Coming up Broadway was a man wearing white spandex and a rooster’s head. Other than that, he was quite attractive. Yummy legs, delicious thighs, and meaty breasts.
The chicken spoke. “Hey, buddy, where is 213 West 49th?” I pointed uptown. “Thanks, man,” he said, continuing on his roosterly way. After a few steps, Chicken Man stopped and turned around.
“Com’ere,” he said, one finger beckoning. “What’s your name?”
I had never exchanged contact information with a chicken before. “Carl,” I answered, my voice breaking. The chicken’s icy blue eyes looked me up and down.
“How tall are you?”
“Five eight,” I said, trying not to stammer.
“Five eight,” Chicken Man mused. “Might be a stretch.” He laughed as if he’d made a joke. I thought I better laugh too, just in case, but he frowned so I stopped.
“What are you doing?”
I backed away. “Nothing. I’m sorry I bothered you.”
He grimaced. “No, I mean now.”
“No, yesterday,” he answered sarcastically. “Yeah, now and for the next four days.”
“Nothing,” I repeated, because it was true. I had been in New York three months and was still waiting for my big Broadway break.
“Let’s go,” he said, grabbing my hand and walking fast up Broadway.
“Wait a minute!” I yelled, trying to delay his forward motion. “Where are we going? I don’t even know who you are!”
The chicken stopped, removed his rooster mask, and extended a human hand. I gaped at his black hair, blue eyes, two-day beard, and regular features.
“I’m Hinkel,” he said, hand still out.
He dropped his hand. “Yeah, Hinkel. Got a problem with that?” I shook my head vigorously no. “Okay then,” he said after a kind of grunt. We resumed walking at Hinkel speed, which meant we reached 213 West 49th Street in what seemed like seconds, especially since Hinkel ignored stoplights and cut in between cabs and delivery trucks blocking the box.
The building was one of those low, narrow ones in the Theater District you know are headed for skyscraper replacement. Hinkel walked us past reception, carrying his rooster mask. The guard didn’t even look up.
A small elevator was waiting. We squeezed ourselves inside it, and Hinkel pressed the ninth floor button. His thigh squashed against mine like we were inside the same spandex. Two thirty-something women already in the elevator stared at Hinkel, then at his rooster head, and then at me. I tried to smile but they looked away like they’d seen it all, including this.
“What do you do?” Hinkel asked conversationally as the elevator creaked up a floor and let one of the women off.
“I’m an actor,” I answered, almost choking on the words. I was still getting used to saying them.
“Perfect!” he replied enthusiastically, spraying my face with the fffffff.
“Why?” I asked, wiping my face with the back of my hand. We reached the 4th floor, where the second woman exited.
“I got a gig for you, Carl.”
Now I was enthusiastic. “Really? What is it?”
“You’ll see. This is us. Get out.” The doors opened and Hinkel muscled me through them. “This way,” he said, his hand on my back, steering me left down a narrow hallway with dark wood paneling on either side. The floor was tiled in a chicken-wire pattern, appropriately, I thought. We passed heavy oak doors with opaque glass windows at eye level, names of miscellaneous companies painted on them, until we came to “Marx Novelty Acts.”
A receptionist with purple hair and blue lips welcomed us. “The chicken!” she exclaimed before looking at me suspiciously. “Where’s the hen?”
“This is him,” Hinkel replied, with just a little uncertainty in his Queens accent.
The vision in purple and blue narrowed her eyes at him. “Hens are not hims, Hinkel. Where is she?”
“Look, Marlene, my girlfriend got sick. I couldn’t find anybody else. This guy can do it. He’s an actor. Tell her, Carl.”
“I’m an actor,” I agreed. Chicken Man looked disgusted.
Marlene shook her head. “Hinkel, Mr. Marx is not going to like this,”
“Not yet. 20 minutes.
“Here, Carlo.” He removed a package from his backpack. “Go change.”
