My mother called me while I was in Santa Barbara to tell me that a cock arrived in her yard. She said it showed up out of nowhere and no longer wanted to leave.
When I came back from Santa Barbara, I saw the Mexican rooster. It was a cock that had brightly colored feathers. It was a little small for its size, and it reminded me of the kid. It became obvious to me why he came and even more obvious why he wouldn't leave.
He fell in love with my mother's Chinese hen. To us, she was an ugly bird, but my mom loved her. I believe the French have such a term: jolie-laide. The term means pretty-ugly. And our hen, which is named Yuri, which sounds like the Korean word for phantdom. She does look a bit like a ghost. Nonetheless, she's the drake's best friend. He preens and protects her everyday. So - it's no surprise that this rooster had fallen in love with Yuri.
And everyday, this Mexican rooster, I named Jose would try to win Yuri over. He brought her worms. He brought her snails. He brought her all kinds of delicacies. And she would take and just take. He was even deluded enough to believe that they could spend the rest of their lives together. So, he built a nest for her. But she just took and took. Yuri took his food like a gold digger. Yuri used his nests to lay her unfertilized eggs. Yuri, in short, took advantage of him. But she never put out. And she never loved him.
Eventually, after a few weeks, his constant crowing at 5am in the morning got on our nerves. I need my beauty sleep, and my mom needs her rest too. We talked it over at the dinner table. At first, only she wanted to get rid of him. But there came a point - when I even thought - he gotz to go.
I told her, "I'll take him to the slaughterhouse nearby."
"Oh poor thing. Do you have to, Paul?" My mother asked me.
"Well - we eat meat. We eat chicken. We should slaughter our own sometime."
"But Paul, you're so cruel. It's cruel."
"No, Mom. It's the price we should pay for eating meat. We should know what we do to the animals."
"Oh - go then. And get it over with."
The slaughterhouse said health regulations didn't allow them to kill birds not raised by them. So - I brought Jose back home. He just fluttered in his cage. He was a rambunctious fellow. So much so, that he bruised his feet and wings against the cage and bled and bled.
My mother kept feeding him because she felt bad he'd go hungry.
I told her, "I need to slaughter him here then."
"No. Paul. Please. I'll go look for his owner."
"Ok - go find the owners then."
She looked and looked but to no avail. She went from house to house, from block to block, and the owner never claimed the chicken. Jose stopped crowing while being locked in the cage.
She came back and said, "Do it tomorrow, then. When I'm not in the house. Got it? I don't want to see the awful thing."
"Ok. You won't see it." When I said the words, I realized, I did not want to kill Jose.
I watched youtube vidoes and read articles on how to do so. I did not want to kill Jose. So, instead, I procrastinated and wrote and read. But my mother called every hour, while I was at the cafe.
She asked, "Did you do the dirty deed yet?"
"No." I said. I thought, please stop asking.
After she called the third time, I went home. I took a deep breath. I took the cutting board and knives. I boiled a large pot of water.
I pulled Jose out of the cage. He flew out of the cage and ran into the wire mesh. I caught him again and thought, Oh, poor bird. If you had actually gotten away, you would have been free. But I caught you. And I caught you because we broke your spirit by putting you into that cage.
I held him by the legs upside down. Yuri and the drake watched us. All the animals knew he was going to die. So, did Jose. Jose screeched and screeched while he was being held upside down. For a lack of using a trite phrase - he definitely was screaming bloody murder in chicken.
I just held him upside down until his wings stopped fluttering. He went dizzy at some point. Then, I took him to the cutting board. I pressed his side against the board. With the other hand, I took a sharp knife. I looked into his eyes. He looked into my eyes. I thought, Oh God. I do not want to kill this chicken.
I thought through my options and realized my knives were not sharp enough to ax his head off with one blow. So, I took the serrated blade. I took a deep breath. And with gash, I cut three-fourths of his head off. I felt it cut through bone and flesh and then the knife broke. His eyes closed. It was the first time I saw life leave a warm blooded animal. A sense of sadness overcame me as I realized I took a life. I took the other knife and removed the rest of the flesh that attached the head to the body. It was over.
I took some shoestring and strung the bird by his feet on my mother's clothesline. While holding the body, the headless chicken convulsed several times and flapped its wings.
