Fiction Funny Friendship

Just when Busi was preparing to head home for the Christmas holidays, her state border closed. Covid-19 cases in her hometown were spiraling out of control, followed by a pervading panic. Goodwill slowly evaporated as people’s well-laid plans went up in smoke. She had planned her trip relatively late due to last-minute deadlines imposed by her boss, one of those who were under the impression that one could always coerce a single woman with no family to do overtime.

With the pandemic, Busi was now addicted to checking her internet, as the number of cases increased each night exponentially. Her State Governor’s cryptic media messages about targeted lockdowns to contain the local transmission rates did not instill confidence.  She eventually resigned herself to making the most of a solitary Christmas with any friends still in town, in the same predicament.

With some relief, Busi received a frantic phone call from her friend Muchi, asking her to look after Muchi’s pet rooster. After a lengthy nonconsequential chit chat, Muchi apologetically explained that she had to leave town over the Christmas break due to a family emergency. Her mother had suffered a fall.

“I know you are close to your parents, but why can’t you make other arrangements for your bird? You are an hour’s drive from home. Take it with you in a cat basket.”

“You are not very realistic Busi. I already have a lot on my plate. My mum’s injury has made her immobile, and she needs my help from Christmas Eve till after Boxing Day. That’s all I ask, please? Jongwe who won’t be any trouble. He’s well trained.”

“You forget that the reason why I don’t have pets is that they are so time-consuming. All that care and food and vet bills. Why not just put him into the pot?”

“Busi! That’s not funny! I can’t believe you are so cruel and heartless. What about if he hears you? That’s my pet we are talking about.”

Busi curbed her mirth as she looked at her friend, who was becoming increasingly annoyed.

“Ok. Sorry! I will try not to be insensitive. It sounds like you two are very close. What am I expected to do with him?”

“He is called Jongwe. All you have to do is feed and water him and make sure he is in his coop every night. Please give him a free run of the place, so he feels at home. Let’s go outside, and I will introduce you to him, and then I have to go. My suitcase is already in the car. Since you are sleeping here, house sitting should be straight forward. This part of town is quite safe, and you can contact my neighbours over any security issues.”

“If you talk to your neighbours, why can’t they look after Jongwe?”

“Busi, if you don’t want to help me out, just say so.” You are making such a song and dance about looking after Jongwe for two nights.”

“I am just examining my options. Ok, explain what I am supposed to do. You are usually so efficient; I am surprised that you haven’t written out the instructions.”

“I was in such a state after hearing about Mum that I forgot. We can quickly put something together if that helps.”

“I was only joking! Talk me quickly through Jongwe’s care regime. Otherwise, you’ll be late.”

The two friends went to the patio, and Muchi started making clucking noises, calling out to Jongwe who was nowhere to be found. Busi tried to keep a straight face as she followed Muchi around her garden to hunt for the lost pet.

“Where is he when you want him?” Muchi sounded concerned.

“Sorry. I am not being awkward Muchi, but remind me why you decided to take care of a rooster which could be having a perfect life on a farm somewhere?”

“Jongwe reminds me of home Busi. You forget I grew up on a farm and I couldn’t very well adopt a dog because I spend so much time at work, that it would get lonely. Apart from that, they are expensive to keep, and I don’t want to lock my dog in the house while I am away in the office. Do you know that dogs can suffer from separation anxiety?”

“I learn something new every day! Ok, even I am beginning to lose my patience. Where is this wretched Jongwe?”

After circling the yard once more, Muchi followed the perimeter hedge peering through the gaps into the garden next door, and spotted Jongwe on the other side.

“You naughty bird! I told you not to go on walkabouts outside the yard. You will either get lost or get caught by cats or dogs that don’t respect the fact that you are someone’s pet. I thought I had sealed the gap in the hedge.”

Busi said, “Are you telling me that Jongwe understands what you are saying? Wow! Look, he is coming back through the hedge like Road Runner in the cartoon! You have trained him well!”

“It’s easy. All you have to do is make clucking sounds which Jongwe associates with food time, and he will come back like a shot. That’s lesson one.’’

“ So lesson two? Out of interest, how many lessons am I supposed to remember?”

“There are not many. Just as long as you feed Jongwe and make sure he doesn’t escape out of the yard.”

“That should be easy. You can leave the two of us to bond,” said Busi smirking.

“You are getting into the spirit of things,” said Muchi mellowing.

After sharing a list of instructions, Muchi explained in labouring detail that Jongwe should not be allowed, under any circumstances, into the vegetable patch; otherwise, he would decimate the kale and lettuce crops. His favourite food was fresh corn, cooked rice and food scraps she had left in labelled containers in the fridge. It all sounded very straight forward.

