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Friday, September 30, 2016

Why Giving Sometimes Hurt


Except you have a standing death wish you should not expect a thing from anyone you have helped. And yes, the universe gives back whatever you have given in equals and triples and infinities but we must learn to give rightly.

Once I came across a saying that, ‘if you did a good turn and you were repaid with evil then there’s a bid of wickedness attached to your good.’

That may not be as ominous as it depicts. My take on the saying is that you must leave your ego out of your giving. Your left hand should not see what the right is doing when giving. When one gives in expectation of returns then one might as well have bought some stocks because that would no longer be charity.

Many of us deem it most charitable to give to the most prospective and the upcoming, or to those whose future we can already foretell, so that when they get to their paradise we will be remembered (talk about the bid of wickedness, perhaps). But more often than not many have been failed by this scheming; leaving them disappointedly embittered, rueful and even suicidal.

Most people you have helped will either forget – which is human – or even decide not to look back because they saw through your motive. Some may return, give their measure of quid pro quo which usually may be beneath your expectation. Others would simply have moved on to different dimensions in life that do not offer certain luxuries.
And you haven’t even thought that you simply may have been placed on their path with the most concise precision by fate. And yes, there is fate.

Did you know that the talent, health or wealth in your possession right now may not be entirely for your very satisfaction? Our greed most times won’t let us see.
The truth is that reward –if I may say – for our kindly deeds may be granted in form of our very good health, the successes of our children, or even our very salvation.

When we give and make other people see. We receive adulation. Our ego is feed, and that’s all about that. So don’t ask why you don’t get remembered by those you have helped because you have been appropriately paid in praises. The universe owes no debts.
The best way is to give and never remember. Don’t keep the faces if you could. Have no expectation of reward whatsoever.

Imagine you have been secretly paying a poor child’s fees and taking care of his needs for years and yet he sees you on the street and doesn’t even say hi. Imagine he even insults you without the slightest knowing that you are his benefactor.

Giving doesn’t have to be so conspicuous an act.

Photo credit: Thereseborchard

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Co-occpants



I don’t hate Gecko. How could I? I mean, God must have spent quite some heavenly time to mold and breathe on that one, too. But waking up every morning to find that creepy, lazy troll on the wall by my head is just too much for me. It stirs up nightmare, you know? 

No wonder I often found myself in some nondescript desert, trapped in this particular nightly sight in which this odious skeletal figure in turban chased me with a long dagger dripping with blood, I think, screaming, “I want brood! Gimme brood!” And, I running like I’ve got two bags of cement tied to my thighs.

I have never had the gut to stand and ask why it needed the blood, and particularly mine. Call that fear if you will. I’m only human. Besides, I hear fear is a more permanent human emotion than courage. And courage hasn’t ever existed where there isn’t fear.   

Having fled the religious chaos of Kaduna city with nothing but the clothes on my back and a bag of letters I was to deliver to a branch office across town – which by the way, lie by the corner half eaten by rats and God knows what else –just anywhere that could offer a roof and a semblance of security was all I truly desired. And perhaps that was exactly what my uncle tried to offer: a roof and a semblance of security in his home.

I was just getting to know Keffi town.  Although a safe hundreds of miles from Kaduna, Kaduna still awoke a tremor in my soul. The sights of the horrors I witnessed still made me jittery. Did I mention that I was a Masters graduate working as a post boy? Well, that wouldn’t matter, would it? Such story does not fail the heart these days. Anyway, I was going to get a promotion before the gods once again left one of their many wars to man.

Upon my arrival on that fateful day, I noticed there had been a huge change. My uncle had built himself another home, a five-bedroom duplex this time. And the former one, a bedraggled single-room where I stayed with him, his wife and seven children still lurked a few meters behind, like a heap of bad luck. I was so relieved. And then, I must have felt happy for him too, until a little later. Relieved for the fact that, unlike the last time I stopped by on my way to my now smoldered job, we all won’t have to tolerate another season of suffocative torture in that tin of a house like handled sardines.

