Cocky, the Most Dangerous Rooster in Spain
The No-Name Twins were quiet and well behaved in their box. Unlike Cocky who crowed his dissatisfaction with tireless regularity.
Following Judith’s directions, we swung off the main Lanjarón road and down a dirt track. Branches scraped the jeep’s paintwork and bald rocks lay strewn in our path. A little stream bubbled in the centre of the track, leading the way down. Even Cocky fell silent as we bounced and jolted, Joe steering round obstacles designed to puncture our tyres or tip us over.
At last the track widened into a clearing. Parked in the shade of the trees was a jumble of extraordinary vehicles. London cabs, ambulances, vans and removal trucks sat axle-deep in vegetation, a cemetery of obsolete transport. There was even a red London bus. Saucer-eyed, we stopped and gaped.
The occasional old-style British number plate peeped out of the scrub. Peeling sign-writing proclaimed ‘Fine Furnishings from Farnham’ and ‘Enjoy Real West Country Pork Pies’ on the sides of ancient vans. Even more curious were doors cut into vehicle sides, and metal tube chimneys that erupted from roofs. Scattered around were dilapidated couches and chairs, encircling the blackened debris of past camp fires.
“What a place…” breathed Joe.
“How on earth did they manage to get all these vehicles down here?” I asked.
A tangle of puppies played under an antiquated dormobile, the only sign of life.
“What shall we do?” I asked. “Knock on a door?”
Joe got out of the jeep and stretched. A few more dogs lifted their heads out of the scrub, blinked and went back to sleep, unconcerned by Joe’s arrival. Joe strode purposefully to the dormobile, and knocked on the door. Seconds passed. He was about to leave when a moth-eaten curtain twitched aside and a face appeared at the window.
“Hello,” said Joe. “Can you direct me to where, er, Cauliflower lives, please?”
The face was immobile, a smudged pale shape blurred behind filthy glass. Then, very slowly, a hand appeared, forefinger pointing down the track.
“Thank you,” Joe called, and the face hung there for a moment longer before melting back into the gloom.
“I suppose we’ll have to carry on down,” said Joe. “Talkative chap, wasn’t he?”
The track did not improve, but we meandered down, tyres scrunching on scattered rocks. Another clearing opened, smaller this time. A battered minibus propped on bricks held centre stage, flanked by rusting carcasses of other aged vehicles. A tarpaulin awning shaded a seating area of threadbare cushions piled in dirty heaps. A figure reclined, oblivious to our arrival.
Cocky chose that moment to crow and the figure sat up slowly. Near him, a lethargic brown dog opened one eye, shook its head then flopped back down on the cushions.
“Hello? Are you Cauliflower?” called Joe.
The figure stood unhurriedly and faced us. He was of average height, middle-aged and round shouldered. I noticed his skin was the same colour as the cushions and his dog. Dry clumps of coarse hair sprouted from his scalp. A faded, tattered T-shirt that may have been green at some time clung to him. The lettering, once black, now faded powdery grey, proclaimed Bob Marley sings No Woman, No Cry.
He scuffed towards us, sandaled feet dragging in the dirt.
“Are you Caul?” Joe asked again. “I believe you’re expecting us?”
“That’s me,” said Cauliflower after a long pause.
“We’ve brought you a little bantam cock and two chickens,” I said, climbing out of the jeep. “I’m Vicky, and this is Joe.”
I extended my hand then almost wished I hadn’t when he clasped it weakly in his own dirt-ingrained one. His eyes were heavily hooded and expressionless.
“Mother said you were coming,” he said at last.
I wondered fleetingly if anybody knew Mother’s real name. Chatting obviously wasn’t one of Caul’s strong points, so Joe and I busied ourselves unloading the feeder, water container and boxes out of the jeep. Caul watched us, deep in thought...
To be continued...
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From Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools release date October 2009.
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Cocky with one of the Gin Twins, from earlier in the book.