Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. By day he works with asbestos litigation by night he hacks up words. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, THEMA, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking to publish a novel.
The Chicken’s Foot by Ben Nardolilli
The store owner was not pleased to hear Ned’s question. He answered it nonetheless.
“Oh, where in China is that?”
“Oh. I’ve got an Aunt in Racine.”
“Can I interest you in anything?”
Ned took another brief look around the store. Its shelves and displays cases were brimming with esoterica from the East and West. He saw incense, roots, decks of Tarot cards, little jade Buddhas, and dusty Ouija boards. While flipping through a pile of used lucky rabbits’ feet, he found one not covered in fur. which This foot was yellow with three talons and not covered in fur. It caught the owner’s attention.
“Oh that’s where I put that thing. Here you must give it back.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a chicken foot. Please. There’s nothing special about it.”
“A chicken’s foot?
“Yes. That’s all it is. Now please hand the foot over to me.”
Ned continued to hold onto it. He was certain there was a special reason it was in the store, and why the proprietor wanted it back.
“How much for it?”
“Sir, please. It is priceless.”
“Oh, it’s that good?”
“No, it is that terrible.”
“I think I’ll buy it. I’ll take it away.”
“Sir, for both of our sakes, you must return it to me. Now.”
“I just want to know what’s so bad about this thing.”
“It will make you unlucky.”
“Just like the chicken it was attached to? Killed for food?”
“Not at all. The chicken was old.”
Ned shook his free fingers with mock trembling. “Oh, was it cursed? Or just spoiled?” He stopped. “You’re just making it all up. You just want to sell me this dumb chicken’s foot.”
“Yes. That is correct. I can take it from you.”
“Tell me the truth. What’s it do? If anything?”
“It grants you what you want.”
“I used up my wishes.”
“I was lucky to get out with my life and start this store.”
“How could a plain old chicken be so magical?”
“It was not a plain chicken. It was a true oddity, possessed by dark forces.”
“Don’t they have something better to haunt?”
“The bird was born headless yet it still lived. It even knew how to walk backwards.”
“Come on. Where was this in China?”
“No, near Ypsilanti.”
“Sorry, I’m new to the area.”
“Please, I beg you one last time.”
“Wrap it up for me. It sounds too good to be true. Even if it doesn’t work, I think I could use it during office hours. A way to scare my students.”
The owner rung him up at the register. “Cash or credit, or debit?”
“Credit.” The owner gave Ned a slip of paper to sign. On it he noticed the store’s return policy. “So I can trade it back in if I don’t like it?”
“You can trade it. Yes.”
“In case it tricks me with my wishes. Right? I’ve seen that cartoon. You wish for one thing and the foot gives you something else because you didn’t think of the words right. Mixing up tenses, that sort of thing?”
“No sir, this appendage is honest.”
The owner wrapped the foot in a brown paper bag and bid Ned good day. Ned went back to his house, a semi-detached duplex he shared with his neighbor Tavares. He was out front, mowing the lawn, weaving along the border between the two properties. Ned had told him to try and be careful before. It caused the grass in the middle to grow at an uneven pace compared to the rest on the lot. He also noticed several large canisters on Tavares’ driveway adorned with neon warning labels and skulls.
He waved his hand to get Tavares’ attention. Tavares stopped mowing and walked up to Ned. When they were less than a foot apart, he spoke.
“Yeah? What’s wrong now?”
“Are those pesticides?”
“No man. Herbicides.”
“I told you I don’t want any of that stuff used.”
“You said pesticides.”
“It’s all chemicals.”
“It’s not good. It’s not healthy. I don’t even know if it’s legal to use that much.”
“Hey, I’m the one keeping the weeds at away. If we went with you Mr. Tree-Hugger this whole lot would be covered in who knows what. Then how much would it be worth, huh? Huh? I got to think of property values.”
“Do you really need that much?”
“Don’t worry, it kills the rats too. Two birds, one stone.”
“It’s gonna kill more than that eventually.”
