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They Come to Snuff the Rooster Santana

Short Story

By Steve B HowardPublished 2 years ago 12 min read
They Come to Snuff the Rooster Santana
Photo by Michael Anfang on Unsplash

This is the story of Santana the Rooster’s triumph. It is not the greatest story I could tell or the most dangerous. It is not the only time I have faced death in my life. Some of the old timers that I attended school with as a boy do not believe it ever took place. But my cousin Tito and I still remember it clearly. Maybe because it is an event that only our young minds could have conceived of, or maybe because it was our first time facing death together, whatever the reason this is how it happened.

We could see him pacing along the top rung of the wooden fence. His red neck feathers seemed to be soaked in blood. “Probably the blood of his victims,” I thought. Angelo Lopez had disappeared two weeks ago. He was last seen trying to retrieve a baseball from the chicken coup, and then he was just gone. Tito’s sister had her legs nearly torn off by this beast. It took a dozen small bandages to patch her up. My dog Victor nearly lost an eye trying to save my life from that vicious killer. We were only eight and nine, but we believed we were men. No one else in the village had the courage to destroy this brute, so it was up to us to kill this Devil bird.

By crawling on our bellies military style through the tall grass we had gotten within fifteen feet of the bastard. We hoped to get close enough for one fatal shot to his throat. Our green and black camouflage uniforms and face paint blended well with the early morning darkness. I was the spotter on this mission and Tito was the sniper, not because he was a better shot, we were equal, but it was his BB gun. He had traded an American tourist for an old piece of pottery he had found in the ruins near our village. I told him to ask them for cash, but they said they did not have any. Then I told him to get American Express from them. My Granddad told me American Express is everywhere, but they would not give that to Tito either. So he settled on the BB gun.

We stank like cow manure. It was Tito’s idea to rub it all over ourselves. He figured if the rooster caught our scent early he might go into a mad blood lust and attack. It made sense to me, but I wished it did not smell so bad. At least the mosquitoes avoided us. I was a little cold. A moist fog had risen off the pasture and soaked us through. I could see the willow tree next to the chicken coup swaying slightly in the breeze. The rustling branches and our beating hearts were the only sounds I heard.

He should have been roosting in the chicken coup that night, but he wasn’t which was strange. Fowl usually sleep when it is dark. It was almost like he was waiting for us. I tapped Tito on the shoulder and signaled five minutes until sunrise with my hands. Tito nodded his head. The distance concerned me a little. Fifteen feet was probably close enough, but Tito’s Daisy had a worn spring. We had been shooting the tops off of carrot heads at twenty feet earlier that week, but that had been under ideal conditions. That morning it was still nearly pitch black and a combat situation. My Granddad used to tell stories about the Great War, about fear and courage under fire. Tito and I understood then what Granddad meant when he talked about that one crystal clear moment when all your senses are primed for action.

The sun had just crested the top of the willow tree. We watched the rooster patrolling the fence top. I feared we might not have enough manure and maybe he would smell us. I touched Tito’s shoulder to calm him. He was a great shot, but a little trigger-happy. We had to wait until the rooster saw the sun and raised his head to crow. Only then would Tito get the kill shot in the throat. The smell of tension penetrated through the layer of pungent cow manure. Tito wiped the sweat from his brow and I unbuckled my boot knife, it’s dense weight felt secure in my hand.

The rooster made a slow adjustment on the fence with his feet and turned his head towards the sun. Red feathers rippled across his taunt neck muscles as he started to raise his head to crow. Tito was waiting to hear the first note of the monsters evil salute to the sun before he fired. We knew he would only get one shot. The Daisy was a single shooter and there was no way we could reload fast enough for another try. The rooster extended his neck fully and his legs pushed his body to its full height, but he did not crow.

“Oh no his left eye is staring right at us. My God he sees us,” I realized.

“ Retreat,” I screamed to Tito.

I was on my feet and running before Tito. He was a great shot, but I was a faster runner. I clutched the boot knife tightly as I ran. My soggy clothes weighed me down. Then I heard Tito screaming.

He was still on the ground and the rooster was flapping towards him. I could see the terrible ripping claws extending from the rooster’s feet. He was crowing and hissing towards Tito’s exposed head. I dove into the rooster’s line of flight and struck him hard with the butt of my boot knife. The rooster spun in the air away from my knife and slashed at my face.

I hit the ground hard and the wind was knocked out of me. Tall green grass blocked my vision in all directions. I was afraid to rise up because I feared the rooster would find me vulnerable. “He’ll smell my fear through the manure for sure,” I thought. I breathed deeply to regain my wind. A heavy wing shaped shadow crossed in front of my eyes. I felt a dense weight land on my back, and stinging metallic claws kneading into my shoulder blades. A slow rhythmic pecking against the back of my neck paralyzed me with fear. I felt his feet shift quickly over my back and rip more flesh away, strutting before he made the kill.

Then I heard the familiar cocking of Tito’s old Daisy air rifle. I had assumed Tito was already dead. One shot and the monsters gone. I felt his weight slide off my back and heard him thud to the ground. I sat up into a kneeling position and scanned for the rooster. I found him lying to my right. I checked his body for an exit wound but did not find one; in fact the rooster wasn’t even bleeding. Except for a small section of ruffled feathers near his right eye there were no signs of injury to the bird. Up close he did not seem so huge; maybe eight pounds I guessed. His face looked peaceful with his black eyes closed. His left claw still gripped a shredded piece of my torn fatigues. His wings were folded on his back like he was asleep. Tito stood next to me and looked at the dead rooster.

“Let’s bag him and get back to town. There will be celebrating today.” Tito said.

“Ok, but I should carry him back to town?”

