What Wakes the Rooster (Part 23)

Long into the evening, clucks filled the henhouse as the chickens talked of Rocco and wondered what tales of adventure he would bring when he returned. Some wondered if he would return. Only two chickens had nothing to say about Rocco’s adventurous flight: Ivan, who had left the henhouse, grumbling to himself; and Sonny, who was behind the henhouse talking to Holly and two of her brothers.

Late at night, as Sonny walked back around the henhouse, he saw the silhouette of a rooster standing by Winston’s shed. He went closer and found it was Ivan, staring through the open door into the darkness. Sonny stepped up alongside him and pecked the ground. Ivan jumped up with a violent flap and spun around, baring his claws. “Sh**, Sonny!” he clucked, landing back on the ground. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Sorry Ivan,” said Sonny.

“It’s all right,” said Ivan, ruffling his feathers and standing up straight. He looked back at the shed door. “What are you doing outside at night?”

Sonny scratched the dirt. “It’s too noisy in the henhouse.”

“Yes, I know. Everyone’s talking about Rocco. I don’t get it. So, he flew a long way—what does that accomplish? I am a greater rooster than him. I rule the roost, I wake the farm.” Ivan flapped his wings and stamped his foot. “I am the chief rooster!”

“They’ll forget all about Rocco,” said Sonny, “after your coronation.”

Ivan smiled, peering into the shed. “Yes. Then I will be as feared and loved as Winston.”

“You could be greater.”

A moment of silence passed.

“Imagine vines hanging from the shelves in the shed,” continued Sonny. “Leaves decorating the old workbench. Corn and grain spread all over the floor. Seated in such splendour, you would be seen not as a chief, but a king.”

Another silence.

“I can prepare the shed for your coronation, Ivan. It will be glorious.”

Finally, Ivan looked down at the little grey rooster. “And what’s in it for you, Sonny?”

Sonny looked down. “I am only small,” he said. “Even the bigger hens are before me in the pecking order.”

“I told you, Sonny,” said Ivan. “It’s every chicken for himself.” He turned and looked at the shed. After a silent minute, Ivan clucked and stretched his wings. “Make the preparations for my coronation. If it is as glorious as you say, I will see that you eat before the hens.”

“Oh, thank you, Ivan—”

“But only for a few days. After that, you’re on your own.” Ivan turned and walked toward the henhouse.

“Yes, of course,” said Sonny. “Thank you. I will start right away. I’ll take care of everything. Your coronation will be spectacular.”

Sonny worked through the night. When the chickens woke up (a little after dawn; Ivan slept in again), two chicks roamed up the hill and found the little grey rooster slumped at the door of the shed. They told the hens, and soon a small crowd gathered to see what had happened. “Please,” said Sonny, “I’m all right. I haven’t slept, that’s all.”

A few of the hens attempted to stick their beaks through the doorway and look inside the shed.

“No!” said Sonny. “Don’t go in there.” The hens paused at the surprising force of his voice. “It isn’t ready yet,” he said. “It has to be perfect.”

“Get away from there,” commanded Ivan, coming up the hill. The hens obeyed and stepped back from the shed, lowering their eyes. “Until my coronation, no one goes in the shed but Sonny.” The hens nodded and slipped meekly away. Ivan came and stood over Sonny. “Have you been up all night?”

“Yes,” said Sonny, getting to his feet. “I want to make sure the shed is just right for your coronation.”



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