My heart sank when he took me around to the heart-broken house after I had narrated my ordeal, and told him I would need some time to find my feet. With a bold smile on his face, he told me that was to be my sleeping quarters while I stayed. I thought I deserved a better treat; at least, I was a nephew.

“These children need space,” he told me in a rather annoying gentility. I gaped at him. Uncle Thomas? What a human manifestation! My uncle was poorer than a church rat. His fart was louder than a rock blast. His children have a genetic copy of that, too. And I prayed for salvation every moment I lived with them, and now he talked to me like he was some royalty? I was heartbroken. If my father, his elder brother, was alive I would have called him to bring back the Uncle Thomas that once shared his only room with me. No being unreasonable, but this is Africa. We were created to share things.

The room was moderately large, ascetic, heart-sinking, cracked and holed here and there. A worn-out single bed where my uncle made all his children, a table and a chair at both ends of the room, made up for all the missing furniture. There was a window with a curtain half its size, and a calendar on the opposite wall, hiding a deep crack. My uncle smiled broadly, dropped a packet of rat poison and a can of insecticide on the table as he introduced me into the room and left. The smile I tried to put on could not form before I saw his back; I guess the need too was gone, because I felt my face go deadpan instantly.

I honored the sigh of despair that rose from the depth of my soul and tried to assimilate the environment further. Although mine was a humble abode at the end of a run-down street in the city of Kaduna, I felt like I have been thrown into a hole, in retrospect. 

Suddenly, the eerie silence that followed my uncle’s departure and my resignation to fate began to crack-up. A squeak in the ceiling, and a rustle of the calendar on the wall that dated back two years, I remembered I brought it the last time I visited. I felt I was been watched. Looking up, a rat peered out of a hole in the ceiling. 
A gaunt wall gecko sauntered from behind the calendar, wriggled its snake of a tail. A big cockroach screeched out of a crack along the door and back in a flash. I had been thrown into a zoo! I realized my uncle left those arsenals behind for a reason. And it clearly wasn’t out of altruism. I was the uninformed exterminator.
                                                                                                                     
Apparently our entrance had interrupted some sort of normalcy in the house. From the look of their eyes, those pests have become used to running the place as some jungle territory after the departure of my uncle and his crowd. And now: who the hell is this? Their glistening, tiny, black eyes seemed to demand. My eyes wouldn’t leave the gecko. I don’t hate geckos but I certainly wouldn’t have one for pet or a co-occupant or I will kill – sorry ancestors. Not really.

Well, that day, I made a move; the rats withdrew. The sound up there told me there weren’t just one dozen of them. But the gecko stayed put. It stayed, wagging that disgusting tail with such stiff, unwavering intensity. It could have risen to my face if it was further endowed. I yanked off one my shoes to smash its tiny a skull but then remembered the story we were told as little children in Ugbosi. It was about a man who killed a wall gecko and never had a child. Such things still happened, you know? I thought to myself and refrained. Oh it should have been such a fitting retaliation for that recalcitrant reptilian did dare me. 

Anyway, the gecko did stand there urging me to give my gut a boost. In one of those stories it was also said that if you woke up one morning and a chicken ran after you, that it was only common sense that you made good use of those legs you’ve got for free. For, you never knew, it may have learned how to bite the night before. I decided to take a walk of the compound. There were other things to see. After all I just came into town.

That night I could not sleep. The mosquitoes buzzed like choppers and their raids as persistent as the Janjaweed. The rats chattered ceaselessly and played their romance game. Did you know they squeaked when they made love? Right before my very eyes, the center of the room became an arena for marathon sex, the males where particularly notorious. 
I guess I knew better than put the light off. Meanwhile the gecko found no other place but the wall perpendicular to my bed, my head’s position, to perch and wriggle that bloodless tail. At some point the rat fiesta got overwhelmingly loud. I got up and chased them back into the ceiling. I discovered three seemingly exhausted males wriggling on the floor. Was this some kind of sexual elation? Since they were clearly oblivious of my threat I let them be. 

Finding nothing to block the hole, I tore the outdated calendar off the wall, squeezed and molded it into a ball and then used it to plug the hole, hoping that would do the trick. On a second look at the wall I realized I had ripped off the gate to the gecko’s paradise. But who cared? It was understandable if animals were in some place because there were no humans. But here I was. Hello! What in the world happened to all the bushes and rocks and all the grounds that could be burrowed out there, anyway?