I looked around for where and the receptionist stood up, sighing. “In here, I guess,” she said, leading me into the inner office. I waited until she left to strip down to my underwear. At that moment, Hinkel opened the door. He and Marlene got a good look at my blue boxers. “Very nice,” Marlene yelled before Hinkel closed the door and hustled me out of the boxers and into the hen costume, his strong fingers manhandling me along the way. He was rough, but I liked it.
When he finished, I looked like a red, white, and yellow balloon about to pop. “How big is your girlfriend?” I asked him.
“She’s not really my girlfriend,” he muttered. “Anyway, obviously not as big as you. About the same height though. I thought it would work.” He tugged the costume here and there half-heartedly, looking depressed.
About that time, Marlene opened the door. “10 minutes,” she announced. Her mouth fell open, then closed in a frown. “Uh, Hinkel?” she said. “There’s a problem here. Actually, two problems.” She poked my chest and grabbed my crotch. I hopped away from her.
Hinkel’s eyes lit up. “Quick, Marlene. Give Carlo your bra!”
“What?” the receptionist and I squawked in unison.
“Hurry!” he said but Marlene just stood there, her blue mouth hanging open. Without another word, Hinkel slid his hands up the back of her blouse, undid the bra, whipped it off, and held it out to me. “Shirt off! Bra on!” he commanded, the D-cups swinging hypnotically before my eyes. When I didn’t immediately respond, Hinkel yanked the spandex shirt up my chest and over my head.
Marlene ogled my chest. “Nice man-boobs, Carlo,” she said, helping me on with the bra and cotching a feel or two along the way.
Hinkel studied the results. “Where are your socks?” he asked me, grabbing his own from the backpack. He stuffed one of his and one of mine into each cup.
“What about this?” Marlene asked, pointing at my junk.
“I got it!” Hinkel said, snapping his fingers. He rummaged around in his backpack again and produced some kind of jockstrap.
“What is that?” I asked.
“A dancer’s belt,” Hinkel replied, which told me nothing, but he approached with hands ready so I stepped out of my Converses and pulled down my spandex pants, uncovering half an erection. Marlene’s eyes bugged, and my face started burning.
“Damn, Carlo! You gotta stuff that thing down,” Hinkel said and did the stuffing for me. I jumped so high I nearly hit the ceiling fan. We had just stuck our rooster and hen heads on when a fiftyish man with a greying goatee breezed into the inner office.
“My chickens!” he said to us in greeting. He looked at me appraisingly. “So this is the girlfriend?” he asked. Hinkel nodded. “Nice boobs. Sorry, man. I pegged you as a queer. Okay, Marlene, got their stuff ready?” She nodded, relief all over her face. “Okay, sit down, chickens. Can you sit in that spandex? Geez, I can see everything you got. Almost.” He gave me a wink.
“Okay, let’s go over this,” Mr. Marx said. “You two are promoting the opening of the first Chicken on a Stick franchise in Manhattan. This is big.” He spread his hands wide for emphasis. “You’ll be handing out free Single Stick cards in Times Square and directing people to the franchise location in Port Authority every day this week, 8 to 5, one to a customer. Got it?”
We nodded our chicken heads.
“You hand out all the cards, you and the hen split $200 a day, which is good money,” he said over his glasses. “But don’t go dumping cards in trash cans. You do and I’ll know.”
Hinkel stood. “Okay, Carlo. Let’s hit it.”
“Yeah, Carla,” Marlene emphasized, swatting my ass. “Get those cute little chicken buns moving.”
Marx saw the swat. “What is it with you and the hen’s butt, Marlene? You turning lesbian on me?”
The elevator came fast and empty. On the way down, Hinkel kept staring at my chicken breasts. “Your tits look good,” he said.
“They’re socks,” I reminded him.
He ignored me and smirked. “But ol’ Marlene likes your ass more.” He took a look at it. “I can see why.”
The doors opened. A crowd was waiting but they didn’t seem to notice we were chickens. On the street though, it was a different story. We got double takes, stares, and plenty of comments. Guys kept staring at my boobs. Note to self: tomorrow only one pair of socks.
