Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Bag Of Heads

It is four o'clock in the morning, but the rooster next door doesn't know it. The rooster next door doesn't understand time. If he sleeps, it can only be in short, fitful bursts. Because he crows all the time, just about every hour, rain or shine.

I know that a lot of roosters do this. And I know that roosters all over the world sound pretty much the same. Whether they're roosters in America, Japan, Northern Europe, or the Mediterranean, they all have the same staccato aah-ooh-ahh-OOOOH. It's almost always the same four syllables with the stress on the last one, there's always the same edge to it, and the cock-a-doodle-doo always vibrates with the same bravado, the same I'm the king of the castle message.

But this rooster is different.

I don't know whether he's old or was born with a deformed voice box or is just plain eccentric, but this rooster has a distinctive cockle-doodle-doo. He will start to crow and then stop as though he's misplaced his notes and is trying to find them. Then, just as you start to think he's forgotten all about crowing, he'll start up again, get half the way through the process, and stop again. I've seen him on my way to catch the bus in the morning. He looks fairly normal: the same curved, iridescent tail feathers, the same Don't-you-try-it-with-me look in his eye, the same proud strut as he patrols the mosque garden where he lives with his harem of frazzled-looking hens.

But in the morning, off he goes. Aahoohahh-- he begins, then his voice suddenly stops and there's a long silence. A silence just long enough to drift back to sleep in.

It usually drives me half wild at this time in the morning. It usually fills me with thoughts of BB guns, slingshots, and water pistols. When it's really bad, I sometimes indulge myself in cruel fantasies. I picture myself getting out of bed, creeping outside in the morning chill through the fig and pomegranate trees, past the sheep pen and hen house, finding the irritating bird and twisting his neck.

This morning, however, I find my earplugs and put them in. Why? Because just recently I saw something that something chilled me to the bone. Something I hope that rooster doesn't know about. Something that makes me think he's got a right to crow as often and as irritatingly as he likes.

It was in the deep frozen section of the supermarket. Normally, I don't go near the frozen foods in winter, but I was in quest of octopus. You'd think that a country surrounded by sea would be full to bursting with fish, but this is sadly not the case. Turks love their meat, and fish is often hard to find here, and expensive. For this reason, I am always on the lookout for things like squid and octopus and they aren't always easy to spot. So when I saw the plain, white plastic bag with its loosely tied string, I peeked.

And I wish I hadn't.

Because it was full to bursting with roosters' heads. If there were any hens' heads in there, I could not see them. Dozens of severed roosters' heads stared up at me, their gimlet eyes blank, but accusing. And never would they cock-a-doodle-doo again.

Aah-ooh--ahh-, the rooster next door begins. I roll over and find my ear plugs and put them in. I can still hear his abbreviated Aaah-hoo-hahh-OOOH, but I can take it. All I'm going to lose is a couple hours of sleep, but I know what's in store for him.


Eryl Shields said...

I don't suppose you know why there is a bag of rooster's heads in the supermarket freezer? Is there a special rooster head dish in Turkey?

I feel your pain: it's about 5.55am here and I haven't yet made it to bed, I don't suppose I'll get there till tonight now. Deadlines, they're a killer.

Sarah Dooley said...

Your neighbor's rooster has a snooze button? That's all I can figure.

Kit said...

That is one thing I haven't missed since the wild cat got the last of the chickens. Our rooster was areal bully too, always going for our legs when we went to feed them.

Bish Denham said...

Boy, do I understand about the noise roosters can make. We have ferel chickens in the islands. There are at least 1/2 a dozen that live in and around our yard, roosters, hens and chicks. We if could catch them, or find where they lay their eggs we would.

As for the crowing...I like to think of it as them pulling the sun up else I sure I'd go crazy.

debra said...

We had a couple of roosters for about a week. 4 A.M.---must be a Universal thing.
Years ago, my late brother-in-law worked for Big Greeting Card Company. He traveled to factories, mostly in the southern US, and was often invited to the homes of co-workers for dinner. Once, he was invited for a beer and some "rooster dainties." When he asked what they were, the worker drawled, "You know.....rooster, uh.....dainties." Maybe they were in the bag next to the rooster heads.

Charlie said...

Huh. In Turkey you'd expect to see bagsful of turkey hea ... never mind, bad joke.

How about this, then. Your neighborhood rooster needs some of your learnin': Rooster as a First Language (RFL).

I give up.

Robert the Skeptic said...

So just curious, what does a bag of rooster heads go for in Turkey? I wonder what a Turk would think if he encountered a bag of pigs feet here in a good ol' USA grocery store?

Mary Witzl said...

Eryl -- Someone told me it was dog food. But can you imagine spilling rooster heads out into your dog's bowl? (Brrrr.)

I'm beginning to think a sound night's sleep is beyond my grasp. I'm working to a sort of deadline too, and that's no help at all. Hope you meet yours and get some sleep!

Sarah -- I love the thought of a rooster snooze button, but I think he's just easily distracted. Maybe the other chickens are giving him a hard time...

Kit -- Don't you just hate the way they do that? I've had the backs of my knees pecked by a few snotty roosters too.

