Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday Tales --The Magic Rooster

It's that time again. Break's over. It's a new year filled with possibilities, and that means we need stories.
For my part here's another installment of Tuesday Tales.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The Magic Rooster

In a small cold hovel in the far end of the town a young girl and her mother huddled together for warmth.
They stared at the stove hoping that by some magic food would appear in the pots or the oven.
"If the oven were on, we'd be warm," sighed the child.
"It would waste the gas for nothing," said the mother. "But you are right."
The curled up as best they could against the cold. "If we move around at least our bodies will make us warm. I will sweep the floor."
"It's clean, mama. And what about your back? Doesn't it hurt?"
"It can be cleaner. You could take this pot to the well. Bring us back some water. We will have hot water, if nothing else."
So the girl, who was about nine and strong for her age, drew some water from the well at the other end of town. She walked back hardly daring to raise a foot too high lest it jar her hand as she set it down.
A rooster with a torn comb crossed in front of her. She noticed the comb first, then the bird, and then she saw it dragged a foot along the cobblestones.
It should be easy to catch, she thought. It's old, but mama could boil it for soup. It could feed us for days.
She set the pot down carefully on the street and ran after the rooster. It moved faster than expected, leading her down streets and through alleys.
 When the rooster stopped the girl gasped for breath. It was after sunset and nothing around her was familiar.
She should have long since been home. She knew her mama worried.
Where did you go, rooster? I just saw you."
She turned all the way around twice before she saw him high on a wall beside her.
"How brave you are, child, to follow me persistently to this strange part of town. What do you want?"
"You," cried the child, jumping up to grab him.
He crowed a bit and flapped his wings, but he only flew as far as the stone street in front of her.
She lunged forward and got her hands on his wings. She clutched him to her.
"Now I've got you."
"You don't know where you are. How will you get home?"
"I came down this alley. I know which way I turned to get here. I will go back that way."
And the girl walked. She made several turns and stops to think about where she may have been. It grew darker and colder, but she kept on going.
"There." She was back in the street where it started. The pot was where she'd left it, but it was bent and lying on its side.
It was too dark to go back to the well and the pot too damaged to carry much.
"I'll just go home. My mama will be mad about the pot, but when she sees you, it'll be all right."
The rooster, who had been quiet since he was caught, spoke up.
"Do you know many roosters who can talk?"

She thought about it as she walked."I don't know many roosters at all. Don't all of you talk?"
"I'm the only one. I'm a magic rooster. If you let me live I will help you. You must only save me from the pot."
Her stomach grumbled. She'd been thinking how tasty her mama's soup would be and how pleased her mama would be with her despite the bent cooking pot.
"I've been so worried, child. What is this? Ah, an old rooster. He'll make a fine soup."
The woman took the rooster roughly in one arm then noticed the damaged pot. "You ruined it. What will we cook in? You are a careless child. I should have gone myself never mind my back." The woman winced at the mention of it.
"I'm sorry."
"Sorry doesn't hold water." The woman took it from the child and set it on the counter. She crushed the rooster to her as she examined the pot.
"Maybe I wouldn't have noticed the rooster. It's really only a dent, I suppose. The smith can hammer it."
She eyed the rooster. "Maybe he'll take a bowl of soup for payment."
"Mama, we can't. He's a special rooster. He talks. I think he's magic."
"So you talk, rooster? Let's hear something."
The bird opened his beak, but only a weak squawk came out.
"He must be shy. Go to bed, Avena. You'll be warm there. This fellow's only magic is in the meal I'll make from him."
"He said if I saved him he'd help us."
"It’s the imagination of a hungry child, that's all. Crawl into bed. Go talk to the mice."
"Say something, Mr. Rooster, before mama wrings your neck."
But the rooster only looked at her with a blank expression.
"We can't cook him. The pot is bent."
"I'll tie him up for the night. When the pot is fixed he's going in. Enjoy your last night on earth, rooster. I'm sorry I have nothing to feed you."
He blinked slowly at her as she took off her apron. He stood still as she wrapped it around him and tied the strings around a chair leg.

Avena crawled into bed and pulled up the covers against the cold. She tried to think about pleasant things like picnics when her father was alive, or playing with the other children in the summertime, but her mind went back to the rooster.
Why didn't he say anything anymore? She couldn't have imagined it.
She turned on her side, and then on her back and she even tried to sleep on her stomach so she wouldn't hear the growling, but it was no use. Her mind was on the talking rooster.

In the small hours of the night when even the mice had gone away to their beds she got up and went to the kitchen. She found the rooster leaning on his good leg with his head tucked under a wing.
His eyes flew open as she crouched down beside him.
"Why didn't you say anything to my mama?"
"I did, child. Didn't you hear me?"
"Only a squawk."
"You're mama is a strong and sensible woman. She has no time for what she can't prove. If you've never seen magic, then you won't believe it."
"I couldn't hear you either."
"She has a powerful influence on you because she is your mother. She didn't expect me to talk and that expectation  clouded you."
"What can I do to save you?"
"Child, you won me a reprieve. I'll keep my side of the bargain. When it's light out you'll see. Now go to sleep. I have to be up at first light to let everyone know the sun is up. I'm an old rooster. I need my sleep."
And so the girl crawled back into bed. Her mind had quieted after talking to the rooster and she fell asleep.

