Through the glare in his eyes and the horrible stench of the midday alley–hole of a meeting place–Benny squinted at the ghost of a man he had once known. “But you’re dead,” he said.
Jerry pulled a pack of cigarettes. It was full of feathers. He bit one and lit it with his flip-top, dropped the feather to the pavement. “The winds are changin’.”
Benny rubbed his eyes.
“You ever eat chicken wings, Benny?”
“Sure, I don’t know. Yeah.”
“There’s tiny bones and you just bite off the meat.”
“If you got somethin’ to say to me from the dead world, say it.”
“You can get them in buffalo, that’s spicy, whatever–hawaiian, cajun, garlic parmesean. For every mood there’s a flavor.”
“I know how to eat a damn chicken wing.”
“Bone in or bone out. It’s simple. One has bones, one is boneless. No bones. It’s like a chicken nugget, but better. It’s covered in sauce. And quality meat. Depending.”
The sheen of Jerry’s face–of his whole demeanor–flickered a rotten hue. A stench peaked and dissipated. The winds were changing. Benny could feel an electric screaming inside his lost friend, could feel the sizz-pop of sinews. Fire. The burning of an engine. Benny took a step back.
“I come from the harbor,” Jerry said. “Whatever. A fish family. My father was a clammer. And that’s where he met my mother. I didn’t eat chicken until I was fifteen years old, Benny. Fifteen. Eighty-five percent clams and then whatever’s in the river.”
“Yeah, I grew up in Brooklyn, so what?”
“I’m dead. I swallowed the bones. I don’t know what I’m doing here, but everything I do is weird. I’m dead. Or I was, you know?”
Jerry sputtered. His pallor spoke a fine film and specs of spittle flew without as he struggled with something inside him. He threw an open hand to an alley cat–
It turned into a lawnmower.
Benny started and stumbled back, arms waving, tripped over a trashbag and fell the bulk of his head smack onto a dumpster behind him. “What are you doin’?!”
Another cat, spooked out of it’s mind, bolted–reeewwrrr!—
BAM! It was a garden hose.
“You’re dead then you–!”
Benny woke up in the bed of a hotel room, a warm rag on his head. His friend was coming out of the bathroom. “Jerry?” He covered his face with his hands, “Those cats,” he said.
Jerry was sweating, staring intently. A wry smile and cough. Benny shook his head. His eyes regained their composure and his face began to embrace a note of higher calling. He pursed his lips and spoke.
“Do you know how many cats are in this city?”