This is a horror story. Very violent. Thick with gore, bloodspattered and gruesome. It is all cruelty, no mercy, just murder, murder, murder and death. Netflix donneveniknow wasgono. This is the story of the time I had a chicken in my flat.
As all horror tales begin, so did mine, with a peaceful, sedate, virtually rural life in Kyaliwajjala. Kyali in those days was very backward: I hear that you now have malls and swimming pools, and there are rumours that solar powered streetlights have been sighted in the background of some selfies set by the main street, but in the old days, the neighbourhood was, though technically, within the greater Kampala area, so underdeveloped that we even had wildlife.
We had flying roaches, we had millipedes and, most telling, we had monkeys in the hood.
There is a difference between urban animals like miyaayu or stray dogs and wildlife. Stray dogs know their place, but the Kyali monkeys were categorically wildlife in the sense of how casually disrespectful their attitude towards humans was. The stray dog sitting in the middle of a panya road will get out of the way when it sees a human approach. The Kyali monkey of those days would continue chewing its kikajjo and look at you for two seconds to decide if you were relevant to any aspect of its life before concluding that the answer was nil then turning back to its sugar cane.
When you said, “Shoo!”, it would, in a reversal of the urban norm, look at you with a contemptuous glance, as if you are the one who was kumanyiraring it.
Then the monkey would say, “No, you shoo.”
In its language, of course.
None of them saw us as a threat in any way, not even to their ecology or habitat. We were so bucolic we didn’t even litter plastic bottles or buveera because we were so rural, our rolex guys wrapped their wares in endagala and our nightly inebriation was served in endeku, not bottles much less satchets.
But that was not the only un-urban thing about life in the area. There was my neighbour across the compound. A dude named Tony.
Tony had just arrived from a hamlet outside Fort Portal. This meant that he was not as savvy to the local culture. He did not know that yuppies in Kampala apartment compounds kept to themselves and did not socialise, so he just went ahead and made friends with all of us, myself included. Like a villager in a village, Tony would often barge into our houses and do the unspeakable– actually visit! As in sit down and stay inside for extended periods of time.
One other neighbour had the balls to be appropriately metropolitan and stake her territory. I don’t know her name because I am a Kampalan too, so I don’t know my neighbours’ names, but she had told him to leave.
“Gwe, Tony, where is your house, is it inside mine, then why are you bringing yourself, no no no,” she said, loudly enough for us to hear the words, if not the punctuation, “I don’t live with men, you don’t even know how to use toilets, like the seat, up or down, and then ever knocking when I have just got my Javas, since when do I allow, no no no. Tony, your side is there those ends far away, me don’t disturb me.”
So Tony learned a valuable lesson about foreign cultures that day. If you want to hang out with your Kyaliwajjala neighbours in Kampala, do it at the nightclub in Bugolobi.
It took the lesson a while to sink in, though, and while he avoided Number Six like she was the syllabus supervisor from Slytherin, he was free and friendly with the rest of us, treating us the way you would expect from foreigners who have believed the widespread rumour that Ugandans are friendly and hospitable.
One early evening he arrived at my door dressed in a kanzu and coat, complete with the little kamuli in the lapel. Tony had just returned from a Kwanjula and was on his way to the kasiki.
The kanzu, he observed, had tempered his male chauvinism. At first it had inspired envy– what a comfort to be able to wear something like a dress: the freedom and the space to move your legs was an unexpected pleasure and he particularly enjoyed how manspreading is made exponentially easier in a kanzu.
The lower parts of his brain were quietly deciding to be suspicious of women for not telling us about dresses before, and wondering what else they were not telling us, when another facet of information boogied itself into the disco– a kanzu is restrictive: It limits the length of your stride to the length of the kanzu. You can either learn this the hard way, by tripping and falling, or the less hard way by almost tripping and almost falling and then, henceforth, walking with the corner of the kanzu clutched in your hand, above your knee.
I look forward, as our cultures evolve, to kanzus coming equipped with slits that increase mobility.
Tony, having been part of the groom’s entourage, did in fact fall, because when the ceremonial kwanjula chicken was handed over, it did not go gently into that good night. It sqwawked, “If you punkassniggas want me, come get me! Thug For Life!” then flapped valiantly and made a break for it. The entourage quickly broke formation from the accustomed grace and elegance of these Ganda ceremonies, hiked up their kanzus and set off like rugby halfbacks in pursuit.
It was Tony who finally caught the renegade bird with a dive that would have made any goalkeeper proud. There was two stains on his kanzu now– grass and mud– but he had caught the bird, salvaged the ceremony and therefore, as far as he was concerned, saved the marriage. He even, as per his narration, secured rights to have the couple’s first son named after him.
He told me all this before finally getting to the point which was, “Keep this for me till I come back.”
By “this” he meant the chicken.
He handed me the chicken.
And then he dove back into the car with the other kwanjula attendees and they vroomed off to continue their revelry at the venue of the kasiki. I didn’t even know so many Masaka babes could fit into one VW Polo, but I was left with other things to consider, like the fact that there was now a live chicken in my house.
