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MARTIN
 
An Albanian Folk Tale Collected and Rewritten by Phillip Martin

"You lazy, old man!" cried the old woman. "If you weren't so lazy, maybe, just maybe, we'd live in a nice home and have plenty to eat. I'm so tired of being poor and so tired of you!"

The old man was tired of being called lazy. In fact, he was just tired of his wife's voice. "If you're that unhappy, why don't you just take your half of everything and go?"

"What a wonderful idea!" snapped the old woman. "That's the best thing you've said to me in years!"

Of course, it wasn't hard for the old couple to divide their possessions. They only owned a cat and a rooster. The old woman grabbed the cat and stormed out the door and away from her husband. "At least with the cat,' she thought, "he'll catch me some birds and I'll have something to cook. A rooster can't catch anything or lay eggs."

The old woman was right about that, too. Her poor, old husband had nothing to eat.

One day, he just got so hungry that he had to say to his rooster, "I'm sorry, my friend, but I don't have a lot of choices here. I'm going to have to eat you.'

The rooster said he understood, but he didn't like it one little bit.

The old man sliced the rooster down the middle with his axe. He cooked one half of the bird, but the other half he decided to keep as a pet. From that day on, everyone called him "Half Rooster".

It wasn't too hard for Half Rooster to hop around on one leg. However, he knew that if he stayed with his poor master, the old man would some day get hungry again. "I'd better go seek my fortune out in the world. After I earn enough gold, then I can safely come back home."

The first place he hopped to was the edge of the pond. When Half Rooster saw his friend the frog on the lily pad, he crowed, "I'm off for my fortune. I'm off for fame. And since you're my friend, why don't you do the same?"

Frog didn't need to be asked twice. "Let's both see the world. Let's both have some fun. A journey with two friends is better than one." And so, the frog jumped off his lily pad and swam to the edge of the pond. He snuggled up in a comfortable place, just under Half Rooster's wing and on top of his belly.

Half Rooster continued on his walk, or hop, until he came upon Fox. Even from his seat up on the rocks, he saw a green foot sticking out from under Half Rooster's wing. "Is that Frog who I see under your wing?" asked the fox. "Whatever are you up to?"

Half Rooster looked up at the fox on the rocks and crowed, "I'm off for my fortune. I'm off for fame. And since you're my friend, why don't you do the same?"

Fox didn't need to be asked twice. "Let's all see the world. Let's all have some fun. A journey with three friends is better than one." And so, the fox jumped down from his seat on the rocks. He, too, snuggled up in a comfortable place, just under Half Rooster's wing and on top of his belly.

Half Rooster continued hopping along his way until he passed a cave. He saw a pair of yellow eyes staring back at him. It might have scared some, but not Half Rooster. He knew it was his friend Wolf. From his home deep in the cave, the wolf saw a a flash or red and green sticking out from under Half Rooster's wing. It brought a smile to his face and a question to his lips. "Half Rooster, what are you doing with Fox and Frog under your wing?"

Half Rooster peered into the darkness of the cave and crowed, "I'm off for my fortune. I'm off for fame. And since you're my friend, why don't you do the same?"

Wolf didn't need to be asked twice. "Let's all see the the world. Let's all have some fun. A journey with four friends is better than one." And so, the wolf came out of his came. His yellow eyes didn't look so frightening in the light of day. He, too, snuggled up in a comfortable place, just under Half Rooster's wing and on top of his belly.

Half Rooster hopped further and further on his journey for riches and fame until he passed a barn. That's where he e saw a pink nose stick out of the hay. He knew that nose belonged to his dear friend Mouse. The mouse crawled out of the hay mound and stared at the bulging wing on Half Rooster. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you have a frog, fox and wolf under those feathers. What are you doing?"

Half Rooster looked at his friend in the hay and crowed, "I'm off for my fortune. I'm off for fame. And since you're my friend, why don't you do the same?"

Mouse didn't need to be asked twice. "Let's all see the world. Let's all have some fun. A journey with five friends is better than one." And so, Mouse left his pile of hay in the barn. He, too, snuggled up in a comfortable place, just under Half Rooster's wing and on top of his belly. But, there was no longer any room for any more friends under that wing.

Half Rooster hopped on his way for fame and fortune.

One day the group of friends passed a vegetable garden. The food was ripe and the Half Rooster was so hungry. He cried out, "Cock-a-doodle doo! Cock-a-doodle-dee! Look at all of this food! And, this food is for me!"

Of course, the owner of the garden didn't feel that way. And, the owner of the garden was the king. He ordered his servants to capture the rooster. "He might only be half a rooster," thought the king, "but that half looks delicious!"

Several of the king's prize tomatoes were splattered in the chase. Heavy soldier boots completely trampled the strawberry patch. It wasn't until the last head of cabbage was cut away that Half Rooster was captured. "Throw that bird in the stew pot!" roared the king, "and don't forget to add a few tomatoes and a head of cabbage!"

Half Rooster knew he was in serious trouble. The cooking flames soared and the water inside the pot grew uncomfortably warm. He looked at frog and crowed, "If ever I needed a friend, it's now. Can you help me, Frog, somehow?"

And, Frog knew just what to do.

