Gallus Gallus!

Far and away, out past the middle of nowhere, beyond the old gray barn with the Mail Pouch chewing tobacco advertisement, over Renegade's Bluff, behind old Calloway's farm and just over Nell's Dell to the west of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there once laid a small farm of about 150 or so acres. The land and its animal occupants belonged to big Jim Greetneeth, a Mennonite farmer, and it always made a nice living for him and his family.

This story is not concerned with The Greetneeth's however, but with their chicken population living futilely and tirelessly unappreciated by humans big and small. The protagonist of this story is a rooster named David Plume. David was born into and escaped from a doomed lifestyle. It all began innocently; but it did not end that way.

David, still snug under the warmth of his mother’s bottom feathers, felt his life was a viscous paradise wrapped in a cozy calcium coating. As time went on, however, David became less and less gooey and began to feel that the yolk might be on him.

After what initially seemed an eternity, David finally hatched. He quickly found himself surrounded by others little chicks all very similar in size and appearance. Nature seemed an idyllic vibe to be embraced, and David played with the other chicks - pecking and being pecked and so forth.

This activity continued for many weeks. Food was prevalent and all but the scrawniest chicks got their gullets full. It seemed right to David that the weaklings received only what was left over or thrown behind the strong chicks’ back during the feeding frenzies. After all, they were the runts and this was the way of the world. Perhaps if he stopped to ponder why the weak went without ample food, he himself might become one of them.

But unlike the others, David did pause to think occasionally, even as a fledgling. And he made observations. For instance, one day to his horror he saw giant pinkish hands scoop up the chickie runts and throw them to the cats. Or was this just a terrible nightmare? Yes it must have been a nightmare, thought David. Nobody else seemed worried. And after all, wasn’t it the pinkish hands that delivered he and his brethren the food he loved so much?

Months later, further into David's maturation, his body started to change from yellow and cuddly to reddish and feathery. Soon afterwards, the mammoth owner of the rough pink hands moved David and the other young male chickens to a new, larger pen filled with roosters of all ages.

There was a tall wire fence for protection from the elements and the males were separated from the females. This upset David because without the girls half the fun in life seemed to be gone, although he wasn’t quite sure why.

David was very excited to be in this new coop, because he felt intellectually stifled conversing with chicks his own age. As David met more and more of these older roosters, he became sorely disappointed with what they had to say and how they presented themselves.

David found most adult roosters to be overly proud animals that put on airs of royalty that would offend a modest peacock. The bigger ones strutted around and crowed with utmost self-importance and authority. They would cackle about being older and wiser than David and the juvenile brood, and then spout worthless maxims such as “Don’t trust a rooster in a blue trench coat,” or "Never eat a worm when it’s dead."

The other newly maturing chickens thought this pretty intellectual advice and continued to imitate the elders. David pretended that this was pretty good counsel for a short while... but only because he never could let anyone see the lost expression of anguish and suffering embedded deeply in his poultry soul.

One morning, to David's delight, he heard rumors around the coop that the next week he would have the opportunity to listen to the wisest rooster of the whole coop, one Smedley the Rooster, give an address on the subject of the superiority of their species.

This excited young David because Smedley had built up quite a reputation as the wisest rooster in the coop. The thought of hearing an oration from such a renowned alpha rooster of legendary erudition caused him goose bumps. What excitement!

Smedley had the appearance, by all means, of a natural hatched leader. He was great in stature, with a proud and noble beak, a well-formed breast, sturdy legs, and a terrifying cry of a crow that would instantly wake up everyone in the vicinity.

Each and every morning, Smedley always crowed first, and his noble tone struck alarm in everyone. Even the young slave monkeys remarked at his tenacity by imitating his great cries with a comparatively hilarious “cocka-doodle-doo”.

Smedley did seem invincible. That wasn’t to say that disease couldn’t come and strike him out within a month or two. Perhaps a nice case of chicken rot, or worms, or even worse… no one seemed untouchable these days. Rumors abounded that roosters would just disappear right in the middle of feeding time. It reminded David of his terrible chickie nightmares. He feared one day soon he must share his belief that the slave-monkeys harbored unsavory desires in their hearts and minds.

In truth, nobody really knew what happened to the older ones. Mealtimes were as frantic as ever. One still had to fight for ones fair share. Smedley claimed that when roosters disappeared it meant they had transcended time and space to face final judgment from Gallus Gallus, the great chicken god, because they had been “chosen”.

