Curriculum of the Day: Alive/Not Alive
Seven and a half years ago, Larry the Rooster entered Marty’s and my life as a little black hatchling. He instantly imprinted on Marty, so our houseguest, who owned this batch of chicks, let us keep the little rooster when he left.
At first, Larry was a pet we all loved. He was a darling, sleeping on our chests with his scraggly neck stretched out as we watched TV; skittering about the kitchen table as we ate dinner; nibbling food off our plates (this was before Avian Flu); and riding in a guinea pig carrying case into NYC.
Larry on the kitchen table. (Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures of Larry as a little chick.)
At this time, Marty was doing “Little Shop of Horrors” on Broadway, so we would spend the weekends at my Upper West Side apartment, bringing Puff the dog and Larry with us. One day, I had Larry on my finger as I was waiting outside the stage door for Marty. A Russian woman approached me from the restaurant next door where she was out front smoking. With a cigarette dangling from her mouth, she took one look at Larry and said with a strong accent:
“He is rooster, kill him now.”
“But but,” I protested. “He’s my little Larry, he loves me.”
“He is rooster, he vill turn on you, kill him now.”
I relayed this exchange to Marty who also dismissed her prediction. How could this precious little chick turn on anyone?
About four months later, the Russian seer’s words came true. After many months of practicing his crow, and with a growing red comb on his black bantam head, Larry attacked me. And he kept attacking me for the next seven years. He also attacked the UPS man, all our older step-kids, grandparents, houseguests, other people’s pets, employees—no one was safe except Marty, and later Marty’s brother. Everyone else was the enemy.
Larry in his prime.
Larry became one of the very few contentious issues between Marty and myself. It’s rare that I curse and slam doors, but believe me, I sure did when this chicken nailed me with his spurs. Marty refused to lock-up his nutty pet except when there were guests. In the cold months, Larry was often put in the garage leaving his feathers and excrement everywhere. I had to put my foot down hard about the rooster never being in the actual house but Marty stood by my request. He blunted Larry’s spurs, and he finally lost one when it stuck in a door when attacking someone. I had a three tour Vietnam Vet tell me he was more afraid of our rooster than combat (I think he was exaggerating). Larry also had a very disturbing habit of mistaking shoes for hens. He would do an intricate mating dance around them, before attempting to have relations with them. (See film below).
But Marty loved Larry. And marriage is about compromise. After dark, Larry became docile and wasn’t a threat. One Halloween Party, Marty designed our costume around Larry’s colors and wore him on his head much of the night.
Halloween with Annie, Marty and Larry.
MOST of the time, Larry was put safely away when people were around, although we have some funny memories of seeing Lauren and Chanel running to their car screaming with a little rooster in hot pursuit. In the last few years, Larry slowed down and spent much of his time on the back deck or garage where he could be safely gated.
Larry and the other pets on the back deck at dinner time.
Lauren and Sam’s dog Charva also loved to attack Larry and almost succeeded in offing him several times.
A few weeks ago, when I was upstairs putting Lyra and Ripley to bed, I heard Larry briefly give a few protesting squawks on the deck. This was common, and I suspected Charva was out bugging him. When Marty returned from karate, I mentioned he should check on Larry. All that Marty found of the wicked bird were a few feathers. Marty and Sam walked the property for several hours with flashlights and again in the morning. Larry was gone. Some predator had braved coming very close to the house and snatched him, quickly and bloodlessly.
Marty believes it could have been a raccoon. They often come onto the back deck to try and defeat our compost container. Larry has tangled with raccoons in the past and scared them off. I believe it was an owl since I’ve heard one at night several times this winter.
And so we come to the end of the legacy of Larry the Evil Rooster. Marty is sad, but he admits it’s not nearly as heartbreaking as losing our dear dog Puff last year. I’m quite relieved, as are many family members except Marty’s brother. I hated that bird (some Sesame Street friends have started to call me Rooster Killer, but I swear on all things holy I had nothing to do with the taking of Larry.)
I also believe in the divine workings of the Universe. This spring, with the girls now walking outside and Lauren’s baby here as well, Larry was finally going to have to get a coop. Marty totally agreed and we had a plan to actually get him some chickens to protect inside a pre-fab coop. Larry has now moved on to avian heaven, knowing only the freedom of protecting his vast territory and his favorite pairs of shoes.