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

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Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent

by David Henry Sterry

Chicken by David Henry Sterry X
Chicken by David Henry Sterry
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2002, 256 pages
    Feb 2003, 256 pages

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Print Excerpt

"Whatever--" I manage to mumble again.

I store my bags. I walk out of Immaculate Heart College, seventeen, no place to sleep, $27 in my pocket, and an angry beehive in my skull.

The weight of it sinks me to the curb, my head coming to rest in my hands. Six months ago I was guzzling rotgut and smoking angel wings at boarding school. Now my American Dream family's exploded like a landmine in a bomb shelter, and the shrapnel is flying thick and fast all around me.

IHC sits high atop a hill looking down on Hollywood, its superstar billboards looming over thick boulevards crammed with large cars. As a sweet breeze blows, the Lost Angel Siren sings her beautiful melody to me, and I'm sucked toward that voice no man can resist.

Next thing I know I'm strolling down the hill into Tinsel Town, swallowing my pain like a poison pea pellet, and replacing it with what I intend to be a peacocky strut. I'm working hard to perfect my strut.

My hair is brown, thick and deep, my legs have my mom's muscles, and I come with long feet and big hands, nuthugging elephantbells, a too tight T with a Rolling Stones tongue licking the world, and red hightops. One green sock, one blue sock.

I have no idea where I'm going, or what I'm doing, but as I bust my strut into the gut of Hollywood and float over the sidewalkstars, I feel for no reason that it's a good day to be alive, with these palm trees waving at me and the afternoon sun bathing on my face in this new place, my past back there, and my future right in front of me on the Boulevard of Dreams.

I walk all the way up Hollywood Blvd. to Graoman's Chinese Theater: past touristas snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with headshots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by brisk in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell's Angel hogs.

It's a sick twisted Wonderland, and I'm Alice.'

My mom was an emotional woman who cried at the drop of a pin. At the drop of a hat. At the drop of a hatpin. Calm ivory skin, sturdy oak hair, a grand laugh, and smart dark eyes full of love. She could make a wild wailing hard-baked baby coo with the sooth of her touch. Her father, a professional athlete and amateur pedophile, was an olive-hued man of black silences, eyes, and hair.

My dad was a chemist and mathematician, distant, intellectual, wracked with silence masked by snappy patter. He was one of the fair freckled folk of the North of England. Not tall, with a bony nose, he was spindly, nimble, quick and tricky. Dad had a big brain. He was the first in his family to go to college, unheard of for a coal miner's son. And that man could work. Work, work, work. He was wound Newcastle coal tight to begin with, and every minute he worked he seemed to get a little tighter. But at a time when being a Provider was paramount, he was a paramount Provider. My dad had love in his heart, he just had no idea how to get it out.

His brain and her heart took my mom and dad from the oothooses and broon ale of an English pit village, to the heart of America, with a beautiful five-bedroom Spanish-style craftsman, complete with a swimming pool, servants' quarters, and a fountain spewing pompously in the front yard.'

I'm standing in front of Graoman's, smack dab in the middle of this Hollywood Friday night, staring at Marilyn Monroe's handprints.

"Marilyn… now there was a woman."

A tall black man stares at me. He's the first person I talk to in LA who's not a nun.

"Yeah… Marilyn…" I have no idea what I'm talking about.

"My old lady used to say she was fat, but I like a woman with an ass on her," drawls the tall black man, who wears a black shirt that says SEXY in silver sparkly letters.

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

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