Smedley preached that Gallus Gallus was an invisible deity who watched over and protected the entire species of chickenkind. Gallus Galllus was the supreme leader of the entire universe and was invincible. And if the young roosters of the coop listened to prophet Smedley and studied his peaceful warrior philosophy... then one day they too would transcend time and space and join the eternal chicken army in glorious battles in heaven.

Gallus Gallus, or the Unpecked Pecker as Smedley sometimes called him, had a gold-plated harpoon that could penetrate straight through feline or fox flesh. What’s more, Gallus Gallus rode on a golden chariot and would one day restore flight to all loyal members of his species so they could form an army and launch an attack on the lesser species of the universe.

Smedley preached that Gallus Gallus demanded unquestioning worship and that he himself had been personally chosen to be the spiritual leader of the coop.

David could not deny that Smedley was currently the alpha rooster. This was backed up by the fact that Smedley was always chosen by the slave monkeys to mate with the female chickens. He was the only one who ever came back after he had left.

Still, David was instinctively skeptical of Smedley’s stories of Gallus Gallus, and he could not wait to twist a few screws into this cockamamie bird’s eye view of reality.

On the day of the much-anticipated oration of Smedley, an unnatural icy chill ran down the back of David’s spine. He feared the next hour might be the defining point of the rest of his life. He glanced at Smedley and attempted to read his mind. He could sense nothing. Smedley was quietly composed in the corner, as if he were meditating on the very nature of the impossible itself.

Smedley now stood up and began to walk in small circles, caressing his chicken scratched notes. His ceremonial philosopher robes flowed easily and readily as if the wind were doing it especially to show his majesty.

David, although still a wee rooster of maybe three or four months, crept through the older roosters to get a seat up front. The other roosters seemed either not to care or make self-aggrandizing squawks and praises.

Finally Smedley donned his "political, proud, and pompous" face and waddled confidently and elegantly to the podium. Every seat in the coop was now taken and Smedley knew that the future was ripe for the plucking. He cleared his throat and began his speech:

"Ahem. Good morning fellow roosters, and a special welcome to our newest members of the coop. Today's forum is a very special one as it focuses solely on the superiority of our species. I know we have all wondered in the past about where we have come from and where it is that we are heading...”

“Well I, Smedley the Prophet, have come to the solid conclusion based on tireless logistical and rational analysis, that we roosters are the chosen creatures and the sole focus of the mind of the Great Chicken Deity. Yes. We are empowered with freedoms and privileges that other animals only dream about. In short, we roosters are the raison d'être of the entire universe."

Cheers we heard all around, especially at the mention on the foreign word, raison d'être, which no one understood but everyone really appreciated. Smedley felt his power surging…

"Look at our proud stature, our noble heritage! We roosters are the kings of the world! We have the fence for protection, we have the slave-monkeys to feed us, and we can play all day and sleep all night in utter peace. We are the chosen animals! Three cheers for chickenkind!"

Smedley then proceeded to back up his argument with philosophical arguments of only the most solid kind...

"How can one not consider us to be divine, when it is a known fact to each and every one of us, that every morning at eight o'clock sharp the monkey slave woman comes down here especially to feed us? And she makes damn sure every one of us has his fill! Even the puny among us are not puny for want of food! Is this not the mark of royalty?

"Likewise, the slave-monkeys have built fences to protect us from the foxes, and coops to protect us from the elements. In short, every one of our wants and needs are taken care of without so much as one wing lifted from any of us. Fellow roosters, it is with great pride that I disclose to you your noble destiny! Roosters of the world... the universe is your playground!

Thank you and good day.”

The speech was a hit. The coop ate up Smedley’s speech up like fresh wet corn covered with succulent stillborn mealworms.

"What a fine orator that Smedley is", said one.

"What intelligence and character," said another.

"It is certain that we are holy and special beings", said still another.

But David, having only recently reached the age of pubescent questioning of authority, was not convinced. Poor David let an evil and angry thought enter into his head. He wanted desperately to push it back into his subconscious, but it was too strong.

"Excuse me, Smedley," David bravely started, "but I can't help but to find fault with your philosophy of life."

"Please speak up, David", Smedley encouraged. "There's a fine young fellow to be brave enough to speak in front of assembly. Gentle roosters, I am sure our young compatriot may have a very valid comment."

“I believe I do! We may be fed everyday by the primates," David began, stuttering slightly from nervousness, "and we may be protected by the wire fence from the foxes and the cats... but it is not us who are protecting ourselves. It is the primates who protect us."

"So? So what?" Answered Smedley; quietly confident that he could soothe whatever worries could creep into David's head.

