Publix Fried Chicken by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

Rituals and reassurances are like a weathervane. And I love you like the way that people love Cheddar Bay biscuits—how that’s a thing; like when you go to Red Lobster just for them. Or the way I can only really eat a meal when I’m re-watching a movie I like. Your right palm has an extra-long life line and there is no place I wouldn’t follow it.

One time on a road trip, you pulled me inside a Publix and said that it had the world’s best fried chicken. I had never heard of Publix before but I was dazzled by how bright it was inside, brighter than the Hadron Collider with all of those particles and are they aiming for time travel there?

The scent inside Publix was a time machine.

The smell reminded me of sterilized fast food like that McDonald’s inside Scripps Children’s Hospital where I worked as a volunteer as a sixteen-year-old until I was fired (can you be fired when you’re a volunteer?). I used to sneak Chicken McNugget meals before going home for dinner, six-piece /then ten/ and one time a twenty-piece and I got so sick when I had to eat dinner later that twenty-piece night.

My whole world spun in the Publix and we were a whirligig; love is like that with all the spinning. When I was in first grade, all the kids were outside for recess and Dan told me that if you spun as fast as you could and laid on the ground you’d travel to a different dimension. So I moved like a top across the gravel with my skirt like a bell.

Children are filled with so much music.

I don’t know if I’ve ever returned from that schoolyard alternate dimension and maybe I’m wedged in a world filled with spirals. But whether I am or I’m not, I’m glad that I get to live life in a circle with you in the bright brightness of Publix.

You decided on a mixed eight-piece and each was an individual laughing golden sun. Medallions/doubloons/treasure in a windowed bucket like a little home and I knew you knew that I would love this. Faces are measured in plans and programming, and yours is charted and diagrammed with times spent in vehicles seeking out and capturing lost feelings from childhood memories.

We moved out of the sun star of the Publix and sat in your silver Honda that you called the Femme Bot. And we ate our pieces, drumstick for me and breast for you. The different patterns of the Publix fried chicken’s taste and texture made a quilt of memory for the afternoon. The grease leaked through the box and made a map on my jeans and the constellation patterns were oily hydrogen and helium guiding us. You squinted at the sun with a slick shine around your lips that looked like the lip gloss kids wear when they first get into makeup. Lines from a life well-lived creased near your eyes.

We ate our fill and still had one more piece left, fried chicken that kept on giving. You turned the key when we were done and said, “Not bad, huh?”

I love you like the way food is good and Publix is bright and how the leftover chicken became the topper for a salad the next day, everything all wilted from too much time in the car—us too. You and I live in an alternate universe with so many rotations, and we’re dizzily driving in circles using the map of specks on my jeans and the diagrammed history in your hands to move us back and forth through time. “No, not bad. Not bad at all.”

 

Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is a writer based in Philadelphia. She is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit. She is the author of Better Bones and Marrow (Thirty West Publishing House) as well as Unicorn Tracheotomy and Tiny Thoughts for Tiny Feelings (BA Press, 2002). She chronicles the many ways she embarrasses herself at www.youlifeisnotsogreat.com

 

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