portion of the artwork for Salvatore Difalco's stories

Ancient in Chicken Years
Salvatore Difalco

Now what the hell, I say what the hell are those parrots doing in that tree over yonder? Never heard so much yakking. What are they going on about? When they said bird sanctuary I assumed it meant a serene place, an oasis of deep silence and meditation. But between the parrots and the friggin’ magpies, a fellow can’t get a moment’s peace.

“Shut, I say shut the hell up, you morons!”

Mr. Green, a parrot I’ve had dealings with before, flutters down to my crib. He’s a porker. Likes the pistachios way too much.

“Hey, meathead, we don’t need your disrespect.”

“Look, I say look here, lard ass, I can’t hear myself think. What the fuck are ya’ll going on about? What the dang heck is the problem?”

“You’re pathetic, you know that. A real ding dong. These are my family members, OK? And contrary to what your sick mind thinks, we love each other. We don’t always get along, but we communicate. That’s more than I can say for a sap like you. You got no family. And nobody likes you.”

His words bounce off me like a sack of wet mice. I’m almost compelled to pummel the son of a bitch, but that would draw the others. Those beaks can crack coconuts. Mr. Green stares at me with his dead black eyes.

“Go, I say go away, boy,” I say. “You bother me.”

“I feel sorry for you, man. I mean, I hate your guts, but I feel sorry for you.”

“You know, I say you know what you can do with your pity, son.”

“Stupid old comb head.”

I fling a corncob at him, just grazing his head. He flutters off in a green flash. The others rustle like cooch dancers upon his arrival. He lets them know what happened and they start a-squawking. I’m not afeared of an attack. If they come and peck me they'd be doing me a solid. Old chickens make good soup, some say. Haw. I can laugh because it’s true.

I retreat inside my cubbyhole. They appointed it with brown shag carpeting, a poor choice, in my opinion. Brown can be depressing. And yes, the smell makes my eyes water at times, but I’ve gotten used to it. I never thought retirement would mean swapping slander with every deranged and decrepit avian on the West Coast.

A knock at my hole.

“Who, I say who the fuck is it?”

“I tink I smell a chicken.”

“What’s up, Hawk?”

“Was wondering if you wants to go for Mexican.”

Hawk’s all grown up now, but has a bad wing. We walk everywhere. Walking is good for you. But I’m not in the mood for Mexican. Besides, it’s a long walk.

“How about, I say how about a pizza, son? Not as far.”

“Always looking to cut corners, eh, pal?”

We climb out and walk past two ancient emus quarreling over a vacuous political point.

“Overthrowing the existing hegemony can’t happen fast enough, in my opinion.”

“So you’re telling me you’re a communist.”

“That’s it, your default slur. Disagree with you in any way and I’m a communist.”

Politics bores me. Politicians are the lowest form of life next to worms. Not that I have anything against worms.

“Tell me, I say tell me something, Hawk.”

“Shoot, big guy.”

“Was it all worth it?”

“Was what all worth it? You mean the career choice?”

“I mean the whole thing, the ride, the spotlights, the cancellations, the rejections.”

“We reaped the fruits when the fruiting was good. Personally I have no regrets.”

“Personally, I say personally I’m like a bubble dancer with a slow leak."

We continue to the pizza parlor, run by a fellow called Luigi who sports the most rootin-tootinest moustache I’ve ever seen.

We sit at a window table with a checkered tablecloth and a little glass vase with a single red carnation, a nice touch. The waiter takes our order for a large pepperoni pizza. Hawk likes green peppers but the mere sight of them gives me heartburn. I’m hungry as a dog.

“What, I say what do you make of Luigi? He don’t look like no Italian. It’s that mustachio.”

“Or the cowboy boots. They don’t fit the decor or the lifestyle, I would hazard.”

The pizza arrives piping hot and I make the mistake of biting my slice before it has had a chance to cool. I burn the roof of my mouth. I spit the pizza onto my plate and guzzle water.

“Take it easy, big guy. Patience. Has time taught you nothing?”

Point taken. I've been a veritable disaster for most of my life. Three bad marriages. Kids I don’t know. Bitterness. Envy. Alcohol. If not for my acting chops, who knows where I’d have wound up, maybe in someone’s roasting pot, or servicing a flock of diseased hens.

We eat in silence.

Luigi enters. He sees me and, bowlegged, approaches.

“Wha—looky who the cat drug in. The big old cock hisself, haw!”

“Yeah, yeah, boss. In the flesh. And ready, I say ready for the soup pot.”

“That can be arranged, big feller,” Luigi says, clapping my back with a little more jerky than necessary.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 53 | Spring/Summer 2019