"Well did it ever occur to you that maybe the primates have ulterior motives?"

"Ulterior motives!" laughed Smedley. "Ulterior motives! How utterly preposterous! It's obvious they worship us like gods and you suspect them of harboring rotten ideals?"

"Well, it's just that primates need to eat as well as we do, and I find it highly illogical that they would feed us so carefully if there wasn't another motive behind it."

"Really David," replied Smedley in an austere tone, "I can't believe you. If I didn't know better I would think you were trying to make me look foolish."

"Nobody's trying to do anything. I just had this thought and needed reassurance, that's all. It seems to me that a dose of skepticism is never out of order."

"David, it's chickens like you that give us all a bad name. You start vicious rumors based on flimsy evidence and perpetrate perpetually unpalatable propositions such as this one.”

David felt most embarrassed at the chastisement. But it was far from over. Smedley continued...

“This is supposed to be a day of honor and celebration! I am shocked and dismayed (not to mention ashamed!) that you brought up this completely inappropriate antithesis to my argument.. If you want to ruin everything pure in the world, I won't let you do it here! You are an ingrate, and I suggest the community gives you a good pecking before these thoughts get too engrained!"

“Chicken shit,” thought poor young David.

But at the mention of word ‘pecking’, popular opinion turned mighty quickly against poor David, as roosters are always fond of a good public punishment. David was chased around the rooster coop and pecked and pecked unmercifully.

At one point there were so many roosters pecking at him that they formed a massive pile four feet high. David knew his options were running thin, so he summoned all his strength and slid out from underneath the melee of beaks and climbed up to the top of the pile and then launched himself quite deftly over the fence and into the free world.

Suddenly the roosters saw him on the other side of the fence and David glared back at them with regret, fear, and most importantly, an overwhelming feeling of freedom.

Reactions to this occurrence were mixed. Some of the young roosters were disappointed at not having David to peck at anymore and started pecking each other, and some of the older roosters were weary of pecking by now anyway and equally unhappy pecking as not pecking. Still others were looking intently at Smedley to see what their next reaction should be.

There were chants of "Death to David the Deserter", there were chants of "Be merciful and reform his decadent wrongdoings!" and still others who had lost interest already and decided a little senseless squawking wouldn't be out of order either.

In short, everybody was in a state of chaos, and then slowly, everyone who wasn't already looking at Smedley, did so.

Smedley had now truly become The Prophetic Chicken, the one that could make sense out of confusion. Anything that Smedley said would be done, right or wrong, intelligent or ignorant.

Smedley, being the intelligent and goal-oriented rooster that he was, knew this all-very well and intended to seize the moment and ensure himself a luxury suite in Rooster History by acting mercifully.

"We have all learned a great lesson today", started Smedley with a convincing air of self-sympathy. "We have learned that there is a part of the mind that must be turned off and never tapped into. There is a part of the mind that must be ignored. Poor David has, in his folly, been asking himself questions that have been posed by the Anti-Chicken, that great and secret tempter that turns our lives of meaningful ceremony into dogmatic drivel.”

“Well what should we do?” asked Herbert, Smedley’s second in command.

Smedley reflected for a minute and continued.

“Well folks, as much as justice may demand David’s once noble soul to be dispersed into the Kentucky fryer of hell, I must judge that he be let off with 2,000 hours of community service and a restraining order never to be allowed to speak aloud in assembly again."

Finally, sympathy swept back over the once angry mob.

"We're sorry David!" they cried, "We'll never do it again. We'll all make noise and get the monkey slaves to come down and put you back in our paradise."

But David countered, "I want no part of your paradise, you fools. I'm getting out of here!”

David fled into the hills, settling in a faraway cave where he fashioned himself a shelter to hide from the aggressive animals of the forest.

David was left to study the martial arts and repose all day, eating the plentiful caterpillars and other tasty tidbits that inhabited his cave. All the while, he kept a journal and at long last, developed a fully competent philosophy of life that turned each passing moment into a new universal harmony between mind and body.

Still, David was saddened by the naiveté of his fellow fowls, and after pressing the resentment fully out of his now enlightened and peaceful mind, he decided to formulate a last-ditch attempt to save his brothers.

David approached the coop, his old prison home, perhaps three months after his absence. He began to wonder if the whole idea wasn't rather daft. After all, how could he, an exiled member of society, convince the ignorant masses of anything? Still, he knew he had to try.

To David's surprise, the other roosters were very excited to see him and wished to hear of his tales. They pitied him with low cackles when they saw his slim and muscular body that appeared to them not a sign of good health, but of beak-breaking hard work and starvation.

