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Happy New Year, Said the Rooster

by Luc Reid

The rooster took it philosophically. "I've always thought I had a spiritual calling," he joked to the ducks.

The mallard drake, a half-wild resident of the dome wall wetland, didn't think this was funny. "Why do you choose death when there is swimming and flying? Run away!"

The rooster cleared his throat with a delicate "ur-uhrt!" and the mallard was embarrassed to recollect that the rooster could neither swim nor fly. "Anyway," said the duck, "they won't kill you when they realize you're a Speaking Animal."

The rooster jerked his head back in that way chickens have when they want to be contrary. "If chopping off the head of a dumb rooster will bring luck to the farm, then chopping off the head of a Speaking Rooster should be much more luck. So I won't tell them."

The farm had been running a little short of luck. It was a serene and verdant little farm, five square kilometers under a bubble on an asteroid that drifted through the Jupiter Rim Mining Territories. Lately the miners had been doing badly, and the farm had been doing worse. No one had been able to afford eggs in almost four months. The bubble had grown a crack that crept further every week, and if they didn't get the funds to fly in engineers soon, it might break open entirely, leaving Farmer Hwang-Bernstein and his family to cower in their survival shelter and hope for an evacuation mission while the livestock drifted away into space, bug-eyed and frozen.

So the rooster said nothing when 8-year-old Verita Hwang-Bernstein strode out and grabbed him by his taloned feet.

"You're making a mistake!" the mallard quacked as she walked away, but Verita never talked to ducks, and the rooster didn't know whether the mallard meant him or the girl.

Dangling upside down, the stars wheeling above him, the rooster began to feel unsure, and his marble-sized heart beat double time. When Verita laid him out on the old stump and the rooster glimpsed the farmer striding out with the axe, he began crowing and screeching and jerking around for all he was worth.

There was a kind of thwack. All his fears, suddenly, left him.

When his feet touched the ground he ran, heedless, unthinking, unburdened. He couldn't see, nor hear, and he wasn't even sure the ground was beneath his feet. "Ah," the rooster thought. "So this is freedom."

He might, he thought, be running in circles on the stars themselves.


Happy New Year. I read Jeremiah's story first, so actually THIS is the story kicking off the new year, and another fine one. Great last line !

Posted by: Daniel | January 2, 2008 3:49 PM

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