judge and chicken



some trip that was. from new york all the way down to savannah for the show. seventeen hours, virtually non stop. you’d think. but just as south carolina waned and georgia loomed, as we crossed that line, off the throughway, onto seventeen, we would take the scenic route to town via alligator alley and the north coastal highway. done gas outside a small place called limehouse, not named after the blues. on the road again, late afternoon, sunday, top down, sunburned, a wee tired, pulling away from the station, with a touch of verve, shifting with the pretty knee of my companion. and just then the lights in the rearview, the siren, the tall standard issue road cop, from where i sat down in the buckets what i first saw was the hand on the gun, pants too tight, then looking up, the starched shirt, the chin, nose, aviators, stetson above, strapped to the back . he looked me down , then over to my companion, blond, bikini top, cutoffs. he did ask for my license and reg. i’m no good at doing that southern twang. but i gave him my best: ‘ma lahsens and redge’. i said. me, being german, accent and attitude. he had me step from the car, do the spread and patted me down. called me ‘boy’, when i offered cash for the ticket, made me follow his cruiser - imagine, a red targa trailing a two-tone. with fanfare.
we stopped at a small house. cop motioned mary and me down a corridor and out through to the back into a yard. i’ve seen things in my life. this topped it all. a fat man shirtless in a black vest, unbuttoned, reclining in a chair, sweat on his face, news paper fanning, umbrella overhead, trousers rolled to the nook of the knee, feet in a tub, along side a turning spit barbecue. large chicken, may be a duck, or a turkey, though it wasn’t that time. the spit and the turning done by a lady sleeved deeply in black, hair in a hive. looked to me like the fire was searing, parching the hen. it smelled less like roasting, wings turning black. the judge, who was who he was, looked bewildered. the cop stammered some notion of speed. mary snickered and i admonished the lady in mourning to keep basting lest the fowl would be dry on the plate. judge wanting to know what i knew about chicken. so i told him. fire too hot, not nearly enough bawl for the baste, recommending butter, though this being the south, some kind of grease at the least. raising the spit for one, tinfoil on the coals as redress. was this dinner? what would there be for a side? creamed corn? beans and collards? kale? candied carrots? what? judge was speechless. mary’s eyes beseeched me. cop was waved off to show me to a like a&p, a market for helpings. it was carrots and collards, an onion, spinach and butter, fixings, alongside a twin six pack. trouper waiting, got a ride back with my groceries, officially chauffeured in his cruiser. he was so nice, after the judge, wanting to know all about pictures and my show in savannah. gave him an invite for the opening. and dam, if he didn’t show in full dress.
back at the judge, feet still soaking, chicken resting away from the heat. i penciled the carrots into foaming butter, added diced onion to roast. shredded the chicken, blazed its carcass and bones, rolled spinach and collards and chopped, as in a chiffonade. drained rendered bones and stir fried the greens in their juice. butter and chicken meat added, some salt, some pepper, two hands dancing, showing off, really, my audience bewildered, judge, lady in black, my chauffeur and mary. she only rolled her eyes, having seen what i do in new york. chicken, carrots, onions, spinach and collards pleasingly plated, as for a picture. we ate. “amazing” said the judge between chews, “what butter can do”. cold beer and talk, dark settling in on our little group, time to get down to savannah, they walked us out to the car. the trouper crossed over to his hooded two-tone. “y’all be careful”, he said.