A Chicken and Bricks
On the second Saturday of the month, the day it was Herman's turn to look after Jamie, a chicken was seen walking down Moore Street. Look, a cock-a-doodle-do, Daddy, went Jamie and he pushed his finger against the car window. Herman hated it when Jamie touched the windows. His fat little fingers covered in dirt or chocolate or boogers. Herman had spent too many late nights at the office to be driving around in a Volvo with booger stains on the windows.
Get your hand off the window, Jamie, went Herman and he reached over to pull his son's arm away. He thought to himself that there were no roosters in Brooklyn and he was right. When he looked to the sidewalk he saw a chicken, not a rooster, strutting along just like a chicken would.
It's a cock-a-doodle-do, went Jamie.
No, Jamie, roosters go cock-a-doodle-do, that's a chicken. What do chickens go?
Cock-a-doodle-do, went Jamie.
No, said Herman, chickens go--and he couldn't remember. Then he went, chickens go with a biscuit and gravy, and laughed.
Herman pulled his Volvo over and told Jamie that chickens didn't belong in the city. He said that they need to fly free and see the world from above the clouds. Do you ever wish you were a chicken, Jamie? Do you wish you could fly wherever you wanted? Wait here, Jamie, while I go get the cock-a-doodle-do bird. Herman made sure Jamie was fastened tightly into his Little Rider™ safety seat and got out of the car.
The chicken was walking a few paces in front of Herman, shaking the feathers on its butt with every step it took. Bending over, Herman began to run towards the bird. From the corner of his eye, Herman could see a group of boys playing a game of stickball in the street. Look at him go after the cock, one of them yelled out, and then laughter from all of them. Another one goes, I've never seen anyone who wanted cock so badly. They're all laughs again.
The chicken was sick or dumb so Herman was able to scoop it up quickly. It made him feel good to hold the bird in his hands. He was one with nature, like one of those Bushmen he'd seen on PBS. The ones who hunt lions in full undress not worrying about their wieners getting tangled in rosebushes or nothing. You don't belong in the city, went Herman to the bird. Don't squeeze your cock too tight, went one of the kids. Herman stared over at the boys, a bunch of Puerto Ricans and a darkie or two. Breathe deep, old boy, Herman told himself, count to three and back again.
Herman thought he would go to the roof of this apartment complex and set the chicken off into the air. When Herman was a boy, he and his brother found a blue jay with a broken wing in their backyard. They spent the day feeding the bird and making sure it got better. Then they left it in the garage over night and a raccoon got to it. It was all blood stains and blue feathers and grease spots the next morning. I won't let that happen to you; I'll help you get out of here, went Herman to the chicken as he walked into the apartment.
As he began to walk up the staircase his mind went back to Jamie. He had left him unsupervised in the Volvo. Helen wouldn't like that. Heck no, she wouldn't. He remembered the time he left a package of diapers they purchased from the price club on the roof of their car and how mad Helen got when the diapers blew off the roof and onto the parkway. You could've killed someone, you moron, and now we have to go buy another pack of diapers.
Of course, with all those late nights at the office Herman could've bought all the packages of diapers he wanted to. Hell, he could've bought enough diapers to construct a little diaper package playhouse for Jamie to play in. But when Herman thought about it he was plum glad that he never made Jamie that diaper playhouse. He probably would've lost it in the divorce and it'd be sitting in Kurt's backyard right now. Oh that? That's my stepson's diaper playhouse, I made it myself, took about 60 hours. Who was he kidding anyway? He couldn't have built a decent diaper package playhouse even if he wanted to. When he got Jamie the Hyper Action Fighters' Space Station™ for Christmas last year he fumbled with the directions and all the tiny pieces until the ham went cold.
When he made his way up about six flights of the winding staircase, he leaned over the edge and looked up. There were at least ten more flights of stairs to go. The chicken wriggled in his hands. He felt its muscles and tendons surge and it made him think of how good chicken wings tasted. I suck the flesh off the bone when I eat guys like you, went Herman.
Up another flight and did he leave the window up or down? Which was the right thing to do? It was a cold day, so Jamie could freeze by an open window. But would he suffocate if all the windows were closed? How long did it take for a kid to suffocate? And how would he explain that to Helen? I was returning a chicken to the wild. Christ, Helen didn't even like animals. And Kurt would be there to hug her when she started to cry. Then they'd have sex on the kitchen table, but first Kurt would sweep all the plates and forks and napkin holders off the table with one arm. When Herman tried to do that he ended up spending the afternoon picking up jagged shards of porcelain and pieces of corn, one by one.
As Herman was getting closer to the roof he began to feel good about what he was doing. He envied the chicken really. What if he had the power of flight and he could disappear into the clouds whenever he wanted to just like Superman or Sally Field? Of course, there is all that pollution and airplane engines up there and all those damned hunters trying to shoot you down. The more Herman thought about it, the more he couldn't believe that he never bit into a grilled chicken sandwich and cracked his tooth on a bullet fragment. Obviously, they must take the bullets out before they cook them, the same way they de-poop shrimp.
Herman pushed open the metal door. A sharp wind picked up and blew his hair all out of place. It was April and still felt like the middle of winter. I wish I could fly away to Florida with you chicken, I wish I could migrate every winter, went Herman. He walked over to the side of the building, careful to keep his footing, and stared down at the street below. There was his tan Volvo with the leather interior and there was Jamie's little fat finger streaking down the side of the window. Damn it, Jamie, said Herman and one of those boys playing stickball made a hit and the crowd went wild.
Herman stepped to the edge of the building and held the chicken out over the sidewalk. The wind picked up again, nearly brushing Herman off his feet. Whoa, whoa, went Herman and the chicken's feathers ruffled in the wind. You should be able to sail away on this breeze like one of those albatrosses who can glide for miles and miles, said Herman and he let the chicken go. This time the wind picked up again and it was so strong that it took a pile of loose bricks with it. Herman watched as the bricks, and the chicken, dropped 18 stories, straight to the ground below.
The bricks hit first, clattering against the cement. Then the chicken, a thud, like a butcher slapping a pound of meat down on his cutting board. On the street, the stickball boys made another hit, a shot that rode the wind, and went straight through the front windshield of Herman's Volvo. My Volvo, you sons-a-bitches! my damn windshield! went Herman. The boys looked up at Herman and went, it's the cock-choker's car, laughed, and then scattered down alleyways and backstreets.
Sons of bitches, my windshield! Of all the things! and one two, three, and then deep breaths from Herman. The wind came strong again taking another pile of bricks, and Herman, with it.
Shit, he went. And as he fell he could see the sky and the cloud parts and out come the sun.
About the author:
Ryan Michael Murphy's fiction is forthcoming in Dirt. He lives in New Jersey.