What Wakes the Rooster (Part 8)

Sonny woke to an unusual sound. It was Winston’s crow, but there was something wrong. Rather than the long, triumphant call Sonny had heard thundering through the air every morning of his life, this sound was no more than an impotent croak. The young rooster rose from his bed and observed that many of the chickens were still sleeping; they had not heard the wake-up call. He went over to the door of the henhouse and looked outside at the cold morning. Menacing, grey clouds filled the sky, casting darkness over the farm. Thick fog blanketed the lower yards, from the front gate right up to stables. In front of the henhouse a piercing wind blew back and forth, giving a low howl with each pass it made. Sonny fluttered down into the chicken yard and walked over to the dirt path that led down to the big red fencepost. He listened, but few animals had stirred. No light shone from the farmhouse windows. It was unnaturally quiet. Sonny saw the sheepdog up and stretching his legs, but he couldn’t see the cats. Maybe even they had not heard the old rooster’s feeble voice. A few heavy raindrops clunked onto the corrugated tin roof of the henhouse. Sonny looked up and watched the clouds rolling low overhead—they seemed almost close enough to fly up and touch. A gentle scratching sound came from the henhouse; perhaps some of the chicks were awake; Sonny turned to see. He froze. In the darkness underneath the henhouse a pair of glowing eyes watched him. They remained for a moment, and then vanished. Sonny blinked hard and then looked again to where he had seen the eyes, but they did not reappear. A second crow sounded and startled him. This crow was weak and strained, but louder and more effective than the first; the hens woke up this time.

Sonny began his walk down to the big red fencepost with urgency. The air was icy and thick as he entered the mist, and he could not see far in front of him. There was no sound but his hurried footsteps until he reached the bottom of the hill. As he turned off the dirt path and ran across to Winston’s fencepost, he could hear the old rooster wheezing. As Sonny arrived, Winston flapped down and landed heavily on the grass. Sonny was taken aback. Gone was the authoritative chief he knew, and before him lay a tired and uncertain bird struggling to stand up. Sonny ran to him. “Winston,” he said, “are you all right?”

Winston looked relieved to see his young friend. “Yes, I will be okay,” he said. “Help me up now, please Sonny.”

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 trees. “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. Ivan was not there.

 

© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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