Darkest day

Pub date December 17, 2008
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink

› le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS For all I know you are reading this on the darkest day of the year. And for all you know I am sitting in a rocking chair in front of my wood-burning stove, not rocking so much as reeling, hands in hair, trying to get my head straight.


Why do I water my cat? Most people water their plants. I neglect mine, water the cat instead, and the cat chews on the leaves and then pukes, or not, and everything works out somehow, except: possible liver damage.

Except everything does work out, and Weirdo the Cat stays weird and alive and well, at 15. In people years I am less grandmotherly than her, but for the record we both like afghans and rocking chairs.

Wondering: Why do I watch opera? Why do I read the wrong novels? Why do I fall in love in winter when I could do so much more with spring or summer? Why is love, the word, never enough, like a hot water bottle under the covers, at your feet?

I sleep in my socks. I wear long underwear, flannel pajama bottoms, and a sweater, sometimes a sweatshirt and sweater. I wake up drenched in sweat, wonder why. Really really cold nights I’ll wear a hoodie, or a hat, or pull my headband down over my ears.

First Weirdo the Cat and then I will cease to become point-of-view characters, and the bed, the litter box, the faux brick wall behind our wood stove will miss us equally, our opposite-of-vacant stares and songs of complaint.

Because it’s dark here in the woods, even in summer, I decorate my shack year-round with Xmas lights. It’s one small room, x by x, with three overhead lights, two floor lamps, a row of track lighting, a utility lamp, and 9,999 strategically placed unblinking Xmas tree bulbs. Then the power goes out and I have to battle seasonal affection disorder with candles and flowers.

On the radio they said to put olive oil on your chapped lips. I’m a bad Italian. I prefer butter to olive oil, onions to garlic, and kisses to both. I’m skinny. At my age! I don’t eat enough pasta and never go to church, unless it’s to make fun of their idea of bread and wine.

I was standing at the stove pouring bacon grease from the skillet into the jar, for the working of future miracles, and as I watched the stream turn to strings turn to drops of dripping drippings, I thought, These are the clogged arteries of Christ. Put them in your refrigerator, in remembrance of Him. And also so they don’t get rancid.

Ceremoniously, although no one was watching, not even a cat, I dipped my middle finger, right hand, deep into the jar of still-warm bacon fat, and rubbed it all over my lips. Olive oil, my ass, I thought.

But that’s another story. In this one, in the spirit of giving, declaring truce, peace, and eggs, I grant my Catholic peeps, Protestant hens, roosters, and religious people everywhere their saviors, virgins, prophets, crowing, and high holy holidays. In fact, I’m so out of gas right now that I even give you eternal life. It’s yours. If that’s what you believe, you got it. I won’t argue.

For me, I don’t see the point. It’s not life to which I am insanely attached, it’s my point of view. This very particular chicken farmerly capacity for watching, wondering, waxing poetic, and waking up alone and deeply disturbed. Like that hot water bottle twisted in the covers somewhere near your feet, it’s little comfort to me, on the longest night of the year, your concept of heaven, or energy, or yet another go-round. Even if … if I ain’t there to call it, in my exact eyes and language, then what the fuck?

Thinking these deep, ecclesiastic thoughts, I put my jar of bacon fat in the fridge, washed and dried the frying pan, did the rest of the dishes, then stood in front of the bathroom mirror and ran my fingers through my hair. Looking good enough, I thought, I went out into the world in search of vegetarians to kiss.


My new favorite restaurant is Los Comales in Oakland’s Diamond District. A regular meat burrito (carnitas, in my opinion) is under $5, but you have to sweet-talk them into chips, or pay 50 cents. Or, if you’re really really poor, you can get a bean and cheese burrito for $2.40, and kiss me by way of meat.


Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–8:30 p.m.

2105 MacArthur, Oakl.

(510) 531-3660



L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.