Whenever I think of my mother the enduring image, which trickles out from the fault lines of memory, is her in a large black jumper hacking away frantically but with great dexterity at a boiled chicken.

About once a week I’d come home to the smell of what she called “soupe du potager”, that is to say garden soup. When the chicken had boiled through she would ladle out some of the potatoes onto our plates and then take the chicken out of the pot and start on it with that aforementioned frantic dexterity.

The chicken was stripped of all comestible and its meat plopped onto our plates. The naked carcass would then suffer the further indignation of being placed under a damp towel in the corner of the kitchen as we gorged ourselves upon its flesh. I often wondered if the bare, muddy pink boned carcass knew of its fate as it peaked out over at us from under the damp towel. I wondered if it knew my mother would soon devour it.

I had told all my school friends that my mother ate carcasses, but none of them believed me. However, I knew it to be true. I had heard her crunching away after each chicken dinner.

After a few weeks I had grown weary of my friends’ collective disbelief and decided to ask my stepfather. He came to read to me that night (as he did every night) and I asked him to confirm what the noise was. He said to me, while gently pushing his fingers through my hair, “It’s your mother”. His relaxed attitude calmed me and I was able to probe further.

But why only with chicken bones then?” I asked

Because they are the tastiest” He replied.

And why don’t the other mothers do it?”

Well it’s a recipe from your grandmother’s village you see. Your grandmother and her mother and her mother before that, did it. Not many people know about it, but it’s very good for you. Where your mother comes from nothing is ever wasted.”

I would hear the racket of matriarchal tradition every-time after we had a chicken dinner. As I sat in bed reading, the light mist of sleepiness would cloak me to the rhythmic sounds of Chop, Chop, Chop, Crunch, Crack, Crunch,... a lullaby as familiar to me as the sound of falling rain on a pane of glass.

One night I decided to go downstairs since sleep was not beckoning. I could hear my mother crunching away. I walked quietly into the kitchen, she was standing over the hob with the carcass. I went to her side and looked up in silence.

Chop. Chop. Crunch. Crack. These sounds were punctuated by her sharp intakes of breath.

She stooped over the carcass picking off the bones and cutting them lengthwise with a stainless steel knife. She then dropped them into a pot of boiling water with little ceremony. Her back was arched in the industrious intensity with which she crushed the bones. I noticed my stepfather sat in the corner of the room, taking long drags from his cigarette and contemplating a solitaire. My stepfather’s long smoky respiration rising and falling like waves gently against my mother’s islet of intensity.

I looked back up to her acutely angular face. Her brow was severely furrowed in concentration, her shock of silver hair forking jaggedly just above it. She did not notice me but continued dissecting bone to boil, with such brusque gestures that her over-sized sleeves flapped violently at me and the numerous bracelets she wore clanged together ominously. I deduced that the cumulative weight of the bracelets must have been what stopped her from taking off.

I could see her flapping gently over the blue, red, brown countries of my discovery-globe looking down at the blurs of capitals, rivers, mountains with that cold indifferent stare. In the sky above her head hung large knobbly golden five point stars (like the earrings she wore).

CLANG. She slammed the lid down on the pot.

I yelped as the image of her flapping and flying was torn from me. She laughed. There were no bones left to crush. She must have picked up what was left of the carcass and thrown it in with the rest.

Isaac come over here.” My stepfather called to me. “You should be in bed. Don’t bother your mother while she’s making soup for tomorrow.”

I went over to him, he picked me up and placed me on his lap. I looked out at the diamonds, spades and clubs, at the small glass of wine which left a series of red halos on the table cloth. I then smelt the smoke of her cigarette floating over towards me as she leaned against the cooker waiting, lingering, in that imperceptible darkness beyond my field of vision.

We all ate carcass.

 Benoît Du Cann was born at St Mary's Paddington, London in 1987. He is of French Catalan and English descent. He now lives Barcelona where he works as a language teacher. Previous work of his has been included in Ignavia Press, Kerouac's Dog Magazine and Caper Literary Review.

A few weeks before sitting down and writing this story I remembered a scene from "Young Sherlock Holmes", one of my favourite films as a child. In this scene a man walks into a restaurant and under the influence of some poison he hallucinates the pheasant he is eating coming alive and trying to kill him. I can even recall now how utterly terrified I was and this planted the seed for the story. I also wanted to write about the very real feelings children have. I attempted to do this without patronising or infantilising the often subtle and complex emotions felt by children as they grapple with becoming more conscious of the world which surrounds them. I must also admit that it is a reflection of the rather fierce matriachs in my family.



Copyright 2009