The yard in the rear of our city apartment building was barely large enough to fit the shed that housed the building’s usually overflowing garbage cans. On three sides of the yard stood two other tall tenement buildings, forming a cavern that funneled the stench of garbage upward. On this hot, humid summer day, the smell was more rank than usual.
My 8-year old sister, Krys, called me to the open window in the living room. “Look,” she said and pointed to three baby chickens peeping and scurrying around as if in search of something in the yard.
She ran into the kitchen, found a metal pail, and rushed down the stairs. I watched from the window as she scooped the chicks into the bucket.
Krys played with them in her room for the rest of the afternoon, even naming them. One unlucky chick bonded with her quickly and followed her out of the room, getting its neck caught in the jamb when the door shut. Krys was inconsolable.
When my mother came home, looking tired from a hand-aching day of sewing in a hot garment factory, she was quick to assess the situation. She telephoned Saul to ask for advice, put the chickens in the pail, and we all traipsed to Saul’s. Krys needed to be pulled along.
Saul’s Poultry Market sold live chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese. A customer could either select a bird from a cage or could ask Saul to choose one suitable for making soup, roasting, or pan-frying. Saul weighed the chicken, and once a price was agreed on, he carried the bird to a back room where it was dispatched, plucked, and cleaned while the customer waited.
When we arrived, Saul came out from behind the counter, a half-smoked cigar dangling from his lips, and rubbed his hands on his stained apron and shook my mother’s hand. After a brief talk, my mother agreed to leave the chicks with him. What he was going to do with them wasn’t discussed, but Saul grinned and looked at my sister’s and my faces and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure they’re okay. I’ll give them plenty of chicken soup.” My mother smiled weakly at his bad joke, and Krys’s eyes were red and teary.
We trudged home back to normality in the moist, dense air in silence.
My father was home from mixing mortar and laying bricks all day, drinking a beer. It was payday for him, which meant there was beer in the refrigerator and always a special treat on the kitchen table. Today it was a family-size bucket of Kentucky Fried chicken.
– Joe from Arizona, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (LLC)