Thursday, February 9, 2017


Here we are, off and running in the Year of the Rooster. And there’s a rooster in my neighborhood, and it crows all the time, not just at the crack of dawn. The poor devil is time-warped. I’m not sure what causes it, but I’ve been running into time-warped roosters for a long time . . .

My family had chickens, and a coop in the backyard in West Covina. This wasn't a normal West Covina thing. My parents were concerned about the ecology -- as we called it back then. The chickens provided us with eggs. We also had a rooster.

He was a mean little bastard who would have terrorized the neighborhood if we had left the gate open. I named him Peckinpah because I was impressed by The Wild Bunch with its slow-motion deaths and cowboys who knew what chichis were. And encounters with Peckinpah were usually bloody.

One day we found Peckinpah dead. He just keeled over. He tore into his job as kamakaze sperm-delivery machine and backyard holy terror with more passion than his tiny heart could bear.

After that we got a series of replacement roosters. They all died. The same way. “Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse,” is basic rooster philosophy, except that sometimes their corpses get mutilated.

Finally, my dad said, “That’s it! No more roosters!” So the chickens were left to lay their eggs unfertilized, and we had to get up without any cock-a-doodle-do.

Until, one day, and not in the morning, we heard a cock’s crow again.

It was one of the chickens.

She -- he? it? the language fails me -- had grown a comb, and spurs, and took on the role of the rooster in the coop.

And she was time-warped, crowing at all hours.

I don’t know how complete this sexual transmogrification was. Peckinpah had trained me that if it strutted like a rooster and crowed like a rooster, don’t let it get too close.
Since then, I've learned that sexual reversal and gynadromorphism does happen in chickens – it just doesn't get talked about much. It's also why Emily and I knew that the T-rexes were reproducing when we saw Jurassic Park.

The years went by, and the chickens died off, one by one, long after they stopped laying eggs. All except for the Ancient Chicken. My full name for her/him/whatever was the Ancient Chicken That Refused To Die, referencing the classic film The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.

I was her (I always thought of her as a she, and was quick to tell her story when visitors mentioned “your rooster”) caretaker, feeding her every day while slaving away under a pile of rejection slips, trying to get my career going. She lived a long time. Eventually, she took to an un-chickenish lifestyle of mostly sleeping in a tree, perched on a branch over an ever-growing, pyramid-shaped mound of her own excrement.

I wondered if she had discovered the secret to eternal life, and wasn’t going to share.

Alas, her secret was of life extension, but not immortality. One day, I went out to feed her, and found her dead, face-down in her pyramid of poop.

I speculated about what may have kept her alive so long, and wrote to Emily – this was during our interstate romance: I HAVE DISCOVERED THE SECRET OF ETERNAL LIFE -- AND IT’S DISGUSTING!

Ever since, I keep running across time-warped roosters -- if it’s a sign of the Apocalypse, it’s taking an awful long time. Maybe it’s just the universe’s way of reminding us how fantastic it is.

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