Smedley, currently enjoying the rank of "Philosopher-Ruler" among the other roosters, was designated to try and talk some sense into David.

"David," said Smedley with an air of urgency, "You look terribly malnourished! It is imperative that you re-enter our coop. I have been thinking at great length and have left myself open to forgive you all sins against My Greatness and our utopia city/state, and would now allow you to re-enter our idyllic little community with no trace of events passed remembered or held against you. In fact, I'm willing to personally parlay all prior predicaments and re-grant you a full citizenship."

"Oh dear," replied David, "I think you misunderstand. I did not come here to ask for forgiveness, I came here to present my case for the evacuation of all willing members of our, err, your, society. It is now my firm conviction that the primates have un-savory desires."

"Unsavory desires? Oh please listen David, it's really not that complicated. You simply must go to the monkey-slaves and beg for mercy. Imagine what an insult your escape must be to them!"

"Now listen, Smedley. Don't let your sole ignorance be the death of our entire community. I am the sole rooster with any knowledge of the outside world, and let me tell you my observations haven't been pretty."

"Observations? What observations?” asked Smedley betraying himself with his sudden curiosity.

David cleared his voice and spoke. He suddenly had the attention of the whole coop.

"I have a theory. I think the farmers are just fattening you up, so they can kill you and eat you for dinner."

Smedley reacted with alarm, “Treachery!"

"No, it's true,” David, crowed back at him, “I have seen the world and how it works. The flies eat the manure, then small fish eat the flies, and in turn the small fish are eaten by larger fish or birds. Finally certain mammals such as foxes, or the slave-monkeys you so often refer to as our benefactors, eat the birds.

My fellow brothers! You are locked up for a purpose. You are locked up to be consumed by these so-called slave-monkeys... the ones the other animals of the forest call the humans. They are reputed to be the most evil and bloodthirsty of all animals."

Smedley appeared genuinely shocked at the indignation. This was truly below the belt to him.

"David my boy, how can you present such an arrogant, apocalyptical argument with such paltry evidence based on what flies eat? I cannot accept this hypothesis when it is so plainly obvious that the slave-monkeys love us dearly. Why, every day they come down here and feed us. They fed us yesterday, they fed us today, and they will feed us tomorrow. Then one day when we are chosen, we will be called upon by Gallus Gallus, The Great God of Chickenkind...”

“Lies!” screamed David.

“Roo-ooster bollocks!” retorted Smedley with his cheeks flapping and saliva spewing. “What you say is blasphemy against The Eternal One, The Holy of Holiest, The Unpecked Pecker!”

“Whatever. I just came here to tell you the humans are going to eat you. That’s all. There is no Gallus Gallus. There is no Unpecked Pecker. There is no great chicken diety in the sky who rides a golden chariot. It’s all stuff that Smedley made up so you would think he was smart.”

The coop was suddenly in disarray. They were willing to believe anything at this moment.

Smedley was intent on preserving the status quo. “No no David... no no fellow citizens! We must wait patiently, go mate with the hens, and then pass unto a higher plane of being. Everything I have prophesized is true and will come to pass! Do not listen to the voice of the Anti-Chicken!”

David reiterated, “Believe the truth my brothers!”

“David, that’s the final straw! You are living an impossible heretical nightmare! You leave me choice but ex-communication. Please don't try to talk me out of it. And please don’t come back here again. Such infantile logic will no doubt scare the others into following your goddamned path to doom and destruction!"

"I'll not worry, as they have cause to be afraid! It is a fact that all creatures have parents. Where are our mothers and fathers, Smedley? Where are they? I'll bet you they've been eaten."

The crowd was clearly now in David’s favor. A few of Smedley’s peers were wary because all the elders they had seen before them had suddenly disappeared at feeding time. For many of the elders in the coop, it was beginning to look like an evil paranoid conspiracy.

However, Smedley oozed endless confidence and retorted once again,

“We know exactly where our mothers are, David, as well as our sisters. They are on the other side of the barn in coops of their own. And I have unquestionable evidence that our fathers have risen to another plane - yes - somewhere higher."

David stared trying to win some sympathetic ears.

“Where then?” David demanded.

“Somewhere higher than a savage, unenlightened mind like yours can imagine.”

David was unimpressed by Smedley’s rhetoric.

"Fool! Did it ever occur to you as to why our fathers are gone and our mothers and sisters are still here?"

Smedley smiled and seemed equally unimpressed with David’s thread of logic. No skewer of sense could penetrate Smedley’s thick cranial armor. He honestly believed that he had thought the whole thing through from every angle.

