Two middle-aged couples stood next to me. I frantically, albeit brainlessly, pointed to my plastic shopping bags with the indoor market’s name on them and all four people   in an impressive display of teamwork pointed in unison in that direction no doubt, where else? Shopping, shopping! I was so flummoxed at this stage that my actions bore neither rhyme nor reason; it grew darker faster and I was getting tired. I was at my wits end. I so wanted to be in bed. Where would I sleep? Would I be kidnapped in the cold dark of night sleeping in some side-street shop doorway? Jeez, no, heaven forbid! Would I be just mugged and left? (Ok, take what money I have but pleeease don’t take my passport. Take the stuff I bought at the market, take it all but just don’t take my passport). Being mugged and left with my passport would be the lesser of two evils. I´d never been mugged before but there’s always a first time.

Reader, this is what happens when you sail too far up a  creek called Shit without a paddle. It had never occurred to me that I would ever find myself in a situation like this (hasn’t it happened to us all at some point? I respectfully inquire). My brain went into distorted synchromesh, crunching up its neurons and like an overrevving accelerator my mind followed suit. The most dantesque images sprang from my deepest psyche, popping up as grotesque shapes, dancing the macabre dance of death and settling stubbornly on the screen of my dreams while an evil figure with long horns in the distant dark beckoned me to advance.

The dark figure beckons

I was tired, very very tired and so wished that I was safe in bed. But i felt like I was in some diabolical trance. I was becoming delirious, yet I could still feel myself slowly moving as the queue  crept forward. But the evil spirit would not go away and it terrified me. Despite me moving with the crowd it held me spellbound. It was worse than any nightmare and it later struck me that nightmares almost never happen at night. I saw threatening dark clouds in the twilight zone that wanted to engulf me and drag me towards the gates of hell for a dalliance with the devil. He was near, I could feel him, he was closer. I was beside myself with fear. I had an excruciatingly stone-cold feeling.

And then I heard them calling out, Haipat, Haipat! I heard it again and again but I didn’t see any vendors this time, yet it resonated deep and lingered long in my subconscious.

THE CHICKEN

The man next to me had a chicken in a cage who was clucking like mad but the strange thing is that he wasn’t flicking his head like normal chickens do. The reason for this is that it wasn’t a normal chicken. He was staring at me and the clucking bastard clucked like I’ve never seen or heard a chicken cluck before.

I could see his eyes bulging and there was a blazing fire in them which screamed of hell. He seemed to be looking right through me. I could feel his hideous eyes penetrating right to the back of my head. A terrible realization hit me.  He was trying to get out of the cage and go for me. I froze. It was the devil incarnate.

That’s a mean chicken!

I suddenly recalled sombrely running over a chicken that was crossing the street in the town of Mitchelstown on my way to Dublin a long time ago, I rolled straight over him, leaving him like a red and white pancake on the road. It was one early morning.

He’d done nothing wrong, all he was doing was trying to get to the other side of the road like every chicken that’s escaped from a farmyard from time immemorial, even when there were no roads. That’s what chickens do, they cross the road. Like a dog that buries a bone in the garden, it’s genetic. Every free chicken worthy of his chicken feed that has wandered from a farm or somebody’s kitchen has to cross the road once in his lifetime. They know it’s dangerous. But it’s like going to Mecca. He’s not a fully-fledged fowl of the Inter-Chickens’ Association if he doesn’t. If he wants his just reward in that great big henhouse in the sky he’s obliged to do it. I prayed subconscioulsy it hadn’t been his first time. And then it struck me that this particular chicken must have had it all worked out. Chickens don’t move fast and daytime traffic is perilous because they’ve got to keep looking two ways. Then there’s the noise which is terribly disorientating. He knew at that hour of the morning there wouldn’t be a car in sight. He was also white and he probably figured out that in the unlikely event of a car coming he would be more easily seen in the dark. Yes, that’s pretty straightforward thinking. All the odds were stacked in his favour, black night, white chicken, no traffic, still silence, no people. But something must have gone wrong, perhaps he had taken the crossing for granted.  I suddenly saw him. I bore down on him. He was looking in the opposite direction. I slammed on my brakes, I flashed my headlamps and the concomitant blast of the horn made him almost jump out of his feathers. I wished he had. He turned and stared. A pair of terrified eyes embodied his psyche. Too late, it was his last stare. Before I knew it he was under my wheel. As i felt the thump I choked. The unfortunte fowl had been looking the wrong way at the wrong time.

