With no moon tonight it’s almost pitch black outside. Absa, my host dad’s second wife, asks to borrow my cell phone. They need a light.
“Foo jem?” “Where are you going?” I ask.
“Jocko genar.” “Getting the chickens…” Okay, so I’m not positive about the verb but I KNOW genar means chicken.
“Newal” Absa beckons me to follow. I go, curiously. The trusty cell phone lights our path across the sandy courtyard and through the gate to where the animals are sheltered.
Khady, my one year old sister, sits patiently into my arms, but I watch confused as my dad, Djiby, steps to the top of the aluminum “roof” to the chicken house. I really hope the chickens aren’t in there. I’m not sure the structure can hold his weight. I grimace in apprehension.
Absa points the light up into the tree branches. My gaze follows. Even with all the warning clues, I still jump in shock when a chicken skW-A-A-A-Wkes. Djiby grabs its wings, not allowing it to fuss, and pulls it from its comfortable sleeping perch in the trees. He hands the bird to Absa and reaches for his next victim.
At dinner a week later, (rice, no chicken) I ask Djiby what our newly bought chickens were doing in the trees last week.
He explains “I like them in the pen where they’re safe and contained. But they feel safer in the trees, free from snakes. So they sleep there.”
“Wait, they still sleep there?”
“So why don’t you go get them?”
“I can’t spend all my time chasing chickens out of trees.”