'Frankie' by Sarah Tarbit

I was six when Mam died. Dad bought me a ‘good blood’ rooster from Maurice at the allotment.

     He said, ‘My dad gave me one when I was a boy. Said cocks don’t fight to live, they fight to kill. They’re hard. They fight with honour and pride. They fight for their women.’

     First thing he did was slice off his Frankie’s comb and wattle.

     ‘They make him weak. Need to be removed.’

     Frankie flapped, squawked, squealed to be free.

     ‘Count yourself lucky I’m doing this for you. My dad made me do it myself.’

     Through the winter I spent my pocket money on oats, wheat, split peas, long grain rice, corn and barley. In the summer, sunflower seeds instead of corn.

     For his first fight we fed and weighed him in the morning. Come the afternoon he’d shat out an ounce. If his shit had big, green globs in it, he was still bloated with food. When it was like white gravy he was ready.

     At the fight, Dad dismantled a razor, tied the blade to Frankie’s foot. Dad and Maurice held the cocks from behind, squeezed their breasts to keep them still. They billed the cocks, brought them face to face, hoisted them towards each other, back and forth, pulled at their feathers until they were angry enough to fight. Then they threw
them at each other.

     The fights happened in bursts in the air. They screeched, squawked, their feathers puffed up, wings flapped, claws grabbed and sliced, skin and muscle were nicked open, bled. Feathers floated through the air, stuck to pools of blood on the ground.

     Frankie’s eye was cut up. He stopped, turned his good eye to the other cock, started on him again.

     It took forty-five minutes for Maurice’s cock to kill Frankie. I ran home, pushed my cardboard box full of toys in front of the bedroom door.

     Dad came home pissed, sat at the other side of my door.

     ‘He was a fighter!’

     I cuddled the bear I’ve had since the day I was born.

    ‘You need to see through the blood to something pure, noble.’

     Mr Bear smelt like Mam. She’d spray her perfume on it at night, a comforter, so I’d sleep in my own bed.

     ‘I needed you to see it. You should have that hardness in you, tofight, when you need to.’

     I pulled at the loose stitching along Mr Bear’s stomach.

     ‘It’s nature. She’s not kind. She doesn’t give a fuck. The spider kills the fly. The fly feeds the spider.’

     ‘But what if I’m the fly?’

     He looked me in the eyes. ‘You need to be the spider.'


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