People always ask why I don’t eat chicken, I lie it is a medical condition. Still, we both know it is more than a medical condition, it is my sheer hatred for wicked chickens that lay devilled eggs.
Haa Toyooo! Almost three decades and I just can’t forget this hatred I have for Roosters. Let me walk back memory lane.
I was seven or maybe eight years old. I remember Mum always package us to Granny’s place to have some breathing space. Who would blame her? Granny lived a few streets away, and Mum has four kids and to top it all, as tiny as I was and still is, I was a handful.
Growing up, going to Granny’s place was heavenly as it was a day to skip Mum’s unending commandments that were complicated with many eye movement and body language. It was also a day to be unruly without restraint. I enjoyed two things; tormenting our old neighbour and dealing with the chickens.
Oh, how I miss my Granny. Iya Eli, Wuraola, a mother made of titanium love. With Granny, there were no rules, no fear, nothing but a world of dangerous freedom without the cane. I was conscious of my rights as a child, which the UNICEF child-to-child network program was good at chanting every Friday in primary school. I was a spoilt brat.
These rights I bragged about to avoid domestic chores, I will never churn out to my mother as she was Abacha’s twin sister. Still, I never failed to recount to my Granny who didn’t even need UNICEF to teach her what she already gave me as her beloved grandchild. Just like others, I dare to say I was her favourite grandchild (All these na lie, Granny took this secret of the favourite grandchild to the grave).
Saturdays were a-no-consequence day. I spent them doing only God-knows-what. Granny’s house was massive. The most exciting part is our neighbour (Baba’s) house. His fence adjoined Granny’s, and his banana trees were the best. Baba was petty and had an unforgiving spirit (God bless his soul). This made him my easy target, and I mercilessly dealt with him.
His banana trees were the most unfortunate set of trees. The better part of the tree always leaned into our compound; I would cut down the bananas- ripe, unripe and seedlings, just to either eat or to play with. It made sense to me, after all, it was in my compound.
But, Baba will always lash out at me, “Toyosi, you are a very destructive child”, and I never understood why he still chose to shout. The fact that he always made those statement, I enjoyed plucking the bananas in an unrepentant way. If our Baba has not yelled, it was almost as though the bananas were never tasty enough. His frustration was real, and I taunted him to the point that we tagged him crazy.
Anytime he comes to make a complaint, which was pretty often, his mere sight alerted my elder cousins, who knew the onus of his allegations. Since they couldn’t stop me from hurting Baba’s emotions, they chose to protect me from being beaten. They will quickly wipe clean all evidence of my onslaught by throwing all the debris and banana peels back into Baba’s compound. By the time he makes his report and my aunties bring him to the playground for an inspection, they found nothing. His crazy gestures pointing at the freshly cut branches, never made anyone take him seriously. Everybody would act as though he was insane (all the while my sister Amope and I will just be thinking – let this circus end and let us cut fresh ones).
As soon as he leaves, we would repeat the onslaught, cut fresh bananas and his grandson, will chant the rhyme “I will tell my Papa”; and all I did to him, was stick out my tongue, like who cares?
Granny was darn sure I ate them bananas, others never had proof, and those who did were a bloody accomplice. Baba’s wife and actress daughter were my friends. However, they always laughed and asked Baba what the fuzz was all about, they too never understood why I never stopped after so many warnings. They believed I will one day outgrow my mischief, and they were right. As soon as Baba died (God grant his eternal soul rest), I hated those bananas. All of it, plus the fence.
The playground became empty. I was incredibly bored.
All of a sudden, my attention went straight to the chickens. The location of this big helpless cage was to the east of Grandma’s backyard. Who owns them? I don’t know. How many chickens and chicks there were? I actually don’t know. Why they were in Granny’s compound, was also odd.
Now, Mother Hen was always caged in her own compartment. I never gave her a thought as she was forever locked away. Still, her chicks that were continuously increasing in numbers was ever out in the open. I never knew where the older chicks went, neither could I phantom who took them. All I recall is that more than once I saw Mother Hen eggs hatch and out the new chicks’ came.
I thought this creature was a powerless and helpless one; and I, being a human being, I can do all things. I learnt my lessons from a bad experience.
My Mum drops me off every other day when she just can’t deal with me either because I was sick or I throw my first-rate tantrums to not join my family for an outing. I never got the reason why I would go out with my Mum, and her commandment will hang in the air to haunt my every move. Everything I’d do earned me punishment. To be at Granny’s was a better option. My Mum, soon realized forcing me always caused her more stress. So, instead, she effortlessly made me enjoy Granny’s protection program.
As soon as Granny takes a nap, I dash down to the big cage with many compartments and begin my onslaught. My favourites were the chicks. I will pick the chicks one by one by their wings, and start flinging them. The way they fall and struggle to stand amused me a lot. I could do this the whole day.
Sometimes I will be cross-legged on the floor, and begin to pamper each chick in turns. I’ rub them to sleep and place them in the overhead compartment and leave for a siesta. Other times, I will line them up while wielding a cane as though I needed them to form a straight line and be ready for school. I could go as far as using the cane to wake them up and cause chaos in the chicks’ cage, while I use the cane to sweep them out and then turn each chick that can’t run so fast or doesn’t get the gist of my game, into a football. I’ll kick the chick into thin air, right in front of Mother Hen. It was mad fun.