A weird sense of pathos came over me and for a while I was driving on automatic pilot just thinking about the poor fowl. But I soon came to my senses and I shuddered when it struck me that there just might be another chicken trying to cross the road ahead of me. I realised I had been doing a ton. I slowed down to 80, then 70, then 60 and 50. I already had enough on my conscience.

Not all chickens are fundamentalists

I used to eat chicken, I loved it, but to this day just hearing the word sends a shiver down my spine and almost makes me feel sick. When one of my fellow-diners asks for chicken in a restaurant, I secretly wish there were a pandemic which would get rid of the blighters once and for all and forever. And I’m sick of hearing the answer chicken on a plane when you ask them what it is?

-It’s chicken today sir (it’s chicken every f-cking day)

-Have you got Vegetarian? Fish?

-Yes, but we’ve run out of fish, I’m afraid

Then they tell me you’ve to fill out an online form upon booking if you want vegetarian.

Politely, I tell them to stick it.

-Any nuts? And could I have another bottle of wine while you’re there?

-White or red, Sir?

-I can’t make up my mind, just give me one of each. And another packet of nuts as you’re at it. If I don’t get something to eat quick I’ll die of hunger up here amidst the fluff (bloody trolly dollies, always make my flight a misery… Aah, but i suppose it’s not  their fault).

To be continued…

flummoxed = deconcertado, neither rhyme nor reason = ni pies ni cabeza, grow dark = oscurecer, I was at my wits end = estaba que no podía más, kidnapped = secuestrado, heaven forbid! = Dios me libre! mugged = asaltado, the stuff = las cosas, unrestrained = desbordante, follow suit = hacer lo mismo, sprang = saltó, pop up = aparecer, settle = situarse, stubbornly = obstinadamente, beckon = llamar con señas, frightened to death = muerto de miedo, spellbound = hechizado, even though = although, nightmare = pesadilla, it struck me = se me ocurrió, threatening = amenazante, twilight gloom = tinieblas, engulf = engullir, drag = arrastrar, dalliance = flirteo, beside myself with fear = paralizado de miedo, linger = rezagarse, clucking = cacareando, flicking = sacudir, stare = mirar fijamente, bulging eyes = ojos saltones, blazing fire = fuego ardiente, hideous = repugnante, go for = atacar, run over = atropellar, gutted = muy afectado, farmyard = granja, not a soul in sight = ni un alma a la vista, hold up the bar = aguantar la barra, in for a penny in for a pound = de perdidos al río, footpath = acera, knock down = atropellar, pavement = footpath, hasty = quick, squad car = coche de  policía, shiver down my spine = escalofrio, once and for all = de una vez por todas, run out of = quedarse sin, stick it! = mételo donde te quepa, bloody = maldito, blighter = canalla, trolly dollies = azafatas avión (despectivo), scratch = arañar, squawk = graznar, set up = montar, quagmire = atolladero, problematico, break loose = desatarse, maul = malherir, heart skipped a beat = dio un vuelco el corazón, cocky = confiado, sheepishly = con timidez, end up = acabar …, crawl = ir muy lento, dimly-lit = muy poca luz, lest = por si, strobe light = luz destelleante, garbage truck = camión de la basura, about to = a punto de, dreaded = temido, I’d blown it = lo había pifiado, get my just deserts = recibir el castigo merecido, drew near = acercarse, stretcher = camilla, is beyond me = soy incapaz de comprender, out of the blue = como por arte de magia, harsh = severo, in fits and starts = dando tumbos, aware = ser consciente de, cheek  = mejilla, on the edge of = al borde, nervous breakdown =crisis nerviosa, no farther = no mas ejos