Our neighbours raise fighting cocks, at least that's what I deduce from the fragments of virile-looking feed packets that occasionally blow into our garden. It's one of many wholesome pastimes that make them fine examples of the species.
The cocks' raucous dawn chorus wakes me up earlier than would be ideal most mornings, but when I look out over the unkempt field and see them crying out from solitary confinement in enclosures that amount to little more than rooster cosies, I can't feel anger towards them. It's directed elsewhere.
Time for another of my uplifting stories.
Tito Demonyo's Prize-Fightin' Power Feed
The hoarse cry cracks the dawn sky. Her drowsy lashes flutter against the glare as the yolk-orange sun oozes out another day. A second cry, closer and more urgent than the last, confirms it's going to be a bad one.
If not for the sweet chatter of her darlings, excitedly scratching and scurrying around her to meet this mysterious visitor that some primal instinct tells them is familiar, she would have wished for merciful oblivion to take her now. But she knows this is a false comfort. Unless a miracle has happened, and today is finally the day, her darlings, in all likelihood, won't live to see another.
Through the honeycomb boundaries that define her world, she watches the figures approach. Even from this distance, the shambling silhouette on the left is visibly worse for wear. However torturous their sessions, she could never bring herself to hate him. He was reared for violence, by design had known nothing else. Hidden away from the world, the family's dirty secret, those injuries were probably self-inflicted out of boredom. Even if he was able to comprehend the connection between himself and the doomed darlings scrabbling around in the dirt, he'd be incapable of appreciating the joy they could bring into an otherwise unbearable existence. Such weakness had long since been bred out of his line.
The silhouette on the right – taller, upright and becoming more despicably defined with every step – now there's a face she has no problem hating. He's already eyeing his latest batch, making preliminary judgements from afar as he holds tight to the lead, and her flesh prickles with impotent fury. She kicks out and the chain yanks her disobedient ankle painfully against the post. The futile gesture goes unnoticed as the taller man opens the gate and navigates his slobbering son inside.
A final feed of father's special formula for good measure, and the strained lead is set loose. He never notices the little ones. If any curious adventurer gets in his way, they'll be kicked or worse. No casualties this time, but it's only delaying the inevitable. She dutifully rolls onto her back and her punch-drunk assailant mounts her in a clumsy frenzy that belies his experience. The father reaches down to guide his clueless son's meandering member down from her sparsely feathered breasts to where it needs to go, and today's torture begins.
Not his aggressive rhythm, that's nothing to a serial mother, but the father's inspection of the goods. Bending over to scrutinise the freshly laid grandkids, he immediately spots all the giveaways the sentensyador would: a tell-tale tooth here, an opposable thumb there. He makes that sound – the fatal tch. Needs more chicken. But getting closer, yes, getting closer. Just a few minor tweaks to the recipe, and his gladiators will rule the roost.
Her darlings are placed in the sack, one by one where so many have gone before, and she can bear witness no longer. She turns her beak to the sun, fried yolk-yellow amid crackling albumen clouds, as a guttural cry condemns more innocents to life.