Where has the little red rooster gone?
By Ada-Marie Hauptfleisch
It was Saturday morning.
The phone was ringing. No one was answering it. The doors at the end of the
passage remained firmly closed. Sweet notices on the left hand door indicated
that the room was inhabited by Santa (in neat blue print) and Bella (in a wreath
of pink rosebuds). The door on the right warned, as the skull and crossbones
indicated, that this was “Dick’s Den. No entry! Keep out!! By order!!! Richard
J. Hanson. PS. I’ll clean up the place before I leave home for good.”
The door in the middle remained unadorned. Aforementioned Richard Hanson had once dared to query this pristine blankness with the familiar “WOT! NO WIT?” As the irate mistress of the house was ripping it off the door her docile husband put his finger on his lips and whispered a timely warning to his wayward son, “Sh! Mum’s the word!”
The phone was still ringing but as the door of the main bedroom flew open at last, Dick poked his head out of the blankets and mimicked in a high-pitched voice, “Am I the only one with ears in this house?” Seconds later Mrs. Hanson stormed down the passage shouting, “Am I the only one with ears in this house?” With a diabolical grin Richard Hanson pulled the blankets over his head and went back to sleep.
Freda Hanson kicked a black bag out of her way, jerked the phone off the hook and said impatiently, “Freda Hanson speaking!” “Ah, Mrs Hanson, do pardon the intrusion. This is the Rev. Gray. I……”
Freda rolled her eyes heavenward, but said in a honeyed voice: “Good norning, Reverend. Forgive my taking so long to answer, but you know, so early in the morning…”
“Indeed, some of us have been up since dawn, but you will recall…. ”
“Oh yes!… of course… the Jumble Sale!! I haven’t forgotten… I have the bag right here…”
“Of course. But the ladies asked for the conations to be delivered at the church, no later than five o’clock on…err...Friday afternoon – and this is Saturday…”
“I know,” Freda said bluntly. “and it’s my eldest daughter’s 21st birthday and I have a million things to do and my husband had to go t work, on a Saturday, for some obscure reason…and… ”
The Vicar interrupted what threatened to become one of Freda Hanson’s interminable tirades. “I see. Could you possibly have the donation at hand so that…”
Freda Hanson glared at the bag, abandoned her Good Samaritan pose completely and snapped, “I have the donation at my feet, as I said and I…”
The Reverend Gray turned his eyes heaven war. His prayer was answered so that he could promise Mrs. Hanson sweetly that he would collect the bag in two ticks and with the greatest of pleasure! Freda Hanson kicked the black bag at her feet resentfully, paused and looked at it again. It seemed emptier than the day before, somehow. Probably her imagination. She ran down the passage, opening bedroom doors and pulling blankets off beds.
“We have a myriad things to do and you are not going to lie there while I…”
“Work my fingers to the bone!” groaned Richard as he rolled off the bed and yawned.
Then the doorbell rang, stopping Freda in her tracks. Surely the Rev. Gray, good man that he is, could not have wings…yet!
“Don’t worry, Mom,” said Bella. “I’ll go. I’m dressed already!” Freda gave a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank you, Bella. You’re such a brick.”
“Just another brick in the wall, I presume,” Dicky grinned.
Freda sighed. “Half the time I don’t know what you’re thinking about Richard. I really can’t appreciate your particular brand of humour on a day like this.”
Bella appeared in the doorway, clearly a bringer of bad news. Freda took one look at her face and her heart missed a beat. “Who is it, Bella?”
“I hope it isn’t the police,” Dick quavered melodramatically. “Tell them I no longer live here, I’ve run away to sea, as the naughty boys in Aunt Dolly’s old books always used to do” “Very funny,” Bella groaned. “Luckily for you it’s only Aunt Dolly herself.”
Freda held her heart. “Oh, no! That’s even worse, In the middle of a crisis. I can’t take it! I just can’t. My drops, someone – get my drops!” she groaned, rolling her eyes heaven wards.
Santa sighed. “Oh, no, not again!” It wasn’t clear whether she was referring to Aunt Dolly’s untimely visit or her mother’s heart drops. Probably both.
“Tell her,” Freda gasped, “tell her I’m in bed with flu or something...preferably something highly infectious.”
“Don’t be silly,” said Sandra briskly. “She’ll insist on having a look to decide which of her horrible home remedies she can fetch to cure our ailing mother.”
“In two ticks,” quoted Dicky. “She always does things in two ticks.”
Practical Sandra took over. “Come into the living room, Aunt Dolly, and I’ll give you and Mon some tea.”
“And some of your mother’s lovely home-made rusks, I hope.” Aunt Dolly twinkled slyly as Sandra ushered her out.
Richard cleared his throat. “And what about something for the famished son and heir? I haven’t had a morsel to eat…”
Like an echo down the passage they heard Aunt Dolly telling Freda that she hadn’t had a morsel to eat. “But, Freda” she continued, “I was so worried about Ben’s going off like that, Do tell me where he’s gone. Surely he can’t be going on a long trip on such an important day. His firstborn turning 21”
Freda sighed, “He’s only gone to the office, Aunt Dolly,” she said impatiently. “He had some important business to finalise. He promised to be back soon.”
Aunt Dolly swallowed a moth full of boerebeskuit so quickly that she almost choked. “But the huge suitcase – why did he need a big suitcase like that? I tell you, it looks as if he’s going on a long journey!”