I looked at the time. 12:30 midnight. I was tired so I went back to bed, changing my head’s position to the feet’s to keep a good distance from the good-for-nothing gecko. I could feel the stabs of mosquito proboscis through the cover cloth but I endured. 

I could not have slept for one good hour and a half when I heard some scrapping noise. Chips of wood from the ceiling rained on my face. Startled, I jumped off the bed. A mischief of rats were vigorously eating another hole through ceiling, this time right over my head. My shock smoldered to anger. But when I imagined what it would be like to have rats jumping on my face through the ceiling, the anger dissipated. I went over and removed my blockade on their initial hole which was a bit off the bed. 

The calendar was badly ruined so I couldn’t give the gecko’s gate back. I sat on the tip of the bed, face in hands, to reconsider my position. Was I not supposed to be on top of the food chain? It was then I remembered the rat poison. I had my Eureka moment. The euphoria almost seized my heart.

From that moment my lovely mind began to entertain even more sinister thoughts. Though Mr. Conscience preached ‘thou shall not kill animals thou will not eat,’ the situation at hand seemed more reasonable.  I could handle rats with a little irritation to my conscience but not the gecko. 
I can’t remember the consequence if a woman did kill it, but I was a man and impotence certainly held no good prospect for a forward looking young man. But who made this ‘shit’ sacred? I thought. Then another though struck my mind. What if I killed it killed it ‘unintentionally’? Yes, unintentionally.

The insecticide worked quite well, the mosquitoes were mostly gone. They were no jokers. They fed even in the afternoons. After two days the can ran dry because I had to concentrate my sprays on that particular crack on the wall where the calendar used to cover. The gecko had to die unintentionally.

However, after emptying half of the can into the crack on the first morning, the daft lizard emerged later in the evening seemingly unperturbed. I pretended not to notice and went to sleep, still maintaining my new position. The rats have refused also to eat the poison I planted in five strategic corners in the room, preferring instead to nibble at the letters I came with. I was a defeated force; I could see it in the way they looked at me.

When I returned from working with my uncle at his poultry every night and opened the door, I had to also wait for order to be restored. First, the gecko had to leave the bed in such a deliberate saunter. Got to the wall, crawled majestically into the crack and then reemerged, head and forelegs. And the rats would appraise me for a while before jetting into the ceiling through the hole. 
They have since abandoned the project of boring a new hole. The cockroaches were almost extinct, thanks to the insecticide, but for a few isolated reincarnations whenever there were crumbs the rats felt too big to pick.

The other day I came back, upon opening the door I met an oblivious mischief of rats gathered at the floor of the room, they seemingly surrounded something. On a closer look I realized they were all alone. So what in the world could the rodents be up to? Askance, I threw a searching look for the coldblooded ‘lazy one’ that steals my bed. And there it was as usual, on my bed, which was not a surprise, only this time it appeared to be presiding over the rats. It wouldn’t even budge to my presence. My blood ran cold. Apparently I was not yet welcome in my own uncle-given home. I tactically withdrew.

If you plan to take over this house, I thought, just remember all those times I’ve allowed you steal my sleeps; whatever evil scheme you conspire to execute; just remember all those privileges I have let you enjoy in this house. As I closed the door behind me, I heard an unusual kind of squeak from the rats, it was clearly sardonic. I walked on.

Hours later, when the coast was clear I returned, unbearably drowsy. As I slept, my mind wrestled with animal revolution. What if they sprang an attack on me, what chances did I have? I had tried to talk to my uncle for the umpteenth time in weeks  but he appeared to be getting a hard-on from having in the rundown house, so I gave up on that and turned to the sun and the moon and whatever could impress on time. 

The mosquitoes have returned in their swarms, they also seemed to heave acquired an ability to shake off any form of insecticide I deployed. I even tried Otapiapia and ended up with severe headache and catarrh.  So I reached a new height in human thinking: Let them be! The big idea was: mosquito, in the worst of circumstances, needed less than a drop of blood each in one attack. So I figured; I only had to eat enough vegetable and beverages to make-up for whatever ounce they may suck collectively, I would be okay. And they would be okay. So long as they kept their malaria.