I looked at it.
It attempted to look back at me, but chicken eyes are on the sides of their heads, one on the left side, one on the right, yet us humans have both in the front.
“I can already tell that there is no point in me doing this, but the lack of a point has never stopped me from doing the things I do, so I am just going to go ahead and outline the rules that govern this household. Number one is that around here we are law-abiding and moral so smoking of marijuana and abuse of other recreational drugs is not permitted on the premises. Use the balcony cos weed smoke gives me cramps. Secondly, we uphold the constituion of Uganda and the international human rights charter as regards to freedom of expression and therefore, naturally, we also spiritedly believe, with the same verve and vigour, in freedom to shut the fuck up. The latter shall be enforced whenever deemed necessary. The third rule is no music in this house by anyone named Lil Anything.”
I said all of this to the chicken just as a matter of course though I knew it would have no effect. As we have already established, this hen and I were never going to see eye to eye.
Then Tony vanished. He disappeared. The day he gave me his chicken was the last time I ever heard from him. There are rumours that he had gambling debts which had grown to the point where one’s options are narrowed to an edge even thinner than “Either pay up or die”. The option of paying up having been removed from the table, it is now either die or flee to DRC, change your name and start a new life in Kisangani under an assumed identity.
I had been looking after his bird for a week and a half before I saw the landlord’s goons dragging Tony’s furniture out of his house and taking camera photos of it to upload on OLX and OLX-like facebook sites. That is when the circumstances were explained to me: I had been keeping this bird for a man who was never to return.
If I had known I would not have put up with it at all.
Having a chicken in the house, much less having one for ten days, had brought many zibs.
I had dealt with the two main problems you would expect– I sellotaped its mouth shut at night so it wouldn’t make noise while I was asleep and my thesis that pampers don’t have to work on only humans was proven accurate, but besides these, there were other problems.
For example, I kept it indoors. I couldn’t let it out of the house because, and if this blog post resurfaces ten years from now when cancel culture has reached the point where we are now dealing with animal rights, this is the one that will kill my career:
I couldn’t let it out of the house because there were many random chicken in Kyaliwajjala and they all look the same to me. I couldn’t tell them apart. If Hennessy (I named her) got out of the house and into the general population I would not be able to identify her and bring her back.
Being indoors would have been fine if she had a sense of how to respect boundaries, but she was worse than a cat, and you know how cats are.
You know how cats are. Who among us has not borne the trauma wrought by a cat that wanders into the bedroom while we are making love, and then starts casually licking its arse? We’ve all been there. Come on, it can’t just be me.
And there’s still no facebook support group.
Hennessy was shameless. Hennessy would stroll around the dinner table while I was eating rolexes and cluck at me.
“Don’t even judge. It’s not like you were even related,” I would sneer, but I have to admit, I did feel a bit guilty.
She broke my favourite whiskey glass. The one that cradled the last sip better than all the others.
But disaster struck on the third of a consecutive series of nights when I was drinking myself to sleep after Peninah broke my heart.
She had dumped me in the most cruel way possible. By telling me the truth.
She had always wanted a guy with a full beard and she thought that after some time she would convince me to stop shaving and grow one out. I was a fool in love, so I told her, like an idiot, I told her, like a moron, I told her, instead of just going to Facco or asking Karitas if she has wigs that can do the job, I told her that some guys just don’t grow beards and that I was one of them. My genes only put hair on my chin and above my lip, nothing on the cheeks. I just blurted this out.
The least she could have done is tell me she was leaving me for another guy, but she just flat out said it, “Baz, I cannot love a man with no beard. It’s over between us.”
I felt worthless, I felt diminished. I felt humiliated. I felt broken into little pieces and crushed underneath a stiletto heel of shame by the cruelty of her words. My heart was a wreck. Three days. Three days of drinking myself to sleep.
Then this fucking chicken jumps onto the table and kicks over my favourite glass.
While I live in a suburb so rural that the best replacement possible is a tumpeco.
There were other things. Like after the first few days the pampers obviously needed changing. Yes Pampers. Plural. Hennessy was a random chicken, not my child, so I didn’t feel obliged to sustain her hygiene. I strapped on one pamper. When it began to pong, I just covered it with another. And so on. This is at best a short term solution but after seven days one has to confront the necessity of having to remove stacked layers of pampers filled with chicken shit.
I made a note that the next round I was going to take her to the local court and ask if there is any convict there who has done something bad enough to deserve a really disgusting punishment, and then have that person deal with Hennesy’s diapers. The smell of accumulated chicken shit in accumulated pampers is dehumanising. That is the kind of thing that makes you mean it when you say you will never do things again. Perfect crime deterrent.
No. First wait. First picture it. First picture it. Now you understand. Don’t throw up on my blog. Puke to the side.
It was after putting up with this for ten days that the landlord’s goon told me that Tony wasn’t coming back. Which means I didn’t have to keep this hen. Which meant I could get rid of it.
So I slaughtered her her and ate her. Hence the murder and gore.