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THE ROOSTER

    Once a rooster missed the dawn.
    The sun was high in the sky and the world had already gone about its business when the rooster awoke from a night of pleasant dreams. So pleasant were they, in fact, that although it had been on the point of waking several times, although it felt the spreading rays of the sun on its feathers and had been well aware the dew was drying in the fields, it could barely resist slipping back into its own warm darkness once again.
    But it must get up, the rooster knew. Notice had doubtless been taken of its tardiness. To make matters worse, it wasn’t the first time the rooster had overslept and failed to meet its responsibilities. Last month alone, it had received several warnings about such behavior. One of its colleagues, a future rival most likely, had even asked with an insinuating look, “You’re not becoming a slacker are you, old boy?” 
    A slacker? Old boy? Why, the rooster could drag itself up to meet the morning as readily as the next cock of the walk, whatever dissipations the night before had brought. After years at the task, you could practically do it on no sleep at all when necessary.
    Being called a slacker wasn’t the point, though. The point was the dreams you had to leave behind to get up and fulfill the world’s demands. Didn’t others have a dreamlife? Something to keep them going when each day brought only the same dry scratching about in the dirt for a living? They must. How else could one explain why so many companies hired productivity consultants to detect any daydreaming on the job? When a little daydream now and then was all that made the daily grind bearable and kept one producing anything!
    With so many seeking refuge in their dreams, it was doubly puzzling to the rooster why so few seemed willing to admit the fact. Instead, embarrassment at being labeled “a dreamer” was nearly universal.
    Not that claiming to have a dream was embarrassing, of course. On the contrary, declaring you had one was all but mandatory if you wanted to be taken seriously. Imagine having to admit you weren’t following your dream in life! What a lightweight you’d look without that proof you understood society’s stock measure of earnest intent! 
    Then why was being a dreamer pure and simple so maligned? From the rooster’s observations, most of those who lauded the pursuit of one’s dream were actually dismissive of fulltime dreamers whenever one might be pointed out to them, strolling in the park, perhaps, or sipping pensively at a drink in the corner of a boisterous office party.
    It was as if they felt personally threatened by such complete indifference to the many compromises they’d found must be struck between dreams and the real world. Such trade-offs were a test of maturity, and managing them was key to maintaining one’s self-esteem. And then to be confronted with some unabashed dreamer who refused to follow their lead, who didn’t even bother with the usual dismissal of their prudent accommodations as a selling out but acted instead as if they failed to merit being dismissed at all—how unnerving that must be. 
    As well it should, in the rooster’s mind. To believe you could make it to sundown without dreams, having traded away the sustaining promise of a world you’d given your heart to before dawn, what false confidence. What fantasy!
    Not worth a single cock-a-doodle-doo.