It was the night before Beauregard’s big fight, time for his final preparations. Jo said I could come and watch but – he laid a black, sea-scoured finger to his lips – ‘no fool questions’. We left the lights of Vauclin and walked inland. The music from the Saturday night baldoudou faded. Jo began to sing. He would croon a few lines in his impenetrable Creole, and then it would be the turn of Georges and me to come in with the refrain:

Beauregard, Beauregard, Beauregay,
Li bougé comme cou z’éclay …

Beauregard himself was silent. He sat in state in a small cane-stem cage covered with a red cloth. Jo carried the cage with great care, despite all the rum he’d drunk.

Beauregard was a five-year-old fighting cock. This is a good age for a fighter: age was now part of his prowess. He was a zinga – a speckled grey – of Venezuelan extraction. Here in Martinique the cocks of Latin America are highly prized. They are nimble and cunning, très méchant. They are real coq gime – the Creolization of ‘game cock’ – as opposed to the barnyard mongrels that form the staple of West Indian cocking. Beauregard weighed in at about three pounds and, according to the song we sang, moved like a flash of lightning. He was the pride of Georges, his owner, and of Jo, who was the skipper of Georges’s two boats and Beauregard’s handler and trainer.


The Miracle at Ballinspittle
Crash