Coming home from school at tea-time was an adventure. You never knew, you could find anything from rabbit stew to sheep’s heads, swimming in greasy juices for the dogs, or a game pie, stacked with mushrooms and pastry. Perhaps an omelette made with eggs from the pigeons. Then mother served up Fred…
Written for Sacha Black’s writeinspiration challenge this week, a tale in 52 words… and the tale is a true one.
The stock auctions drew my parents like moths to a flame. One day I came home to a garden full of rabbits. Most of them went in the pot. Sheep’s heads, chicken necks and lights (lungs) were acquired from the village butcher for next to nothing to feed the dogs and gruesome indeed were the scenes after the local poacher had been to call. On another occasion they brought home pigeons and we suddenly had a pigeon loft in the garden. As a teenager, I stopped asking what was for dinner when it became more like a ‘who’.
Fred was the cock of the loft, a father of many generations of racing pigeon and a personal friend. She served him with mushrooms in a pie. I have never eaten pigeon again.
I remember…vividly… coming home from school one day to a charnel house. My mother, bloodied to the elbows, was wrestling her way into another carcass with a pile of innards and dressed corpses building steadily beside her. My baby brother was cradling a chicken’s head and pulling the tendons to make its beak work and, when I lifted the lid of the pan on the stove, two half-cooked sheep’s heads looked back at me with milky eyes.
I was vegetarian for a long time after that episode.
Fred, however, remained in my memory…
He strutted up and down the loft
While puffing out his chest
Where iridescent feathers
Caught a rainbow on his breast.
The hens were all aflutter
‘Cause they knew that Fred was King,
The undisputed champion
Who wore the racer’s ring.
His picture hung upon the wall
His trophies on display,
And when the flock flew overseas
‘Twas Fred would lead the way.
Blue-banded hunk, whose beady eye
Kept younger cocks in check,
Until the day he grew too old
And mother wrung his neck.
His coffin was a golden one,
A crispy pastry cave,
Bedecked with tender mushrooms
More gravy, then, than grave.