Her Death Was Over Fried Chicken
by Jeanine DeHoney
I went into the new chicken place only because the Chinese restaurant was crowded with too many corner boys. Most of them I knew; had taught them in my third grade class when they had on navy polyester pants with white shirts tucked in, and laced up Payless shoes that they wore with pride. Boys who had once told me they were going to be someone and move their mothers out of the projects. Now, though they were hardened from a life lived wreakless, fast and hard, most of it on the corner. Their only respite was this corner where the traffic light stopped cars that they were willing to sell their souls to have, and in the Chinese restaurant where they ordered chicken wings and french fries smothered in ketchup and hot sauce.
The smell of the chicken made my mouth water. I hadn't eaten all day, munching on stale pretzels bought from the corner bodega, so I was ready to bite into a nice crispy thigh, and some tender biscuits.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked without looking at me.
The fact that she could not look into my eyes slightly annoyed me. If I was white would she look at me I wondered. If I was white would she serve me with a smile?
"A two piece dinner please," I said with a smile hoping that she might rethink her attitude.
She went to box my order and I found myself wondering about her life. She was older than most of the workers there who seemed to be fresh out of high school. She was pretty too. Long nubian locks twisted with care, beautiful deep brown skin, and eyes that if they looked at you long enough would probably capture you under its spell.
"That will be two dollars and seventy five cents," she said.
I handed her a five dollar bill, collected my chicken dinner and my change and left.
I didn't know that on that night a life would be taken. I didn't know that the woman whose eyes diverted from mines would be killed at the new chicken place where the chicken was crispy and so good that I knew that it would make me a steady customer.
I learned about it as I walked to work. The police tape still blocked the entrance, and detectives still tried to get what they could out of the corner boys. This time though they seemed to want to help. They wanted to know who would kill someone who was just making a living working in a chicken place. Gossip spread that it was a lover, but the truth came out that it was an ex-husband who had been stalking her. He had fallen under her spell and refused to let her go.
"I heard this was the third chicken place she worked at," a young woman said as she lit a candle and placed it in front of the restaurant.
"That's a shame," another woman said as she laid down a single red rose, "her death will always be remembered as being in a greasy chicken place."
As I walked past them though, I said that the chicken wasn't greasy at all and that it was the best fried chicken I had tasted in awhile.
It was the least I could say in her behalf.