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Kitty rolled the window down and lit up her cigarette. Blowing smoke out her nostrils, she pushed down on the accelerator with her bare foot and sped down the open suburban road running adjacent to the train tracks. She couldn't be late again. She knew if she were even a second overdue, the sweaty chrome-dome who ran the coffee shop would fire her immediately. Normally, she wouldn't care. Growing up, she had never exactly aspired to be an underpaid coffee bean grinder. Kitty had different plans, other passions to pursue. But meanwhile, she needed the money.
Kitty reached over to the passenger's seat and grabbed her eyeliner. Keeping one hand on the wheel, she began to apply massive amounts of it under her eyelids. The beat-up Chevelle hurled over a speed bump. By accident, Kitty stabbed her eyeball with the make-up pencil. As she cried out in pain, the cigarette fell out of her mouth and into her lap. Kitty looked down and screamed. In a panic, she spastically attempted to flick the cigarette off her hemp skirt.
"Fuckin' A!" she shrieked, as the car swerved off the road and over the tracks.
Glass flew everywhere. A giant yellow chicken came hurling through the windshield.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Kitty's eyes peeled open and looked around at white walls, blue curtains, and medical supplies. Her breathing was heavy, and her paper gown was drenched in sweat. The air smelled like lemons. Kitty wondered how she had gotten there. She looked down at her heavily bandaged hands. The citrus in the air stung her face.
From behind the curtain on her left, a squeaky voice spoke softly, "So, I heard about your chicken patient. You seriously bandaged him up like that? I'm just saying, Doc, I mean it's pretty ridiculous."
"Believe me, I know," replied Doc in a hushed voice, "but it wasn't up to me. If the man refuses to take it off, then that's his decision, and we have to respect his wishes. You and I both know the last thing this hospital needs is another lawsuit."
"I'm just saying, I mean, you gotta be some kind of freak to want to walk around in a chicken suit all your life," whispered Squeaky.
"Well, he's a young guy, maybe he's trying to make some kind of political statement."
"Yeah, or maybe he likes small children," squeaked Squeaky.
"Keep it down, he might hear you, he's only three rooms down you know."
"I'm just saying, Doc, I mean Jesus Christ, it's not normal."
Kitty blinked. The chicken. It all came back to her; broken glass, train tracks, blood, and yellow feathers. She had hit him. She had hit that man in the chicken suit.
She ripped the medical tubes out of her arms, flinching in pain. Kitty struggled out of the bed and onto her feet. Gripping the walls for support, she wearily pushed the curtains aside.
Kitty limped down the hall, tearing open curtains until she arrived at the third set. She took a deep breath and pushed them aside.
On the bed lay an enormous chicken. He wore a neck brace and casts on one wing and a leg. His other wing was in a sling tied around his broken neck. Kitty stared at the pathetic scene in front of her. She felt horrible.
"Hello," Kitty whispered.
The chicken looked up. "Hello," he replied flatly.
There was a long strange silence. Kitty didn't know what to say. Finally, the chicken spoke, "I'm sorry, but I don't believe we've met."
"I hit you with my car," confessed Kitty. "I just wanted to apologize. I know that doesn't help much but I think I would feel a little bit better if you knew how sorry I -"
"Please. You don't need to apologize for anything," the chicken assured her.
"But I hit you with my car. You flew through my windshield."
"I wanted to die."
The chicken looked away, ashamed.
Kitty pressed on, "You mean, like a suicide attempt? You were trying to get me to run you over?"
"Well, yes and no. I was standing on the train tracks. I heard the train approaching. Right before it got me, you, um, you hit me with your car."
"Oh my god, that's horrible," gasped Kitty.
"I certainly didn't want anyone else to get hurt," said the chicken.
"I don't think I feel any better. Please, there must be something I can do to help you."
"I don't think so. Do you know how to tie a noose?"
"You know that's not the only solution! Think of all the people in your life that you'll leave behind."
"That's exactly my point," sighed the chicken.
"Please, let me help you. Do you have a place to stay when they discharge you?"
"I don't think they're planning on discharging the suicidal chicken guy anytime soon," he said.
"I'm sure they won't keep you to long, then you can come live with me."
"You don't even know me. Think about it. You're inviting a complete stranger to live with you. Do I look like someone you can trust?"
