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Chicken Suit

Robin Barber

We drove through a gentle snowfall of slow flakes, so that the air seemed to settle around us, as the road rose into a white sky. A spell that muted lights and colors in the early evening dusk. Thanksgiving weekend, we were looking for the hotel where we planned to spend a rare time skiing with college age son and daughter. No one had much to say, enchanted by the snow. The brake lights flashed on cars ahead of us. Close by the roadside, a bright yellow figure took shape. A man-sized chicken that pranced, twirled, tried to wave us into a restaurant parking lot. With three-toed orange feet, shaggy feathered legs, a flouncing tail, wings that ended in three fingered white gloves, and a large beaked head, red coxcomb and wattles, this chicken was a work of sorcery. Traffic slowed, snowflakes whirled, as the chicken gyrated, leapt up, swung its wings in an exaggerated gesture of entreaty. Don’t pass me by, it seemed to plead, whatever else you may be trying to do, stop, turn in, have your supper here, make my existence worthwhile. But no car turned in, and as we continued up the mountain the chicken leapt, pirouetted, waved, bowed low to the traffic. My son spoke up from the back seat. My God, he said, There is a person inside that chicken. That has to be the worst job ever invented in the history of the world. His sister said, In the staff room the chicken comes in after its shift, climbs out of the suit, hangs it up in its locker. I said, That’s an expensive costume. The boy said, Probably just a kid. Worn out now, swallows bottled water, lights a cigarette. The girl said People probably make fun of her, like, You’re some chick! The boy said, Maybe if you’re late to work, they make you do the chicken.

Robin Barber was born at Cooley-Dickinson Hospital in 1947. He's been trying to keep things simple ever since. If you would like vast amounts of detail, he can be reached at robertebarber@galleryofreaders.org.