(Arcadia, Indiana) The barn yard is silent tonight. After a day of carefree sex, pecking Blackie the Rabbit on the head for eating chicken feed, and scaring the children when they try to collect the eggs, Rusty the Rooster is dead.
Long considered the venerable dean of a cadre of free range cocks, he ruled the roost with an iron spur and the swagger of an overqualified pimp. In his career, having been responsible for the care and well being of twenty hens, he was known for his short temper and violent outburst against challengers large, small, and of any species. He wrangled snakes, ate rats, and came face to face with coyotes all the while walking away to live another day.
Of intimidating size and broad girth, Rusty could be seen day-in and day-out in his suit of feathers the color of a dark moonless night. So dark in fact, his feathers shone with the rainbow sheen of a crude oil slick. His muscular chest puffed out in pride for his flock he wandered the barnyard with a sure footed masculinity not seen since his predecessor Red.
He held many positions on the hen house floor before winning the coq au vin coin toss in which Rhode Island Red lost his head and was steeped in red wine. Now top cock, Rusty took his promotion seriously until middle life when he became an egg addict of such voraciousness he was banned from the hen house in desperate need of a spin dry. Eventually gaining control of his addiction he was let back into the hen house but it was widely known and no secret that he had occasional relapses.
His reckless lifestyle took its toll. Loosing toes to frost bite after a long winters night out and part of his comb in an early morning scuffle with a racoon he eased into old age believing he was still in charge. He could be heard making light of his nick name, Starting Gun, knowing he was shooting blanks and was smart enough to turn over his duties to a younger rooster without a life threatening scuffle of which he assuredly would loose. He was at peace with his place in life.
Whether it be at sunrise, or in the middle of the night after an owl sighting, his cock-a-doodle-do carried far and wide and was sure to wake anyone within range when they least wanted to be. It was on these days everyone wished he didn’t do his job so well.
He went as peacefully as any chicken in the throws of a heart attack could. Rusty the Rooster is survived by Boots the Hen, the only hen this side of Cicero Creek to wear feather chaps, and a whole host of other nameless conquests. Services will be held at the ass crack of dawn in a private ceremony where he will be buried out by the old apple tree alongside his friend and long time companion Mr. Blue fin, the beta fish.
Rusty the Rooster is at rest and so shall we.
There is never a good time for bad news, but there it is, right in front of me, plain as a shadow on a sunny day.
She breaks the news the minute she is in the car. I’m trying to get her in her car seat and the buckle hasn’t even clicked when she blurts it out:
“Dad, I think I want to leave home.”
I move back, still leaning over her. I try to get her freckled little face, her blue eyes, in focus. I don’t have my glasses on. The back of the front seat keeps me from moving back far enough, so I have to squint to see just how serious this statement, this bomb, is.
No hint of a smile; if she isn’t serious, she should win an Oscar.
“Ohhh-kay,” I say.
I walk around the car and wave to Mrs. Davis, Vivian’s kindergarten teacher. I drop my chin, looking down at the pavement and smile. She cast the hook and I’m going to run with it. It’s a good opportunity to connect. Lynnie is at preschool for a couple more hours, I’ve made Vivian’s favorite, chicken noodle, for lunch, and this plan to leave home will make for good conversation over soup and crackers.
It started out as an ordinary day. We all woke up at the usual time; no crying, no wrong-side-of-the-bed. They ate their pancakes, had their juice, and were dressed and ready to go to the bus stop without any of my deep-voiced “matching socks, girls” or you need your gym shoes today”–not even the requisite “if we miss the bus…” threat. I don’t need any of those stern words, meant to teach them that a sense of urgency is sometimes necessary, because for once they got ready before they started playing. Actually, I guess it started as an extraordinary day.
Now, on the way home from school, Vivian and I ride in silence. I’m trying to figure out where this “leaving home” thing is coming from, and she, I am sure, is using the silence as a negotiating tool, to bring her opponent to the table first. It is a short drive home, and I decide not to bring it up again. It’s up to Vivian.
As I open the screen door to the house, I get a good whiff of the chicken stock on the stove. I mention that I made chicken-noodle soup for lunch and ask if she would like a bowl.
“Oh, not now, Daddy–I need to pack,” she says.
“It’s hot and yummy, and you’re going to need your strength,” I reply. Besides, you have plenty of time.”
She consents to lunch. Continue reading