The best of my wicked act was when I pricked their feathers like I see my Mum do when she pours hot water on the already slaughtered chicken. No one told me you only needed to do that when preparing for a meal. How can they not inform me of this golden rule?
The only problem was that I failed to notice Mother Hen sat on her other eggs and watched me in 5HD lens. She soon stopped jumping around in her compartment of the cage but made a mental register for all my evil deeds day after day. She charged and prosecuted me in the court of the animal kingdom and won the trial and got judgment to do to me, all that I did to her chicks. I also failed to understand that Mother Hen was also a mother. She hated me for all I did as fun to her chicks until that fateful day, I committed another atrocity, a WRONG SHE COULD NEVER FORGIVE.
My dear people of God, it was September 1.
A day before September 1, I was alone with the chicks. I pricked them, beat them and even kicked them. That day, Mother Hen began to fly up and down in her cage. I was so happy she finally got to move, unlike her docile self. My elder cousin more than once dragged me away from the cage area, and even Grandma made me sit beside her till Mum came to pick me up. Lesson number 1; no one explained I could get hurt.
So back to September 1. My Mum dropped me off. Immediately I got off the car, I did not go through the main entrance to Granny’s, but diverted through the side gate. My Mum was curious and suspicious. Since she is better than the CIA when she wants to nab you in the act, she followed me. This maternal instinct of my mother saved my flesh. As soon as I entered my playground, that was how action movie of “my September to remember” began.
I am ashamed of myself to say this; but, I stormed into the playground like Van Damme and the first set of chicks I saw, I used my leg to fling them in many directions, which felt really good. I saw them scatter like kites in the air. What my eyes failed to see was that mother hen was just a few meters away, NOTcaged. Ghen, Ghen!
All I remember is that I saw a golden brown something moving from the ground into the air. That beastly creature raced me to the ground and pecked me many times in a split second. She caused me physical injury. The pecks were like big blows that exploded like bombs in my brain.
Lesson number 2; I did not need National Geography for this- Chickens fight back.
I cried and screamed “Grandma”. Before all of my help was from the Lord, through my Grandma, my own mother rescued me. But, before then, Mother Hen had executed complete vendetta. I passed out for a few seconds, or maybe I closed my eyes really tight.
My Mum, who was behind me, used her bag to ward off mother hen from on top of me, while she picked me from the floor. She angrily picked Mother Hen by her wings like I do to her chicks, and forcefully threw her into her compartment of the cage and locked it. All the while, she secured my safety as I clung to her with my life.
All of a sudden, the chicks resembled monsters, and I had Goosebumps all over my skin. I couldn’t move from the spot. My Mum was forced to carry me into my Granny’s room and explained to her what happened, while I cried profusely. With the way my Mum recounted what happened, I knew I was forgiven for whatever wrongs I had committed that morning, but my cousins laughed out loud. My Mum didn’t get the gist. I hugged my Granny close and whispered into her ears not to tell my Mum all I use to do.
My Mum suggested they clean up my wounds and I take paracetamol and rest a while. Then, she remembered to tell my Granny I didn’t eat my breakfast, and she must make me eat it before the drug. By the time they opened the cooler ehn, it was rice and chicken wings. While everyone saw boiled rice, stew and chicken wings, all I saw was rice, Mother Hen and her beaks on me. I screamed and pushed the cooler crying. This was where my hatred for chicken started.
I couldn’t step outside the house, Baba’s bananas rested for a while, and I grew up quickly. The situation was so bad, for my sake, Granny made a law of no animals……and all adhered to it. The cage was removed, every form of chicken expelled from Granny’s house and adjoining property. If my older and even younger cousins wanted me to behave, all they needed to do was say *Ediye* meaning *chicken*. My state was a sorry one.
It took me a very very long time to be able to look at chickens again and not be scared for my life. In fact, the chicken tasted more like bread in my mouth, and if I even dare to eat it today, it has to be really roasted with spices. Then, I can tell my brain, Mother Hen has been crucified in the fire, she’s dead, you can eat it now. I will quickly throw it in my mouth and swallow. But, if I have the right of option, just give me fish or cow meat abeg!
Till date, I can’t even go close to a chick, and I can’t tolerate a live chicken. All my body will just stand up as if something is about to harm me. Dear Future Husband, if you mistakenly like chicken and you even think that I will cook it for you, YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. Your best option is frozen chicken. No live chicken will enter my house. NEVER!
Lesson number 3; I used to think chickens had no brains as they say, but in this case, this Mother Hen was a noteworthy exception. I learnt this sacrosanct rule, even before I became a law student to know that to every general rule, there was at least an exception. Ok. It’s Sunday, and while I sit here waiting for taskmaster to buzz me, I finally got the time to re-write my lessons on Ediye.
first posted on www.lagossazzylawyer.com
Photo credit: CHICKEN-FLIGHT-2il.org_.jpg; https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/angry-chicken.html
WORDS AND THEIR MEANING
Ediye – “Chicken”
Haa – “to exclaim.”
na – “it is.”
Iya Eli, Wuraola – “Eli’s mother, Wuraola.”
Baba – “father” used for the elderly.
Ghen ghen – “It has happened.”
ehn – “to exclaim.”
abeg – “Please, but usually not a repentant plea.”