Cocks

by Aimee Wilkinson

We’re walking through Malia’s forgotten back streets at 3.30 in the morning. Dust prickles the back of my throat. Linked arm in arm, we make our way on the cobbled pavement. Jim tries to impress me with stories of his days in the Marines. His voice hums in the humid air as he recounts each tale with boyish enthusiasm; each anecdote coloured with guns, heroism and death. I stopped listening two streets ago.

Shouts sound ahead of us. A light shines in the darkness. I pull him like a mule, eager to find the night’s next distraction. The street narrows, and our pace quickens. Ahead, in a cavernous warehouse, a group of men gather in a wide circle. A man with a white cowboy hat stops us as we enter. He mumbles and brings out his dirty hand, palm up. We give him €20 and he moves aside.

Chalked on the ground is a wide circle. In the centre two men barter loudly. My breath catches as the men step away and open two adjourning cages. In unity the crowd shouts as a flurry of wings erupts in the air. The cocks come down at each other, feathers erect, wings crackling. The larger bird, a golden crown crested around its head and neck, swoops its beak and aims for the other’s eyes. Rips out red.

End of round One. The men intervene, pick up their birds and stroke them. More money is exchanged. Beside me Jim’s grip loosens and I let our hands fall apart. I am the only woman here, yet no one notices me. All eyes are on the circle.

Round Two. The men place their birds on the ground. A few seconds pass where they don’t notice each other and paw at the ground. The men push at the birds, shake them from side to side then set them down again. A flash of wings and the fight resumes. Their strikes are methodical, each takes its turn after the other. Then they tumble and fall in a terrible torrent of attack. The enrapt crowd falls silent for a moment as everyone forgets to breathe.

The men close in. The crash of wings and the crackle of laughter fill my ears. A pool of black blood shadows the birds. The brown one brings its beak down on the gold’s crown, again and again and again. The gold lowers its head.

The atmosphere changes. People collect money and leave. The gold’s owner picks up the bird. Its head lolls to the side. The winner moves away, and the man stands alone. Blood drips though his fingers.

On the way back to the hostel we say little. I think about the sport of men, and my mind lingers on the images which accompany Jim’s war stories. I think about the men he claims to have killed, the things he boasts to have witnessed and done. And I think about the crackle of laughter and the flurry of feathers.


Aimee Wilkinson has recently had a short story published by the small publishing house ‘The Time Travel Oppertunists’ and lives in Derby where she is currently working on her first novel.

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  1. #1 by BobClay on November 30, 2008 - 10:44 pm

    Powerful, atmospheric story, very good. Does make me a little ashamed of my gender … perhaps even the species.

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