The Hen With The Broken Leg

Yet another Paris story which by an agreeable turn of events has to do with cocks, hens and Chinese people

Published by Manol Petrov, 29 Mar 2018

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As I grew in skill language-wise and could hold more than a basic conversation, my appetite for life increased accordingly. I’d spent eight months intensively learning French and was desperate for some entertainment. My blood was boiling like a that of a fighting cock.

My first apartment was in Belleville, then the area of choice for the “new French” like myself. It was by no means rare for its residents to communicate through crude sign language. Later, when we were taken in by Milka Genadieva, we moved to the 16th Arrondissement where they spoke flawless French - yet it was mind-numbingly boring.  I’d already started regular school  when I returned to Belleville. Everyone knew me and greeted me. The people whose attention I sought had learned the language too and communication was smooth. I’d barely shown my mug out of the Goncourt Metro station when I spotted the smiling face of Yan Tao, a really sweet Chinese guy my age. Before we even shook hands he reached into his back pocket, pulled out a crumpled document and covered it in kisses as though it had been given to him by the Buddha. It was a work permit but to be honest, looking at it I wasn’t at all sure it featured his photograph. We embraced, gesturing wildly with pleasure for having bumped into each other and then Yan Tao dragged me to a nearby bistro for a cup of coffee. The bistro was owned by his family. Evidently they had acquired it recently as it still had a Parisian air about it. Yan had grown in stature in the neighbourhood. People kept approaching us and reporting things into his ear I didn’t understand. Suddenly his face lit up, he took me under his arm and said, “Come on, Mono, let me show you something.”

We crossed the street and went into the butcher shop I used to frequent once. We opened the door to the storage room and entered a long and damp corridor. I was no longer in France but in China. I felt the adrenaline rush. Invisible hands patted my shoulders, my muslces contracted and I felt something I had never before experienced – that I was master of my own life. I was sinking into the unknown and noone cared to explain to me what exactly was going on. Finally a door opened and I entered the

underground world of cockfighting

They met Yan Tao with the requisite expressions of respect, and greeted me as though I was Chinese. Yan turned to me, “Mono, the Hen with the broken leg will be fighting. Will you place a bet?”

“Yan, my friend, why would I bet on a hen fighting a cock? That’s sex, not fighting!”

He smiled and said, “You will never witness anything like this anywhere else. She is a phenomenon the likes of which is not to be seen even in China. The hen with the broken leg behaves like a cock and keeps winning every time. Put some money on her, you can’t go wrong.”

They made some room for us and we sidled up to the improvised arena – some space surrounded by wooden paletts. And, by God, next to a thoroughbred beatiful cock one side of the arena they let out an ugly fat hen, who wore her battle scars like a Russian Marshal wears his medals. Yan pulled out a massive wad of francs and I added the only money I had, a hundred.

The cock was concentrating though it had

The air of a pederast about him

Facing him was a hen with obvious gender identity issues. Evidently she owed her victories to the sheer horror that drove her to win. The cock spread his little wings and attacked her, aiming quick and precise pecks at her head. Her shapeless body rolled around the arena and she barely raised herself like an overweight boxer trying to lock his adversary

In a sumo embrace

The cock overtook her and attacked from behind, drawing first blood. The hen fell on her ass as if about to lay an egg and, oh, miracle! She really did lay an egg! Yan Tao screamed at the referee to pick it up. The hen tried to turn around but the cock was in for the kill now.

After the end I found myself back on the street in the company of ten or so Chinese, who feverishly debated the fight. Yan held a freshly laid egg with the very hand that had just carried a hefty sum of money. I’d just paid a hunderd francs to witness the last fight of the hen with the broken leg. Moreover the adrenaline rush had made me ravenous.

Yan put his hand on my shoulder and invited me to lunch. He fed me delicious chicken soup. Then I took the metro back to the 16th Arrondissement.

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