I often see things I know to be signs of great import and meaning, but I don't know what the meaning is, so I make it up.
Today out walking in the warm, blossom rich spring air, I encountered a white rooster with a red comb. He was just stepping around a little narrow sidewalk in front of a house. The street was quiet, except for the sound of two women who sat in a parked car, talking.
I stopped and watched the rooster, maneuvering the stroller around so my daughter could see him too. He gave us the full profile, high and proud, then stepped about a little more and started scratching. There were no open gates or holes in the fence that I could see, and he could clearly fly, so I thought he had probably winged it for some fresh perspective, it being such a fine day.
Reluctant to leave him and imagining his owner's dismay at seeing him on the street, I paused near the car where the women were talking. I thought of waving to them, and saying, "Do you have chickens?" They didn't notice me, or the rooster, and continued to talk, oblivious to us.
I walked on, leaving the rooster to his sidewalk scratching and the women to their parked car chatting.
Now for the quiz: What does the white rooster in this story symbolize?
For me, the voice of my novel's character. I've been studying up on good story writing lately, reading especially those whose inventive and rockem sockem language I admire, just to get the juices flowing. The other night in the bath, it was Barry Hannah in a story from an old Best American Short Stories. What I love about that series is the feature in the back with a bio and short statement about each story by the author. Many give insight into the source of the story's content and the process of its writing. Hannah said in his blurb how key voice is, how you can get people to listen to a good story around a campfire but in black and white on the page, you've got to grab em, and you do that with voice. I'm paraphrasing.
I also read a killer one by a guy called Chris Offutt. Man o man.
But the rooster is the voice of my hero. She's got to be that unexpected, that strong, reaching her neck up to give the mighty profile when confronted with a foreign vehicle in an unprotected area, that cool--step and scratch, not bothered.
And me? I just have to be sure I'm not like the women in the car, too enamored with my own voice to see what's in front of me.