Back in 1986, during the fist year of our marriage Bonnie and I moved to Brooklyn. Here we were, a girl from Inez, a small town in Kentucky, and me an island boy, trying to find our way around the city. One day we were driving down Utica avenue and decided to stop to get something to eat. We saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken and pulled in to the drive through. There was a line so we were waiting for it to move. We were stopped next to the dumpster. We heard rustling, like there were cats rummaging in there for food. so we both looked over. “Damn, New York have some stay cats.” I said. Bonnie leaned forward and squinted her eyes, “Those are not cats, those are some big ass freaking rats,” she said, I leaned forward, and to my disgust there was about fifteen gigantic rats perched on the roof of the dumpster. So Bonnie and I did what any red blooded country girl and sun soaked island boy would do, we tried to chase them off. Bonnie blew the horn, nothing, the rats were not even phased. I leaned out of the car and banged on the hood, nothing, the dreadful little beasts did not even blink. So Bonnie, brave as she was, stepped out of the car and shouted, thinking they would scatter. but about five of the rats turned and looked at her, you know that look that a man who have not eaten in days would give, you know one that says, “Don’t f….. with me or I will mess you up!” Bonnie got back into the car closed the door and locked it. Hell those damn New York rats acted like humans, we were not going to mess with no mutant rats. That was it, we drove out of the line and went and found us a good Roti shop.
A quiet Tuesday morning, woken up by the cows in the pasture, the goat bleats loudly, the chickens clucked and flapped their wings and a dog barks as old man Henry walks by to go to his garden of peas and corn. A donkey brayed as its owner prompts it to keep moving, the sound of a cutlass swinging through the underbrush, children giggling as they helped carry water from the iron pipe down the road. The smell of salfish, bakes and cocoa tea coming from the kitchen. I sat up expecting to hear singing only to find out I woke up from a dream that was in my dream. Good morning people.
I saw this picture this morning and it reminded me of the yard fowls I had. It was October 1983, gun fire echoed through the village, fighter jet roared over head causing the galvanize roof to vibrate violently. My stomach rumbled, sharpe hunger pains meandered through my belly. For two weeks all I had to eat was hard boiled eggs and fruit. Shops were closed, or looted, harvesting season for corn and peas had come and gone. I looked over at my chicken coup. The twenty or so chickens clucked and flapped their wings as an explosion shook the trees on the hill behind the house. I opened the door and walked over to the coup, the fowls were quiet now, as if anticipating something. I opened one of the doors and grabbed one of the birds. It fought back, its wings flapping wildly. I walked over to the bucket that lay on the concrete stand next to the door. The cutlass sat next to the stand, its sharpen edges glittered in the tropical sunlight. I removed the bucket and lay the fowl on the concrete stand. I covered its body with the bucket leaving its head out. I reached for the cutlass but hesitated, looked at the bucket, the bird did not move, there was complete silence as if it was giving into it’s fate. How can I do this, these birds were more my pets then a food source. The sound of gunfire brought me back to reality, my stomach grumbled with a combination of fear and hunger. I lifted the cutlass, swung it. I sat and looked at the place of cooked chicken, I did not eat until my stomach compelled me to. That night I lay in the dark agonizing about what I had done. Then like a jumbie, I got up and walked to the back door, the night was orange with the glow from flares, sporadic gunfire persisted beyond the hills. I walked over top the chicken coup, opened the door and shewed the fowls the fowls out. The flapped their wings, landed on the ground, then with a confusion of clucks disappeared into the fading light of the flares.