Rooster and Cockerel lived in a bachelor pad on the heights above Algiers. Though very much the same they were in fact two very different beasts living in the same town. At six o’clock every morning Rooster would drag his tattered tail out onto the balcony. He had no idea where Mecca might be located but he would hold his breath and then when the imams down the road called for prayer he would let rip with gusto. His calls were echoed up and down the escarpment, for Algiers is a Moslem city after all. Every other apartment echoed his call and the as the peach first smeared the dark blue of the morning sky they went out of their way to call awake and stir the faithful. Cockerel had long since ceased hearing these early morning calls. But if they ever penetrated his sleep it was a light touch and he would roll over in his bachelor nest, ruffle the feathers of his latest hen and drop back off to sleep. Rooster didn’t mind and was not the least bit offended. He could live and let live.
It was the day before the holy day. The town was always in a state of anticipation of a day off and there was a buzz in the air. The shops stayed open, crowds thronged the avenues. Families bought ice cream and ate crepes. Rooster loved it. He would throw on his leather jacket, pull on his skinny jeans, slick back his comb and make for the mosque. On the way he would pass old roosters whose tails dragged on the ground and whose combs now lay to one side or the other but who still made their way to worship with their heads held high. Slow stepping but still held high. He would be greeted by other sas he made his way to the mosque. Calls from windows. From up this lane. Or from down the steps of another. Here he was at home among a vast network of others who knew him and his fathers family and his mothers family. And his father’s father’s family. And so on and so forth for generations of memory too vast too count. They knew his name, how he lost that feather, what the mark on his comb meant. And he knew every little detail about them as well.
While Rooster strode to the mosque, swimming in the vast and deep pool of the connections of his family, Cockerel carefully gelled his comb and pulled on his Ralph Lauren. Then sat back and watched his large flat screen, tuned into the soap Chicken Breast, beamed in from Lebanon, one of 200 decadent channels he could choose from even at this holy hour. He would get a few episodes in before Cee-el would be ready for the walk into town. She always took a while to get off her nest in the morning. But once she was ready the day would be filled with a visit to the Coiffure Femme (too many hours there getting feathers realigned, in his humble view), a leisurely nutella crepe or two followed by an ice cream, and then they would meet up with Rooster.
Rooster had stood in the throngs outside the mosque and wrapped himself in the warmth of the crowd, listened to the instruction broadcast on loudspeakers, participated, shoulder to shoulder, in the prayers then joined his fellows in a cup of macchiato, sipped most delicately while everyone talked and no one listened as they crowded around the smallest of coffee bars. Everyone stood. Someone bought rolls and handed them around and as the sun cleared the horizon and lit up the lane it was all Rooster could do to refrain from crowing his delight. Sometimes he couldn’t and he, or someone like him would trigger a chain reaction along the escarpment, waking those like Cockerel who still had their heads tucked under the wings.
When the three of them met up they would do so in a large bustling flock of like aged, like minded cocks and hens, all strutting around Place de l’Africa, milling about in a melee of noise, conversation, song and fashion. They might loiter in the Sadil Square or lean on the balustrade overlooking the harbour until the breeze drove them up to the shops where they would walk and talk. And shop. Rooster never seemed to mind. In fact Cockerel thought Rooster quite enjoyed joining them in the shopping. Shopping here was nothing like at the other end of town though Rooster never purchased anything. Such decadence would embarrass his parents. It was enough that he lived with Cockerel and his rotisserie of hot girlfriends. But to have so many material things was not Rooster’s thing. So they would stroll in a huddle of friends and cluck over the latest short skirts from Europe, the sleeveless vests from the US, the best in perfumes and shoes and fur and leather from all over the world, displayed in shops not out of place on the best shopping avenues in France. Cockerel loved it for he especially admired the best that came out of France. He followed French fashion closely and dressed as sharply as the images suggested he should. And of course his hens all had a French fashion sensibility. High heeled boots, short(ish) skirts and feathers all uncovered. They walked and mingled with their more reserved compatriots who covered some or even all of themselves. Neither Rooster or Cockerel , or any of their friends, seemed to mind or care that one was as differently attired from the other as one might possibly be.
Which was really the whole point of it all was it not? In this particular yard everyone was the same. No one seemed to think more exclusively of themselves than the other. They all walked the same ground together, fed from the same trough, slept in the same hedges. It mattered not that one was a French cockerel, whose tail seemed to shine in any light, or that one was a Berber rooster with a slightly tattier looking pedigree and a tail missing some barbs. They considered themselves the one and the same, saw and loved each other as the one and the same, and so they were, in fact, the one and the same. Two very different beasts but exactly the same.