By Amanda Lee Koe
Dinner's been upset across the kitchen floor; she flipped the casserole and then the roast chicken. Obviously this doesn't even make her feel better, because she's still barking. I'm so hungry I actually make a ludicrous lunge to save the chicken, groaning in spite of myself when it hits the floor.
At work they would ask me, what happened to your face, these bruises, and I'd say, football scuffle at the bar, or, jujitsu training, injecting elements of masculinity to salve my pride.
Every time she hits me, I wish I were a woman too, so I could conceivably hit back. As it is she comes towards me now, and I grab her right wrist, but she strikes me with the other.
I don't believe you love me, I say, and walk away. She doesn't follow.
I rev the car up and drive out, an aimless, defeated sort of drive, idle contemplations of car crashes and emergency rooms, idle, because they require the sort of certainty and adrenaline that elude me, on and on and on, till —
Randy's Rotisserie, it says in red curling neon.
These girls are standing outside, in spiffy uniforms — yellow shirts and short white skirts — black girls, white girls, yellow girls, brown girls, but all cast from the same mould with perfect teeth and alluring eyes, hands on their hips like race queens at a car show.
I park and cut the engine.
Walking closer, the spits of the rotisserie, rotating lazily, are empty. Completely overstaffed with no roast chicken — good luck to you. I make to head back to my car, wondering where the nearest fast-food chain is, when one of the girls touches me.
Her arm is hot, with a light glaze. As she presses her fingers down on me, it becomes obvious to me that none of them are girls, and all of them are chickens.
She is an item on the menu, a chicken roasting on the spit, except she doesn't have to be on the spit to be roasted, doesn't have to be poultry-sized and dead to be consumed, doesn't have to have feathers to be a bird.
I look at her hesitantly, and she sees that I've understood. She nods encouragingly, and offers me her hand, which is invitingly warm. We go over to the cashier, an oily man with a cowlick, the heft of his pudgy belly showing under a greasy apron. He wipes his hands on the apron before extending them to me.
"I'm Randy," he says in a smooth baritone, just one note too slick, "This is my Rotisserie."
"Nice place," I say casually, then cocking my head to the left slightly towards the girl, "Pretty birds."
Randy gives me a hard look. Right then a man steps in.
"Say, you got any roast chicken left?"
Randy walks out from behind the counter and claps a hammy hand on the man. "I'm not sure mate," he says evasively, "Why don't you go check the spits?"
"Well I already saw them on my way in, and they're empty. Thought I'd come in to ask."
"Then I guess we don't have any, eh?" Randy says, "Sorry 'bout that mate. Next time."
The fellow walks out and Randy's beady eyes flicker to me. He sees that I am trying to digest the exchange.
"Well," he says, rubbing his hands together lightly, "What seasonings do you favour, sir?"
The "sir" is strangely insincere in its deference, but I smile and say, "What do you have?"
The girl sits me down wordlessly with soft gestures, and brings over a menu hard bound in brocade. As she moves I watch her plump bottom wiggle attractively under the tight white skirt.
The menu reads:
"I've got myself here a Southern Belle, don't I?" I say, glancing appreciatively at the girl, making her feel self-conscious, making her feel good. She demurs and titters.
"Yeah that's right," Randy says, "That float your boat?"
"I think we'll do just fine."
Randy turns behind the counter, buzzes an intercom, says "Hickory in 402," and passes me a set of room keys.
He leads me to the back of the shop, narrow and dark, where there is an old-fashioned gated elevator. A grinning man stands by the buttons, dressed in a yellow shirt and white pants. He looks like a carcass, and smells mildly of food rot. He hits 402 mechanically, manically, and then looks at me as if he wishes I could give him more things to press, the grin never leaving his face.
The elevator takes a disproportionately long period of time to reach the fourth floor. A glimpse of the second floor corridor, with a vague windowpane at the end of the corridor casting stained light on heavy dust, mixed in with the stray feather spiraling slowly downwards. The second level feels still, devoid of life.
"Was this ever a motel?" I ask my companions. Neither of them answers me. The Southern Belle chicken looks a tad nervous, whilst the elevator operator grins right on. The smell he is giving off is becoming unbearable, and I breathe through my mouth instead. The chicken hears the raspy sound of my breath, and responds to it as if I were whispering her name privately. She puts her hands into my back pockets, and presses her ample breasts against my back.