“Well keep your cat on your damn side of the lot then. “
“It doesn’t matter where Moroni goes, that stuff will seep into anything. What if he eats a poisoned rat?”
Tavares went back to the lawnmower and turned it on. He pushed it right up to the tips of Ned’s sneakers, causing him to jump in surprise. Back in his study, Ned took the chicken foot and put it on his desk. He had trouble getting it to balance upright like a tree, so laid it down with the talons facing out like a root. Immediately, Ned felt the temptation to use up the wishes. He assumed the foot offered him three because it made sense for one wish to be linked to one talon. Yet, there was no reason the foot could offer more or less, or even an infinite number of wishes. Ned realized he was assuming the foot worked in the first place.
Should he try a first wish? Ned held the foot and put it back down. What if he only got one? He needed to be careful and avoid being greedy. If he made a simple request, the results would be easier to manage. He would not ask to be a billionaire when becoming a millionaire would do. Ned thought about wishing to be rich and why he would want to do it in the first place. At the moment, did he truly need the money? Did he truly need anything more? He looked around his house. It was small, but sufficient. There was enough for him and Moroni. His greatest fear was what his calico cat might do to the chicken’s foot if he found it. Ned took the curio and put it on a shelf in his closet where he figured it was safer. If the device worked, he did not want Moroni to get to it first, turning the whole world into one big ball of catnip.
That night, Ned made his first wish. He felt bad about turning to the chicken foot for aid so quickly, but Tavares tested his nerve. If the foot had any magical powers, Ned was going to find out. The trouble began around midnight. Ned was trying to sleep in bed with Moroni curled up in ball next to him. A scream woke the cat up and he darted across Ned’s body. He caught the end of the shriek and jumped up onto the floor, worried someone was being hurt in the neighborhood. Laughter followed along with the sound of glass breaking. Ned threw on a robe and grabbed Moroni. The two of them stepped out the door and stood in the front yard, looking for any signs of trouble.
They only needed to look at the other half of the house, where Tavares was throwing a party. Loud music, flashing lights, and dancing shadows tipped him off. A trinity of balloons tied to the front banister of the porch did as well. Ned made it halfway up the path to the front door when Tavares emerged.
“What do you want?”
“Can you turn it down?”
“What? I can’t have fun?”
“So late? On a Sunday night?”
“Some of us have Monday off.”
“Some of us don’t.”
“Not my problem. Sorry. If you want you can try to come in, but the cat stays outside.”
“I told you, I have to work tomorrow.”
“Sucks for you then.”
“I’ll call the cops for a noise complaint.”
“You do that. I’ve got two of them here already, doing some investigating.”
“What? Someone already called them?”
“Let’s just say they’re making sure the pressure for the keg is working. They check it about once every twenty minutes.”
Ned stumbled back into his side of the house and let Moroni down. He crawled up on an ottoman and fell asleep. Ned climbed the up the stairs, enjoying every pop and crack the wood made under his steps. He imagined each one sent shockwaves across the walls to counter the sound Tavares’ party made. For the past two years he tried to respectful, calm, collected, and was conscious of every note he released in case it reached Tavares. Now it did not matter. He knew that being loud would not solve the problem. A better solution was needed. Ned found the chicken’s foot and held it up so the trio of talons faced up to the ceiling.
“Please, if you can grant wishes, grant me this one. Separate our houses. Detach us fully. I don’t want to be semi-anything with Tavares anymore.” One of the talons curled up. Shocked, Ned dropped the foot on the floor. After waiting a minute, he reached down, lifted it, and put the foot back in its spot in the closet. He put his hand on the wall he shared with Tavares. Vibrations from his party still pulsated through the wood and plaster. There was no change. The foot was not magical. His wish had not been granted.
Ned woke up this next morning to knocking on his door. He threw his robe on and ran down to answer it. He looked through the peephole and saw Tavares. Expecting an apology, he opened the door and smiled.
“What? The robe? I just woke up.”
“No man, this!” Tavares led Ned to the front lawn and pointed at the fence between their now separated halves of the house. “What the hell?”
“I don’t know what happened. Sorry.”
