, near the ceiling, I could see the owl.”

Whispers gained volume, but Ivan hushed them with a threatening cough.

“What did the owl look like?” asked Sonny.

“Um… well, it was dark, so I didn’t see it everything—just its face. It was looking at me.” The chick shivered. “I saw its eyes—horrible, glowing red eyes!”

The chickens burst into panic again.

Sonny slipped out through the hysterical crowd and went outside. He ruffled his feathers then muttered to himself as he walked over to the shed; he could hear the rest of the chickens still clucking in fear. When he reached the shed he stood at the door in surprise: Rosie and the sheepdog were inside. They didn’t notice him at first, but he cleared his throat and they turned around.

“Sonny!” said Rosie. “What are you doing here?”

Sonny stepped inside and examined the fallen plank of wood and paint tins. “I’ve come to see about this owl,” he said.

Rosie and the sheepdog exchanged nervous glances. “Uh, yes,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing too. The owl.”

Sonny walked around and looked up at the shelves on the wall. “There is no owl,” he said.

The sheepdog lowered his head and whimpered; his good nature could not bear guilt. Rosie looked at Sonny in surprise. “You knew?” she asked.

“Of course I knew. I don’t know why everybody hasn’t figured it out.”

“Well, don’t tell them,” said Rosie. “Please, Sonny. We meant no harm. We’ll sort this out and it will be fine. No one needs to know.”

Sonny stopped and stared up at the corner of the room. Upon the highest shelf, from the shadow between a paint tin and a pile of old dry rags, a tiny red circle stared back at him. It disappeared, and then returned a moment later. As Sonny watched, the red dot blinked at him at regular intervals. “What is that?” he whispered.



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