The only thing I could not make peace with remained the incorrigible gecko. I just could not bring myself to it. It’s penchant for my bed had only grown in spite my frustration. Even though the rats found my bed an appropriate place to defecate and urinate and make love and what not; the thing is, I never met them there! They showed some respect. The chicken, they say, never forgives one who pruned its feathers on a rainy day. If I were a chicken, the gecko was that one who would have made me ruthlessly vengeful. Every single day that passed my craving to unintentionally assassinate the gecko quadrupled.  

Finally my day of opportunity did come. I returned home, glad that it was not on my bed when I peered through the keyhole. I opened the door, and suddenly something fell on the floor with a thud. It was the gecko. I caught a sight of it wriggling with its back on the floor. Instantly, I pretended to miss a step and stamped my foot in such a barrage of fury and...Who said the bastard wasn’t fast? Oh my day would have been made. Before I knew it, it was already under the table. 

Disappointed and angry, I cleared the rat droppings on my bed, and sat down. Then the horror of thoughts hit me. What was that gecko doing at the door by the way? Perhaps it nursed a sinister plot against me, too. So it’s true; those you plan against also plan against you, consciously or unconsciously. With a deep sigh, I rested my case. 

How would I have explained to God that I was killed by a frigging gecko, that I just could not complete my earthly mission because a gecko sprang a surprise on me? I decided to no longer pursue it, even though it remained unrepentant, and despite of my truest feelings. The endless lovemaking of those sex craze rats did produce more results – new sex craze offspring. The mosquitoes became my nightly halo till dozed off in helpless surrender; I guess I became something of saintly item. But something good was in the making. My company had shifted its operations to Abuja, and I was to pack to the new staff quarters in one week. My days as a post boy had also ended.


©Jude Ifeme



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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Delta Call

More lip services more spillages
More pilfering and more hostages
More ta-ta! ta-ta! in the creeks
More tears running down cheeks
More soldiers and more guns
More militants to do the runs
More things not getting done well
More closely we get to hell

©J.Ifeme

11/5/2008
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Old Ways








Every story will grow old
So will every song
And every face

Every city will grow old
So will its might
And its men

And their hold
On other men

Someday new melodies
Will be sung about old songs
New tales about old stories
About old cities
About old men
About old ways they briefly reigned

Jude Ifeme

Photo: Creepypasta



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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Murder on Christmas


I grew up in a small town where men still hoe the land and carry their burden on their head and back. I was once a king; a king to my kind. Though we were all owned; I ruled, just like my father before me. I am a descendant of the great Kwa, of the Kwa-dynasty. My name is Kwa-kio. I was one king with the largest brood in the whole of birdkind.

I had the most beautiful hens. If not for mankind, I would rule the world. At least that was what I thought; all I know now are faded dreams and stale memories of passions, of freedom, as I await the wrath of the human knife. The human knife: How would it feel? My friend Kuk has just been murdered. Though he was my friend for only two sunrises, it felt like I had known him all of my life. I witnessed his head being separated from his body. The cannibals, devour of the highest order, they had the sense of indecency, among other things, to let me watch as they sliced his innocent throat. I still remember his last words; run, Kio run! And the blade sliced through his throat cutting off his voice, sending a jet of blood into the sky. I have never seen so much blood in my entire life. I could hear the tissues of his throat being ripped through as he fought and then writhed. I died many times. Even when his head was finally cut off, Kuk still spasm under the dead weight of the murderer’s feet on his legs and wings. Such cruelty, such agony! What a fine life to lose!

