The Beginning of Something
You put on the suit. You went that far.
Here you are tonight, behind a tall brown curtain that smells like a crawlspace. You're wearing a chicken suit, no head.
There were other options available to you, for example, working with numbers. Numbers matter, but you will matter too. This act of pretending—of playing dress-up—will be the vehicle of your eventual greatness. But as you stand behind the curtain, palms wet, bowels churning, you begin to wonder if you were in possession of all the facts in those critical moments. Like anything, it's a question of perspective, you realize, far too late.
Out there somewhere the audience is seated. The house lights dim and someone takes the stage from the other side.
The first joke lands. It's a hit! The audience roars, and there you are behind that stinking curtain: rotund, feathered, headless.
You turn your first line over and over, the words in your mouth like wooden blocks: The waiter says these eggs are runny.
Okay, not a great line, but it's enough to get you started. After that, you hope your nerves will dissolve and the other words will tumble out roughly in the right order. Anyway, you put on the suit.
What's that old saw about faith? Oh yes, now you remember. Faith is like electricity. Try not to let it kill you.
Without warning, you dry-heave over eggs. And runny.
You think about running away. It would solve the problem of course, but who's going to deliver your knockout line? Climb out of the suit and you'll be home in half an hour; in your bed or under it.
Not so easy, is it?
The snow outside the small window forms a perfect ladder to the street. But the last step is a doozy, and you might slip on the translucent ice, fall down and smack your head on the unforgiving pavement. If anyone saw, they'd probably laugh. Hearing them laugh you'd vomit your knockout line, as a reflex.
Well, it's cold out there, you know. And the suit is your only protection.
You stop for the traffic light on the corner, hands on giant hips. Inside the coffee shop a man and a woman are taking turns, sipping from the same oversized cup. You look at them; they stare back. The exchange is so tense that you're about to deliver your knockout line, until you realize that they can't actually see you at all. From inside the bright shop, they see only their own reflections. And you see yours, and you begin to realize how inconvenient your corpse has become. You reach up to remove your head. It's no longer there.
Headless, round and feathered, you're halfway home.
There's a shortcut through the park. You can hear the snow crunching beneath your feet, regular and rhythmic. It's mesmerizing; you yourself, your own weight, enormous, feathered feet. Looking only down you bump the hunter in his khaki fatigues, your head into his, as he leans on the butt of his gun.
His companion gazes up into the trees. "There! Up there!" he says, instructing you.
You look where he's pointing but can't see much of anything.
"We can wait him out," the second says. "We've already been here, what, two, three hours?"
"Two," the first confirms.
"You can wait with us."
You look up into the trees. There's something moving darkly between branches; a pair of eyes that could be mistaken for stars.
"There?" you ask, incredulous.
"We can wait it out," says Number Two.
"What is it anyway? A cat?"
"Maybe a fox," says One, in hunter jacket and tall rubber waders. There's no water anywhere.
You're waiting for a look or a comment that never arrives.
"We come all the way from Uline," Two says, "So we're not leaving without."
The creature in the tree blinks.
"In the meantime, we can talk about something else."
"Yes," you agree, hoping to talk about your overarching ambition. At this point, a query or two wouldn't have been out of line.
You rub your enormous belly. "I'm a little hungry myself."
"You see it looks delicious," says One.
"Is it rare?" you ask. "The animal, I mean."
Two frowns. "You can eat it rare."
You're silent a moment, considering the answer. Being headless, every breeze slaps your ears. "Because he may not come down."
"He may not come down?" repeats One, choking on his laughter. "He can't go up!"
"True . . ."
"There is the other matter," says Two. He is dreaming a nightmare scenario. His dream takes too long and manifests as a long silence you have no part in. Your feet itch. Your knees begin to lock.
You hem and haw, make your excuses.
"But we thought . . . we were hoping we could count on you," One protests. "You seem uniquely qualified."
Those are powerful words!
"Do you mind? We can help you up. If I interlace my fingers just so, I can make a kind of footstool for you to climb on . . ."
And that's how you finally let go of the suit. You step out and leave your carcass lying in the snow.
is a fiction writer and playwright whose work has appeared in American print and web literary magazines. Though originally from Long Island, New York, she currently lives in Rome, Italy, where she has worked as a teacher, librarian and translator. Her first full-length fiction collection, The Story You Tell Yourself
, was published on Amazon in 2021. She can be reached on Facebook
and on Twitter @lisa_attanasio