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BY ADAM WAJNBERG
NOVEMBER 22, 2004
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"You like chicken?"
"I love eating chicken. Eating chicken is the greatest
single gastronomic experience known to man. I love the tactile sensation
of sharp incisors cutting through tough cables of cooked chicken-muscle.
I love the skin, I love the giblets, I love the way it tastes with
I opened my mouth as if to respond, and immediately
closed it, in a way that made me resemble a guppy that had heard something
equally inexplicable. Like maybe his guppy wife had run off with a
clownfish. Which, I imagined, would be a hell of a blow to the ego.
Those clownfish look ridiculous. They are the assholes of the fish
world. He continued.
"Yes sir, nothing makes a man feel closer to his
animal roots then the action of tearing chicken flesh from chicken
bone. Why, I myself do not mind looking the fool with chicken flesh
hanging from my mouth - that there is where chicken flesh is meant
to hang! Yes suh! I do love to tear the tender flesh of a chicken
from the source!"
He was starting to sound like Foghorn Leghorn. As he
babbled, I digested his words, and chillingly wondered if lions spoke
to each other about eating humans in the same fashion. Then i wondered
what the world would be like if cats had evolved into humans, rather
than apes. I wondered if lions would be presidents or gangsters. I
smugly decided they were the same thing.
"Are you listening, boy?"
I decided to play it safe. You just don't admit that
you've been ignoring a man like this. Not only was he clearly a man
of great conviction, but he was also loony as batshit. And I was wearing
shoes that would have been uncomfortable to run in.
"Right, chicken. I tell you: it must've been some
chicken that first had the misfortune to lose all of its feathers,
smash its own eggs, roll around in the yolk, fall into a bag of flour
and breadcrumbs, and then tip into a fire! Why, how else could we
have come up with fried chicken?"
What the fuck? Had he just thought that up? Was he really
smart, or did he just have a set of prepared answers for the chicken
question? Who was this guy? Had I inadvertently met God on a Wednesday
afternoon in the park, after another lousy job interview? Is this
how God appears to people now?
"Now, as for the chicken and the egg, that's another
story..." He shifted his weight to indicate that whatever he
was about to say, he wanted to be as comfortable as possible while
saying it. Also, he had intoned "chicken and the egg" in
such a way that hinted that he was going to talk about something else.
If my life depended on it, I could probably recall what
he talked about after that, but under less urgent circumstances I
would have to say I have no idea. I do recall the words "government",
"shotguns" and "Honus Wagner", but beyond that
it's all a blur. I do know that on at least two occassions he had
grabbed my arm with that bony, scary strength possessed by old people
and people who eat a lot of dried meat. I figured he was both, if
only because he was wearing camouflage pants.
By the time I got away, it was well after 8 in the evening.
In retrospect, I was happy to have gotten away with all of my flesh
attached to my bones. Not that he had actually looked that hungry,
but you just don't take chances with people you meet in the park.
At least, not the ones who are all too willing to oblige you with
an answer when you think you're being clever by asking them what they
think of chicken. I mean, you don't want to involve yourself with
people who take you seriously when you're clearly trying to look like
the type of person that people would normally avoid.
I got home and had some chicken. Now batshit crazy may
be he, but also be he right. Eating chicken is a delight for all the
senses. Even ESP. Which for all I know stands for "Extra Savoury
Then I watched "Back to The Future", and found
myself wondering why Marty took such offense at being called chicken.
We should all be so fortunate to be held in such company.
The next day, I decided to bypass the park to avoid
talking to Foghorn, because I'm a coward. I went instead to the library
at the local university, which had free access to computers for students.
I'm able to pass off as a student not just because I'm cuter than
a puppy locked in a cage, but also because I exude an air of immaturity
that few are capable of seeing through. Underneath it all, I'm the
world's most well adjusted human being. Also, I dress badly.
I browsed through my email and wondered where advertisers
got the nerve to call my penis size into question. I scanned the library
and locked on to a very attractive young woman. I was angry at her.
I mean, here I am, trying to decompose in peace, and she has to ruin
it by being right there, taunting me with her comely comeliness. I
went to a dictionary site and looked up 'comely'. It meant what I
thought it did. That settled it.
I slowly made my way around the library, pretending
I was looking for the kind of book that makes women think "He
seems very intelligent. I will have to sleep with him to make sure".
I maneuvered myself into her peripheral vision. She glanced at me,
and I skilfully looked away. Yes... that's right, little rabbit...
satisfy your curiosity...
She moved to the periodicals. How coy! She wants to
play games, the little one. I once again began the dance. Soon, I
was close enough to ask the type of question that men ask to make
women hear their voice. Thankfully, I have a sexy voice.
"Excuse me - do you have the time?"
She looked up. "No, sorry".
I made a magnanimous gesture to assure the poor thing
that that was quite alright. She smiled one of those smiles without
teeth, and I moved away. I was out on University Avenue before I had
the chance to realize what a fool I had made of myself. No, wait -
to have made a fool out of myself, I would have had to actually made
some effort and then been turned down. Instead, I went for nothing
and got nothing. Why do I think that things will just come to me?
I went through the park, deciding that if there was
nothing to live for, I may as well risk getting killed and eaten by
a crazy old veteran who loved chicken. But he wasn't there. In his
place were two giggling high school girls. I made my way out of there.
If there's one thing a lonely young man fears more than crazy old
men with strong grips, its giggling high school girls.
I went the long way around, down 45th towards the Village.
I stopped halfway across the bridge and looked towards the immense
stadium some 500 yards away. I found myself wondering what it must
be like to be a football star - to be big and dumb and beloved and
happy. I decided it probably sounded better than it actually was.
Everyone, even football stars, deal with pain. Giggling high school
girls, cute college coeds, batshit loony old men, cuckolded guppies,
unemployed 21 year olds... we all share at least that.
And chances are we all like chicken. Who wouldn't? It's