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July 2018, vol 14 no 2

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J Hahn Doleman

Year of the Rooster

As a young girl growing up during the second World War, my aunt had a pet Plymouth Rock with the classic zebra stripe feathers. His name was Mussolini, but no one can say why he was named after Il Duce. As far as we know there were no fascists in the family.

My aunt dressed Mussolini up in doll clothes – Shirley Temple patterns her mother ordered from McCall catalogs – a sailor suit, an Easter dress, a nurse’s uniform with the Red Cross symbol on a white pinafore apron. Mussolini never squawked. He even let my aunt wheel him around the neighborhood in her toy stroller, his willowy yellow legs sticking out from under the canopy. Shoppers bent over to admire him, cooing and clucking, tickling his wattle and scratching his comb.

Mussolini seemed doomed to the same fate as his namesake. But, despite his crowing before dawn and his puffed-up breast, my grandmother never wrung his neck. Mussolini just disappeared one day. My father says he either ran off with a local Orpington hen or was captured by a passel of partisan opossums roaming the town.

the shadow of an axe