"Strangers are just friends waiting to happen," insisted Kitty.
"Or they're just serial killers waiting to run you through the wood chipper," retorted the chicken.
"I don't think you're like that."
"You have no idea what I'm like. You don't know me at all. Do the right thing and just leave me here to die. Please."
"I hit you with my car. It doesn't matter if you wanted to die or not. Let me get you out of here. You can stay with me; I have a studio apartment over by the community college. You can move in with me for a while. I can take you to therapy and help you turn your life around."
"Please stop being so nice to me," begged the chicken.
"Give me a chance. What have you got to lose? Life can be deep, meaningful, and totally groovy."
"You're crazy. I don't even know your name,"
Kitty put a reassuring hand on the chicken's shoulder. "Call me Kitty."
He looked down at her hand and then up at her smiling, scraped-up face. "Seymour," sighed the chicken.
"Well, here we are, home sweet home," Kitty said cheerfully. She opened the door to apartment 460. "It's not much, but it's better than the grave. Why don't you take a look around? I'll take care of your bag."
He handed her the small suitcase which she took over to a single bed in the corner.
Seymour took in the scene, which didn't take long in a one-room apartment. The carpet was decorated with coffee stains, most of the furniture was missing a leg or two, and the air smelled like marijuana. Set up in the back of the room was an old metal tripod, and the off-yellow walls were covered in black and white photography. All the subjects in the photos had apparently forgotten to wear any clothing.
"What did you say you do for a living?" asked Seymour.
"I grind coffee beans at Capricorn's down the street," replied Kitty. "But my real passion is nude photography."
"Oh yes, I'm very into it," she said, adjusting a set of framed breasts.
"Have you been very successful?"
Kitty looked up at him. "It's been a struggle," she admitted, "I know how I want to make people feel, I just... it's hard to translate those feelings into the lens, you know what I mean?"
"Not really," said the chicken trying not to stare at the anatomy on the wall.
Kitty lifted the luggage up onto the bed, and the springs groaned from the added weight. "You can sleep here; I'll be fine on the couch. She clicked the latches, and the suitcase sprang open. The inside was filled with hay. Kitty wasn't sure what to do next.
Seymour looked over her shoulder. "I'm just going to, uh, sprinkle that around the room if you don't mind?"
She stared down at the straw. "Oh, um... not at all, make yourself at... home."
Kitty handed Seymour a fresh cup of stale coffee and sat down across from him at the kitchen table. "Okay now, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but naturally I have a few questions. I mean, I'm not trying to be nosy or anything. By all means, your business is your business, and well, who am I to judge anybody? It's just, I think the answers might help me better understand, why you're... uh... why you're you. You know?"
Seymour sighed. "Go ahead."
"Why are you dressed like a chicken, and why did you try and kill yourself?" Kitty blurted out.
Seymour took a deep breath and began, "When I was a little boy, I lived out in the middle of nowhere on a small farm and slaughter house. I had no siblings, no one to play with for miles.
"I lived with my whore mother and my stepfather, who was really my abusive Uncle Esteban from my father's side of the family. My real father had died in what my mother told me was a bizarre milking accident. I knew that was a lie, but I tried not to think about it.
"When I turned six, I had my first taste of loneliness. I needed someone to talk to, to laugh with. I began spending most of my days in the chicken coop. I would talk to the chickens all day long and into the night. I gave them all names. They became my only true friends.
"But at the same time, I felt alienated from them. So one day I found some old yellow sheets in the cellar. I pieced them together to fashion my very first chicken suit. Whenever I went to play with the chickens, I would put it on, so I could feel like one of them. It worked. They seemed to accept me. After a while, I began to wear it all the time.
"But one day, I came into the coop to find all my friends gone. That night, I found my favorite chicken, Waldo, decapitated, cooked, and on a platter in the middle of the kitchen table. Uncle Esteban, the horrible, wretched man he was, had slaughtered my only friends. I didn't eat anything for three days straight. After a while, new chickens hatched. Again, I was able to escape the loneliness, but I knew it wouldn't be long until they too suffered the cruel wrath of my Uncle Esteban.
