This is a tale that begins with a chicken. His name is Chicken Wicked. He is a particularly churlish and malicious chicken especially since his relationship with Zen the Hen ended so bitterly eight months ago.
Chicken Wicked still resents the fact that Zen the Hen finally found the courage to fly the coop and worse still, that Zen the Hen is now happily roosting with Cocky Rocky.
Chicken Wicked has never met Cocky Rocky the Rooster and knows nothing about him, yet he still despises this unknown fowl. Chicken Wicked cannot accept that Zen the Hen has clucked off and left him, and he hates living in the shadows of Cocky Rocky’s constant crowing to proclaim HIS territory. Chicken Wicked’s feathers have been well and truly ruffled. He feels revengeful and wants nothing more than to inflict suffering upon Cocky Rocky and Zen the Hen and knock them right off their perch of happiness.
One stormy day, Chicken Wicked decides to troll that Rooster Cocky Rocky and right in the heart of the cloud, he discovers a shocking story online from long, long ago with a shocking headline.
It says: COCKY ROCKY CAGED FOR ASSAULT ON ANOTHER ROOSTER!
“FLIPPIN’ GIBLETS!” crows Chicken Wicked as the lightning struck.
“CAGED FOR ASSAULT?! CAGED FOR ASSAULT?!” Chicken Wicked now knows everything there is to know about Cocky Rocky. “I have to warn everyone!”
And so like the wicked, headless chicken that he is, Chicken Wicked opens up a whole new can of worms. He runs and squawks at his teen chicks. He spreads the story to Zen the Hen’s family and his own. Then he flames Zen the Hen and Cocky Rocky via facebook to warn everyone else.
And still not content, Chicken Wicked alerts Chickens Services where Toxic Fox lurks with all her false sense of power and control. “Why are you so concerned?” says Toxic Fox.
“COCKY ROCKY WAS ONCE CAGED FOR ASSAULT... CAGED FOR ASSAULT!” says Chicken Wicked.
“Really? How do you know?” asks Toxic Fox.
“I found it on Google,” says Chicken Wicked.
“Great heavens above! It must be true!” says Toxic Fox, all the while gazing into her crystal ball. “We must act now and create mass hysteria! Cocky Rocky, Zen the Hen and her teen chicks must not be entitled to a new life, especially as there is a likelihood that this could become a potentially dangerous and risky situation. We will deny any suggestions of fowl play and if Cocky Rocky or Zen the Hen refuse to cooperate or dare to complain about being a victim of bias, mistreatment or prejudice, then we will simply punish Zen the Hen.”
That’s when the cloud spectacularly burst. First, a scare mongered Chick Flick flew the coop, and then Toxic Fox dragged Chick Mick away…
For Zen the Hen, Cocky Rocky and many others, their lives came tumbling down.
I am Zen the Hen.
The first time I met Cocky Rocky was nearly two decades ago when, quite by fate, we musically collided and despite very different upbringings, we developed a weird, yet delectable compatibility like strawberry jelly and chocolate spread on toast.
Cocky Rocky’s past is an intricate web of cursed bad luck woven from the emotions and suffering of nightmares. An unflinching truth-teller, Cocky Rocky tells me about being terrorised with physical intimidation and taunted by psychological abuse like a chained dog throughout his life by those he thought he could trust. It beggars belief that any mother or former partner could be so cruel.
Left to his own devices, Cocky Rocky’s sensitivity and kindness will overflow; he is a modern day, wombling Forest Gump. His fear however still slumbers quietly and calmly, and this is what is most frightening because if it takes hold, it doesn't just rob Cocky Rocky of his better self, the fear steals his freedom. The inner, bossy, reptilian part of Cocky Rocky will lock down into survival mode and growl and snap: them or me, hurt or be hurt.
Sad but not surprising to learn then, was that by the time Cocky Rocky reached 40, his own family was in chaos, he was off the rails and lost like an odd sock.
What happened next did not miss the media headlines: A controversial parenting decision, an arrest, convictions and a prison sentence.
I am embarrassed to admit that when I first heard and read about Cocky Rocky's criminal background, I reacted like most people. I stupidly got sucked in by the media and their biased presentations. I failed to spot the danger of sensationalism. I misjudged. I saw only the bad, a tarnished penny rather than a new, collectible coin that symbolises one person’s struggle in life and celebrating a story of courage and success. And instead of believing in Cocky Rocky and standing up for him, I let the stigma associated with Cocky Rocky take control, and I walked away. It was not my proudest moment and not the legacy I want to be remembered for.
When I tell you that the Holy Spirit came and taught Cocky Rocky how to challenge his fear, many of you will scoff. But yes, apparently, The Holy Spirit came to him in prison. It also convicted him then whispered forgiveness and comfort and urged him to see the light, work hard and never give up. Now embracing his fourteenth year of freedom, Cocky Rocky has achieved that good and quiet life.
Cocky Rocky says he fell in love with me at a football match against Sheffield Wednesday. I’d argue that I properly fell in love with him a few months before at a Billy Idol concert (strong competition considering how sexy that 64 year old punk rocker is.) Either way, on both occasions, our fingers naturally entwined and we never let go. From that moment on, my heart never stopped fluttering with that euphoric feeling of being uniquely connected to someone special.
Being with Cocky Rocky is like the rays of the sun softly tickling your eyelids, earlobes and belly button while still being fully aware of the inner, swirling, popping, molten lava that could erupt at any time. Yet we still laugh, joke and even dare to plan a tentative but oh so real future together.
But then Chicken Wicked Syndrome raised its infectious head. Never mind Covid-19, Chicken Wicked Syndrome was fatal - thanks to the reckless, unjustified predictions of impending doom spread by cocksure individuals who destroyed mine and Cocky Rocky’s lives in one fowl swoop.
Living with a criminal record is like an insanely itchy label. You can never truly escape from it. Forget about it, ignore it, or even try to remove it but that itchy label, like any conviction, will always niggle to the extreme that some days, in your darkest moments when you are most vulnerable you really do contemplate if there is any point carrying on.
Cocky Rocky is not an insanely itchy label. He is a person. He is someone’s son, a brother, a father and my loved one. So when the lightning strikes, the impact is huge. It affects us all.
While I hope you have enjoyed this twist to an old folktale, I also implore you to forget the crystal ball, tarot cards and tea leaves and simply take a look at the reflection in the duck pond instead.
You see that cloud? Is it an elephant? Or maybe a chocolate teapot?
Now take a long, hard look at yourself.
Do you have the vulnerability and courage to admit that sometimes you have made mistakes or wronged people and still gotten another chance? If so, then doesn’t everyone including Cocky Rocky deserve to hold on to that prize of a second chance to have a good life?
So when a lightning newsflash strikes, just stop for a minute to ask yourself: “Is everything on the internet really true or have I just been caught under a stormy, gloomy cloud?