The cow and the dog were best friends. They had been close for longer than the other animals could remember. Even the wise old mare was unable to recall a time before this great camaraderie.
“I am pleased to see such harmony visit our farm,” she said, one sunny day, “but just the same, the relationship is unusual. No good can come of it.”
The donkey made no comment and continued feeding. He cared only for fodder and pulling his little cart. The cat did not speak — she believed herself invisible and did not wish to reveal her position. The chickens scrabbled and hopped around the dry-lot in front of the stock barn. They didn’t say anything because they are incredibly small-minded and stupid.
“My friend and I are right here,” the cow said to the horse, “and we can hear you talk about us!”
The dog, as was his common inclination, rolled in the dirt, saying nothing but twisting around from time to time to bite his own tail. He didn’t care what the other animals thought. It made no sense to him: why chew on words as if speech were rawhide or gristle? He was on good terms with the mare, whose buggy he loved to follow down the road while he barked at the wheels. But the cow was the dog’s very special friend.
“What of it?” the young rooster said to the cow. His plumage gleamed, an open jewelry box in the sun. “Even if your wet-nosed companion doesn’t mind being called a fool, both of you are fools nonetheless!”
With that, the rooster half-flew, half-fell a full three feet from his perch and landed square on top of several chickens. He clawed and flapped and poked at them to show the cow and dog he was serious. The chickens squawked in a tornado of feathers, but within minutes continued to browse around again. Resisting the urge to crow, the rooster raised his wings one at a time and preened. He strutted around the small empty space he had cleared within the midst of the other poultry.
“A bond such as yours — cow and dog, indeed!” said the rooster. “It’s unnatural!”
The cow meant no harm to anyone in the world; this made her even more sensitive to the rooster’s harsh remarks. She blinked a couple of times and took a step back. Her bell clanked once and became still. For his part, the dog sat and scratched at fleas until his eyes bugged and his tags jingled like sleigh bells. He satisfied his itch and gazed with adoration at the cow. His tongue lolled while his tail beat the dust.
The rooster was not finished making his point. He rushed over to the cow, stopped just in front of the beast, and began to peck and claw at the ground. His wings spread wide as if he were a very plump, practically flightless eagle.
Startled, the cow backed up again, but this time landed her big rump in the water trough. The other animals laughed at her shock and embarrassment. They didn’t mean to, but it was so sudden and unexpected. Even the old mare let out a choked guffaw.
“Unnatural! Unnatural! Unnatural!” shrieked the rooster, bouncing up and down. He beat his wings and almost touched the cow, who writhed and bucked in her attempts to free herself. She moaned and mooed.
“Unnatural!” the rooster screamed. “Un-na-tur-al! Un-na-tur — ”
Silence. The rooster’s head was inside the dog’s jaws. Clamping down harder, the dog played tug-of-war and gave a powerful shake. One, two, three times. He dropped the lifeless bird to the ground. For several seconds or maybe minutes, none of the other animals moved, including the chickens.
Freed from the rooster, and lately the trough, the cow bowed her head and cast her soft brown eyes toward her friend. Without saying anything, the cow and dog ambled out of the dry-lot and into the pasture. The cow grazed timothy and clover while the dog flushed rabbits, real and imagined, from beneath piles of deadfall. The barn cat flowed from shadow to shadow as she headed towards the back porch and a dish of cream. The donkey dozed in the afternoon sun, dreaming of his cheerful little cart.
“It is so much better when we help each other,” the old mare said to no one in particular. The chickens ate their own poop and a lot of small pebbles. “Friendship is worth the effort it takes.”
MICHAEL GRANT SMITH wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared in elimae, Ghost Parachute, Longshot Island, The Airgonaut, formercactus, Riggwelter, and others. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. To learn too much about Michael, please visit http://www.michaelgrantsmith.com and @MGSatMGScom.
Image: Daniel Borker via Pixabay