Amanda C. Brainerd
Like the Chicken She Is
By Claire Guyton
You, there, the lady in the pale green…. Yes, you! Come on down!
Instead I sat down again, or really fell, into my chair. At which point El Spirito clapped his gloved hands, chanting, Come Come Come Come and the audience joined him until all that volume, all that attention worked like a lever, tipping me out of my seat, pushing me along the carpeted aisle to the stage. Applause, applause.
Why did I have to wear pistachio? There’s something about it that says mellow at the same time that it shouts Spring! and for that reason, I can’t resist wearing it when April arrives. But it washes me out. And here I am, under the bright lights, wishing I’d worn red. Obsessing over what I’m wearing and my skin tone because I’d rather not think about how I’m about to be hypnotized in front of a sold-out crowd at the Old Drew downtown. Warm up those pistons, baby, because it’s time to strut like a chicken.
You probably think I’m going to make you cock-a-doodle-doo up and down this stage, am I right? El Spirito isn’t looking at me but at his fans in the rows and rows of seats. Up close I can see he’s wearing eye liner—and plenty of it—and maybe blush. I can see the dark circles under his eyes, too, like bruises under his makeup. Life on the road.
But no, of course I will not do that. I will do, indeed, whatever the lady wishes.
The lady wishes to return to her seat.
Aha but no, the lady must entertain! Stay Stay Stay Stay. Applause, applause.
I thought you were going to hypnotize me?
El Spirito spreads his arms wide. The jacket is not so well fitted as it should be, the arms pull up too high. Well, it’s hard for everybody right now. His delicate black-gloved hands look fake, like soft monkey hands screwed onto his thick, white, blue-veined forearms. I can do that, but of course, he says, I can hypnotize you. Or anything else that employs the magic.
I think about it.
The mortgage still overdue from when I was out of work, my claustrophobic cubicle at the call center under the fluorescent lights, the foot of wet April snow clogging my driveway, those bright orange crackers I keep getting from the vending machine at work, the vet bill, all those unpacked boxes of Mom’s stuff they sent from that awful place where she died without me, that layer of frost on my frozen hamburger meat, the blister on my big toe, the bald tires on my car, and that mole on my back. I really need to get that mole checked. I think about all of that, plus my big, fat, pistachio butt, and I ask El Spirito if maybe—I’m just wondering—could you make me disappear??
El Spirito can do this, yes, but why would you want to be invisible? He shakes his head as the audience laughs. Americans. They always want to be invisible.
No, no, I say, not invisible. Gone.
You want me to make you gone?
Well, it’s just a thought. Could you do it?
There is no point to the modesty when you are El Spirito. If this is what you wish, yes, it can be done.
As simple as Alice and her bottle. DRINK ME.
The crop of mildew on my shower curtain, the broken heel on my favorite pair of pumps—those pumps got me through my college graduation, my first job interview (and the second and the third), I signed my divorce papers in those pumps. The leak under the bathroom sink and that noise I keep hearing in the basement, the long, long winters of Maine, the gas bill, the note somebody left on my car at the Walmart (Bitches can’t never park). I thought about child soldiers in Africa, about child soldiers here.
Not like a candle, snuffed, but like that wisp of gray that spirals up into the heavens after the flame goes out. Disappearing into the cradling dark, the easy easy nothing. I smile.
El Spirito closes his eyes and takes long, deep breaths. He holds his arms out, palms up, then clenches his fists.
Mmmmm, a slow, clean meltaway. Feeling lighter already. Ashes to ashes, bones to stones, bitches to ditches. DRINK ME, please.
You. I think of you.
I think of you.
Wait! Head, chest, arms, legs, feet. If anything’s gone, it’s just a couple of hairs from my head or eyebrows, a sliver of toenail, rough skin from my heel.
I grab the velvet glove nearest me and El Spirito’s eyes pop open. Gently he untangles his fingers.
The lady has changed her mind?
The lady thinks we may as well go traditional.
And so the lady folds her arms into wings, sinks into her knees, kicks a leg out to the side to scrape a high-heeled foot on the stage. She pushes her beaky head back and forth, flaps her arms, sticks her pistachio butt out as far as it will go. Under the bright, hot lights, the lady does her best to walk like a chicken, up and down that stage, buck-buck-bucking all the way.
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