The sun crests through the branches of my home. The night sky is glowing with the start of the new day. I hear the chatter of my brood stirring and the territorial call from my neighbor. “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO.” It sounds like Winston from Company Street in St. Croix, U.S.V.I. Over achiever, always has to sound the perfect first call. I stretch and sound the alarm, “Cock-a.” Still raspy. I think of my dear mother, who always told me just keep clucking and you will find your voice. She was a wise woman who was sadly taken from us by one of those rolling machines. Beware of the rolling metallic monsters! They never stop for my family or me. In fact, sometimes the machines speed up! But they, of course, stop on a dime for humans. Speaking of, here comes the first one of the day bobbing along under my tree. Time to start our daily search for food. “Cock-a.” Man, just keep trying I will get there.
I hop down from my tree and notice my clutch has gathered near the shiny cart on Queen Street. I shuffle my way down Strand Street and am enticed by the smell of FOOD. Food, “…doodle-doo.” I cross the street successfully and reach the sidewalk. I pick among the crumbs on the sidewalk when I see her. My Gertrude, shuffling proudly with our peeps in tow. I notice little Chik trails the rear of the line. As usual, Chik is one step out astray from the tidy line. Gertrude’s beak parts and she practically sings to me, “Good morning Charlie. Come on Chik fall in sync.”
I am instantly lured up the street towards her. Gertrude’s speckled brown beauty is radiant in the morning light and her ruffled plume is perfectly coiffed. I bow my wing closest to Gertrude as she approaches and begin to circle dance. We are deeply engaged in our courting before I am sharply drawn out of my trance to the sound of Winston barreling, “cock-a-doodle-doo” down the street.
Wait, this is my territory “cock-a-doo.” Still raspy.
Winston retorts in rapid succession, “cock-a-doodle-doo, cock-a-doodle-doo.”
He’s so cocky. Gertrude and the peeps gather around me. I square my chest up to set an example for my brood once and for all. This is my home, “cock-a-doo.” Suddenly, I am cut off by the sound of a screeching machine and to my surprise a human standing next to us hissing, “Shoo, shoo.” The machine wasn’t stopping for any of us “doodle-doo.”
We all dash up the sidewalk past the building with the plus sign and bells, where we come to rest in the bush. Gertrude is beside me clucking up a storm counting our peeps. She gasps, “Where’s Chik?” I panic “cock-a.” Chik must have gotten separated. Right at the moment when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, I heard the growling. Dog. RUN. “A-doodle-doo.”
We all get separated. I scurry further up the road. The dog lunges at my tail feathers and I dodge left onto Company Street. I hop, fly and find myself standing in front of a white door. The sign reads i.b. designs. My eyes wander up to the open window above. I fly and flap my way onto the sill. I pause to catch my breath and ease my panic “cluck, cluck, cluck.” As my clucks slow I look into the room from the window. It’s a workshop of some sort. I look further and I notice a human hunched, banging at shiny things with his claws. In fact, there are, a lot of shiny things glistening throughout the room. They are hung around the humans’ claws and ears. “Cluck, cluck.” The human turns in his chair and spots me. Oh boy, not again! The human doesn’t make any sudden moves. He reaches gingerly into a hidden space below him and pulls out something. I can’t quite make it out. C-O-R-N. Corn! FOOD! Food “cock-a-doodle.” He cautiously approaches me and pours a serving. The kind human slowly walks away and leaves me in peace. Ravenous from my traumatic day, I peck at the yellow morsels. Humans usually shoo my kind away. Maybe not all are as terrifying as I thought? Maybe this day will get better?
Too full to fly, I hop and soar down to the street. The dog is long gone and I determine it is safe to find Gertrude and shuffle home. I round the corner on Queen Street and I see her. My Gertrude, plume still perfectly coiffed leading our peeps in a tight line home. Chik is safely secured at the rear of the line in perfect formation with his siblings. I hustle to catch them. She smiles, “Hello Charlie”. Gertrude appears as relieved as I am to be heading home. We are paces from our territory when I hear the pretentious call “cock-a-doodle-doo.”
Winston. Enough. I about-face, square my shoulders, stand on the tips of my claws and bellow “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO.”
Winston stops dead in his approach. I repeat “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO.” Winston is cluckless. Gertrude snickers next to me and encourages us to continue home.
The night snuffs out the last bit of light as I nest in my branch. The brood is dozing safely beneath me. The day is done. I rest my beak on the leaves and reflect on my day’s journey. Sometimes a small act of kindness can be just enough to get you through your day. Acceptance inspired me with the hope and the courage to keep clucking. Strength allowed me to finally find my voice.
Photography by: Nicole Canegata
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