Fiction: Heart Beats Club

A job like this isn’t the kind of thing you can exactly write down on an application for employment.

  1. Remove the head.
  2. Remove the legs.
  3. Remove the eyes.
  4. Remove the lungs.
  5. Remove the bandages.
  6. Begin lyrical dance sequence.
  7. Turn 3 times. Make it 4.
  8. Let an ice-cube melt in your left hand.
  9. Do the alphabet in words…apple, basket, cartoon, drag, etc.
  10. You’re a dick.

I can’t believe I put up with this shit.

Drag, etc. Very clever.

My job is to make sure The Chicken, here, is always in her coop.

She’s back home now and can go into town and stuff but somebody has to keep an eye on her.

No names here.

She’s just The Chicken.

She can be such a pain in my ass.

Every day is roughly the same. First thing we do is we go get the mail.

The fucking mail.

The Chicken lives for the mail. Back when she was on house arrest that was as far as she was allowed to go, to the mailbox. She had a goddamn ankle bracelet wanting to sound the alarm if she went past the box. But she never did.

Okay, so I drive her down to the end of the driveway.

I stop the car.

I get out.

I come around to her side and open her door.

I pry her out of the car and get her over to the box where she scratches out her mail.

She does some close up scrutinizing then ignores everything but the ads and coupons.

I stick her back in the car and then we go into town.

She dresses up every day. She’s all feathers and beak. All fluffy and powdered. She is ready for anything.

I don’t ask her where we are going after we’re done with the mail. If I did it would go something like this:

“Chicken? After the mail you feel like going to look at the shop windows?”

“Bawk.”

“Yes? Grocery store, maybe?”

“Bawk.”

“Post office, you think? Yes, ma’am. Post office, it is.”

“Brrr-WAWK!!”

She gets very upset about there not being a plan.

I basically have to be a mind reader. At least that’s what I told her I was.

To be clear, I am not actually a mind reader.

What I do is, I kind of simultaneously guess and tell her what we’re doing every day. She has no idea if the plan is hers or not but so far she’s been amenable.

I think the pills help.

Plus she is an old chicken.

There isn’t much to look at that’s different around here. I get hard up to find things for us to do sometimes.

Lately I’ve been taking her to funerals.

I was pretty pleased with myself on how I got the funeral idea. The Chicken had come down looking all church lady in a jack-hole straw hat and a shabby old dress.

I had absolutely nothing in mind for the day and then there it was. Like a stroke of genius.

The paper I had in front of me was turned to the obituaries. There was a big old picture and headline saying some big shot townie old guy had croaked.

It said the Memorial Service started at 10 am.

I don’t know if she knew the guy ever but she was happy to go to the party.

That service went on for a good few hours.

The guy was in every goddamn civic club in town. There were all kinds of tassled flags and funny hats everywhere.

He was a decorated war veteran too. The gun salute made my day.

Turns out these funerals and memorials happen a lot, so we’re pretty busy most days. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. Or at least thought of it before I thought up the stupid List Of Crazy.

After the mail and whatever trouble I can find for us in town, the rest of our days go like this:

I take The Chicken back to her coop.

The Chicken has her pills.

The Chicken has her lunch.

The Chicken has her nap.

The Chicken organizes her coupons.

The Chicken has her crappy coupon dinner.

Before bed, The Chicken makes her List Of Crazy.

Today is the city’s yearly burial service for unclaimed bodies. It will be a mass grave type thing with plain pine boxes and a big-ass back hoe. There won’t be any flowers or gun salutes. There will just a preacher saying a prayer or some shit with The Chicken and me there to amen on cue.

Okie dokie, here comes The Chicken with her chicken purse in her chicken hands. I put the obituaries down and give her my all-knowing look. It’s a dog’s look. All of my “mind reading” looks come from dogs. Personally, I really do believe that dogs read minds. That’s how I got the idea.

The Chicken starts in with her lipstick.

Ever since the trial, The Chicken hasn’t been right. She’s real rich and was once quite the steel-fisted matriarch but nowadays the family wants to keep her mellow and out-of-the-way. Being here gets me some walking around money and all expenses paid.

How I got here was, I was doing fuck-all since I had been shit-canned for saying some boring, lame thing about someone who vaguely may or may not have resembled my boss on some kind of public forum thing that nobody could possibly care about.

I was interviewing lawyers to take my wrongful termination case.

Big deal, I had said something insulting about a person in the world.

I figured I had a First Amendment free speech case. Shit, every 5-year-old in America knows they have the right to free speech. You’d think a law firm would be into an easy case like mine.

Well, they weren’t and you know what else? Kids aren’t taught right in school these days. They have no idea what their Constitutional rights are and if they did they probably think they are God-given.

God has nothing to do with a person’s rights.

If God had anything to do with anything he wouldn’t have made my boss such an asshole and bullshit jobs so hard to come by.

The economy this. The economy that. Go ahead and treat your employees like garbage, we’re in a recession, they will put up with anything out of fear.

It ain’t God that’s running things.

It ain’t your dick head boss that’s running things.

