A conversation I had this morning with my neighbor Luca:
Luca: Madam, your chicken, she has been captured by a predator. A very big cat.
Me: Oh. [surprised]
Oh. [a little sad]
Oh. [a little relieved because I see sweet, placid, quiet Diana Ross in the distance, which means Aretha Franklin was the victim. Aretha was…difficult.]
Oh, that is sad. So now Diana is alone.
Luca: Yes, you must eat her.
I’m not going to eat Diana Ross. But I am going to tell a story about Aretha Franklin, the big, brassy-voiced hen who (visually, at least) was everything I hoped my first chicken would be: quaintly scalloped feathers and sturdy, faintly prehistoric self-carriage, like a Saurischian-inspired teapot. Chickens can be beautiful. Chickens can be dangerous. Aretha was both.
I found her roosting on my roof once. I found her sleeping on my bed twice. I found her on my kitchen table too many times to count. I lost thousands of kwacha in precious food because of her. (Literally fives of dollars.) I was jolted from deep slumber at least a few times each week because I was certain I heard the telltale flap-and-squawk of a chicken leaping someplace she isn’t supposed to be. (She was actually innocent in this case because auditory hallucinations are a side effect of the anti-malarial medication I’m on – but it does paint a picture of the mental hold she had on me.)
Her magnum opus was fittingly presented to me in the most devastating way possible.
I came home one day in November to find my kitchen torn apart: bags of flour ripped open and flung across the cement; just-bought tomatoes partially eaten and thrown on the ground; a loaf of bread pecked apart lengthwise, so that half of it was gone but all of it was inedible; Aretha dozing on my hot plate amid a Jackson Pollock painting of her own feces. But then, lo! There on the floured floor, to complete the hellish scene: a single egg lain in the middle of it, like an offering.
She contributed absolutely nothing of any value after that.
R.I.P. Aretha Franklin (2012-2013)
We barely knew ye…and yet, we also kind of felt like we knew ye enough