Jason walked into the living room and put down six boxes of fried chicken, and told me not to touch any of them, and then he went outside again. I put my beer down and leaned forward and inspected the grease-spotted boxes. They were featureless and white, as if the chicken wasn’t from anywhere in particular at all.
I opened the top box, counting the pieces – maybe sixteen of them in there, looked pretty good, too. Then Jason came in with six more boxes of chicken and started barking the first letter of the alphabet at me.
“Ay! Ay, Ay, Ay! I said don’t touch the chicken!”
Right, no problem, then in walked Rob, carrying a couple of boxes of chicken and an expression that was one part grim, one part amused. Rob was the taller of the two, his hair cut short and his face shaved regularly, while Jason was the sort of long-haired dude who stayed in shape, like he ought to be playing bass in a dive bar someplace with his shirt off.
These two guys cleaned up offices or something, this must have been the remains of a catered lunch – a pretty good haul.
Jason selected a single box of chicken and said, “There you go. You can have as much of that box of chicken as you like.”
Couldn’t argue with that. Chomp, chomp, chomp. After a couple of pieces, it occurred to me – “Say, what are you going to do with the other eleven boxes of chicken?”
A little bit of a giggle out of Rob, sitting across the room in a recliner now, watching Quantum Leap.
Jason got up and picked up a few of the boxes and told me, “I’m going to eat them.”
Then he went into the kitchen and started fitting them in the fridge, coming back for two or three more boxes, fitting them in there. He had a thoughtful, careful look on his face, as if decorating a Christmas tree.
We were living on campus though I don’t think Jason was in school, just sort of hanging around all shirtless and laid back, distracting the ladies from his less attractive roommates. And now it looked like he had an endless supply of fried chicken, too – he was going to be unstoppable.
I sat there doing the math while he fit all but a single box of chicken into the fridge. About sixteen pieces in each box, eleven boxes, let’s see. Carry the two.
That’s a metric assload of fried chicken, I reckoned. “There’s no way,” I told him. “There’s no way in hell you’re eating all that chicken.”
“Here’s the important part,” Jason told me. “Well, hold on, let me just get everyone down here, this is important.”
So then Jason basically called a household press conference, in which he told us all firmly and politely that he intended to eat every single piece of chicken in all of the boxes in the fridge. That the single box he’d given to me was the only one which anyone was allowed to eat out of, unless that person was Jason. That he had just scored a full week’s food, and he intended to very efficiently use it.
“Protein is very good for you when you’re active,” he informed me. Then he took a box of chicken upstairs with him, to bed.
Now it was true that food was something of an issue in a house with five twenty year-old dudes in it. I had a little refrigerator up in my room which was kept locked up nice and tight, so I definitely understood why he felt the need for clarity. Putting down a sandwich in that house was like putting it down in a goat pen – just kiss it goodbye.
But I had to follow him up there anyway, telling him, “Man, you can’t eat a hundred and sevety five pieces of chicken.”
“Well, don’t worry about me,” Jason replied, and I went around the corner and was shocked to find that although he didn’t have a fridge in his room, he kept a case of Natural Light up there anyway, and drank it warm.
“That’s gross,” I told him.
“What’d I just say?”
A remarkable strategy – you don’t need to lock up your food and beer if it’s all really gross.
So okay, I left him be, and then the next day, I came home from class and there he was, sitting in the living room eating out of a box of chicken. It turned out that he knew he was eating the fried chicken, and didn’t really have anything else to say about it. Didn’t really appreciate the rehash, from my end. No problem.
Then the days started creeping by, and the white, Chicken Box Monolith in the fridge began to recede like a polar ice cap. There were seven boxes left, then six. Then five.
Pretty soon, nearly a full week had gone by, and I found Jason lying in his room watching a movie, frowning, looking quite green, still eating chicken.
I told him that he didn’t have anything to prove and that he could stop eating the chicken anytime, no one was going to judge him. “We’d all probably be pretty relieved,” I added.
“I can do it,” Jason said grimly. “Only one box to go after this.”
I turned a straight-backed chair around, the way your health teacher does when he’s trying to get down there on your level and tell you how it is. I said, “Listen, you’re going to kill yourself. You’re going to die, trying to eat all that chicken. You got nothing to prove, man. That’s got to be what? About twenty chickens we’re talking about?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Are you some kind of ogre or troll or what?”
“Take your quitter talk downstairs, will you? I’m working here.”
“Jason. That chicken’s like the guy Rocky fought. It’s a killer, Rock. You got to stop, because I don’t believe it can physically be done. I might have to call the cops or something.”
Jason took a swig of room-temperature Natty Light and told me, “You will, Tom. You will believe a man can eat twenty chickens.”
Gave me chills. And yes, in the fullness of time, he turned out to be right. He got every single piece of that chicken down, and spent not a single dime that week on any other kind of food. I was wrong to doubt him – he really could eat a metric assload of fried chicken, more than I’ve ever seen any man eat in my entire life.
Doesn’t make it a good idea, though.