I was starting to think that being at the center of this girl's attention was a very uncomfortable place to be.
"Are your chickens free-range? Or have they been fed some kind of Frankenstein feed that's gonna give me cancer?" she said, eyeing me suspiciously.
How was I supposed to know? I was minimum-wage summer help in a bird costume, not a damn chicken farmer.
"All Cluck-Cluck Burgers are made from 100% real chicken proudly raised in America," I said. That's what it says on the signs and posters hanging in the restaurant, so I thought I was probably safe with that. I just hoped she didn't recognize my voice.
"That is not what I asked you! I asked you if these chickens were free-range. You know what that means, huh, Mr. Cluck-Cluck? Free-range?" She planted her right fist on her hip, cocked her head like a cobra ready to strike and glared at me. Her hair was braided up into about a zillion little braids with golden threads woven in. She was really pretty.
Really mad, but really pretty.
"Of course I know what that means. Would you like a coupon for a dollar off your next purchase of any Cluck-Cluck Original Home-Style Burger or not, Ap...Lady?
It was a reasonably warm day, but inside that chicken suit it felt like I was sitting on a grill myself. And having April Williams giving me shit didn't help. I could feel my undershorts starting to get not only too hot, but a little too tight, too.
I flapped the page of glossy coupons I was still holding out to her with one orange-gloved hand. "May I recommend the. . ."
"What did you call me!?"
"I said, WHAT. DID. YOU. CALL. ME?"
"Uhhh...lady. May I recommend . . .
"My ass! You called me "Ape Lady". Where's your manager? I am not about to stand here and have racial slurs thrown at me by some jackass in a chicken suit! I will have you know that people of color are NOT MONKEYS."
"I didn't say that!...I just...I just...."
"WHERE IS YOUR...aw forget it!" she said, jacking her right hand up in the air so fast I thought she was going to punch my beak. I took a precautionary step backwards, but she stormed past me through the open doors of the restaurant, a wave of intoxicating perfume fluttering in her wake.
The girl I'd been trying to get to go out with me all last semester was going to get me fired from my easy chicken job on the grounds of racism. I didn't know which was worse, her finding out it was me under the synthetic feathers, or her thinking I'd called her an ape lady. What was our Ethics professor going to say?
I continued to hand out coupons to passers by, mentally running through who I'd heard was hiring summer help while college was closed. There were options, but a lot of them required getting up early or moving heavy boxes. I didn't want to do either.
"The chicken guy! The one with the coupons!" I heard April before I could see her. Mr. Carter, my chubby white manager, couldn't decide which way to look when he saw who she meant.
"Ummm...ma'am, there has probably been some mistake... "
"No mistake! I know what I heard!"
"But, Mr. Reed is also bla... a person of color."
"Oh, is he? Uh, huh. Is that how you cover for racists in this joint? Claim they're black, too? And what about the real chickens, huh? Are they free-range or do you want to convince me that eyeless, legless chickens are also real chickens?"
"I can assure you that Mr. Reed is just as ...ahh...colorful?...as any other person of color. And all our burgers are made from 100% American chickens raised in government certified . . .!"
"I don't care! All I want is an apology from your poultry-faced racist over there."
Poor Mr. Carter. I didn't particularly like him, but he tried to be as politically correct as he could. Failed. But tried.
I held up my hands. Basket of coupons in one, Cluck-Cluck propaganda in the other. "OK, I apologize."
"What? I can't hear you. Take that stupid chicken head off."
"What was that?" April stared at me, narrowing her eyes into slits. Damn, she was pretty.
"I said, NO. I am not taking the stupid chicken head off. I APOLOGIZE."
April crossed her arms in front of her impressive red top. "Not good enough."
It dawned on me right then that the only thing I had to lose was my easy chicken job. Literally. April had fairly ignored me all semester, making it clear I didn't have much of a chance of snagging a date with her. Maybe now I did.
"Fine. I'll take it off if you have dinner with me."
"What?" both April and Mr. Carter said in unison.
"DINNER. WITH MR CHICKEN. SAY YES AND THE HEAD COMES OFF."
April was about to say something when Mr. Carter broke in. "Mr. Reed, I really don't think..." But April waved her hand and he shut up.
"OK, Cluck-Cluck," she said, placing a fist on her hip and jutting out her lower lip. "Dinner it is! If you really are black."
I took the head off.
Did you know that Cluck-Cluck coupons are not combinable with an employee discount on a Deluxe Menu with extra fries for two?
YOU ARE READING
Black Lives, Like MineShort Story
Urban shorts and flash fiction focusing on "black" lives: those of minorities, the marginalised and people outside of mainstream society. The stories (1,200 words or less) are multi-ethnic, multi-genre, multi-style and multi-national. In this collec...