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Moe, the Vagabond

"There came a time," began this sated and jolly father to his family gathered about him after a festive dinner, "a time before long ago, when the blissful vagabond known as Moe lived next to a neighbor who, himself, had reared from hatchling a splendid yard-cock. The proud man was indulgent to this fine bird, and for good reason. Tall, broad of chest, and beautifully feathered, this prime rooster out-spurred every competitor in the compound, owned many hens, fathered the strongest chickens, and the neighbor could barter his cock's service to most profitable account.

"If the exceptional bird had a fault, though, it was his roaming. Hours at a time he would escape from his compound and go wandering, checking out life, looking for trouble. Then came one evening when he did not return. Anxiously - as you would expect - Moe's neighbor checked the cock's usual roosting spots, but with no sign of the splendid one. Two more days of the same and the neighbor gave up. Forlorn tears pouring, he grievanced how some jealous one had stolen his beautiful cock, maybe even cooked and consumed it.

"Mouth set malicious, countenance dour, to anyone who would bend an ear, the neighbor whispered how he had noticed that vagabond Moe bore the traits and manners of a thief. How aimless Moe ambled the pathways alert, like a thief. How, like a thief, his laugh was quick and shallow. And yet, how he always seemed to prosper mysteriously, like a thief.

When the neighbor made these speculations, always there was a head that would nod thoughtfully. So within days, many of the villagers were being elaborately careful if and when they dealt with Moe, the vagabond.

"Then one morning just after sunrise, his chest held high like a champion, his plumes shining, the splendid rooster strode back into the neighbor's compound. Ecstatic, chagrined and abashed all at once, the rooster's owner abandoned his campaign against Moe, avoided anything to do with him.

"Our happy vagabond made no noticeable reaction. He seemed to have forgiven his bad-mouthing neighbor. Then about a month later the roaming rooster disappeared again. This time the owner spoke neighborly to Moe, expressed the hope that his cock was merely practicing its fault and would soon return.

"Moe met the man's anxious eye and nodded consolation. When the man complained about bird's bad habits, he agreed sincerely, even heartily.

"For on this topic, Moe had special knowledge. Quite recently, he himself had discovered how easy it was to entice the rooster into a kitchen by way of a trail of corn grains. Not a word to his mistrustful neighbor but, due to delicious consequences of that experiment, Moe now nurtured extreme doubts of the splendid bird's eventual reappearance."