"It continued like this all through the rest of my childhood. At the start of every year, I'd make new friends, and at the end of every year, I'd watch Uncle Esteban lop off their innocent little heads. I couldn't take the emotional trauma. I stopped speaking for a long time and just started clucking instead. The longer I spent with those chickens, the better I began to understand them and the more I became like them. At the age of thirteen, I decided I couldn't take it anymore. I had to escape the madness. At midnight, I gathered up all my yellow-feathered cronies and loaded them into a cart, which I attached to my uncle's tractor.
"Dressed in my chicken suit, I drove for twenty days on that old piece of crap until I reached the city. It was here I discovered that the real world is a cruel place, populated with millions of people just like my Uncle Esteban, horrible, wretched people, always quick to make assumptions and hate anything or anyone that they don't immediately understand. And I can't bear it any longer. I can't bear the hatred they have towards me. You're the first person who's ever stopped to try and understand, to look past the suit, at the man inside the chicken. The rest of them look at me and see nothing but a sicko, a freak, a pedophile. They don't need me, and I don't need them."
Kitty blinked, and a tear fell down her cheek. "But your chickens," she choked. "Your chickens, you said they understood you. What happened to your chickens?"
"Avian flu," replied Seymour solemnly.
"I'm so sorry," was all she could say.
"So am I," he muttered, looking down at his coffee.
Kitty couldn't sleep. She couldn't stop thinking about him. He was just what she had been looking for. He was sweet but melancholy. He was so unique yet so very real, honest, and true to life. Like a nude photograph, Kitty thought to herself. All he wanted was to be loved, appreciated. Then it hit her like she had hit him. She could do it. She could save Seymour.
Waves crashed against the shore.
"I don't know about this," Seymour told her.
"Oh, come on. You said yourself, you have nothing to lose."
"How about my dignity? You may not realize it, but trying to kill myself was an attempt to hold onto what little shred of it I had left."
"You have to trust me, Seymour! I would never try to humiliate you. If anything, this is an art form that builds self-confidence!"
"For some reason, being in your little beach porno isn't raising my spirits."
"I told you, this isn't pornography, it's nude photography. There's a difference, you know. Now please, just bare with me for a few more minutes. Ha. That's an old nude photography joke. Funny, huh?"
Seymour forgot to laugh.
"Okay, just lie down on the edge of the shore there," she directed.
Kitty motioned to the topless woman waiting patiently on a beach towel.
"Okay, now Anastasia, I want you to go over and straddle him. We have to hurry and get this before the sun goes down completely. I'm going to take it right as the waves crash over the two of you. Okay, smile like you love to love him. There you go, that looks great. Now Seymour, I need you to place your left wing just above her butt cheek. PERFECT!"
"And here you'll find our latest addition to the gallery from break-out nude photographer, Kitty Monsoon." The docent pointed to the photograph on the wall, "This black and white still has become extremely popular all over the U.S. and is appropriately titled, 'I Love Chicken.'"
Seymour stood in the darkness.
In the back of his mind, he heard Kitty's voice, "We did it! We're famous! The papers say we're the hottest nude photographer-model team in the business! People love you, Seymour, they really love you!"
The evening the photograph had been developed, Kitty became aware of her attraction to him for the first time. When it was sold to the gallery, she stopped trying to hide her feelings.
An hour ago, she had stroked his feathers and whispered in his ear how much she wanted him. The shades were drawn and candles were lit, but when the time came, Seymour just couldn't go through with it.
"I don't want you to take the suit off if that's what you're worried about," she had told him, "I don't mind at all. In fact, I love you as that chicken, Seymour, I really do!"
Kitty's words sliced through his heart like Uncle Esteban had sliced through his only friends. His stomach began to burn with fury and horrifying realization.
He lost it.
Kitty didn't understand. She fell to her knees crying, begging to know what she had said or done wrong.
"You don't want to fuck me," he had screamed at her through tears, "YOU WANT TO FUCK THE CHICKEN!"
Now, standing alone in the dark of night, Seymour knew he had been wrong about her all along. She was just like everybody else. She didn't understand him at all.
It was "I Love Chicken," not "I Love Seymour."
With trembling hands, Seymour untied his mask, lifting it off his face. He unzipped the suit and let it fall to the ground. The cool night airbrushed against his naked skin.
Seymour found himself unable to breathe.
The bright headlights of an approaching train appeared in the distance.
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