Chicken Every Day
Gladys wishes she had a rocking chair. She’d like to rock back and forth on the porch and watch the people driving by in their cars. She closes her eyes and tries to rock her body back and forth, squeezing the arms of the chair with her pudgy hands. Shit, it isn’t the same as a real rocking chair.
Usually it is too hot for her to sit outside, but the morning rain has cooled things down. Placing her palm flat against the bottom of the blouse, she feels the crisp pink fabric. It feels crunchy. They say it won’t wrinkle, but she doesn’t care about that. All she cares about is how it feels against her skin. It has short sleeves, and her pant legs stop at the knee, just right for this weather.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
The woman sets her chair right next to Gladys. Gladys doesn’t answer her.
“Are you giving me the silent treatment again?”
The woman has a Kleenex scrunched in her hand. As she talks, she dabs her teary eyes. It isn’t long before the rat-a-tat-tat of her voice makes Gladys nervous. She holds tight to the arms of her chair to keep her hands from trembling. Gladys looks at the woman and then realizes that she knows her. It’s Maylene. Gladys watches her mouth contort as she talks. On and on she talks about nothing. Now and then, she wipes off the crud forming on the corners of her mouth with her scrunched up Kleenex.
Gladys likes quiet and Maylene is a talker. Why can’t Maylene talk to someone else? Gladys sighs and closes her eyes again.
“Here comes your neighbor, Mr. Lassiter," says Maylene. "He looks like death warmed over with that chalky skin. Where’s he going now? Oh, oh, we’d better let Nadine know that he’s on the prowl again. He’s a pill if ever I saw one,” she says.
Both women watch as the old man moves down the sidewalk. Intent on his destination, he doesn’t notice them. He stares straight ahead, occasionally nodding to a rhythm inside his head. He stops once, looks around as though trying to get his bearings, and then he starts up again
All at once Nadine appears. “Robert, come back here. You know you shouldn’t be out by yourself.”
The swishing sound of her pantyhose rubbing together sounds like a broom across a wood floor as she ambles down the sidewalk in hot pursuit of Mr. Lassiter.
Swear words, ones that shouldn’t be used in front of ladies, pour out of his mouth.
“Did you hear what he said to Nadine?” says Maylene.
Gladys shakes her head no. Her eyes are closed. She can’t hear with her eyes shut.
“I don’t like that kind of language,” says Maylene. “He’s an ornery old man and I wish he didn’t live so close."
Maylene grew quiet. She finally runs out of things to say.
Every time a car passes Maylene waves. Sometimes a driver waves back, but most of the time they don’t.
Thirty minutes pass, then an hour. Gladys enjoys the peace and quiet, but knows it won’t last.
“What are we having for supper?” asks Maylene.
Gladys doesn’t answer.
“I bet its chicken again,” says Maylene.
“That’s all they know how to cook. Every day they fix baked chicken, chicken salad, chicken spaghetti, chicken and rice, chicken sandwiches, and chicken potpie. The only thing halfway fitting to eat is the barbecue chicken. Do you like the barbecue chicken?”
Gladys nods her head.
“You know what I’d like? Fried chicken. But will they make fried chicken? No sirree. The grease might kill us. Now that’s plain crazy. I was raised on greasy foods. My mama could make the best fried chicken in all of Cannon County. She’d fix greased-up green beans, fried apples thick with butter, and cathead biscuits the size of a man’s fist. They were so tender, they’d split open on their own so’s you could pour gobs of white gravy all over 'em.”
Maylene smacks her lips thinking about it. “Yes siree, my mama could teach them something about cooking.”
The two women sit a while longer in silence watching the cars pass. Gladys begins to feel bad for not talking to Maylene. She doesn’t have many friends these days and can’t afford to lose one.
“Want to eat supper with me tonight?”
Maylene smiles and says, “Sure. What are we having?”
“Chicken? Why can’t we have something besides chicken? How about pizza or tacos? I love tacos with hot sauce.”
“They give you indigestion.”
“Hell, everything gives me indigestion.”
“You’re a pill Gladys.”
“You said Mr. Lassiter was a pill.”
“You’re both pills. He’s just a bigger one.”
“Let’s go eat.”
“Okay. What did you say we were having?”
“Chicken,” says Gladys.
“Chicken every darn day,” says Maylene.
Gladys maneuvers her wheelchair toward the door. Then Maylene backs her chair up so Gladys can pass. Gladys punches the shiny silver button that opens the front door of the nursing home.
Sharon Haley has several short stories and poems published in a variety of literary magazines. A manuscript for a novel gathers dust in a closet. Her husband Billy is her best friend and her children and grandchildren her inspiration. Children's stories are her first love.