It was the weekend, and Amaziah was relaxing in the living room of his flat. He leaned back in a well-worn armchair, cradled his hands behind his head and smiled a smile of deep contentment.
Life was good, indeed.
Just the other day, there was had been this dealer who had come into possession of a huge consignment of live fowls, and was anxious to dispose of them as quickly as possible, as he didn’t want the hassle of having to look after them. So he had ended up going downtown and selling them to the public at rock bottom prices, and expectedly enough, a long queue had formed. As it happened, Amaziah had had the good fortune to be passing by the queue on the day*. At first, he hadn’t wanted to join, because the queue was so long that nobody could tell him where it led to. But fortunately for him, his curiosity had won out over his common sense, and after an interminable wait, he had left the place as the proud owner of a fully grown, if somewhat aggressive cock.
Amaziah’s smile widened, and his eyes closed as he began to imagine the cock in various culinary configurations; cut into thighs, wings and drumsticks; marinated in the most aromatic broth seasoned with Maggi, thyme, curry and other assorted spices; roasted to a delicate golden brown; served along with savoury tomato sauce atop a mountain of steaming white rice. His lips parted slightly, his tongue peeked out and a rivulet of saliva dribbled forth, but he was so wrapped up in his private fantasy that he was completely oblivious of this.
Then a shadow flitted across his gastronomic paradise as he realised that he would have to deal with his flat mate, Efosa. Ever since he returned with his prize, the guy had been dropping more and more obvious hints about his desire to share in the joys of eating chicken. At first, it had been “Ah, Maz, that’s a really big fowl… you may have some trouble in finishing it all by yourself”, but lately it had become “We’re really going to enjoy eating this chicken… but I will have the legs o!” Such impudence. Where was Efosa when he was waiting all those hours in the hot sun to pick up the chicken? No… he, and he alone would enjoy its succulence. Maybe he should take a day off – he would wait until Efosa had gone off to work, then he would kill, pluck, cook and eat it. If he was fast, he could do it in less than four hours.
Having solved that thorny problem, Amaziah’s good mood was once more restored. He was reclining back on his armchair, allowing himself to be tantalized by visions of golden brown chicken, when…
Amaziah started out of the chair in surprise. The cock was supposed to be tied up in the kitchen, so what the hell was it doing strutting around in the living room? Then he saw the frayed end of the rope that was still tied to the cock’s leg, and he guessed that it must have pecked its way loose. No problem – he would just shoo it back to the kitchen and hold it down while he tied it with something much stronger, like electric cabling.
With such thoughts in his head, he got up and moved slowly towards the cock. But it seemed to have sensed his intent, and it moved away from him at precisely the same slow pace, keeping a constant distance between both of them. He quickened his pace to close the gap, but again, the cock moved in perfect synchronization and quickened its own pace to maintain that constant distance. Man and bird circled round the flat for a while in this strange dance, then cursing under his breath, Amaziah made a sudden lunge for the cock. It squawked in alarm and flew up to perch on a bookshelf just opposite the door.
Amaziah stared balefully and the cock for several moments, then he went into the kitchen to get a bucket. Once he caught this cock, he was going to kill it there and then. Too bad for Efosa if he came back while he was finishing off the chicken – he was just going to learn that you cannot always have everything you want in life. He came back out with the bucket hoisted high, but at the moment he was poised to capture the cock, he was distracted by the sound of the door opening.
“What’s going on here? Maz, how did you allow our cock to escape?”
To an Amaziah who was already frustrated at the antics of the cock, these words were the last straw. He turned round with a furious glare at Efosa who was standing in the doorway with a smirk on his face.
“My friend, listen to me good and proper. This is my – not our – my cock, owned by me, myself and I, and no other person. Only I have the right to question why that cock is perched up there and not in the kitchen, OK? So just carry on walking and mind your business!”
Efosa reared back in surprise at the outburst. “Ol’ boy, e be like say dis fowl don dribble you tire. Abeg, no vex o. But I hope you are just joking about the whole ‘me, myself’ thing. I’ve really been looking forward to chewing on that chicken…”
Amaziah exploded. “You are a deluded fool if you think that you will even smell this chicken. In fact, you are not even fit to eat-” But he never got the chance to finish his tirade. The cock had seen an opportunity for freedom in the door that had been left ajar by Efosa, and with all the energy it could muster, it launched itself into a noisy flight towards the door.
Amaziah was frantic. “Stop it! Efosa, don’t let it escape! Hold it! Stop waving your hands about like a girl and hold the bloody fowl!”
But it was too late. The cock had chosen its moment well, and Efosa was truly blindsided. He made a few futile attempts to grab the cock, but it scooted around him with ease and was out through the door like a shot.
Amaziah did not hesitate for a second; he sprinted out after it, barging Efosa aside with a little more force than was strictly necessary.
The chase led Amaziah through the gates of his flat’s compound which had been left ajar. Then it took him a couple of houses down the road that the compound fronted, across a junction, and left at another junction onto another road. Some passers by, seeing what was going on, joined in the chase. But the wily cock kept on switching its tracks unexpectedly and wrong footing them, causing mayhem in its wake. On one occasion, it even doubled back and ran towards Amaziah and his helpers. They were so unprepared for this audacious move that they completely failed to lay a hand on a single feather as it skittered easily through their forest of hands and legs.
However, in any contest, sheer numbers will always have an advantage. So it was that in the end, the cock made the mistake of running into a an alley which had three very high walls on three sides, with the only exit being the direction from which its would-be captors were coming – and this time, they were well prepared for any attempt to run through them. Amaziah’s eyes gleamed with triumph and satisfaction. His helpers cheered on as he advanced, arms spread out wide, in case the cock tried some daring manoeuvre.
But Amaziah’s moment of triumph was short-lived. With a mighty effort, the cock launched itself almost vertically straight up into the air, and managed to perch on one of the walls. Cries of “Catch it, catch it” rent the air, but Amaziah knew his cause was lost already, because the wall was so high he could barely reach the top. The cock turned to look at him, and as if in a gesture of mockery, it shifted its posterior, and Amaziah felt the warm splat of chicken droppings on his head. Then it disappeared over the wall to safety.
Amaziah turned round to sympathetic murmurs from the crowd. But he was in no mood to give up – he would go into the compound that the wall enclosed and ask for his cock back. He followed the wall round to find the entrance to the compound, but as soon as he saw the front wall and the mansion within, his heart sank. His cock was now a guest – or more likely, a prisoner – of Chief Olowoparija.
* Recounted in the story ‘Join The Queue’.