“Where do you think they’ll take us?” Kuk had asked me after they knotted a piece of cloth around our legs, and he tired himself pecking at me in a spark of fear and fury.  We were laid on our sides in the scotching sun, we were total strangers bound together in man’s demonstration of tyranny and disrespect; yet we were undeterred. We were in strange place full of strangely-dressed humans and countless metal beasts.“I don’t know.” I told him, “I have never been here before”
“Do you think there will be lots of hens there?”
“Hens?” How could a cock be concerned about hens in such state? I had thought.  “I have had my fill of hens!” I told him emphatically. “Besides, I just want to return to my kingdom where I can freely roam and rule.”
“Hohoho,” his laughter was sardonic, “you’ve had enough of hens? When did you even start to crow?” He demanded. “And which part of the world are you from? At your age you should still be dreaming to have lots of good times with the hens. You mean you’re done meting already? Come on!”

“I am a king,” I whispered to his face, and watched his eyes contort.

“What? You already have a brood?”

“Twenty-five of the most beautiful hens you could imagine.”

“Ah-ha! Then why are you here?”

“Why am I here?” I quizzed. “My owner handed me to that beastly fellow over there, the one with the long, grassy beard and one open eye,” I gestured at the human that brought me all the way to this unknown world on a bumpy metal beast.

“Ah – that one? He brought me here too. He’s a silly one. He farts and stinks”

“They all stink,” I reminded Kuk. He went into a short doze of silence.

“I don’t like it here.” I whispered to him when he tumbled out of his nap.

“If you already rule, why are you here then?” He demanded and then looked around askance and whispered; “Something here is not right.”

“Right?” I stared at his red, half-matured comb; the tips were slowly darkening. He was much younger than I - not less than ninety sunrises younger - so I pardoned his earlier exuberance. He was probably insecure. “Something’s not right,” I asserted.

“Something’s not right,” he echoed despondently, his beak half-buried in sand. “I was told young cockerels are taken away to a place they can inherit young, beautiful hens and rule happily ever after. I was happy when they came for me, but you see,” he looked around, “you are the only one I ever got the chance to talk to since I got here; everyone is keeping a bent face. There’s sorrow in this land.”

“I was having my happily-ever-after when they took me away,” I said ruefully.

Kuk first struck me as a lively, though abrasive, cockerel (in my territory he would cower in my presence) but upon realization that things wouldn’t turn out the way he’d anticipated, he let the dark clouds have him. Perhaps, I shared my dark clouds with him. Things got even tense when new older roosters were brought in and tied in pairs with strangers; I swiftly came to the conclusion that humans had little or no considerations for avian emotions. We were not alone, there were also countless obese Kokoki in metal cages; they chattered and binged, indifferent to everything else. I have never liked the Kokoki, they are a gluttonous wretch; weaklings who gave all of birdkind a bad name. They would eat till they could barely move their busting guts. Their cocks could neither engage in hot romance chase nor could their hens give a steamy butt-up. The avian-flops would rather have humans met for them. What sort of bird cannot even hatch their young? They’ll rather let the humans do that also. My father once said they’re useless, but isn’t that obvious? They couldn’t even crow, well –ah, not even crow well. I have never seen them in such dazzling flock. Kuk had gone into a pensive doze, his beak still half buried in the sands. As I watched the Kokoki their nonchalance made me sick in the gut.

I was still in this thought when they came; the beastly human couple. The woman, pointed at me, she had the biggest round face I’d ever seen. Her eyes were large, so large I could run through them. Her fat hand grabbed one of my laps, quizzed so hard my anus had a let-go. She jerked away in disgust. My hot, watery shit was all over her hand. Her face was contorted in a way that made me want to laugh really hard and loud; but it as a sad day. She mumbled to the man, he nodded, then they had a short unintelligible conversation that seemed like an argument at some point, with the bearded, one-eyed man, handed him a few pieces of papers and we were handed to the couple. I did not like the way the woman looked at me.

“Kio,” Kuk whispered, “I don’t think I like this.”

“What?”

“The way she looks at us.”

 When I was growing up – shortly before my father disappeared – our human owner; our kind called him Kwaka – once he looked at me that way. Not long afterwards, my father disappeared, so did my brothers and cousins of the same age, and I was – by default – made king. I never fought for it. But even if I did, the king-Cock would still have risen from within the family; it always had. No one knew where they went but we were told they left for a ‘better place’. The next time Kwaka would look at me the same way, I found myself here.