Hinkel and I made our way south to Times Square and picked a heavily traversed spot. We worked back to back so we could get people coming and going, and, every once in a while, we bumped chicken butts. Hinkel’s felt mighty good against mine. I could have handed out Single Stick cards forever, but we were out of them by 4:30 so we did the chicken dance back to the Marx Novelty office.
“You guys are good,” Marx said. “Maybe I should get more cards. Anyway, here’s your money. See you tomorrow,” he said as he left.
Hinkel and I stripped down in his office. Marlene was checking her watch every three seconds. “I leave at 5, ya know!” she informed us. I got the top and bottom of the costume off but was having trouble with the bra. Hinkel was already naked, which was probably distracting me.
“Here, lemme do that,” he said. In two seconds, the bra was in his hands. I stepped out of his dancer’s belt on my own, and my cock started going up like the elevator. Hinkel gave it a long look. “Carlo,” he said. “One thing’s for sure. You ain’t never gonna need Viagra.” I tried to hand the belt back to him. “Uh, no,” he said. “Keep it. At least ‘til Friday. I got plenty more at home. I’m a dancer.”
Marlene said we could store our costumes in the office. I handed her the bra. She held her hands up to ward me off. “No, you keep it. I’ll take it back after work on Friday,” she said.
The elevator was crammed with commuters, but Hinkel pushed his way in and pulled me after him. “How about we celebrate?” he suggested. “On me.” We went to a dive bar in his neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen. “How can you afford to live in Manhattan?” I asked while we were waiting for our drinks.
Hinkel ignored my question. “Where do you live at?” he asked.
“No shit. I’m from Queens. What neighborhood?”
“Long Island City.”
“Not too long a subway ride,” he said, not telling me where he was from. He tried to tip the bartender but the guy just gave him a wink and pushed the money back at him across the bar. A table opened up so we made a rush for it.
“So, you’re a dancer,” I asked after we sat down. “I’ve been thinking about taking dance lessons.”
“You should. Can you sing?”
“Some. I was in a choir back home in Michigan.”
He looked at me with a grin. “Choir boy, huh? Anyway, that’s the way to do it. Triple threat. Me, all I can do is dance.” He didn’t sound happy about it but, before I could say anything, he stood up abruptly. “I’ll get us a second round.” His ample crotch was in my face.
“It’s my turn,” I said to his crotch.
“Don’t spend your money on me, Carlo. $100 won’t last long.”
“It’s okay. I start a regular job next week.”
Hinkel sat back down.
“Yeah? You in a show?”
“I wish. No, I’ll be waiting tables at a new restaurant called McIver’s. My friend Debbie got me the job. She’s the hiring manager’s assistant.”
“I heard about that place. They say it’s gonna be really nice. Big spenders. You’ll get some great tips.” He leaned back in his chair. “I gotta get a job too. I just quit one. Bike messenger.” The thought of his big thighs pumping up and down all around Manhattan gave me ideas, one of which wasn’t sexual.
“McIver’s is still hiring,” I said. “Maybe we could go there tomorrow after we hand out all the cards.”
He settled all four of his chair legs back on the floor and scooted closer to me. “That would be so cool, Carlo! Thanks!” Lips puckered, he leaned in but jumped up to buy the next round before he landed.
Tuesday, we finished at 4. Mr. Marx accused us of dumping cards so we could leave early. Hinkel counter-accused him of trying to cheat us. Marlene played referee. We got our money and left.
Outside on the street, Hinkel smelled his armpit. “Man, I’m ripe. I gotta take a shower.” I pictured Hinkel showering and wished I could be there to scrub his back. “See you at McIver’s,” he said, jogging away, and my dream vanished.
At the restaurant-to-be, Debbie came out to meet us with a hug for me and a handshake for Hinkel. She looked him over and unbuttoned another button on his shirt. “There,” she said. “That should do it.”
Before he left, I straightened his collar and whispered, “You look great.” He gave me a tense smile and whispered back, “Thanks, babe.” Babe, I thought. He called me babe.
When Debbie came back, she flopped beside me on the banquette. “Oh, Carly! Where’d you find him? You two make a cute couple.”
“We’re not a couple. Hinkel’s not gay.”
