The chicken woke me up. Because what if no one put it away? What if we left it out on the counter all night? Then it probably has got salmonella and it’ll kill all the guests at the family reunion tonight.
I actually thought about jumping out of bed first thing this morning and running downstairs naked to check on the chicken. But what would be the point? If the chicken was left out all night, then the damage is done. It’s ruined. But we’ll cook it anyway, because it cost a lot of money. Kosher, free-range, organic, vegetarian-fed, hormone-free, brine-soaked, rabbi-inspected and blessed chicken costs a lot of money and there are 40 guests coming and that’s a lot of chicken, so I’m not going to just throw it out. I’m going to cook it. Cooking kills germs, right? I’ll just cook it a little longer than usual, and maybe a little hotter fire on the barbecue. Nobody will know the difference.
Of course there will be the moral quandary to worry about: Should I eat the chicken? Because if I don’t eat the chicken and everybody else dies, it’ll look bad. It may even look like I was trying to kill all my relatives. Which of course I’m not. I just don’t want to waste 25 pounds of very expensive Kosher, free-range, organic, vegetarian-fed, hormone-free, brine-soaked, rabbi-inspected and blessed chicken. And I’ll feel terrible about it if they all die. I mean, how will I ever be able to live with myself?
But then, I won’t be the only one who doesn’t eat the chicken. The vegetarians won’t touch the stuff. So my oldest son and daughter will be fine. And the youngest really doesn’t like chicken, anyway. I could make sure he fills up on appetizers and chips, and maybe make a few hot dogs first, so that by the time the chicken comes out, he won’t be hungry anyway, and I can tell him to take the other kids down to the basement to play pinball while the grown-ups are finishing eating and kibbitzing.
My wife could be a problem, though. She’s bound to taste it. If she’s serving chicken, I know she’s going to want to taste it. But maybe I could discourage her by burning the first batch of chicken on the grill. Because if there isn’t enough for everybody, I know she’ll sacrifice her share to make sure that all the guests can have a piece. And even if some other martyr, like Cousin Lulu, insists on splitting her piece, how bad could that be? I mean, how much salmonella could a half piece of overcooked chicken possibly have? Not enough to kill you, right? Maybe just enough to give you heartburn, but then, I always get heartburn after one of these reunions, anyway.
So really, we’re just talking about the in-laws and the cousins dying. The old and the weak. For some of those people maybe it’s time, already. Better to die on a nice piece of Kosher, free-range, organic, vegetarian-fed, hormone-free, brine-soaked, rabbi-inspected and blessed chicken, than after some butcher surgeon has cut open your chest and tried to bypass all the arteries in your heart with pig arteries or whatever the hell it is they use nowadays. Better to keel over after eating a feast than hooked up to a feeding tube at some grimy nursing home that Medicaid is willing to pay for while the aides are texting their boyfriends in the backroom, and the rest of the inmates are stuck in front of a TV set watching reruns of One Life to Live, or God forbid, the endless apocalyptic droning of Fox News.
But I suppose if everyone died except for my immediate family, that would look kind of suspicious. They might even accuse me of murder. If the relatives are going to get sick, then I’m going to have to get sick with them. Anyway, I wouldn’t want to be the only one not to get sick. Besides feeling guilty about it, I’d be stuck with having to take care of them all, and commiserating with all the kids who couldn’t come from out-of-town, and hearing the sad, sad story over and over again for the rest of my life. “That’s the guy who survived the Family Reunion Picnic Massacre. Yeah, see him there; his whole family ate bad chicken and died but, somehow, he lived.” I’d be like the Chosen One.
So I was really glad that when I was done taking my shower and getting dressed and I went downstairs, I saw that my wife had taken all the chicken from the counter where it had been thawing and put it back into the refrigerator before she went to bed. Now I can relax and worry about something else that might kill me.
Like, what’s in the potato salad that Aunt Bertha is bringing? I’ve seen that same giant industrial-size jar of mayonnaise in her refrigerator every time I’ve visited her for the last three years. I think she only uses it for company. How long before she kills us all with that mayonnaise? And if I give her the leftover chicken, would she make it into chicken salad to feed all the ladies in her bridge club? I better tell my mom to skip playing cards this week. Maybe I’ll take her out for pizza.