I found out it’s a big business law firm attorney guy who calls you up one day, gives you a few details and promises to take care of your case no charge if you do him a small favor. When you agree you find a round trip plane ticket was already left on your front door like magic.

That’s who is running things.

People you will never meet face to face. People who ask you to do them a favor. People who know you are out of options. People you don’t say no to.

So that’s how I got put in charge of The Chicken. It wasn’t easy at first. She’s not much of a talker but I do the mind reading act that is somewhat believable owing to me giving her the dog looks of which only about a million exist. It’s fine, I know a bunch of them.

And the only way to fill up the days after going and getting the mail is by making shit up to do. It’s fine, I am good at making shit up.

I get a bonus when this is over.

I got her started on the coupons a few months ago.
I figured being rich and all she would like to save money on a day-to-day basis.

I told her I knew all about saving money.

I suggested we get started right away. I handed her the Sunday paper’s glossy coupons and once she got over looking at all the colors, The Chicken got to clipping.

The housekeeper hates me now. The Chicken gets pretty messy.

The Chicken finishes fooling with her lipstick and meets me at the car. I am standing there with the passenger door open. If I had a tail it would be wagging for the old bag of bones.

A job like this isn’t the kind of thing you can exactly write down on an application for employment.

Once she’s in, I shut her door and watch her head shakily clock my path back around to the driver’s side.

We drive down to the box.

The Chicken scratches at the box.

She reserves the coupons and chucks the boring stuff to the back seat of the car.

The drive is a ways out today. The Chicken makes a crack in the window and sticks her bony claw out for fun. I can’t imagine her being bossy like they say. I can only imagine her the way she is now. She’s twitchy and gamey and real surprised by her own confusion on things.

Back when I first showed up at the house, I found a book of clippings outside my door one day that explained somewhat a bit about The Chicken.

This lawyer sure is sneaky leaving things where I can find them.

Anyway, the thing read like a storybook.

The Chicken and The Old Man are all young.

The Chicken and The Old Man get married.

They travel.

They celebrate.

They travel some more.

They go from black and white to color.

They get old.

The Old Man dies or gets lost or disappears or something.

They thought The Chicken had something to do with it and put her on house arrest and then sent her to trial.

Apparently she spent a bunch of time in a hospital because there’s nothing after the trial stuff but a little newspaper clipping that talks about her being released and no comment from the family’s representative.

The city funeral is as somber as it gets.

It is, I’m not shitting you, just short of dumping bodies in big hole.

There are a lot of child size pine boxes. Like a whole bunch. I think that’s messed up. The Chicken takes it all in without a peep.

She doesn’t really react to much except that whole making plans thing she has. That’s why I got her going on the List Of Crazy.

Like I said, when I first got there, I knew she could hear me okay and I knew she could feed herself and wipe her own butt and stuff but she wasn’t a big talker.

I’m a smart ass so I told her it didn’t matter at all if she never said one word to me for the rest of her life because I was a mind reader and I’d just read her mind if I wanted to, so there.

I really do say some stupid things. Mind reader, what did I say that for?

I started her on the List Of Crazy. I said to her to make me a list of things to mind read on her.

This list doesn’t even make sense to me and I’m the one that suggest it.

The next day I received this written in shivering in long hand:

  1. Cut the box.
  2. Drill the tin.
  3. Bounce an ounce.
  4. Heart beats clubs.
  5. Build a condo in the sand. Castles are for little assholes.
  6. Turn it over twice. And once more.
  7. It’s just an inch too small.
  8. Names.
  9. Use foil.
  10. Dough.

Her brain is scrambled eggs. That’s partly why I call her The Chicken. Also she is a lot like a chicken. The pills are supposed to help.

She takes pills 3 times a day. There’s a few different kinds. I can’t even take a damn aspirin so I wouldn’t know what they are or how to have fun with them. I saw the doctor once a along time ago only I saw his car as it was leaving. This whole time I haven’t ever seen him again except I know he’s coming tomorrow.

Coincidentally,  tomorrow is when I finally leave.

Chicken’s first list freaked out a little. How much did she really know? Was she just messing with me? Does she know what the hell she’s writing?

Then decided that she can write whatever she wants because of the First Amendment and all so I should stop being such an asshole like she said.

Did she really think I was an asshole?

I can’t believe I put up with this shit.

Heart beats club. Very clever.

There is always a play on words in there. There is always an insult for me. And the list never makes one iota of sense. It’s CRAZY.

I’ll be glad when I’m done here. The Chicken has some spooky shit going on in that bird brain of hers.

We’re back from the baby box funeral mass grave thing.

The Chicken has her pills.

The Chicken has her lunch.

The Chicken has her nap.

The Chicken organizes her coupons.

The Chicken has her crappy coupon dinner.

I am packed and ready for tomorrow.

The Chicken composed her last List Of Crazy for me.

  1. No
  2. Ghosts’ booze.
  3. Apply heat.
  4. Apply cold.
  5. Apply pressure.
  6. Take both hands to the cleaners.
  7. Piece of shit.
  8. Just peace.
  9. Little boxes.
  10. Big box.

Do you go downtown for sushi?

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