By Michael Jordan
It was on the window sill, looking into the house, and it was crowing for all its worth.
He was reclining by the television set, watching the West Indies outdo themselves in staging one of their dramatic, comical, don’t-give-a damn collapses, after raising his hopes. Beside him was a plate of steaming pigeon peas cook-up, with fried banga and a little achar on the side, while Darcel, his wife, stood nearby, with an ice-filled glass and a jug of mauby.
He was enjoying all of that—except for the cricket—when the rooster suddenly appeared at the window sill and started its ruckus.
Darcel sucked her teeth. She put the jug down and waved her hands furiously at the rooster. It gave one short, defiant crow before flying off the sill, and landing back into the yard.
The rooster itself was a mystery. It had come into Maxwell’s yard just at the beginning of November. It didn’t seem to belong to any of the neighbours.
He had done his best to chase it out of the yard, but it would be back the next day. In the end, he just let it be. But for some reason, Darcel hated the rooster and the rooster also seemed to dislike her. But Maxwell liked to think that the rooster had brought him luck, because it was around the same time that it had appeared that things had improved with him and Darcel.
It had been a bad year between them, and it had seemed that he could do nothing right. For some reason, she had suddenly developed a temper. One night, he had come home bone-tired to find that she hadn’t cooked. After a brief row, he had gone back on the road to a nearby Chinese shop.
He knew that part of her anger was over her December party. Darcel had developed the habit of holding a party just before Christmas.
While Christmas sent her into a frenzy of cleaning and cooking, and most of all, spending, since their children had married and left the home, he had become cynical, almost bitter about the so-called festive season.
He had explained to her that he was pushing fifty. He wanted to retire. He had his eyes on a plot of land he wanted to buy to cultivate a few crops, set up a small cottage and poultry.
Last year, he had dug his heels in about how much they should spend on Christmas, on what he considered a frivolous exercise. The row had spilled over to the new year.
But amazingly, here she was, with this plate of really, really good cook-up, and the mauby.
The other day, it had been pepper-pot and bread. The previous day, roti and puri. She had even remembered his birthday, and had baked him a cake and bought wine. He had not even bothered to question the sudden change, so relieved was he to have peace in the home. Romance had been rekindled.
Now she poured more mauby into his glass. “You okay, baby?”
He sipped at the mauby, and nodded.
She bent to give him a kiss, but that was when they both heard a loud flapping of wings. The rooster was back on the verandah and crowing for all it was worth.
This time, he saw that it was staring straight at them. Again, Maxwell was struck by the feeling that the old rooster was trying to convey something.
But it didn’t stay there long, because Darcel had picked up a newspaper, rolled it up and was advancing to the window. Again, the rooster gave a short crow, directly in her face, before disappearing.
Maxwell gave an involuntary burst of laughter. It wasn’t often that anyone upstaged Darcel. Darcel…upstaged by a rooster. “Damn rooster,” she muttered, before shutting the window.
But by nightfall, her mood was better…She had put some old music on. He was in bed thinking of his dream-cottage, the poultry he would raise. But he forgot all that when she entered the room.
The lights were off, but he could see her clearly enough, thanks to light from the full moon streaming through the bedroom window. The fragrance of some unknown, exotic perfume came to him. She had done something to her hair…and when had she bought that black lingerie?
She was smiling in a way that brought back memories of when they were young. Still smiling, she lifted the mosquito net, shifted over to him….kissed him…
“COOOK-A –ROOK –A ROOOOOO!”
He released her, and they both turned to the window. The rooster was staring in at them, staring at Maxwell, really. Somehow balancing on the sill outside, flapping its wings for all it was worth.
As they watched, it crowed again.
“COOOK-A – ROOK–A ROOOOOOO!”
Darcel scrambled out of the bed. She rushed to the window, a pillow raised like a weapon. But the rooster was gone…
She glared at the window, shoulders hunched, pillow still upraised. Then she sucked her teeth, turned away, and slid back into bed.
She was smiling again, touching him, but for Maxwell, the mood was gone. He was thinking of the rooster, remembering its eyes, seemingly wide in alarm, staring at him.
And he was thinking: but roosters don’t crow at night…and when had Darcel started being so attentive to him? It had started in November, as it had every November in recent years, when she began planning her Christmas parties, that was when she would turn on the feminine charm, the nice dishes, the lingerie, the love-making…fattening him up like a Christmas rooster…and after that, his pocket would be empty, and his plans to conserve, and buy that piece of land put aside…for another year…and another year…and another…
“Maxwell…” she whispered, snuggling up to him.
“I buying that piece of land in January,” he said. “You will have to put off that Christmas party this year.”
He felt her stiffen in bed. Then she turned her back to him and the window.
Maxwell wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard that rooster’s crow, like stifled laughter, somewhere outside…
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