Posts Tagged ‘Ariel Delgado Dixon’

New Voices: “The Cock in Cadwalader Heights” by Ariel Delgado Dixon

In Ariel Delgado Dixon’s beautiful summer story “The Cock in Cadwalader Heights,” an eleven-year-old girl growing up in Trenton, New Jersey decides to investigate the mysterious rooster who lives in an abandoned house in her neighborhood. “The Cock in Cadwalader Heights” beautifully captures the hazy, long summer days of childhood while also giving us a sober look at adult issues. This piece charmed us from the beginning, and we are pleased to share this story with you and to welcome it to our New Voices library.

“The first time I heard the rooster, I was taking a sweaty nap in the backseat of the Saab. I woke confused, in someone else’s dream—where a bird had a duty to mark the day.”

In the abandoned rowhome behind our house, there lived a rooster that crowed every day at high noon. Though the phenomenon of the bird might have begun earlier, I only noticed it at the onset of that summer, as I was wandering away humid weekday afternoons while my mom worked.

The noises of barn animals were decidedly scarce in Cadwalader Heights, though there had once been a quarter horse corralled in a patch of yard two streets over, whose braying traveled easily over snow-flattened winter days. By the time the rooster showed up, the horse was long gone, hauled off to somewhere—a placid farm retreat for city horses, I imagined—and the cock’s noonday call rose above the customary street refrain: the double-thunk of cars wheeling over manholes, dogs conversing blindly with one another from blocks away.

Our house was an old one, even by our neighborhood’s standards. The colonial revival came with a crumbling brick garage, a derelict wooden loft barely afloat near the rafters. This, I was forbidden to climb. As consolation, my mother’s brokedown Saab became my home base. For as long as I could remember, it had been stashed in the brick garage, which had become a building-sized junk drawer full of castoffs: rotted firewood, a decommissioned lawnmower, bike inner tubes that I frequently mistook for monster garter snakes. The Saab was the centerpiece of the scrap and my own personal jungle gym. Its permanently open moonroof made the perfect hatch for climbing in and out, and I’d often retreat to the backseat with a Highlights magazine lifted from the library, or a handful of pebbles to lob through the gash in the garage’s side window.

The summer before, I had made it my mission to dig a giant hole in the backyard, a venture I pitched as a tunnel to China. I’d always hit a root system a few feet down and give up, then move over a few paces to begin again. By that summer’s end, the ground was pockmarked with three-foot-deep craters, as if massive ice-cream scoops had been taken from the earth. This summer, I was less motivated.

My sister Eneida was off spending the summer at Camp Dulcet for Girls with her best friend, living in three-walled cabins in the mosquito-specked Poconos. She mostly kept her bedroom door closed anyway, but without her the house was sedative, stale.

The first time I heard the rooster, I was taking a sweaty nap in the backseat of the Saab. I woke confused, in someone else’s dream—where a bird had a duty to mark the day. I was ready to run to Eneida’s room, to tell her of the sound. Then I remembered that she was off in ceramics or riflery class, maybe piloting a canoe.

So, I went to inspect the noise myself. Sidestepping the backyard’s cavities, I headed toward the battered fenceline, a third of its posts knocked out. The connected rowhomes on either side of the pale brick dwelling had been bulldozed a few years earlier, leaving just the one—a crooked and protruding tooth of a building shaved down and disowned. There was overgrowth to wade through, thorns that snagged my socks. I listened for something to tell me where to fix my eye. I heard the howl of an ambulance, wind nudging the heavy bows of summer-ripe oak trees. Then: a flash of white in the second-floor window, where the boards were pulled away.

It might’ve been the flutter of a curtain, or light bouncing off some scrap of metal. I looked for signs of life among the litter in the onion grass and trained my eye on the second level, just as a breeze picked up. The wind whirled its way through the rowhome’s lone open pane, livening the dust from the floorboards and corners. That’s when I saw them: two long feathers crisscrossing in mid-air—one black, one white.

To read the rest of “The Cock in Cadwalader Heights” click here.