Squeaky Shoes

“Please  sit down “, said my mother and father. “We had to be fair to the chickens….we sent them to Victor’s uncle’s farm in Maine. We know how much you loved them and how everyone enjoyed them at Easter time but East Boston is not a place to raise chickens in a kitchen.”

Yes, I was sad but secretly happy to have received this information.  I was tired of getting larger boxes each week and tired of coming home after school and having to chase the growing chicks around the house. Plus, they stank!  Since I had begged for them it was my responsibility to wipe them down after they had reclined in their poop.  It was tough trying to juggle the changing of The Record American and The Boston Globe each day so that they had a new playground for their discharges.  The kitchen had become an urban farm.  I had brought them home as four baby chicks at Easter as cute as could possibly be.  It soon ended up being sort of a freak show.  There were tall pieces of cardboard at every doorway in the kitchen in order to keep them from trailing into the rest of the house.  As the defenses became higher, their wings became stronger and broader.  They were center stage because they had to be near the radiator.  Plus we had to bring in a standing lamp from the parlor to add some heat. The Health Department should have arrested us.  The ASPCA should have lowered their guns and stormed in.

We had chickens jumping out of their box while we were cooking and eating our supper.  I don’t remember washing my hands after cuddling them. I guess I would have missed the bird flu in later years due to this early childhood exposure. We fed them bread and water and some kind of feed.  My friends loved them…my family loathed them.  Everyone was waiting for them to die.  So to Victor’s uncle’s farm they went (or did they?)..I never knew.

I remember the day that we bought them..Holy Saturday.  My mother and I had taken the Blue Line to Devonshire (State Street now), picked up the blueberry muffins at Jordan Marsh, the macaroons at Gilchrist’s and an Easter hat at Raymond’s. Then the trek to West Street.  I don’t remember the name of the store, but it was near the Windsor Button Shop and the Knife place and I have no idea what they sold the rest of the year.  The front window displayed dozens of chickens pecking away at each other.  I picked out my four new friends.  They placed them in a shoe box with holes on the cover to allow them to breathe.  How was this even allowed to happen??

Humor always wins out.  This is the part of the story that has been imbedded in my brain forever. Homeward bound, sitting on the old green wooden seats on the Blue Line (when you could actually get a seat), I clutched the shoe box with my cluckers chirping away.  Beside me sat a gentleman who had definitely been over-served somewhere and was probably trying to catch the last race at Suffolk Downs race track.  In between puffs on his Camel cigarette, he looked at me and pointed to the box and  said, “Whaddah ya got in there kid, squeaky shoes?’’

Christine M. Flynn, an inspiring writer,  is a long time East Boston resident who lives in the Orient Heights section of the neighborhood.

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