- From Fire in the Canes*
At six that Friday morning when the fowlcock sounded his trumpet, he only blew it four times and Mabel Fields nearly jumped out of her skin. She sprang from the bed, ran to the kitchen window and pushed it open, her roving eyes searching the yard for the gold and black fowlcock announcing a fresh day in the village of Monkey Road. The fowlcock stood in the middle of the yard, its black plume poised, but silent. Mabel waited. The hush continued. The fifth and sixth notes that she was waiting for did not come. She padded back to the bedroom where her husband, Darnlee, was still asleep.
“The cock only crow four this morning,” she said, shaking him.
He opened one eye for a second and rolled over onto his stomach and went back to sleep. Getting up in the morning was never easy for Darnlee. But his wife had developed a strategy to get him out of bed in time for work whenever he threatened to sleep past six o’clock. That strategy would have to be put into effect this morning.
She poked him hard in the tender spot between his ribs, the spot she always attacked to wake him. This tactic had never failed her and it worked again to perfection. He opened both eyes this time and bolted upright.
“The cock only crow four,” she protested.
“Good for the cock,” he muttered.
He closed his eyes to lay down again, but Mabel jabbed him in that special spot once more, this time harder. So hard, in fact, it made him squeal. She wanted him up to get to work on time but more importantly she wanted him up to address her fear that the fowlcock had just signaled an impending disaster, possibly in their family.
This particular fowlcock, a gift from her next door neighbor Small Paul, had a special pattern of crowing. It would always crow three times, then after a minute’s pause it would crow three more times for a total of six. Six times not four. Six times at six o’clock. That was its ritual. The only other time it had deviated from that ritual in the four years she owned it was two years ago. It had crowed four times that morning too and at midday her mother collapsed and died. Now it had crowed four times this morning and if nothing else the least her husband could do was wake up and reassure her that he was all right.
She jabbed him again.
“Get up, Darnlee. Get up, man! Get up!
Darnlee sucked his teeth and opened his eyes trying to focus on the short woman [End Page 371] standing in front of him. This woman never could understand the importance of rest to a man. He pulled himself up from the newly grass-filled bed, which made a rustling noise as it surrendered his weary body, and scratched his head.
“What time it is?” he asked, hoping it was no later than five o’clock which would give him time for some early morning fooling around with his wife or, failing that, at least another hour of sleep before he had to leave for work. Mabel was her most passionate early in the morning, he had decided a long time ago, and from the look of things the fowlcock had already stirred up her passion. Now if he could only get her back to bed he could be done and off to work in fifteen minutes. He smiled. After fifteen years together, waking up to Mabel in the morning was still the best part of his life even though he did not have the stamina anymore to deal with her for more than fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes, early in the morning before the sun got a chance to sap his strength, that was enough bliss for his work-drained fifty-year-old body.
“It’s six o’clock,” Mabel said.
“Six? You sure?”
“Of course I sure. That’s why I wake you. The cock only crow four and that ain’t right.”
“The cock got a right to...