Andrew Hilbert is both a writer and publisher of left-of-center fiction. We’re happy to have him reading at our Noir At The Bar On November 22nd, where he’ll be joined by Jesse Sublett, CJ Howell, and Brad Parks. Noir at the Bar meets at Opal Divine’s at 7 PM. Andrew was kind enough to give us this story originally published by Gutter Press and told me it was inspired by a conversation with a cockfight historian.
“Texas Cockfighter” by Andrew Hilbert
“People talk shit on cockfighting like we was fightin’ dogs or something. We’re not fightin’ dogs. Fuckin’ fightin’ roosters fight to the death naturally. People talking shit on it don’t even know the history.” Charlie took a swig of whiskey out of a flask that he hid in his tattered jean jacket.
“What’s the history?”
“For instance, did you know Abraham Lincoln was called Honest Abe?”
“Every fucking grade schooler knows that, Chuck.”
Charlie put up his hand in an effort to silence Henry.
“Please,” Charlie said. “It’s Charlie now. Chuck seems too white trash.”
“You’re talking about the virtues of cockfighting and you’re worried about sounding white trash?”
Charlie shook his head and looked at his main fighting cock, ba-gocking around, strutting his shit just looking for a fight. Charlie named him Honest Abe, of course.
“Yeah, so what? Every grade school, pre-pubescent girlie boy knows Lincoln was Honest Abe but the history is blacked out. Erased. Censored as if Americans are too dumb to understand tradition. Honest Abe got his nickname because he was a cockfighting referee. People paid him because they knew he’d be fair in his judgments.”
Henry spit out his chew and pointed at Honest Abe the fighting cock.
“If it’s such a pure pastime, then why the hell do you attach blades to its feet?”
Charlie took another swig.
“Otherwise if’n you don’t do that, the damn things will be fighting all damn day. Can’t have a bunch of gambling men hootin’ and hollerin’ and throwing money down for twelve hours. The police are guna notice!”
Henry shook his head. “This is some stupid shit to get arrested for.”
“Fighting birds fight to the death naturally. It ain’t cruelty. You ain’t have to train them. They just do. Dogs, though, that’s cruelty through and through. Dogs are like dumb ass humans. It ain’t right, even if they’s stupid.”
“You oughta pull out of this business. Convert these fuckers into chicken nuggets. I don’t want to turn on the TV and see your face all ugly on the evening news saying you got caught fighting chickens. It’s pathetic. It’s a pathetic crime.”
Charlie leaned in his seat against the picket fence in his backyard and took another swig of whiskey.
“What? You got somethin’ better for me to do? Did you know the fighting bird was in second place to be our national symbol?”
“Jesus Christ, Chuck, get off it.”
“It’s Charlie now. Chuck ain’t respectable.”
Henry stood up and shook his head as he stared at his boots in the dirt.
“I should get going. You’ve got too much cock on your mind.”
“I came here to offer you something more profitable. Something much more profitable than fighting pre-chicken nuggets. If you can drive, you’ve got a job.”
Charlie got out of his seat and put his hand out to his brother. He had a smile from ear to ear. He needed more money for new fighting birds; Honest Abe was getting old. He could barely lift his feet beneath the weight of the blades.
“I can drive, sure as hell can. Not legally, really, but I can.”
“Dogs. We’re transporting dogs. Mobile dog fighting. It’s a big fucking business, man. How much you make on one cock fight?”
Charlie sat back down, shaking his head and waving his hands in the air, he said, “No, no, no. It ain’t about the money, brother. It ain’t about the money. It’s about the tradition. Six thousand years of it.”
“It’s always about the money. We have guys around the world betting on these fights. We stream them online. The feds can’t ever trace us. I made ten thousand last month.”
Charlie shook his head.
“Ten thousand?” He could hardly believe it.
“Ten fucking thousand.”
But Charlie shook his head again and said, “No. I stand by what I said. Cockfighting ain’t cruel but dogfighting is wrong.”
“Have it your way, brother. Take care of that license of yours and give me a call. The offer stands whenever you’re done with these damn chickens.”
Henry tipped his hat and left through the back gate.
Honest Abe was dragging his feet around. The heat was getting to him. Walking around with blades in this hot of weather without a fight probably wasn’t the best idea. Charlie stood up, unhooked the blades, and sat back down with his bottle of whiskey.
“Honest Abe, you got one more fight in you,” he said and took another swig.
Come by Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s on Wednesday, July 22nd at 7 PM for readings from CJ Howell, Brad Parks, Jesse Sublett, and Andrew Hilbert. Copies of each author’s latest will be on sale at Opal Divine’s for signing purposes after the speaking portion finishes up.