My last couple years in High School my mother gave me $10 every week for lunch. There were these cookies that the Special Ed kids made every day that were sold two for $0.60. (Can I refer to them as Special Ed kids?) Since lunch was $1.75 that meant if I took a dime + the quarter from the previous day I could buy a pack of cookies every second day at school. I don’t know what those kids were doing but those cookies were amazing, warm, soft, and gooey. Eventually, when I was rolling in it I started foregoing the cookies and began getting two school lunches instead, but I can still remember the feeling of getting a dime out of my coin jar and putting it in my pocket. Sometimes, the knowledge that in a few hours my dime was going to turn into a pair of cookies was the only thing that got me through the morning. (One time I actually considered not skipping school because of those cookies, it only lasted a few seconds but the thought did hit me)
One fateful Sunday my mother didn’t have any cash and so told my father to give us our lunch money. She must have forgotten because later on that afternoon she walked into my room and put a $10 on my desk. An hour or so later my father, vastly overestimating the cost of a school lunch, walked in and laid down a $20. After he left I slowly walked into the adjoining bathroom I had with my brother, he was already there holding up another $20. We looked at each other wordlessly for a few seconds before he goes… “KFC?”
20 minutes later we were practically sprinting to the car with a 16 piece mixed bucket, 4 large sides (2 mashed potatoes with gravy, 1 mac & cheese, and 1 coleslaw), and 8 biscuits. It was late evening at this point so the park was empty when we got there. We settled down at the picnic table next to the basketball court and laid out the food… 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings, 1 mashed potato, 1 gravy, 4 biscuits on each side… the cole slaw and mac & cheese in the middle. We were very efficient at separating out a meal together, as if we were aware of the internal counts going on in both heads, a dance without words. When he grabbed the mashed potatoes I started with the chicken and then moved onto the biscuits knowing where he was headed next.
When all was set we looked up at each other for a moment, gave a half nod to bless the meal, and then… controlled chaos. By normal societal standards it was definitely more chaos than control, but by our standards, in the dark of night out in the open air, it was art. My father describes me as being slow, clumsy, unaware and most of the time I would have to say he’s right, but that meal, that night, that setting, I was Michael fucking Flatley.
When the dust had settled, when the last bone was clean, the last of the coleslaw mopped up with the last crumb of biscuit, we awoke from our trance. I stared at my hands, felt the slick on my chin and face, saw the remnants of the beast on my shirt. As soon as the thought hit me I heard:
“Did we forget the napkins?”