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January 25, 2012

Literary LEO 2012

Something Different — Third

Preparations

BY ROB JAMNER

Mom and I lift the two chickens out from the sink, setting them on the cutting board. We peel the skin off (“Like pulling tights off a child,” Jane Brody said). I force the legs through, and have to rip the skin where it sticks to tendon. My hands, greasy and covered in yellow fat, begin losing their grip. I start feeling sick, but it’s just food, it’s just food. The skin balls up and slides around, but I manage to rip it all up, and drop it in a pile next to where Mom places hers, fully intact.

She shows me how to break the leg off, bending it until the top of the thighbone peeks through muscle, then knifing away the cartilage. I grip the carcass, cold and pink and slippery, and think about how these muscles once moved it, how these bones once supported it, how these tendons once held it together. Do my muscles and bones feel like this?

We break off the wings at the shoulder, knives searching for the soft spots between bones, and fold them into triangles. One of mine snaps at the elbow but we manage to fold it anyway. Next we slice the thin membrane between the ribs and pull off the back, twisting it away at the tailbone. Now only the breasts remain. As I press the knife down, the sternum crunches like kettle chips. I wince.

As I wash my hands, rubbing soap between my fingers, as the grease slides into the garbage disposal, I feel the sickness clearing away like late-morning fog. I look at the chicken pieces, placed neatly together, ready to be breaded and deep-fried. Family is coming over tomorrow afternoon. I imagine them saying, “This chicken is great!” and Mom smiling at me, saying, “He helped.”