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

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  • First Published:
    Feb 2002, 256 pages
    Feb 2003, 256 pages

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"Yeah, a woman's gotta have an ass on her." I'm just trying to keep up.

"Now Marilyn, she was a movie star. Not like these bitches today. No style. Skanky, bony-assed bitches…"

The tall black sexy man starts walking. I walk with him. Seems like the thing to do.

"Where you from?" he asks.

I don't know how to answer this question. I'm not from anywhere right now, and the panic of that punches me in the nuts. Then I remember reading in a magazine that when you feel anxious or irritated, all you have to do is change the record in your head. Replace the bad thoughts with good thoughts. So that's what I do. I change the record. I'm in Hollywood, it's packed with exciting people from all over the world, and I'm one of them.

"I said, 'Where you from?'" the sexy man repeats.

"All over…" I'm trying to be very Whatever.

"I been there," he says.

I laugh, he laughs, then we laugh together.

"Where you live?" he asks.

"Around…" I attempt a world weary smile, but it doesn't work.

"Hey, you hungry? Wanna steak?" asks the SEXY man.

Steak. Yes. Good. Steak. That's the best idea I've heard in a donkey's age, as my mom used to say.

He walks and I walk with him, talking about thisandthat, nothing really, just easy talk. We wander off Hollywood Blvd. onto a side street and into a stucco apartment building that at one time had probably been white but is now a beigy grey.

He leads me through a dust bowl of a lobby that smells of bad booze, soiled cigarettes, and stale cats; up a staircase where boogeymen peek out from the darkunder; and down a hall where a rotten orange of a bloodstained carpet crawls.

He opens a door, and starts to lead me into a dark apartment. My mom and dad haven't anticipated me being in this kind of situation, so they haven't prepared me for it, and I follow him in without blinking or batting a lash or an eye.

If I'd been watching me in a movie I would've yelled at the screen--

"Don't go in that door!"

But I'm not watching myself in a movie, so I waltz right in. I'm really looking forward to my steak.

SEXY turns on a dim little light, and a poster of a Negrita with thigh-high boots, hothothotpants, a mushroomcloud Afro, and a mouth that promises untold excitement stares at me. "Foxy Chocolate" is the title, I think, although I can't be sure.

I sit on a sad overripe couch. It's snowing inside the television. The tall sexy man disappears into the kitchen. I ponder calling my father. I look around. No phone. Corpses of ancient aluminum foil frozen dinners, cold old chicken bones, and industrial size malt liquor cans standing like headstones over the graves of dead beers, but no phone. I try to concentrate on the show behind the snow, where excited people are winning something from a silvertongued devil in a shiny suit whipping frenzy into a salivating studio audience.

SEXY appears with two pink steaks on two green plates.

Just two pink steaks on two green plates.

"Hunger is the best sauce," my mom used to say. I'm hungry.

The smell invades me and my carnivore growls, salivary glands pumping a rich river of digestive fluids down my throat, as I rip into the meat of it, teeth sinking in warm flesh, bloody juice flooding my tongue, hot meat sliding down my gullet.

Before I know it, only the green plate is left.

My eyelids suddenly feel like safes being thrown from a tall building. I hadn't slept much the night before. Or the night before that. I keep having nightmares.

"Wanna crash?" his tall sexy baritone slides over me like a chocolate mousse smoothie.

Crash. Yes. Crash. Good idea. He leads me into his black bedroom. I'm asleep on my feet, shuffling toward the bed that waits to embrace me. I remove my shoes, and put them at the foot of a falling-apart chair that looks like my Uncle Ronnie home from a heavy night boozing. An old coat in the corner resembles a large slouching rodent. A lizard shoe flicks its tongue at me. The steak is warm and yummy, resting like a hamster in the tummy of a snake as I curl into the skank of the mattress.

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

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