The railway crossing gates are raised and lowered by a man operating a crank handle. He waits in a railway side shack for a walky-talky message to alert him to lower the gates. His large old body laboriously turns the crank and cuts off traffic. The chaotic traffic stews in its containment as motorists habitually squeeze every bit of space. We are all stuck with our eyes fixed forward.
I was planted next to the butcher shop. The butcher airs out his live chickens in metal cages. Pedestrians look them over for dinner. The dry dirty air mingles with their chicken sweat and stains their feathers a tormented hint of yellow. I wasn’t the only one staring at the chickens. A street dog was intermittently grooming himself and eye-balling the chickens. Even if the cleverest chicken escaped the cage they couldn’t escape their prison guard.
I looked at one of the hens panting in the heat. There was something human like about her exhaustion. It glanced its head in both directions. With its eyes trained on me it lifted its mustard-hue wing and revealed a little yellow chick underneath. The tiny puffball was staring up at me with a familiar birdy smile. It retreated its squeaky head into its feather-fluff body.
The hen concealed her baby the way a cartoon drug dealer closes his cloak. Then she pushed me. Like Moses’ mother begging the river to carry her son to a life she couldn’t share. I guess all the childhood taunting was right. Only a chicken could understand the unspoken gobble of chickens. The trouble with chickens is that all their comrades are chickens. There isn’t a speck of bravery in the species.
I couldn’t purchase them alive. I would only release them into the mouths of the waiting dogs. Revealing the chick would end in its instantaneous death. I allowed the sounds of the raising railway gate to pull me away from the mother hen. The car engines drowning out her pleading clucks.
It was in India that Buddha became a vegetarian. It was in India that Vishnu explained the cycle of rebirth. What separated me from the mother was that I knew that the chick would be reborn. I knew from that momentary grimace that the chick was Arjun, my daddy long legs, incarnate to teach me the mantra of Hinduism; accept your fate.
P.S. Still totally a carnivore
P.S.S. I have too much free time!