The grate is beside the electricity pole outside our house, and the man is rattling a stick in the mucky water and leaves overflowing from the rain. He’s old, much older than the Old Man, and he’s got a huge white beard, and I can’t count, but it looks as if he’s wearing a lot of coats and jackets. Johnny Fortycoats is his name and sometimes we chase him up the street singing out cold and cruel songs about him.
I tell Mam about Fortycoats outside in the rain. She’s in the kitchen about to baste the plucked chicken on the counter. A load of giblets drips onto the cutting board from her hand.. “Arrah, the poor man is bewildered.” She drops the giblets in a pot of boiling water and lifts the naked, pink bird from the counter. Its one eye stares at me, and the beak opens slightly. A sickening croak comes out of it and Mam drops it to the floor. “God forgive me, it’s still alive,” she says, grabbing my arm.
But it’s not alive. The lumpy, featherless carcass is not moving at all. Mam takes it from the floor and dusts it off with a dish cloth. “But that’s not sterile, Mam,” I say. “Father Murphy in science class said our food should be sterile.”
She drops it into a plastic bowl and sprinkles salt and pepper on it.
“Don’t be idiotic. This chicken is free-range, organic and my floors are spotless. The Queen could eat her dinner off them,” Mam says. I laugh at the idea of the Queen of England eating roast chicken in our kitchen with me and Mam and the Old Man. He’d probably pinch her arse, but as he reminds me, “There’s a pecking order to life.”
About James: James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his wife, the writer and artist, Maureen Foley, their daughter, Maisie, and Australian cattle-dog, Rua. His writing has appeared in many places, including The New Orleans Review, Molotov Cocktail, Revival Literary Journal, NAP, and Press1. His website is at www.jamesclaffey.com.