What Wakes the Rooster (Part 14)

Alfred’s honking grew louder, and up the farmhouse, Mr McGinley yelled something from the kitchen window.

“The old rooster…” continued Alfred. “He’s gone. I saw it coming, I told them. I told you. They don’t listen. Why didn’t you listen? I warned you! And now what?” The goose’s voice grew threatening. “I said it, and you didn’t care! The old rooster won’t crow now! Ha-ha! He’s dead!” Alfred noticed Sonny sitting off by himself. The goose began laughing and shrieking. “Ha-ha! Wah-ha-ha!” His honking was hysterical.

A sound like thunder cracked and boomed, and echoed across the farm, causing the chickens to collectively deposit a layer of fertiliser on the grass where they stood. Up at the farmhouse, Mr McGinley stood outside the door with his shotgun in one hand while his other hand fished in his pocket for a new cartridge. The farmer was a patient man, but Alfred’s incessant honking had been too much for him that morning. Alfred turned and ran, flapping his wings and laughing. He took off in low flight behind the shed, gliding over the pond. He flapped and rose above the hill on the north end of the farm, over the trees beyond the fence, and then disappeared from view.

Seeing the goose had flown, Mr McGinley abandoned his hunt and leaned his shotgun against the farmhouse wall. He walked down toward the shed and the chickens dispersed, all except Ivan and Sonny. The little grey rooster watched from a distance as Ivan stepped up to the shed door and glanced in again at Winston. Ivan turned and made his way back to the chicken yard, staring at the ground in thought as he walked. Sonny too stood up to leave. As he did, Mr McGinley arrived at the shed, followed by the two tomcats. Mr McGinley stopped at the shed entrance and peered into the darkness. After a moment he stood bolt upright and mumbled a few shocked words. He took off his beanie and scratched his head, and then entered the shed. Sonny walked toward the yard without looking back; the cats watched him go past. When Mr McGinley stepped out of the shed, he was carrying Winston’s body by the feet. He held it up to examine it. In the light of day the dead rooster looked even more horrific. Mr McGinley shook his head, and then carried Winston’s body away, around to the far side of the farmhouse.

The grieving process of fowls is much shorter than that of humans—which is advantageous for creatures more commonly encountering death—so while the rest of the morning was grave and silent around the chicken yard, by afternoon normality had largely returned. Winston was not forgotten, but there were other things to think about. The chicks had been informed of and comforted over the chief rooster’s death (though they were spared the grizzly details); Ivan paraded around the yard, stamping his feet, puffing out his chest and flapping his wings; and the hens gathered as usual to share opinions and gossip, of which today there were plenty. Most talk centred on the circumstances of Winston’s death, the threat of a fox, and who would succeed Winston as chief. Rosie, who was usually the most talkative hen, remained quiet during these discussions.

Three days passed, and the chickens adjusted to life without Winston. Though there was no chief rooster to occupy the shed, Ivan, for now, had taken over the morning crowing duties. His crow was mighty, reminiscent of a young Winston, but he had woken late two mornings and missed the dawn; rising so early was not as easy as it seemed. The chickens enjoyed their taste of Ivan’s leadership: he was more lenient than Winston and let the birds do for the most part what they pleased. He lacked the care for the chicks that Winston displayed, and had no interest in how many eggs were being laid, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone except Sonny. Regardless of Sonny’s opinion, unless another rooster challenged and defeated Ivan before the new moon, it was Ivan who would be officially named the new chief. In line with tradition, a coronation ceremony would be held in the old shed.

 

© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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