I have two uncles. One who lives in London and only visits during Christmas, but wasn’t visiting this year, and another one who lives here in Lagos and visits London during Christmas to do what he calls ‘vacation’ with his wife. Although Daddy always tells him it is a wrong time to visit London and that sensible people do vacation in the summer. He never listens. It is this second uncle that gave us Christmas.
He was about to travel again, so he sent Haruna, his meyguard, to bring Christmas to our house since Haruna was also travelling to his village and no one would be around to take care of the dog. Chike and I forgot to ask Haruna for the dog’s name, so we named the dog Christmas before Mummy and Daddy came back home. Although Daddy later told us the dog’s name was North, but by then it was too late because we had already started calling it Christmas and it had already started sitting and standing and rolling over and playing dead at our command.
Mum and Dad later returned home that night with a chicken. Not that it was the first time we would be celebrating Christmas with chicken, but this year was different. The chicken was alive. And it was just one. Mum said she wanted us to have the experience of watching a chicken killed by Daddy and then preparing it with her. To Chike and I, chicken was chicken. And even though we wondered why she decided to buy only one, we were too excited to ask questions. The only questions on our minds were what part of the chicken we would get. Dad and Mum would get both drumsticks and thighs for sure. We kept going to the balcony to peep and tease the fat chicken in the corner of its woven cage where it tried to hide itself from us and stare into the compound instead. It was the first time we were going to see Dad kill a chicken for Christmas. We hopped around the house and couldn’t wait for morning to come.
It began to rain just after our family devotion. Chike hurried through his opening prayer, but Mummy added too many Christmas-like songs to her Praise and Worship, while Daddy went on and on during his sermon, about how Jesus Christ is the reason for the season and how we must never forget that, and how we must never be like my London Uncle who says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” They are trying to remove Christ from everything, he complained. I made sure my closing prayer was shorter than usual, as if to make up for all the time we had lost to this Christmas devotion. All I could think of was the chicken, and the knife slashing its throat and the blood gushing out and the jerking and lifeless stillness that would most likely follow.
As soon as the rain began, Christmas began to bark. Then Daddy asked Chike to go release the chicken from the cage while he went into the kitchen to get a knife. We would kill the chicken by the tap outside, even in the rain. Double fun. This was the moment.
I ran into the store to get an umbrella. By the time I came out, I knew something had happened. Chike had not told Daddy that he had a fear of chickens, and so he had released the chicken without really getting a hold of it. The poor chicken, probably sensing danger, had taken off into our compound from the balcony and Chike had tried to give chase.
Then Christmas joined the chase.
By the time I was out of the house to see what was going on in the compound, Christmas had chased down the chicken and now had in her mouth, our Christmas chicken. Or what was left of it.
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