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Visual Provided by Tracy Morin

Down Neck


Tracy Morin
Flash • Nonfiction

Wings, drumsticks, thighs. You could get parts in a grocery store package, polished clean – the easy version. Whole birds were something else.

***

Mom would drive us to Newark’s Ironbound section, a.k.a. Down Neck, where, elementary-age, I guzzled greedy the after-dinner drink she handed me with a laugh, then looked away, that night at the Spanish Sangria restaurant.

It was a Sombrero: Kahlúa and milk. A kid-friendly cocktail. On the house, they always said. How did I know so young to work so quickly? An inch of liquid disappeared wild up the skinny red plastic straw in seconds. Mom turned back to me and grabbed the glass, eyes flung wide. What did you do!

***

The chicken store was for the housewife and workman who wanted it extra-fresh: chosen alive from cages behind the counter, weighed, sacked home dead and whole, beige-pink flesh pressing butcher paper. The air pitched with screeches. They killed in the back. You couldn’t hold your breath for long enough. A sole window, high up on the prisonlike concrete white wall, backlit the feathers and dust motes drifting lazy to the floor – silent resignation letters.

***

At home, Mom ripped out their hearts or whatever innards too ugly to consider. I’d try to forget where it came from. I was a kid already turning – into a vegetarian, into a drunk. What governs the things we choose to swallow? I was a kid often told, Stop asking so many questions.