“You sure about that? Anyway, too bad. I had my bro married.”
We talked show biz for 30 minutes while we waited. Debbie was an aspiring electronic violinist. “How did you two meet?” she had asked again when Hinkel reappeared, all smiles. I noticed his shirt was open a couple more buttons and stuffed haphazardly in his slacks.
“I think I got it, babe!” he said, grabbing me in a bear hug and lifting me off the ground. Babe again. I was so happy. Debbie interrupted my bliss.
“Okay, guys. I have other folks to interview. Hinkel, I’ll let you know what Stan says but I’m pretty sure it’ll be good news.” She gave him a weird look.
That night I got two calls. The first was from Hinkel.
“I got it, Carlo! Man, I wish you were here. We have to celebrate.” I could hear background noise.
“Where are you?”
“At the bar.”
That’s when the second call came in. “Oh, it’s Debbie. I’ll call you back.” I clicked Hinkel off and Debbie on. “Hi, Deb. I was just on the line with Hinkel. He said…”
“That’s what I want to talk to you about.”
“I know. Hinkel got the job. Thanks for helping him.”
“He helped himself. I knew he was Stan’s type.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Did Hinkel tell you about his interview?”
“Just that it went well. You were there.”
“Carl, I like you. We’re friends. Friends tell you what you need to hear. Remember that.”
“Debbie, what are you trying to say?”
“What I’m saying is that Hinkel got naked and blew Stan to get the job.
“Debbie, that is not funny.” I hung up the phone and thought about moving back to Michigan. Instead, I called Hinkel.
Before he said hello, I asked him, “Did you blow the bar manager to get the job at McIver’s?”
“Just answer, Hinkel. It’s easy. Yes or no.”
“It’s not easy, Carlo.”
“Yes or no?
“Look, we can talk about it tomorrow, after we hand out the cards.”
“I won’t be there,” I said and hung up. I fumed for a while, then felt guilty. I almost called Hinkel back but couldn’t think of what to say. Why should I say anything?
The next morning, I woke to my doorbell ringing incessantly. I ran to the door and looked through the peephole. There was a six-foot tall rooster outside. “I don’t want to talk to you,” I told him through the door.
“You’re gonna,” the rooster said, pounding on the wood between us.
I opened the door. “Go away!” I said and tried to slam it. The chicken muscled his way in and sat on the couch. “At least take that stupid rooster head off!” I yelled after him.
“Sit,” he commanded, patting the sofa next to him. “First off, you’re right. I’m a whore, but it pays the bills. Second thing, why are you so mad?”
“Why wouldn’t I be mad? You lied to me.”
“I did not. I got the job.”
“But you blew Stan. What did you do to get your apartment?”
“I fuck the owner once a month. There. Happy now?” Hinkel crossed his arms and spread his legs, which was doubly distracting and he noticed. “I could fuck you,” he said. “Would that make it better?”
“No!” I said sharply, rising quickly from the couch. “I think you better leave.”
Hinkel ignored me.
“Isn’t that what you really want? I see how you look at me.” I looked away. “It’s okay, baby. I want to.” He started struggling out of his spandex. I made him stop.
“We have to hand out those cards,” I said, putting his head back on for him.
“Fuck those cards!” he said, yanking the head off again.
“You wait here,” I said. “I’ll go get my costume on.”
He followed me into the bedroom. “You might need help with the bra,” he explained as he put his arms around me. “By the way,” he added before he kissed my neck, “My name is Joseph.”
We never did hand out the rest of those cards.
Rick May’s short fiction has been published in his collections Inhuman Beings: Monsters, Myths, & Science Fiction and Ginger Snaps: Photos & Stories (with photographer David Sweet), his series Gay All Year on Amazon Kindle, in anthologies like Never Too Late, Best Gay Erotica, and the Lambda Literary nominated Outer Voices Inner Lives. Rick organizes the monthly Perfectly Queer book reading series with his partner Wayne Goodman, as well as the annual literary festival Word Week in Noe Valley, CA and the online book club Reading Queer Authors Lost to AIDS. He lives in San Francisco.