Santa rolled her eyes and Freda sighed. Aunt Dolly was only exaggerating, as usual.
“That’s why that strange man picked him up,” Aunt Dolly continued. “Because he couldn’t take such a heavy suitcase on the bus. And when he saw me watching him, he looked upset, and the man suddenly took another road that doesn’t go to the office. They were going somewhere else, I tell you! ”
The stunned silence was broken by the ringing of the doorbell.
“It’s the Vicar!” groaned Freda.
“Oh, a God sent!” Aunt Dolly gushed excitedly. “We must tell him, Freda. He’s the right person to help you.”
“Please keep out of this, Aunt Dolly” Santa snapped. “Stop sniffling, Bella, and take the bag of clothes to him quickly.” But the Vicar was already in the doorway. He saw the expressions on the faces, felt the tension in the room.
“I’m so glad you’re here, Vicar!” Aunt Dolly gushed. “This family needs your help urgently!”
Freda Clutched at her heart and Bella held a glass to her lips. “Thank you for making the detour,” Santa said. “You must be in a hurry, Vicar. My nother is fine – merely a small misunderstanding.” She tried to usher him out.
“Oh, no, it’s serious, Vicar!” Aunt Dolly tried to hold him back. “He’s gone! He’s gone and no-one knows where!”
Feeling the tension in the air, the Vicar hesitated. Surely it was his duty to help a family in distress. “If there’s anything In can do.”
Everyone started talking at once.
“This is a bereaved family, Vicar. Bereaved, I tell you!” Aunt Dolly insisted.
“Please drink this, Mom,” Bella begged. “It’ll help you.”
Then Richard Hanson rose to his full height of 71/2 feet and stepped into the breach as it behoved the son of the house of Hanson.
He pushed the black bag into the Vicar’s hand and said, “I’m sure you’re in a hurry as usual, Vicar, It’s not serious. It…it’s only my little Bantam rooster – the little red one. It’s disappeared.” He took the Vicar’s arm. Santa promptly took the other arm firmly and together they ushered the bewildered man out.
“You know how easily Aunt Dolly gets upset,” Santa said. “I’m sure we’ll find the little animal…er…bird, soon enough.” As they hurried down the front steps she added sadly, “Perhaps the little red rooster thought it was high time to find new pastures.”
When the Vicar drove off, she groaned, “Now for Aunt Dolly. We need to sort this out alone. If Dad has rally…” For the first time her courage deserted her.
“Done a bunk?” Richard Hanson’s voice was unsteady.
“We’ll have to cancel the party, for a start,” she said firmly, pretending not to mind.
“Cancel the party?” Freda sobbed. “Then everyone will know. I’ll never live it down, never!”
Santa looked at her mother. How typical of her to agonise about what people would say! “If he has really gone, Mother, everyone will have to know, sooner or later.”
And of course this was the dramatic moment when “the dreadful child from next door” (as Freda insisted on calling him) chose to slouch into the living room uninvited.
“Hi, Dickeyboy, guess what? My Dad bought me a real Bantam fighting cock. How about you bring your skinny old chicken and we can have some sports?”
Just as Santa thought she had the old woman safely out of the house, Aunt Dolly stopped in her tracks.
“How can you boys be so cruel?” she wailed. “Dicky can’t use his pet for such barbaric sport! No wonder the little thing has run away.”
“Na, he’s never gone,” Buddy jeered. “I saw him just now…” “Freda! Fre-da!” Aunt Dolly shrieked. “This terrible child says he saw him…”
Freda grabbed the arm of the child she had often said she would never touch with a barge pole. “Where? Where did you see him? Speak, Terrible Child!”
“Wow, old Dick, what a fuss about nothing. My pa always says woman can make a helluva fuss…”
Richard took Buddy’s arm firmly. “I think you’d better go, pal. My mom isn’t feeling too well today.”
“I’ll say,” Buddy jeered. “She sounds like my pa when he’s been on the booze on a Friday night.”
Santa gritted her teeth. “Just get out now!” She pushed him down the steps and turned back to her brother. “Don’t we have enough problems without you acting like a hooligan too?”
“And don’t you think I’m upset too, Saintly Sister? Only women have feelings. Of course I don’t care what happened to Pa,” he ended bitterly. “I’m just a stupid little boy.” As they stood glaring at one another, a man’s voice sounded behind them.
“So, what’s this?” Am I at the wrong address? I thought we were preparing for the birthday party of the year?
Pandemonium. “Dad’s back… Here’s Dad…Oh, Dad, you’re back!”
“Of course I’m back, I said I wouldn’t be long…”
Bella clung to her father, crying, “But…the suitcase. Aunt Dolly said she saw you getting into a strange car with a huge suitcase!”
Ben smiled sheepishly. “Well…er…Aunt Dolly was exaggerating, as usual. It wasn’t that big.”
“So?” Freda asked, “Why were you carrying a suitcase at all?”
Ben laughed sheepishly. “Well, you see, Freda, when I realised you were on a cleaning out spree again, I…er…I decided to salvage some of my comfy old rags, especially my favourite dilapidated garden pants and …er…”
Freda rolled her eyes. “And that tatty jersey, I suppose!”
Ben nodded. “Yes, and my beloved old shabby jersey and so on. I lugged them to the office so that you couldn’t lay your jumble-sale hands on them!”
“Hurrah!” Jelled Richard. “Our little red rooster is back, safe and sound. Cone on, everybody together …one…two…three…Hurrah!”
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