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  • “Renée has been killing poultry for sixty-one years with that same knife,” whispered my host, Nico, as he motioned to the blade. “It’s been the death of at least a thousand birds.”

    We were standing behind the wooden barn, where a guinea fowl was about to meet its demise.

    The small-statured, weatherworn Renée was silent. The crow’s feet around her eyes attested to years of staring across the region’s wheat fields. Yet, when looking into these eyes, it was difficult to know which one was looking back –– the right eye was milky blue and the left was dark with a loose eyelid drooping overtop, and the two eyeballs did not function in unison. To those who knew her, she was a cuddly French grandmother, but in centuries past Renée might have been mistaken for a mystical town sorceress, and at that exact moment the small double-edged knife in her hand did nothing to dispel her witchy veneer.

    On the dirt floor of the barn sat a cardboard box. It bounced a little in protest –– did the guinea fowl know that the end was nigh?

    Perhaps there was a prayer to be said or a small ritualistic dance of gratitude to the Gods for enabling lunch. To be honest, the correct procedure around the slaughter of animals has always been foreign to me. So, instead of doing anything, I stood like a lighthouse, watching.

    Viens ici, ma petite,” coaxed Renée.

    She took the bird’s head in her hand. And without delay or emotionality, the slaughter began.
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