It is still early in the afternoon, and it is scorching hot. The eldest daughter of my host family walks by my open door with a chicken in each of her hands. She holds them by their bounded feet. The bodies dangle as silhouettes of thick bleach white feathers against the red sandy earth. With a toss, the chickens mercifully sail into the shade under the only tree in the front yard. She turns around to see me gaping open mouthed, and she laughs. I ask, “Will they be finished?” grasping at my only vocabulary in Sesotho to investigate the obvious killing. She nods, watches my compulsive grimace, and laughs again.
I am watching their last hours, I think to myself. The chickens are stoic in the sweltering heat. There’s nothing to do once fate determines death.
I am back at evening after a lazy Sunday playing cards with other trainees. The chickens are still there, but they are a bit livelier now that the temperature is edging towards evening. Occasionally their wings pump, and they move inches closer to eachother.
And then it was time. My host mother walked purposefully across the yard with a bucket and knife. She picked up the first by its feet, and took it over the designated slaughter site in the yard. It is next to where I walk every day to toss my waste water. She steps firmly on the left wing with her left foot, and strings out the neck with her left hand. Her right hand begins sawing with the knife, and within 15 seconds the chicken is beheaded.
Blood squirts out the top body, and she waits patiently while it abates. She looks back at me, and delivers her classic laugh while I cover my mouth and realize where my chicken comes from. Her foot is still firmly placed, waiting as the body shudders violently and finally becomes still.
“How often do you kill chickens, M’me?”
She looks at me with pity, no longer confused by my ignorant naïveness. “Whenever I want meat!” She stepped off the wing to bend over and pick up the bounded feet. Until I can kill a chicken, I believe I should be a vegetarian.