“Please explain it to us.”

"It's because the females lay eggs. It is a well known fact that the farmers collect the eggs every day and eat them for breakfast."

Smedley huffed. "That is nothing but a vicious rumor. Common sense would tell you that the farmers only collect the unfertilized eggs so they don't spoil. You see, my dear David, the opposite sex isn't quite as smart as we are. They have no idea what happens during sex. They think all their eggs will hatch. It’s true.

Just wait, my young David, if you re-enter our Eden, one day you may spawn with them - what a thrill! I have done it five times. I would give up my whole life to do it one more time easily. I am the alpha rooster and the omega rooster. I am the king of the coop. Cock-a-doodle-doo!”

The others looked intently at David to see what his reaction would be. It was true that they wanted to procreate more than anything else. They would even risk death for the chance.

David beamed.

Birds are easy to score on the outside. “I have mated with plenty of them... more than five easy. Thirty-five. And I got another surprise I want to show you...”

Smedley was not impressed.

“Surprise? What could an exiled, gigolo, convict rooster do to surprise us holy followers of Gallus Gallus, The Unpecked Pecker? And anyway... what does it matter what the farmers do with the eggs? If every egg were left to hatch there would be a mass overpopulation."

"Yes, you're right. There would be, but that doesn't explain where our forefathers are..."

"What difference does it make? I just don't seem to be concerned about it. Obviously our forefathers are either somewhere safe on the farm just like us... or they have passed into the Ultraworld to live in harmony with Gallus Gallus the Uber Chicken Diety.”

“The Unpecked Pecker?” questioned David.

“Yes,” cried Smedley emotively. “The Unpecked Pecker... Il Deus Maximus of All Chickenkind!"

David crowed as loud as he could. "I believe in no such invisible chicken god. Our fathers have been killed and we are next. There is nothing in store for you here but the fiery hell of the farmer’s roaster!"

"Okay David. Since we can’t actually physically see our fathers anywhere around here..." Smedley answered ironically, "you automatically assume that they were eaten by our benefactors. Bah! You tire me David. Be gone already. Your simplistic and gratuitous grasp of God and Nature renders any logical counter-argument noncommittal. Again - be gone with you – for good!"

"My time to go is near. I just wish I could convince you before you find out for yourself."

Suddenly one of the roosters spotted the farmer’s daughter coming down the trail and cackled to alert the others.

"Fellow roosters! Here comes the monkey slave woman. What should we do?"

Smedley was calm. “Have no fear! It’s just dinner time again! And judging from the sweet stink up yonder, maybe it’s time for me to get laid too!”

The farmer's daughter saw David outside the coop. She attempted to chase after him. David started running away. Just when it became clear that she was about to catch him, David spread his wings and soared away like an eagle into the morning sky. The other roosters let out a raucous cheer and wished him Godspeed.

“There goes a great chicken!” cried Herbert. “One day I will join you my brother and we will fly the skies looking for young hen maidens to make love to!”

But the celebration was short-lived.

“Dammit!” screamed the woman, “One of them got away. Now you will all be punished. No dinner for the rest of you tonight!” Then she searched the pen for the fattest rooster. It was poor Herbert, who had not believed David until it was too late. The ugly girl grabbed for him. Herbert could not get away. She wrung his neck right there in front of the others.

The roosters were terrified at this sight and screamed and cackled like they were being plucked alive. “The horror! The horror!” they cried ensemble.

Smedley finally knew that the time for eloquent speeches was over and the time to panic was nigh.

"Wait a minute! Everybody! Comrades! Let me explain! All theories are bound to fail in time! Let's just sit back and reflect on the grand innocence of the past!"

But no such grand reflections occurred. The other roosters, having no other outlet to vent their ire, pecked Smedley quickly and then slowly to death. Such ended the reign of Smedley The Great, as he had come to be called just two days prior.

Mired in fear and regret, the rest of the coop, as could be expected, went insane and were consumed by the humans one at a time.

As for our protagonist, David ended up living in a secret section of the forest meditating and obeying his inner will. David lived to be 157 chicken-years old. Before he died, he fell in love with a fine young teenage dragon name Miss Isabella he met at a waterfall.

In a moment of passion, David and Miss Isabella spawned and birthed an entirely new lineage of noble breed. David’s numerous progeny were nothing less than hyper-intelligent pterodactyl-like creatures.

The new and superior species dominated Earth for millennia and ate little else but human flesh... starting with the descendants of the Greetneeth’s.