Riley Manning

RILEY MANNING

Someone, I don’t know who, has unleashed a rooster in my neighborhood.

For the first few days, my wife and I only heard his disembodied crows from down the street or on another block. We couldn’t tell where it was coming from, or where the bird was living. The five hens we keep in the backyard heard him, too. I’m no hen-whisperer, but they seemed a little… wary.

When we took a trip to New York City a few weeks ago, our phones chimed in unison one night as we settled in for a concert – our security camera on our porch sent us video of the rooster stalking proudly across our yard.

Minutes later, another video came through of our neighbor, sprinting after the rooster, which fled behind the corner of our backyard fence. Our neighbor’s girlfriend followed, though calmly, filming the whole thing.

We got a laugh out of that one. I worried he would think the rooster was ours, that he would simply let the rooster into our backyard to have his way with the hens for days. Thankfully, that’s not what happened.

Though we still don’t know where the rooster sleeps, we do know what he does with his days: pace around the perimeter of our backyard fence, cock-a-doodle-do-ing almost ceaselessly. It’s caused me to Google things like, “How high can a rooster jump?” and “Can a rooster dig under a fence?”

One thing’s clear. He isn’t afraid of us.

When he comes around, the hens make a bee-line for the coop. It’s clear they don’t want what he’s selling.

“I think our chickens are lesbians,” my stepdaughter said.

“I don’t want the neighbors to think it’s our birds making all the noise,” my wife worried.

“Just shoot it,” a coworker advised me.

It seems silly to kill something out of convenience, but at this point, I might be doing the rooster a favor by putting him out of his randy misery. My Googling has suggested that lots of sun makes them more virile. I can only imagine his torture, as July marked the hottest month, globally, in recorded history.

As days go by, though, I look forward to spotting him. Sometimes a car passing by will slow down when the driver sees him strutting through one yard or another. Once, a woman in the park asked me if I thought he’d attack her tiny dog (he didn’t). I still don’t know where he goes at night.

Nobody in the neighborhood knows what to do about him, and I like that we’ve all decided to leave him alone. It feels like a decision we made collectively, and maybe we did in some way. He isn’t bothering anyone, so long as I keep my fence up.

RILEY MANNING is a fiction writer, former religion reporter for the Daily Journal, and a copywriter at Mabus Agency. He can be reached at rileymanning19@gmail.com.

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