Kuk and I were separated once the couple got us to their backyard. Theirs was a big human house with fences upstretched into the sky. Our separation was strategic; our legs were no longer bunched together but a long rope was used to tie one of Kuk’s legs to one of mine; so if we had ever decide to run for freedom, we neither would have gotten away together without some object halting us nor made it separately without messing with each other’s head. We never attempted. There was a loud sound of chattering and laughter which normally goes with Kokoki binging. On a closer look, we realized a large coop for Kokoki was a short run from our unguided spot but we never cared to relate with the sellouts. I let Kuk crow to give a sense worth, he was never allowed to crow in his town. He was deeply happy.

Three days after Kuk was murdered, a young, plump hen ventured out through a small opening, I doubt the humans knew existed on the wire fence separating us.

“Hello,” she offered in their usual happy-go-lucky tone. I wondered why they killed us and not the deprave Kokoki. Splutters of fart trailed her as she came over, her gut let out one so loud and stinky as she closed up, I could barely breathe.

“Sorry, “she announced casually, “my gut’s been letting off lots of gas these days – I don’t know what to do but let the gut have its way.”

The feathers beneath her gut were disgustingly soiled with avian waste; there were free quills stock on odd places all over her body. And she typically didn’t care.

“There is something called pebble – you don’t have to look for them – maybe you should try some,” I replied. “Instead of the vulgarity the humans feed you.” I looked her over, “and try some leafy delicacy, too, so your gut can get back to work.” I didn’t sound cordial and didn’t care. For a while I thought she was hurt.

“I’m Kokoro,” She said flirtatiously and waited for my reply. “I like it when you crow; we’ve not had a real crow around here for a long time.” When she got nothing, she sighed and perhaps contemplated leaving but stayed put instead. The Kokoki does not engage in stress. Give them stress and they’ll run off to the humans. I had started to crow two sunrises after Kuk’s death out of boredom and fright.

“I saw what happened to your brother, I am sorry,” she said. She had so much compassion in her eyes. I felt guilty. Maybe I shouldn’t have been that harsh. But, come on, she was Kokoki; how was she to have complex avian compassion? Okay, they are avian too, but I thought all they knew was food, food, and more food. But right before me was a real bird, though Kokoki, but a real bird with some empathy.

“They’re murderers,” I replied, trying hard to keep my emotions from spilling before a hen, “how could any being be so cruel?”

“I heard it’s been going on for a very long time. Kirrk, a hen who once lived here told us about a huge town built by humans only for the slaughter of our kind. Unfortunately she died during the last purge.”

“What’s a purge?” I asked a little embarrassed having to learn from such a young one.

“Oh, it a word we us here a lot, no one forgets it.” She studied me closely, “It was a time of strange illness that killed only our kind, though it eventually began to kill mankind too. So, they had so many of us slaughtered both those who showed the sign of the illness and those who ever consulted with them.”

“Did they have their kinds slaughtered?”

“No, there’s no story of such.”

“So, why didn’t the damn illness just kill them all off?” I raged. I thought of my town, the man that sold me out: Yes all of them! Kokoki laughed so hard. She could barely carry her big gut so she fell on a side. Just then, three young Kokoki cockerels made their way through the opening to join us.

“Anyway,” Kokoro continued after she regained from her bout of laughter, “Kirrk was one of those who survived the purge. She was taken there but she saw the blade and returned to tell the tale. But as for the blade, we all live to face it another day. She died on the next human ritual, the Christmas. Anyway, that was a long time ago, but as you know, stories live longer than all of us, especially in the coops. You have never lived in a coop?”

“No,” I protested.

The youngsters came and started pecking the earth around us.

“So, what is your story? You are an old one,” she said with some sort of regard,” how come you have never seen some birds die?”

“I was a king,” I said modestly, “and where I came from there was some dignity for bird; yes the birds go away but we never got know where. I just found out.” I was a bit ashamed as the youngsters looked at me with some disbelief. I didn’t know which surprised them the more: that I was a king or that I didn’t know humans killed us for food.

“You mean you never knew they feed us so well so we could be eaten?” one of the young cockerels asked incredulously.

“Not till I got here,” I quipped apologetically.

