Around Christmas a very large White chicken
called a turkey was dropped off at the door to Philemon's kitchen.
It had a habit of following us around in what some of us agreed was
an unnatural manner.
Okanya's mother suggested we
keep an eye on it in case it ran off or was stolen. She had seen
turkey before and was, she told us, not in the least alarmed by its size
or fearlessness. And as she was passing this wisdom along the
turkey pecked her on the foot with sufficient ferocity to make her
bleed. Philemon made the mistake of laughing.
When it came time for slaughter Okanya's mother had her turn to laugh,
because by then Philemon especially had grown fond of the turkey.
For our part, Okanya and I, we had quickly concluded that turkeys were
perfect companions. The sort of person to share food and games
with. Maybe even dig the odd hole with. So when
Christmas did come it was one of considerable mourning, except from
Okanya's mother for whom the day was joyous and plentiful.
Ground dwelling birds are probably more like cows than they are like Barn
Swallows. Agility of any sort offers a creature confidence.
This agility means the pause between curiosity and fear can last a while,
and I suppose if this argument is true, the qualities of domestication
further extends this pause between curiosity and fear.
Philemon's turkey had a surplus of
curiosity. And though these things are long gone in memory, I think
Philemon grew fonder of his turkey in direct relation to the increased nervousness
this turkey inspired in Okanya's mother. As well, being the guardian
of so unusual a creature gave Philemon a certain Úlan amongst the crowd
that sometimes gathered to stare at it and question the relationship it had
Okanya, who was so much bolder than I,
could handle the turkey at will. He could pick it up, toss it in the
air to see if it might fly. When I approached it, its head was close
to my chest which might not have mattered had I not evinced in it an
attitude of great disdain. An attitude I remain so familiar with
because often the cat repeats it in those moments of the day when our paths
cross. But I too was able once to toss the turkey in the air, and I
can report that this turkey could flap its wings and drift a while,
otherwise it was quite flightless.
I am not certain I have ever wished for
overt friendliness from creatures. Perhaps it is a sense of fair play
that I hope for. An honest appraisal of each other. That moment
between equals that can lead to a politics of sharing.
I also understand that in those moments
between curiosity and fear there is a potential for manipulation by those
creatures who possess an agility in the area of deviousness. And I do
hope the hens, when they arrive, are not like cats or lonely white turkeys
or rescued fawns, or groundhogs.