Chickens, being naturally pragmatic, and largely immune to the anxiety that infects mankind, rarely experience the feeling of relief. They don’t even have a word for it. But upon hearing the news of the owl’s non-existence—which was interpreted not so much as a rumour disproved as much as a glorious battle won—a wave of relief swept over the chicken population. Each feathered face radiated cheer, and every wrinkled foot stepped with a spring. The chicks danced, the hens sang; every bird roamed freely and unafraid. Even thoughts of a fox faded into insignificance.
Later, that afternoon, the chickens enjoyed their peaceful leisure in the yard. The sun was descending behind the farmhouse, bestowing gentle warmth; the breeze was mild and sweet, not yet with the chill of evening. The hens sat and talked in front of the henhouse while the chicks chased flies around the yard, even over the dirt path as far as the thick grass behind the stables. The roosters went about their usual vain pursuits, and Ivan, as was now his custom, marched up and down the path, puffing his chest and thumping his steps. Around the corner of the henhouse, Sonny and Rosie spoke privately.
“So you’re saying,” said Sonny, “if I look into the camera I’ll be able to see what happened the night Winston was killed?”
“I’ve told you,” said Rosie, “it’s unlikely, but there’s a chance the camera recorded it. But please, we’ve got to get it out of the shed. I’ll be in awful trouble if anyone finds out.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll wait for the opportunity tomorrow, and then I’ll sneak in and grab it. Now, you were saying the camera can see in the dark?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes. Ask the sheepdog about it—he knows more about it than I do. I think the red light helps it see.” Rosie looked at Sonny. “Do you think the camera saw the fox that killed Winston?”
“The fox?” He turned and looked at Ivan strutting about. “Huh. Sure, the fox.”
“And you’ll get the camera tomorrow?”
Oh, thank you Sonny.” Rosie smiled and relaxed. She pecked at a grasshopper. “You know, I feel the strangest thing today.” She pecked again. “Look at all these insects—I should eat around here every afternoon. Aren’t you going to eat, Sonny?”
Sonny stared out over the pond, his face compressed in thought.
“Huh? Oh, no, I’m not hungry.”
Rosie snapped up a ladybug. She gave Sonny a teasing grin.
“What is it?” he said.
Rosie scratched the ground and stretched her wings in forced nonchalance.
“Come on,” said Sonny. “Just say what you’re itching to tell me.”
Rosie leaned in. “You should hear what they’re all saying.”
Sonny scowled. “What are they saying?”
“All right, calm down.” Rosie leaned back. “They’re saying you killed the owl.”
Rosie smiled and nodded. “Everyone says you killed the owl.”
Sonny shook his head. “But there was no owl.”
Rosie looked puzzled. “I suppose,” she said. “But everyone was afraid of the owl, and now they’re not. It’s gone. You did that, Sonny. You killed the owl.”
“Rosie, you know there was never any owl. That little chick only saw the red light of the camera.”
But Rosie was in storytelling mode, and it was useless to try and get her to listen.
“You’re a hero, Sonny. No one’s saying it openly of course—who knows how Ivan would react? But suddenly you’ve got some respect.”
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