The rooster was good to his word, announcing the sunrise to the house and anyone else who could hear him.
The mother came out to the kitchen a short time later.
"Good morning, rooster. Welcome to your last day. I trust you slept well?"
The rooster stayed quiet and did not even look at her.
"Bah. Magic."
As she drew back the thin curtain over the stove she noticed the pot. It was clean and straight and filled with water.
"Someone has been in my house. I suppose someone saw Avena last night as she came home. We have kind neighbours. But why would they sneak in? Do they think I would be embarrassed?"
She lit the stove and covered the burner with the pot of water. "It's enough for a hot drink and a good start on the stock."
"Who are you talking to mama, the rooster?"
"Don't be foolish child. I talk to myself."
"It is your time, rooster. Make your peace after your kind." And the woman laughed at the notion of a rooster doing any such thing.
"Mama, you're not going to kill it."
"How else do we eat it, child?"
At that moment the child noticed the pot of water on the stove.
"Mama, where did that come from?"
She looked at the rooster who gave her a wink and the hint of a smile.
"A neighbour has done us a kindness. I want to find out who did it so I can thank him."
She bent down to untie the rooster. "Avena, hold him."
The girl clasped the rooster to her. "Show your magic. Please."
A knock on the door drew her mother's attention.
"Missus, do you need some firewood? I've split more'n I need."
"We have none now, but I've nothing to pay you. I'll say no. But, if were to come back in a few hours I could offer you a bowl of soup for some wood."
"No need, missus. It's a gift from me. You looked after my poor wife when she was so sick and I had to go away working. Please, it's what I can do."
"Was it you who fixed my bent pot?"
"I don't know anything about a pot, missus. Good-bye.
She took the firewood and stacked it by the small fireplace. They'd have their first good fire since the cold hit. There was enough for a few days if she was careful.
"Now to the work," she said clapping her hands together. 

The girl stood alone in the kitchen. The rooster was nowhere to be seen.
"Have you let him go, child? What is wrong with you? That's our dinner."
"Mama, don't you see? The pot. The firewood. That's the rooster's doing. I know it."
"Silly child. If it's still in the house get him. If he's gone out the door, woe to you."
"He wriggled out of my arms, mama. I'm sorry. I didn't see him go out the door. He's still hiding."
They searched up and down and around the house and even in the cupboards, but the rooster was nowhere to be seen.
They heard the sound of a claw scraping against wood. They looked into the darkest corner at the top of the highest cupboard and found their missing guest.
"Ha. I've got you now," said the mother pulling over a chair to stand on.
She balanced on the tips of her toes and stretched her arms as far as she could until she heard a crunching noise.
She twisted back and forth, smiling. "My back. It feels looser." And she stretched even farther now.
"I'll get you, bird."
The rooster scampered to the other end of the cupboard in spite of his dragging foot. The woman moved her chair and tried to catch him, but he ran out of her reach.
"Mama, look. The stove."
The pot was boiling. But instead of clear bubbling water it was thick and cloudy.
The woman got down off the chair and stuck a spoon in it.
"It's porridge. Impossible."
The rooster on the cupboard looked down its beak at her.
"I don't believe it."
As she said it the cloudiness cleared.
"It can't be."
And the pot grew clearer.
"Bah." She threw down the spoon. "I'm so hungry I am imagining food."
The boiling stopped. Clear water sat still in the pot.
"Now it makes sense." And she climbed on the chair and went after the rooster again.
Avena stuck the spoon in the pot without looking at it and said, "I believe it. I know it's got porridge."
And when she looked the water was cloudy and thick again.
The woman looked in the pot and then at her daughter. And then she looked at the rooster on top of the cupboard. And then she looked back in the pot.
"Just believe it, mama. The magic rooster did it."
The woman reached down two bowls and two spoons and filled them with the porridge. Then she got out a smaller bowl and put a big spoonful of the porridge in it and set it on top of the cupboard for the rooster.
"I can't explain it and I won't try. Eat your porridge.  You too, rooster."

And so it was that the mother, the child, and the rooster lived together in the small hovel.
They always had enough to eat and they never wanted for a warm house thanks to the rooster.
They repaid him by giving him the run of the house and a place to live. They made a comfortable bed of hay for him in the far corner at the top of the cupboard. 
He slept soundly every night until it was time to announce the sunrise, and he lived to be a very old rooster.


solarity said...

Oh, that's nice. I really like the belief part.

Mary Anne in Kentucky

Leah J. Utas said...

Thank you, Mary Anne.

Bossy Betty said...

So good. I would really like you to come and tell me these tales as I am falling asleep. Is that too much to ask? I'll even let you tuck me in.

Leah J. Utas said...

Not at all, Betty. It'd be a pleasure.

messymimi said...

How i love stories that make me believe in magic!

Leah J. Utas said...

Thank you, Messymimi.

the Bag Lady said...

I love this one, cousin! And now I want a magic rooster.

Leah J. Utas said...

Aww, thanks Bag Lady.
Check the coop. You never know.