Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
When I was young my dad would take me to do laundry on Newport Ave. Those weekly laundry sessions are some of the first memories I have.
One time, when I was six or seven - the year was maybe 1984 - while we waited for our clothes to dry, we walked down to the pet store.
I went in while my dad held back to smoke a cigarette. A few minutes later, I came out and said there was something I wanted to get.
I asked my dad if I could have a buck to buy myself a treat. Dad was kind of busy talking to a friend he’d seen out on the street.
He wasn’t really listening and he handed me a dollar. I grabbed it and went back inside, so thrilled I wanted to holler.
See, the store was selling baby chickens and 80 cents was the price tag. I picked one out and paid for it and got a chick in a small brown bag.
We got home and put our clothes away before my dad realized what I’d purchased. And when the pet store said there were no returns, boy, was my dad sure pissed.
Eventually Dad calmed back down, and we discussed the situation. I made the case for keeping my chicken and I begged in desperation.
Dad decided we could keep the chick, which was just a little baby. And when it got older, it could roam our yard, or we’d make a coop for it, maybe.
And sure enough, that chicken grew into a feisty little hen. When our cat attacked, she scratched its face, and the cat never bothered her again.
The chicken roamed around our yard, and we fed her seeds and bread. I thought she was the perfect pet, but “she sh*ts too much,” Dad said.
He said she needed a ranch or farm, where she’d have room to run around. He said chickens were usually happier in the country, not in the town.
And I could tell someone was missing when I got home from school one day. The chicken wasn’t in the yard, I realized with a flush of hot dismay.
And then I ran and asked my father where my chicken had gone. Dad said he gave it to the gardener who mowed our neighbor’s lawn.
And of course I missed my chicken, and of course I cried. And of course I kept a lookout for the gardener every time I went outside.
And then one day I saw him - he was a Philippino guy. He was raking our neighbor’s leaves when I walked up and, meekly, said hi.
His clothes were pretty dirty, and on his belt, a knife was in a sheath. He was the first adult I’d ever met who’d lost his two front teeth.
He was really kind of scary, and my heart began to beat and buzz, so I cut right to the chase and asked him how my chicken was.
And he spoke in broken English, but I clearly understood, when he patted on his belly and said “chicken very good!"