After I tied its legs to the clothesline, I let the blood drip out of his neck onto the dirt. It reminded me of Judas' bowels dripping over the land. I watched the blood squirt and squirt and then squirt some more. I did not want to kill this chicken, but I did.
It made me realize how much more emotionally painful it is to kill an animal with a knife then with a gun. I was connected to the actual process of death, instead of distanced from a range. My intent to inflict death left my arm and with it, that death flowed back into my arm. It was a cruel process. Just like my mother said it would be.
While the water boiled, Jose's blood drained from his body. I took the head and buried it in my mother's garden. I thought it was the right thing to do for some reason. I felt like I gave it a burial. I then noticed Yuri and the drake continued doing what chickens and ducks do and didn't even miss their gone Jose.
The water had boiled in the kitchen. I threw in salt. I watched more roaring bubbles come to the surface. I dumped the boiling water in a bucket and filled it with a quarter amount of tap water. Then, I dunked the headless, dead Jose's body in the water. Meanwhile, I turned on the hose and doused the blood from the concrete. Mother would not want to see any blood anywhere. She'd like to pretend that the awful deed never happened.
She called me and said, "Did you kill him yet?"
"Oh my God! Oh, it's so awful. Don't tell me about it."
"Did he feel pain?"
"I don't think so. I chopped his head off in less than 2 seconds."
"Oh my God! The poor thing! Oh my God!"
"I know. I know."
"Mom, we eat meat. We have to understand what we do."
"I know. But why our house? Why now? We're never getting another pet chicken after Yuri."
"Jose was never our pet. He just showed up one day."
"Oh, I know. I know - but but -"
"Mom, it's no one's fault. It happened. That's the way it is. I gotta go."
I removed the chicken from the hot water. The hot water melted the fat that held together the feathers from the skin. I plucked it, tuft and all, in about fifteen minutes and stuffed the wet feathers in a bag. Now - it was looking like a regular chicken - the kind you find at the supermarket.
I brought the carcass inside, along with the cutting board and knives. There was still shit left inside of its anus. I washed it out.
Even after douching his anus, I couldn't stand the smell. Not because it was a bad smell. But it smelled like grass. It also smelled like a fresh farm animal. It smelled so strongly of the odors. The smell exploded, especially after I gutted the thing.
Also, inside of the chicken's crop, was his breakfast of corn feed and grass. God, I thought. Why did Mom feed him in the morning? Oh yeah, because she thought it was cruel to leave him hungry. No wonder why farmers fast their livestock before the slaughter.
I looked down at my feet, which was stained with dried blood. Oh, his blood squirted on me too. No wonder why murdering a human being is hard. There's a blood trail. And does that bloody spot ever come off?
I gutted the chicken. I fed the innards to the stray cat. He ate it readily. After dismembering the chicken, it still smelled of grass. But, it finally looked like two drumsticks, two thighs, and two pieces of chicken breast. It was finished.
It looked exactly like chicken pieces at your local supermarket. That's exactly how I wanted it to look for Mom so she wouldn't freak out by anything. The only difference was that because it was organic and hand raised and free range, it was much smaller and the meat was much stringier and tougher.
I called Mom on the phone and told her, "In the 'fridge is the chicken. It looks exactly like it would in the supermarket. You can make soup out of it today."
She came home and wasn't disgusted by it. She only was upset when she realized it was our temporary pet a few hours before.
She stewed the chicken, and it was the best chicken stew I ever had. In fact, it was the best chicken soup I ever had. Really - it was super tasty. And I ate all of Jose because I thought it was the right thing to do.
Since then - I have consumed much less meat. I ate a piece of beef the other day and thought to myself - how would it feel like to slaughter cattle? How would it feel like to slaughter a cow I raised since a calf? And if everyone slaughtered their own meat once in awhile, I was rather certain we would all eat less meat.
Every time I eat chicken, I still think about Jose's eye closing when it died and think - jeez. I think it bothers me most that this poor rooster died because he made the wrong choice and fell in love with a bird that would never return his affection. Poor thing.
For some reason, I have less of a problem killing fish and lobster. Not exactly sure why.
My mother reminds me though, "Paul, you exercise a lot. You're a boy. You need your meat."
I tell her, "I'll each fish."
PS: Onto sunnier topics, I have photos to post soon of my boxing club. We did an amazing photoshoot today. Above is my new profile pic. It was definitely time for a change, the last picture was taken almost four years ago.