He swallowed all the water in the pot and then emptied it all on the fire. The flames were doused completely. A very soggy Half Rooster flopped out of the pot and hopped away.

But, he didn't escape. The king's servants were too fast for him. They grabbed Half Rooster and threw him in the goose pen.

Half Rooster knew he was in serious trouble. These were not friendly geese. At any moment they might peck at him. And if that started, they would not stop until they killed Half Rooster. He looked at the fox and crowed, "If ever I needed a friend, it's now. Can you help me, Fox, somehow?"

And, Fox knew just what to do.

He licked his lips. Then, he smiled at the geese. And, the geese were not silly geese. They knew how much Fox liked to eat geese. And before the fox could have his feast, the geese knocked a hole in the fence. Not only did they escape, but so did Half Rooster!

But, one more time the soldiers captured Half Rooster. This time they threw him into the the royal horse stables. "That'll teach him a lesson and trample him at the same time," smiled the head servant.

Once again Half Rooster knew he was in serious trouble. The hooves of the horses stamped dangerously close. At any moment he would be trampled to death. He looked at the wolf and crowed, "If ever I needed a friend, it's now. Can you help me, Wolf, somehow?"

And, Wolf knew just what to do.

In fact, he was all too happy to help. The hungry wolf attacked the horses just like, well, a hungy wolf! None of the horses wanted to be a meal for the wolf. They smashed through the fences around the stables and Half Rooster followed after them in escape.

However, one more time, the soldiers captured Half Rooster. But, the soldiers didn't know what to do with the rooster. It was the king who suggested, "Throw that bird in a chest of gold. Be sure it is the strongest box in the treasury." So, that's just what the soldiers did.

Once again Half Rooster knew he was in serious trouble. If he could not get out of the box, he would starve to death. And, he was fairly certain the king planned to keep him in that box a very long time. He looked at the mouse and crowed, "If ever I needed a friend, it's now. Can you help me, Mouse, somehow?"

And, Mouse knew just what to do.

"I'm going to need some room to move around in this box. Can you swallow some of the gold?" Half Rooster knew he could do that. But, he really wanted to help Mouse out. So, he swallowed almost all of the gold in the chest. As he swallowed the gold, Mouse gnawed at the wood. In no time at all, he made a hole big enough for them to escape.

This time, there were no soldiers around to capture Half Rooster. Nobody expected him to escape from the box so nobody guarded it. Half Rooster lost no time at all. He grabbed up the few remaining pieces of gold and hopped away. In his rush to escape, he dropped a little bit of the gold, but there was no time to worry about that. He had to get away from the king and he wanted to get home.

Once he arrived home, Half Rooster knew his days of wandering were over. He rushed up to his master and spread out his wing for a hug. And, the old man was so happy to have his friend back home. He was even more delighted to find a few nuggets of gold under Half Rooster's wing. "Where ever did you find this?"

"It's a very long story," replied Half Rooster with a smile.

"Well, it is certainly enough for us to eat well for a few days," said the old man. "I'm off to the market right now to get us some food."

"While you're at it, will you please get me some straw so I have a nice warm place to sleep?"

"What ever you want, Half Rooster!"

When all the gold was spent, Half Rooster told his master not to worry. "If you hit me with the broom -- and it doesn't have to be too hard -- I will cough up a piece of gold. It'll be enough to feed us for a long time." And, that's just the way it happened. Whenever the cupboards were bare, the old man reached for his broom.

Half Rooster had plenty to eat and a soft place to sleep. The old man finally could live a better life. Their home was happy and they often had friends over for dinner. That included Frog, Fox, Wolf and Mouse.

However, not everyone was happy at the end of the story. The old woman was furious. And, she wasn't just angry; she was jealous. "Why did I keep the cat and not the rooster? I should be the one with all the gold I need!" she cried.

And then, she had a plan!

The old woman grabbed her broom and chased the cat out the door. "You lazy creature, go out into the world and find yourself some gold! Don't come back until I'll have enough to eat everything I want. Do you hear me, Cat?"

Cat heard her alright. And, on his way, he found one piece of gold that Half Rooster dropped along the path. He swallowed that right away. But, there was no more gold to be found. So, Cat filled his belly with snakes, mice, wiggly centipedes, salamanders and one very, hairy spider. When he could eat no more, Cat decided it was time to waddle home.

The old woman was thrilled to see her cat. "Back so soon and with such a full belly?" she giggled. "Let me get my broom!" She gave the cat a whack on the back that was harder than it needed to be. But, sure enough, Cat coughed up a piece of gold.

The old woman was delighted. However, one piece of gold just wasn't enough. She whacked the cat a second time. This time a salamander wiggled his way out of the cat and on to the woman's shoe. She screamed, of course, and beat the cat harder. "What is this? What have you done to me?" she cried as her floor covered with snakes and mice and wiggly centipedes and more salamanders. The old woman hit the cat one last time when the very, hairy spider crawled out. And, he was a very, hairy, angry spider. He chased after the woman. Together they raced into the forest and neither were ever heard from again.

As for the cat, he moved back home with the old man and Half Rooster. He had a warm place to sleep and a full belly for the rest of his days.

MARTIN
Copyright 1995 and 2009 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.
MARTIN