Excerpt from Chicken by David Henry Sterry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Chicken

Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent

By David Henry Sterry

Chicken
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Feb 2002,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2003,
    256 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Tall Sexy Man & The Nun

'Children begin by loving their parents, after a time they judge them, rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.'

- Oscar Wilde

I wasn't molested as a child. No one beat me with a coathanger. I was never burned by my evil babysitter's cigarette. I grew up in neighborhoods where kids played ball, swang on swings, and rode merry-go-rounds. Santa slid down my chimney, the Easter Bunny hid chocolate eggs in my yard, and the Tooth Fairy left a quarter under my pillow.

A rosy patina of relentless suburban niceness shimmers on the surface of my childhood: roses swimming gently in beds, summery smelling freshly mown grass moaning, golden leaves falling like floating autumnal coins; the taste of cold waterymelon and the lick of a soft cloud of ice cream cone; toboggans and hot chocolate; Fourth of July fireworks and Tom Turkey Thanksgivings; Cream of Wheat mornings and Cat in the Hat nights.

You were happy where I grew up, and if you weren't, you had the decency not to mention it. I don't remember ever seeing a black person, except for the maids who magically appeared in the morning to clean up after us, then disappeared on the afternoon bus.

Into this brave New World came my mother and father, English immigrants from Newcastle, land of lily-skinned, thick-skulled, black-lunged, Broon Ale-swigging Geordies, escaping a land as hard and cold as the coal you're not supposed to bring there.

My mom and dad became American citizens the instant they could, and we had a big party to celebrate, with sparklers twinkling atop a red-white-and-blue sugarlard-icing United States flag-covered cake.

My parents are in many ways embodiments of the American Dream. They came to this country with nothing but the clothes on their back, and after twenty years of hard work, sweat, and sacrifice, they were getting divorced, totally broke, and deep in therapy.'



On Friday afternoon in late Hollywood August, I'm seventeen-year-old freshmeat, just arrived to start my college career at Immaculate Heart College. Sister Liz, a wimply nun, checks me into school. She reminds me of the Singing Nun from my childhood. Only she doesn't sing. She tells me they don't have any dorms. I'm shocked. While I was in exile at boarding school I'd decided to go to college early. Only one place would take me without a high school diploma. That was Immaculate Heart College. So, like a boy a bit too big for his britches, I'd blindly forged ahead without bothering to check whether they had dorms. And since it was later decided I would live with my Mom in LA, no further arrangements had seemed necessary. But things change so quickly sometimes.

I have no place to sleep, and all I have is $27, so I call my father. He says he's having a cash-flow problem. I'm confused. My dad lives large. He seems anxious to get me off the phone, and I can hear a woman who's not my mother laughing high and carrying on in the background.

"Whatever--" I manage to mumble.

Then I hang up.

I consider calling my mom. A quick flash of the last time I talked to her shudders me. It had been a few weeks ago. I was calling to make arrangements for her to pick me up at the LA airport. I was to live with my brother, my sisters, my mom, and her new lover in LA while I was attending IHC.

She'd sounded off-balance. Told me she'd decided to stay up in Oregon because it was so nice there. And since I was already enrolled in college, and tuition was paid, I should just go to college in Hollywood.

The beige phone was cold and hard in my hand as my heart sinks through the rug that was being pulled out from under me.

Good luck and God speed.

I ask Sister Liz if they have a place for me to crash. She says they're not insured for student crashing, but as a last resort, if I need a place to sleep for the night, she could possibly try to arrange something, although she'd really prefer not to.

Copyright David Henry Sterry 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the author.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Take This Man
    Take This Man
    by Brando Skyhorse
    "A chorus of six men calling me Son might sound ludicrous to you, but to me it's the sound of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.