“I’m the one who shot him dead.”

“Only after I saved your life.”

“Yes, but then I saved you too. He would have ripped your back open and eaten your heart,” Tito whined.

“We will both carry him.”

I lifted the rooster by his neck and dumped him into the brown paper grocery bag. Tito grabbed one side and I grabbed the other. We had to walk close to each other to keep the bag from ripping. The sun had risen now and we can see the dirt trail winding through the old walnut orchard and tall grass back to the village. It was awkward carrying the bag because I had to match Tito step for step and he was taller than I was, but I was little stronger. The orchard had died several years before we were born, so all that was left were the barren husks of the dead branches and tree trunks. The uneven ground made it tough for me to keep up with Tito.

At nine he was my older cousin, but I did not really see him that way because we were in the same grade. Tito was pulling on the bag trying to get me to go faster. I held back slightly. Just because he was a year older did not mean he could boss me around.

“Come on you are slowing me down. I want to get back to town before school starts,” Tito yelled.

Tito started to rush forward. I stopped dead in my tracks. I was not going to let him control me. I heard the grocery bag tear before I actually saw or felt it. A seven-inch chunk of the bag tore free into Tito’s hand. He stumbled and fell to the ground. Tito’s side of the bag split open and the rooster tumbled out into the mud.

“Now look what you did. That is the only bag I brought. How are we going to carry the rooster?” I yelled.

“If you weren’t so slow I wouldn’t have ripped the bag, idiot.”

“That’s it Tito. I am not letting you call me an idiot without a fight,” I yelled back.

Tito jumped to his feet and rushed at me. I side stepped and kicked him hard in the shin. This stopped him for a second, but he swung a wild haymaker and grazed my jaw. We circled each other slowly waiting for an opening. I stepped in and hit him in the stomach. He bent over and grabbed my shoulders pulling me to the ground. I ended up on top and pinned his arm to the ground. I could feel my knees sinking in the soft mud. Both of us were breathing hard. The strong stench of manure had returned.

“You take it back Tito. Take it back or I will beat you bad.”

Tito tried to roll out from under me, but I sank my weight tighter around him.

“I take it back. I am sorry, you are not an idiot,” Tito apologized.

“Let me see your fingers. Are you crossing them?” I asked.

“No I swear on the Bible. Let me up.”

I rolled off Tito and we breathed slowly to calm ourselves. The soft breeze rustled the grass as we sat there trying not look at each other. Something was nagging me in the back of my mind, something that was important.

“The rooster’s escaped.”

“How? I killed him,” Tito asked.

“You must not have killed him good enough.”

“Well before you started the fight he was in the bag.”

“I did not start that fight, you did.”

“Who cares about that, the rooster could be killing someone right now,” Tito said.

Tito kneeled down near the torn bag and turned it over. I parted the tall grass around the bag and found nothing. I looked up into all the nearby walnut trees to see if maybe he had taken an elevated position to get the jump on us, but I did not see him anywhere.

“I found something,” Tito shouted.

Tito pointed to the black muddy path. The three-toed tracks were a dead giveaway, and to our horror he was heading for our village. We started running down the path. The twisted walnut trees flew past in a dark blur. I felt my tennis shoes sliding in the mud; I bent forward a little to get better traction. Running and looking for rooster tracks was not easy, but the soft mud helped me pick up his tracks. Tito was a little behind me. He was always a slower runner. Five minutes of running at top speed and we were both winded. We slowed down to a walk. We cleared the orchard and stopped to check for rooster tracks again. The path had turned to dry hard packed dirt. The path forked to the south towards the old widow Ramirez’s house, or turned north into our village. It took us a few minutes to pick up the tracks in the hard dirt. I found a faint outline of one of his long sharp feet. The footprints went south, so we knew he was going towards the widow’s house. Tito and I looked at each other knowing the widow would be defenseless against his fury. We began running again. The widow’s house was only a few minutes away, but he had gotten at least a five-minute head start.

We made it to the widow’s house in one and a half minutes at a dead sprint. The widow was outside on her old weathered porch with her back turned to us. I heard her talking softly like she was speaking to a sick baby. I noticed her house was sagging with age, but the chicken coup was very sturdy and clean looking. “Maybe that is why the bastard bird has come here,” I thought. The widow turned towards us and to our shock she was holding the rooster tenderly in her arms and cooing to him softly. A small bandage was wrapped around his head.

“Drop the rooster and run before he kills you,” I shouted to the widow.

“Drop this sweet Santana, I cannot do that to the poor dear; he has injured himself. I will keep him here with me,” she said.

“He nearly blinded my dog, he tore up Tito’s sisters legs, and probably killed Angelo Lopez. He is a murderer.”

“Angelo Lopez is visiting his grandparents for the summer, and your dog and cousin deserve what they got. You children are always teasing poor Santana. I see you going to the old abandoned farmhouse down the road. I hear all the rumors in the marketplace about your lies about him being the Devil. He came to my home to escape you evil children. My chickens needed a good rooster to guard them. Go away and leave us be.” She shouted angrily.

The rooster now called Santana stared at us with triumphant hooded eyes. We could not do anything if the widow protected him. She had been midwife to most of the children in town and we could not risk offending her. Tito lowered the Daisy and we turned and headed down the path back to town.

“We’ll get you some day Santana,” I shouted as a final warning to the savage rooster.

That is how it ended, with our defeat. Santana never attacked again. He must have been content to guard the widow’s chickens. But early in the morning just as the sun rises I sometimes think I can hear a hiss, then a bloody crow, and then a scream. On those mornings I take the old Daisy down from it’s place of honor and oil the old barrel and check to see that it is still loaded.


About the Creator

Steve B Howard

Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.

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