A Roasted Chicken
Everybody at the roast was fond of the chicken, and this infused their subsequent ribbing of him with an inclusive sort of glee - all the jokes were inside jokes, culled from a lifetime of "good times had by all."
They would say, "He isn't very good at golf, is he?" and everyone would laugh because he was, of course, good at golf. "That dumb cluck never met a gold futures proposal he didn't like, eh?," and everyone would laugh because he had, of course, made his fortune in gold. But one man did not like the chicken, because the chicken once fired him from a project. No one knew how he had gotten into the roast, but in all the hubbub and fooferaw and general chaos, he had somehow snuck in.
He leaned back in his chair, leering, holding hands with a bedraggled Eastern European model and gulping a series of dirty martinis. His mouth, when not drinking, was pursed, and he seemed constantly on the verge of saying something.
A few of the guests noticed him but quickly looked away, with the exception of a small, dark, and recalcitrant child.
The child's name was Edmund and he admired the man, for he too thought that the roast was a big load of crap. Edmund was skeptical because he had just read "Catcher in the Rye," and he recognized in this gathering the very sort of phoniness bemoaned within those sacrosanct pages.
He did not realize that an obsession with phoniness is the hallmark of adolescent precocity, for he was only nine and thus yearned to attain his full flower as a precocious adolescent.
Edmund thought the disgruntled man the very height of masculine angst, and he resolved that, should he live to be thirty-eight-ish, that he would only consort with Eastern Europeans femmes, and drink his gin with a fine cold scorn. He would wear his suits rumpled, the tie yanked down, top button unbuttoned, and he would lean quite far back in his chair, and rest one thumb inside his trouser waist, and the other on the inside of a thin girl's thigh.
Edmund's father was a lowly clerk in the chicken's organization, and Edmund did not admire him overmuch, as he felt that a harried air was unbecoming to the true man in his prime.
His father, and little slip of a mother, were meanwhile ensconced at a distant table, and were jovially getting drunk. They were happy and ineffectual, thought Edmund, because they did not realize that there are finer things than to be the phony employees of a phony chicken at a phony roast filled with phony jokes and phony, yet endless, bonhomie.
In fact, the phony bonhomie had reachd an almost unbearable fever pitch. The flattering subtext of the jokes, never too subtle, had floated almost entirely to the surface of each slab o' wit, rewriting the very nature of the event from roast to High Mass.
"I suppose," thought Edmund, "that the power and affection wielded by this chicken is such that he has transmuted this occasion from party to palimpsest. Only I, and that dashing man over there, can glimpse the original text. I do wish that he would speak up already!"
"If you had told me ten years ago," said a red-faced presenter, "that a chicken could be as good-lookin' as he is modest, I would have laughed you out of the room. But now - why, it seems impossible, but in my eyes this fowl has 'flown' to the top of the pile of my estimation."
"You know what they say, 'Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, whips gotta be ghost-ridden,'" said another. "But I would add - chickens gotta rule and be rich and also generally awesome!"
"I've fucked a lot of people," said yet a third. "But I've never really loved anyone - except for this animal right here! Give it up!"
On and on and on it went, the crowd whipped into a drunken, synchophantic frenzy, the lone angry man getting angrier, a scowl settling ever deeper into Edmund's small full face. The Eastern European escort was terribly bored.
"I never realized that I would love having a sexy employer," said a tousled receptionist. "How wrong I was!"
Finally the angry man could take no more, and he stood up, listing a little. The crowd waited with bated breath, most hoping that no unpleasantness would mar the felicity of the celebration.
Edmund's face lit up like the sun, it bloomed like a dahlia, as he hoped against hope that the man would say something delicious, something cutting.
The man drained his drink quickly, and smashed it down upon the table. And into the silence he said, "Hey chicken! Your wife had chicken legs, chicken. So there!"
The chicken cocked a brow, and replied, "At least I'm not poor!"
Everyone laughed and laughed and laughed, and the angry man sat down deflated, and the Eastern European model/escort rolled her eyes and inched a little away, and the buzz of pleased drinkers drinking once again filled the room.
The band started back up, playing a sprightly version of "Going Up to the Country, Baby Don't You Wanna Go," and a few couples even started dancing.
Edmund stood up and calmly plucked a lit candle from a nearby candelabra.
He yelled, in a piercing voice that cut threw the din, "Fuck all y'all!" and then threw the candle, quite accurately, straight into the chicken's face.