“I noticed you haven’t been eating,” Kokoro said, gesturing at the heap of crushed millets the humans have  left at the foot of the high fence for me to feed on, which the other two cockerels were now voraciously pecking away. I looked away from them with a deep sigh.

“When I saw a little human child come out to play, a sunrise ago, with my friend’s bone poking out of his mouth, I decided I will not give the cannibals the pleasure of enjoying my flesh.”

The young cockerels suddenly stopped feeding. I thought I spoke to their gluttonous consciences. Kokoro gently loaded her huge weight on her legs again; she had been resting on her side since that fit of laughter.

“I know I will be killed some time soon, “continued, “I don’t know when, but I want to be ready when the blade comes for my throat. I want to be sure they do not derive the pleasure of chewing meaty my flesh.”

“What are you going to do?” The cockerel that had been with us asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I have been counting for you, my friend,” Kokoro said sadly; “what’s your name? You never told me.”

I felt my gizzard scurry through my gut, “Kwa-Kio.”

“Kwa-kio. That’s unique. I like it,” she said with a flash of admiration. Suddenly the momentary delight vanished from her eyes. ”Your friend died three sun rises ago; you have three more before you are dead.” Kokoro said genuinely.

“How did you know?” I demanded anxiously.

“Well, they call me the Wise One. I know things. I know the human ritual at this time is seven days apart. The next ritual will come about ninety sunrises from now, and then those chicks in there will die,” She gestured at the coop where chicks could be heard chirping. “For me, I will have to lay my gut out with eggs before I meet my fate,” then she said thoughtfully, “that’ll be quite sometime from now anyway.” 

“How did you know all that?”

“An old hen told another old hen who told an old hen who then told her, hens know things!” One of the cockerels pecking away my feed said sarcastically. “But we all die, Kokoro, don’t we?”

“Yes, we do Koook,” Kokoro replied, betraying no emotion. “And yes, we keep our stories; a bird needs to know where they came from,” she added sagaciously, ”and a bird needs to know where they will end, or they never have lived.”

“I am going to eat till I die,” Kook said cynically, “I don’t know if a bird lives again but I don’t want to die hungry.”

“Don’t bother about Kook, he has found solace,’ Kokoro said casually, “he’s going to die soon too, and his brothers," she glanced at the other two cockerels. "The rest of their mates are gone. But that will be very much after you are gone, Kwa-kio. You need to search for a solace.

“Solace?” I asked.

“Yes, something you find peace doing,” Kokoro said.

I looked into her eyes. Though it wasn't a bird thing to do. Humans did that a lot, and now I know why. I felt my blood race. And I kind of liked the way she called my name. She had a burly tone that appealed to me. She was a big hen. “I will not give them the pleasure of enjoying my flesh,” I told her.

When the day came, I knew. It gave a good feeling that I never felt before but like instead. My solace had made me stronger. I had found new friends in the Kokoki. I no longer judged them. I now saw all birds as equal. I did not know where all my sense of prejudice went but I felt a lot better, lighter, and happier. I still refused to eat. I was lean as I have never been, and each time the human passed to check on me, he wore a strange look of dissatisfaction.  His dissatisfaction somehow became my satisfaction. Even as he held the knife to my throat I could see he didn’t get any pleasure; my laps had shrunken, my throat was lean and my feathers glossless and disheveled. I surrendered my throat. Then the knife came down. I was pinned to the ground, the grueling pain from his weight on my legs and wings was enough to kill and I welcomed death. I rolled my eyes to the coop and saw Kokoro, kook and the other two cockerels watching. I will miss Kokoro. I closed my eyes as the blade touched my throat.

“Honey,” I heard a human voice above. The blade halted. “Don’t think that chicken has become really thin?”

“Yeah, crazy chicken,” the man replied, “it hasn’t been eating.”

“It’s all bones. Why don’t we use the beef in the freezer for the New Year feast? We will give it some time to gain some weight. Maybe we’ll make some nice hybrid too. I saw it goofing around one of the layers.”

That triggered a roar from the man. They laughed. Silly humans.

© Jude Ifeme. 2016.

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