Jongwe continued to occupy himself pacing up and down on the grass, hunting insects and generally minding his own business. As darkness fell, Busi as instructed, prepared to lock him up in his coop and retire. She knew she had to steer him into the enclosure, so she slowly approached Jongwe, who appeared unconcerned as he continued cocking his head and strolling around the yard. The closer Busi came to him, the more Jongwe instinctively picked up pace. Then he started running, flapping is feathers and clucking around the yard in alarm followed by Busi in hot pursuit. Busi was no match for Jongwe who knew his territory and made enough noise to wake the dead. He was not going to be silenced as the two scurried around the yard. After pausing to catch her breath, Busi, not acceding defeat, went inside the house and returned with scraps of food which she deposited in Jongwe’s coop as a bribe. She hid behind a bush, biding her time and was relieved when Jongwe eventually entered the enclosure, tempted by the morsels. Immediately, Busi sprung out and quickly closed the hatch.

“Got you! Hopefully, this is the last I will hear from you till tomorrow morning,” said Busi, out of breath.

Around three am, Busi was startled by a commotion coming for Jongwe’s sleeping quarters. She switched on the back-door porch light and peered through the window while debating whether to go out in her dressing gown, then she decided against it. Her imagination was running wild. It could be a snake or rats in the coop. Whatever was happening, she would investigate in the morning. But, through a sense of loyalty to her friend’s concern for Jongwe, Busi sat in the dark for a while then started nodding off before the noises started again. This time Jongwe sounded more muted until there was silence.

Busi eventually went to sleep in fits and starts, only to be startled again by Jongwe crowing at sunrise. From then on, he joined a conversation with the dawn chorus as he continued to crow, with other roosters echoing in response from different parts of the neighbourhood. Busi soon capitulated when she realised her planned lay-in in wasn’t going to happen. Jongwe was an efficient poor man’s alarm clock, and as Busi’s irritation increased, she now appreciated that Muchi had not shared any lessons about how to silence a rooster crowing in full swing. Busi gave up the fight and went to investigate the cause of the disturbance in the night. The coop was secure. However, the food basin had toppled over, and the water spilt. Otherwise, Jongwe appeared unharmed although frustrated at being confined overnight. Busi released the captive which strutted out and began his stroll around the garden, without a backward glance.

Busi cleaned out the smelly mess in the coop and resolved to admit to Muchi that she had no idea about looking after farm birds, having been a towner all her life. If she were going to survive till after Boxing Day, she would have to be more jacked up. Her worst nightmare would be for Muchi to return and be told something had happened to Jongwe, on her watch. Busi now had visions of all sorts of predators-stray dogs and cats invading the garden with the sole purpose of making a meal of Jongwe and leaving a carcass with shimmering bright red feathers from his long pointy curling tail, in their wake. She even imagined Jongwe eating so much food that he developed some stomach complaint. What if he ate something poisonous while foraging in the garden? What was toxic to roosters?

After a hearty breakfast where she steered clear of eggs since it seemed the humane thing to do, Busi sat in the veranda and scribbled notes in earnest; how to keep roosters, after an internet search. There was surprisingly lots of information, and she was amazed to learn about crowing habits, a language in itself.  Yes, there was something about not feeding roosters on avocados, raw dried beans, and mouldy stuff. Who knew! There were even suggestions that if there were enough food and water at night, it could reduce the incessant crowing at all hours! She picked up some other titbits about Jongwe’s foot spurs being a dangerous weapon and that his luxurious plume of tail feathers was an asset when courting, part of Jongwe’s majestic strut.

Busi felt she was now becoming a fundi although she wasn’t convinced that some of the advice on roosters were not bordering on animal cruelty; after reading one post about buying a rooster collar to constrain a rooster’s voice box, so reducing the volume of Jongwe’s crows.

Muchi returned home after her mercy trip, feeling exhausted. “I don’t know whether I would call it a holiday. But I am glad I went. Mum was in such pain. I feel I did my bit and left her more settled. How did you fare here? I see that Jongwe is still alive and marking his territory. Although you look as if you didn’t get much sleep!’’

“Tell me about it,” said Busi. “I didn’t realise that rooster sitting is so much work!”

“You are such an exaggerator! I can’t imagine much has happened while I was away.”

“Well, for a start, your inadequate handover notes missed out critical information which I had to pick up on the job, such as keeping Jongwe in food and water at night, so he crows less. Did you know there is such a thing as a rooster collar? I could go on and on explaining what I have learned in the last 48 hours.”

As Busi explained her ordeals, Muchi’s sides were aching with laugher, tears streaming down her face. She said, “What a transformation! It sounds as if Jongwe did a number on you. Next, you’ll be telling me that Jongwe needs a life partner, so he is not lonely!”

Busi sounding offended said, “It’s true, roosters are sentient animals. I have learned my lesson!”

December 23, 2020 22:29

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Lydi B
19:55 Dec 31, 2020

Hah, well Busi sure got overloaded with information on roosters. I enjoyed the relationship between these two girls and this stately bird. The fact that Busi really got serious about learning her job was a pleasant surprise. To help this story really flow, my suggestion is to take us straight into the heart of the conflict. You have a decent amount of setup about Busi's trip cancellation and the girls' dialogue about the rooster. This consumes space when we all really want to read more about how this rooster almost ruins Busi's holiday and ...


NK Hatendi
05:03 Jan 07, 2021

I am glad you enjoyed the story and thanks for the tips.


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