part 1. the bread always falls buttered side down.
When I came to I found myself in a dumpster full of dead chickens. Or is it chicken? I hate second-guessing my grammar. I’ll waffle for hours on end about an irregular possessive plural or properly identifying a non-finite verb form. It’s a character flaw. But gerunds tend to matter a little less when you’re face down in dead birds. Maybe both ways are acceptable. I’m pretty sure it’s chickens though.
I wasn’t behind a Safeway or anything. I don’t want to confuse anyone. This wasn’t postdated grocery refuse; some three-day old pile of disassembled bird meat — breasts, legs, and thighs — all neatly wrapped up in plastic and styrofoam. That was a different breed of dumpster chicken. I dream that I woke up on that heap of rancid foodstuffs. I would be a different man. A better man. A man with possibilities. Instead I was buried among the birds fresh from the wrong end of the cockfights; a hot and sour soup of blood, feathers, mangled beaks, pecked-out eyeballs, and puss. And like each of those broken warriors, I was beaten and discarded. Or meant to be.
Clearly, I dropped a few notches on the food chain. I was dog food — still in the can maybe, but for how long? You don’t tumble out of a mass grave without getting the message, right? Somebody’s applecart was upset. But whose? Not the shill’s. Too small to even be considered small-time. The Bosses? The Bosses didn’t bother with messages. Messages were for messengers, they said. Had to be someone with fewer stripes. I started down the obligatory list of nicknames: Cheese, Ginger, Junior Mint, Nibbles, Nicky Two Sugars, Sam the Butcher, Teddy Nostrils, Teddy Toes. Of that crowd, Ginger or Teddy Nostrils seemed good bets for no reason other than they were both pricks. Ginger especially. He once knocked me through a plate-glass window for picking the sprinkles off his doughnut. Made me pay for the window too. It was worth it though. Everybody thought it was funny. Except Ginger, obviously. Teddy Nostrils was a different bag of cats. Though the cockfights weren’t exactly his flavor. Maybe that was the point. Maybe he had help. Nostrils always had help. Maybe I was reading too much into it.
I really didn’t know anything other than I was a long way away from where I was supposed to be. I didn’t have a lot of options, but then people who wake up in dumpsters of dead chickens rarely do. There were just a couple plays: the bluster and bravado Lazarus route — see who spooked; or bird dog it from the shadows and then play out the hand. It was a coin flip. I checked my pockets. Nothing — figured. Wait. Piece of candy. No. Not a piece of candy. I scraped it off my tongue with my tie.
One thing was clear: I wasn’t going to figure anything out from the bottom of a dumpster of dead chickens. And, whatever happened next, I didn’t want to wake up in a dumpster full of dead chickens again. Granted, it beat the alternative: not waking up in a dumpster of dead chickens. You know, if you wanted to be sunny about it. No margin for error now. I needed information, a push in the right direction. Only one place I could go.