As we move to hang in the balance between the third and fourth levels, I feel like I am sandwiched by things infinitely larger. The third floor corridor is pitch dark, and it makes of the elevator a coffin, floating suspended. It is so dark that when I close my eyes, the colour behind my lids appears a lighter, friendlier grey.
The surrounding air feels like the consolidation of the weight of every single in-between I had to deal with, the gravity of each decision made, in the moment before it was made. Inconsequential choices; life-changing ones.
When I met her, it was one of those foolish, lovely things, where I knew I wanted to marry her right off the bat, and I made it crystal-clear, and she was flattered. "You haven't seen my other side," she'd said, and I just smiled broadly. I couldn't stop smiling. I was so sure that anything she could lay on me would be worth its while just from being with her.
I feel myself going — where I am going I am unaware of, but surely if I pass through the gated aluminium and into that corridor of nothingness, there is something of consequence waiting for me, a shape fashioned out of a lifetime of opportunity costs — but it is the warm hand in my back pocket that tethers me.
She feels me going forward, and she grabs my ass tightly, presses her hot breasts hard into my back, as if to remind me of reality with sensation, and I am held back by this hand in my pants, these breasts on my back. And the thought that flashes by is: How rude it is for a man to press his hard-on against the tailbone of a stranger in a night club, or a peak-hour train, but how wonderfully soft these breasts are.
As the thought passes, we come through to the fourth floor. There is good artificial lighting, warm and low, and the window at the end of the corridor is boarded up.
The elevator operator throws open the gates, the same smile intact. He shows us to 402, handing over the keys with a small flourish, then shrinks away.
In the room, a large old bed with white sheets, a large carving knife on the bed. One quality linen napkin, with a handsome napkin ring around it. I sit on the edge of the bed and remove my shoes and socks. The chicken props herself against the fluffy pillows, the very picture of docility. I think of my wife, and tuck the napkin neatly into the neck of my shirt.
I carve her up and eat, bit by bit. She is succulent, delicious. The hickory is well-paired with her. We're just missing a red wine. I carve slowly, and she doesn't flinch ever, just looks at me good-naturedly, cooing softly occasionally. I wonder if this would be a bit of a letdown for some men, if they would ask her to writhe and shriek.
It takes me hours, but I'm a very clean eater, I hate to leave meat on the bones. When she's just a carcass, I kiss her mouth and slide her eyelids downwards. Then I remove the linen napkin from my collar and lay it over as much of her as I can, as a courtesy to the cleaner.
I leave the room, walking towards the elevator. The grinning man looks like he's been waiting for me a long time, and ushers me in. The elevator descends much faster than it ascended.
Back out into the store, walking towards the cashier. Randy is seated with his legs propped up onto the table of a booth seat. He comes towards me, passes me the bill. The figures are befitting of a gourmand experience, and I am happy to pay up, leaving a handsome tip.
I ask what his opening hours are. He laughs and wiggles his eyebrows, as if I've fed him a particularly charming inside joke.
Randy rustles the bills between his fingers, then gives me a sidelong look. "Y'know, it's uncommon for us to have walk-in customers at all," he says, "I like you — you're a sharp chap." He gives me a pat on the back and waddles away.
In the car I belch, and it is redolent of hickory chicken. I turn off the A/C, roll down my windows.
Pulling in to the driveway, she opens the front door, runs to meet me, her eyes swollen, puts her arms around me. "I'm so sorry," she says, looking up into my face, "I need to rein in my temper."
I cradle her, murmuring, "It's okay," and she says, "You smell like chicken."
"I had some," I say, "It made me feel better."
"Is that blood on your shirt?" she says, alarmed.
"No," I say firmly, "That's hickory sauce."
We go in, and the mess is still on the kitchen floor. The cheese-smeared broccoli bits and bread-mix, the smashed porcelain deep-dish, the roast chicken; just like the scene of a crime.
It makes me, at once, lose faith in her apology completely, as well as believe, renewed, in just how much I love her. I reach out for the dustpan, wet a rag, and get down on my knees.QLRS Vol. 11 No. 4 Oct 2012