The Thanksgiving Day Massacre


Managed to get in the middle of it after lunch last Friday. Sitting in the car finishing up some correspondence on the thumb devil one minute, breaking up a fight outside that badguy social club next to the Chip Shop on Fifth Avenue the next.
Press send on a text and through the rear view mirror I’ve got one middle-aged man pounding, stiff as a statue, on a morbidly obese member planted on a chair outside the club. His assailant is screaming curses in time with the blows he’s landing and Fatty has his arms up protecting his face, but he’s getting the worst of it. I drop out of our Luxury German Automobile like a cross teacher on the playground. As I’m marching round the back bumper towards these graceless gladiators it becomes clear that the assailant isn’t entirely talentless, but he is drunk as a Lord.
Game changer. As I close on the melee Fatty launches off his chair fist first, connecting with Drunky’s nose. A testament to Newton’s Second Law, Fatty has no swing, just locked shoulder, elbow and wrist. And even with its paltry acceleration, when Fatty’s doughy fist makes contact with Drunky’s nose it’s all about the multiplier of Fatty’s enormous mass. The nose splatters, flattening instantly against Drunky’s face. Fatty doesn’t hang around to celebrate, rather continues, his arch uninterrupted, on his course, landing, a modest hillock, in the middle of the sidewalk. Too blasted to realize that his profile has been irrevocably altered, Drunky begins kicking Fatty who tries vainly to roll over on his back.

Fat Johnny flattens Drunky's nose as he falls to the floor... inert

I am joined in my peace-making efforts by a pair of ruffians drawn out from the interior of the club by Drunky’s unceasing invective.
The club, a VFW Hall in name only, is a Known Location, so as you’d expect, the new arrivals aren’t the least bit concerned about the condition of the screaming drunk with the destroyed face. They are looking out for their own. A deeply-muscled thug pulls up in a tow truck, leaps into the street and chases Drunky through traffic off across the street where, face streaming blood, he stands defiant, if weaving unsteadily, and begins taunting Fatty. “Bury me? Bury me? You’ll bury me?”
Outnumbered now, Drunky appears satisfied to stand his ground, shouting from a safe distance. Tow Truck joins the three of us and together we haul Fatty–cold to the touch and completely disoriented, likely in the throws of massive heart attack–back into his chair. Tow Truck and the two ruffians are joined by an amigo (“Johnny? You okay, Johnny?”) and all four implore Johnny… “Fat” Johnny… to stay put in the chair. Fat Johnny just stares out on the scene like he is a million miles away.
Once satisfied that Fat Johnny is okay (which he absolutely is not), the ruffians pat him on the back, bid Fat Johnny take it easy and lope off in different directions away from the club.
Unattended, Fat Johnny immediately heaves himself out of his chair and back into the fray. Before he can take a single step he falls flat on his face, lets out a low moan, and lies stone still. I’m closest, so I’m first to try to grab him up. Joined by Tow Truck and yet another denizen of the VFW we drag the inert Fat Johnny back into his chair. “Maybe he should drink some water?” I suggest, certain he is dead.
“Yeah, water. Here Johnny, some water. Johnny, over here. Drink water. You okay.”
“Don’t move Johnny. Drink water,” says tow truck looking up and down the avenue. Drunky, still unaware he has no nose, is leaning heavily on a mailbox, berating Fat Johnny.”
“Okay,” says Tow Truck. “We’re good. Stay here Johnny. Drink water.” Johnny has touched a drop. That’s the best part, every new bad guy who swoops in to help is trying desperately to move on as soon as he arrives. Nobody wants to be around if the cops show up. I keep my eye on Tow Truck. He’s the smart one, a man of action, too. Tow Truck keeps his eye on me. We’re both wondering what I’m still doing on the scene.

Combat King's tow truck

When we aren’t sizing each other up, scrupulously avoiding eye contact, Tow Truck is scanning for the avenue for official response. My gaze follows his. Drunky could have friends too. That would be bad.
Fat Johnny either falls asleep or dies.
It’s time to go.
Tow Truck hops into his ride and guns the huge engine, I’m back in the Luxury German Automobile, and the remaining ruffians vanish around corners and disappear into storefronts. It’s over. The only guys left on the block are Fat Johnny and Drunky.

On The Yard


The winter was hard on the flock. The coop was warm enough, but, though great efforts were made in the planning and construction, the building was not as secure as I had imagined. I locked it most every night–well, barricaded the door–but had not counted on daytime raids. Unlike last year–when, on three occasions, I found eviscerated Leghorns frozen to the dirt in the run, this winter when the flock suffered a loss it seemed that the casualty was carried off. Only the top-end predators (here, think lions and crocodiles) bother with the entire carcass. Most lesser carnivores, hoping to make the most of their opportunism before a beast (real or imagined) further up the food chain stumbles across the scene, will satisfy themselves with viscera and beat a hasty retreat. The disappearances were puzzling. Fiona, a neighbor who also keeps chickens, insists that when one of her chickens goes missing it has been purloined for use in a ritual of Santeria held somewhere in the bowels of Prospect Park, the borders of which are not three blocks away. I had my doubts, but no alternate theory to offer.

to avoid violence associated with establishing the peck  order it is recommended that new birds be reduced at night

to avoid violence associated with establishing the peck order it is recommended that new birds be introduced into the flock at night

But I digress. By late February we had lost two of the three remaining birds. The idea of going to zero on my laying flock weighed heavily. I feared that if we lost all the hens, any resulting interruption in fresh egg production would doom my already slim chances of rebuilding the flock and we would default to the grocery store and languish there forever. I did not lay eyes on the culprit until the first week of March. In the predawn I was woken by the alarm call of Last Chicken Standing. I leapt from bed and flung the window open just in time to witness the terrified red hen sprinting down the driveway pursued by the largest raccoon I have seen (not just in Brooklyn, anywhere). There is a gaze of raccoons rumored to nest hard-by the dumpster at the KFC on Coney Island Avenue. I suspect all this locavore chatter had not been lost on the great, shambling filcher staring up at me now, when our dog Fergus leapt up on the window sill to see what all the excitement was about, the raccoon made for the back fence. Last Chicken Standing is now in protective custody in a metal layer cage, terribly lonely, bored and forlorn, but still producing one very high quality small brown egg every morning.

After some negotiation with Lisa I have placed an order for reinforcements. We expect delivery during the week of May 25. The birds arrive airfreight in a cardboard carrying case marked “LIVESTOCK.” The new flock consists of one red pullet, a pair of White Leghorns and two Black Stars. These are not the fancy collector birds you read about when (if) you read about fowl collectors. No outrageous plumage, no miniature splendor, our birds are work-a-day egg machines. At 18 weeks they should begin a life of labor, producing one egg a day. The propaganda from Murray McMurray Hatchery is very encouraging: “If you are after maximum production of eggs with the most efficient feed conversion ratio [and who isn’t?], then this is your ticket. These pullets weigh about 4 lbs. at maturity, start laying at 4 1/2 to 5 months, and will continue 10 to 12 weeks longer than most good layers.”

I have begun the renovations of the original coop. In order to limit pecking order violence, each hen will have her own laying box and there will be ample roosting room. In an effort to limit any further predation, the coop’s run will be completely enclosed and attached to the coop itself. This year’s Winter Palace will be converted into a backyard clubhouse for the children. They will have ungoverned access to it as soon as it is free of vapors from the structure’s planned total immersion in chlorine bleach. More when there is more..