As a kid my mother used to make a joke when the McDonald’s drive-thru took too long. This was before they took credit cards.
She’d say, “what, are they killing the chickens or something?”
My brother and I always laughed, or rolled our eyes or both.
We got older, yet still we laughed, rolled our eyes, or both. We started dating. My brother had long-term, strong, targeted relationships. I dated like shotgun pellets in a tree full of birds.
Once, I was dating a girl named Fern; her real name was Kate, but people called her Fern. She didn’t like McDonalds.
We were on our way to the train–it was late. My mother asked if we’d like to stop for McDonalds. I said, “yes.” Fern said nothing, but ordered a milkshake. The line was slow, long.
“What, are they killing the chickens or something?” my mother said.
I didn’t laugh as hard as I usually would have; it was cut short. Fern was bristling, I could feel her heat.
“McDonalds tortures birds,” she muttered to me.
I rolled my eyes. “I know, please, not now,” I tried.
So, she addressed my mother. She went on for a while. I’d heard it before; “it’s barely real meat anyways, they keep them in cages, poison them”–I’d seen the documentary with her.
Fern was practically in tears by the time she finished educating my mother from the backseat. It took so long that we had made it to the window before she finished–out of breath and wet-eyed.
I put my arm around her and sighed. I couldn’t see my mother’s face. The drive-thru window opened. It was a young girl, two nose piercings.
“What, were you killing the chickens?” my mother asked the girl.
They both had a good laugh. Fern took the train alone.