Bish -- It's an amazingly loud sound, isn't it? Still, feral chickens would have a better chance of escaping that final cleaver. Worse for you I'm afraid, but better for them! Our guy is up before the dawn's first light. Maybe the sun is pulling him up.

Debra -- Ewww! Still, that bag of heads could have been worse, couldn't it? Though I'm not sure I'd have recognized rooster dainties.

Did your brother-in-law decline the 'dainties' or was he brave?

Charlie -- Come to think of it, that rooster has one thing in common with a lot of my male students: he has a really loud voice and cannot be made to shut up.

One of my students here was trying to tell me about something she'd eaten in the U.S. and not enjoyed very much. She couldn't remember the name of it for the life of her and finally described it as "bird you eat November holiday." I said, "You mean TURKEY?" and she burst out laughing.

Robert -- My aunt next door had a massive bottle of pickled pigs' feet in her garage. I still have nightmares about it.

I've got no idea what those heads went for. The minute I saw the contents, I made a bee-line for the baked goods and drooled over the baklava there until the icky feeling went away.

kara said...

when i was a kid, the neighbors behind us had a dalmation. cute dog...but they'd removed his voice (vocal cords or something) to prevent his barking. it didn't stop just sounded like someone getting choked every time he barked.

the end.

MG Higgins said...

What I don't understand is how rooster owners stand the noise. Maybe when you have control (and know you could put an end to it if you really wanted to), you become immune to the sound.

Very cute story.

Helen said...

Oh Mary - that was such a great read! I do love that you've already got one up on that rooster...
(oh my goodness...rooster dainties?????!!!!!!)

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Roosters. Sigh. Can relate, esp to your fantasies of BB guns and twisting heads. I can have quite violent fantasies when my sleep is disturbed.
In Mauritania one night, a herd of donkeys was being harrassed by a pack of feral dogs. The noise was terrific and terrible. After a couple of hours of it, my husband put a small bottle rocket (available at all the little stores) in an empty coke bottle and shot it at them all. It scared off the dogs and we were able to sleep. LOL!

Mary Witzl said...

Kara -- Poor dog! There's something so sad about a dog whose bark has been removed. I'm not a big fan of noisy dogs, but a dog that sounds like it's being choked would break my heart every time I heard it.

MG -- I swear, they must be deaf. They're a very elderly couple and I imagine their hearing must be shot to hell by now. Either that or they're just waiting until the right time to add to that bag. (Shudder)

Helen -- I feel a mixture of emotions every time I walk by the yard with that rooster in it: 'You poor thing' and 'Just you wait, Mr. Noisy'.

Rooster dainties don't sound very dainty, do they?

Elizabeth -- Clever thinking! My husband used to be plagued by feral dogs when he lived in Sudan. He had an awful time once, trying to get to the hospital at night for an injection, menaced every step of the way by a feral pack. He'd be thrilled with your husband's rocket -- just sorry he didn't think of it himself!

Robin said...

I think you should buy a bag of heads, take it over to that rooster, and have a little talk with him "Godfather" style.

Blythe said...

As an aficionada of murdered chickens fiction, I must say you are the best.

"he patrols the mosque garden where he lives with his harem of frazzled-looking hens"

Pat said...

In the UK country side there would be complaints to the council by incomers. They react in the same way to church bells.
The bag of rooster's heads is the stuff of nightmares.
I sympathise - it's not nice sleeping with your ears plugged.

Mary Witzl said...

Robin -- I couldn't have that bag of heads near me, but your idea will be a satisfying fantasy the next time I get woken up.

Blythe -- You've written a book featuring murdered chickens, haven't you? I almost wish you'd been the one to find that bag!

You should see this rooster throwing his weight around in front of the hens -- it's really funny.

Pat -- No one would object here, including us! Sometimes our rooster even competes with the call to prayer, chiming up with the first 'Allah akbar'. As far as I'm concerned, the call to prayer and church bells are all a part of culture and must therefore be endured even if not necessarily enjoyed. Along with roosters.

adrienne said...

How funny - sounds like he needs to clear his throat...and I don't know who to feel more sorry for, you or the rooster.

Mary Witzl said...

Adrienne -- That is exactly how I feel. By day, I am more sympathetic for the rooster. By night, I'm mostly on my side. It's hard to be objective when you've been woken up for the umpteenth time.

Marian said...

Reminds me of the time I saw a tray of "lamb tasties" in Dubai.

I looked at the contents of the tray and realized that "tasties" had been misspelled.

People eat the darndest things.

Anne Spollen said...

Roosters - we have donkeys two houses away who THINK they are roosters. They bray starting around 4:15 am; they bray when there's thunder coming; they bray when it's windy. Always at night, always with gusto.

And rooster heads - yik, stuff of nightmares that image...

AnneB said...

First slugs, now rooster heads. Mary, you are making the rest of us feel so.... b.o.r.i.n.g.

Falak said...

Roosters and dogs I think have no idea about the difference between day and night. There are days I wish I could throw the stray dogs around my house into a cage full of hungry lions. This coming from a person who adores dogs in general.
Thank God I didn't have to see dog heads though.