Ivan peered into the shed. “Well, let’s have a look then.”
“No, wait,” said Sonny. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”
Ivan stepped in. “I don’t care for surprises.”
Sonny followed him. “Well, remember, I’ve only just started. There’s more to do.”
“Damn right there’s more to do,” said Ivan. He looked around the dim room, and then glared at Sonny. “You’ve been working all night, and all you managed was spreading a few leaves about? The place looks exactly as it did before.”
“No, Ivan,” said Sonny, “the planning stage took a long time. You have to understand—”
“No, you have to understand,” said Ivan. “You assured me this shed would be fit for a king. Everyone is expecting it. I’m expecting it.” He stood over Sonny and glowered down at him. “‘Spectacular’ I believe was the word you used.”
Sonny backed up a step. “Ivan, I said I would do it, and I will. Here, look—see how I’ve neatened the straw, and I’ve scratched most of the sawdust into the corner. I’ll get more leaves to hang on the shelves, and then—”
“What’s that?” Ivan tilted his head and looked at the corner of the workbench. “What’s hanging there?”
“That’s one of Mr McGinley’s shirts,” said Sonny. “You see—”
“How did you get Mr McGinley’s shirt?” said Ivan, peering at Sonny.
“I took it from the clothesline.”
“You stole a shirt from the clothesline in the middle of the night, and hung it on the workbench?”
Ivan laughed. “You’ve got style, Sonny.” He slapped the little grey rooster on the back. “But why a shirt?”
“I’m, uh, going to stain it purple with mulberries—I thought it would look regal.”
“Regal,” mused Ivan. “Yes, I like that. Get another one—for the other side.”
Ivan looked around once more. “Well, get some sleep, Sonny. You have a lot of work to do. It’s going to be spectacular.”
The next few days saw Sonny working from sunup until evening, preparing the shed.
Coronation Day arrived. Perched upon the big red fencepost at half an hour past dawn, Ivan the rooster stretched his head high and crowed. One long crow woke what farm animals were still sleeping, such was the power of his call. All manner of creatures stirred. The gentle clucks of mother hens gave permission to their chicks to go scratching around in the chicken yard. One by one, eager little birds popped their heads out of the entrance, then raced down the wooden ramp before running off to explore. Behind the henhouse, a mother duck led her growing brood down the hill. In a happy group they waddled, all the way down to the pond. The mother duck seamlessly glided onto the water, followed by her children, all now expert swimmers. Only one young duck remained at the water’s edge, staring at an unfamiliar object hidden in the reeds. Around behind the farmhouse, far up by the western fence, the daily chaos of the pigsty kicked into gear, as twelve greedy pigs fought for leftover food scraps in the mud. In the south paddocks, the sheep and cows strolled out for a little early morning grazing, while over toward the front gate, in the bright sunshine, the Clydesdale and her foal emerged from the stable. Up at the farmhouse, the two tomcats sat and watched the sun shining above the trees in the east, their tails curling and flicking at their sides. The sheepdog yawned as he stretched his legs in preparation for another day’s work. Finally, Mr McGinley stepped out of the front door and put on his gumboots. He took a sip from his coffee mug, gave the sheepdog a scratch behind the ears, and then headed around the side of the house.
As Ivan strutted back up the hill to the chicken yard, the horses came to the stable fence to watch him pass. Even the carpet snake emerged from the stables to see. The snake had a bulge in its belly from a recent meal (reminding the chickens why they never went near the stables). Then all the chickens came out to greet Ivan. The hens stood in a line, their feathers preened, and bowed, while the chicks scurried about, full of excitement, shouting, “Here Comes the chief!”
The roosters stood in a small group and waited for Ivan to address them. He looked them over, and then said, “Today a new chief must be named. Does anyone dare challenge me?”
Each rooster lowered his eyes and shook his head. Ivan nodded and smiled to himself. He looked toward the shed, where Sonny was just making his way back to the yard. The little grey rooster raced down the hill and stood before Ivan. “It’s ready,” said Sonny.
Ivan looked up; the sky was clear and pale, and without a breath of wind. “A perfect day,” said Ivan. “Let the coronation begin.”
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