“Come on. Stop bullshitting me. You did this.”
Ned examined the division more closely. The split was a clean one. Their formerly common wall was now covered in the same siding which matched the rest of the house. There was grass growing down the middle, along with the fence.
“It’s illegal. You violated the agreement.”
“I swear I don’t know how this happened.” Ned did not feel it was a lie. The statement was a half-truth. He knew the foot was responsible while at the same time he was ignorant of how it worked its magic.
“I’ve had it man. I’ve had it.”
“What do you think I did? You think I got a contractor to do all this in what, the span of three hours? You know any contractors who can do that?”
“Watch yourself. Just wait.”
Tavares went back to his half of the lot and Ned went into his study, scrambling to find his deed to the property. It contained all manner of stipulations, including how much they could each decorate their part of the building for various holidays. During the night, this language had changed. Tavares’ signature was gone, along with the sections and subsections of rules they agreed to. Ned put the document back. He headed upstairs to the bedroom closet and held the chicken foot in his palm, admiring it for several minutes. Once he realized he was running late, he kissed the spent talon and put it back.
During the following month, Ned noticed Tavares watching him from his severed half of the house. Sometimes it was from a window with the curtain drawn except for a space for his binoculars. Other times, he pretended to be planting a bush in the front yard, while using the branches for cover. More often than not, he sat on his porch, staring at Ned as he came and went. He no longer had any noise or chemical complaints with his neighbor, so all was well as far as he could care. He slept better than before, which helped boost his ranking among student evaluations. The university told him the undergrads who attended his lectures thought he was more energetic and focused.
The scores inspired rumors that Ned might be up for tenure. They reached Ned and he began eavesdropping in his department and across campus in hopes of learning more. He made himself extra quiet in his office, the men’s room, the cafeteria, and the campus bus in case people who knew about his academic future started to speak. He wanted them to think they were alone, or at least far away from him. He thought of the chicken foot and the other two wishes that remained. Could he use one to propel himself into full professorhood? It raised the issue of fairness. There were others with more seniority than him in the Indian Ocean Studies Department. Many of them had real tangible ties to the region. They spoke more of its languages. Why did he deserve the position? If he got it through the machinations of the chicken’s foot, he would be left open to their resentment.
Ned changed his mind after a bit of conversation strayed his way while he tried to fix a jam in the printer. The machine hid him as he got on his knees to fight with the smell of hot ink and turn greasy knobs inside its bowels. In theory, he was supposed to be able to manually move the offending piece of paper through the system. On the other side, the two tenured members of the department fretted about finances. The endowment was in danger, an unexpected bumper crop of rapeseed threw the futures market in chaos and millions promised were now lost. After the conversation ended, Ned continued to crouch down until he was sure they were gone. He debated asking them what was going on, or sharing his concerns with the rest of the department. Did he have a right to hold onto information he had no right to know in the first place?
Back in his bedroom, he cradled the chicken foot in his hand. If he could not save any of his coworkers and their classes, Ned might be able to save himself. Was it selfish for him to do it? He reasoned that anyone else would do the same to save their own position. Now seemed the right time to wish for tenure. As soon as he spoke the words of his request, the foot vibrated. It stopped and another talon came down. He looked around the room but nothing had changed. No new diplomas, pictures, pennants, or plaques adorned the walls. Ned lay back on the bed with it, worrying about his wish. The request was for tenure without any qualifiers, such as what subject or department he wanted it from. The name of his university was also missing.
He had trouble sleeping that night, tossing and turning with his eyes closed and laying still with them open. An overwhelming question kept him stirring. What had he condemned himself to? He pictured several different scenarios which could unfold due to the trickery of the talon. Ned would be lucky if he woke up and was able to at least teach the same subject in a different school or join another department at the same university. His greatest fear was having to move to a campus in the wilds of Sinkiang or Byelorussia to teach computer programming or ancient Mayan codices. If he had tenure he would not have to worry as much about dismissal, yet Ned still wanted to be a good teacher. Trying to teach a subject he knew nothing about would make the job unrewarding.
In the morning, Ned went through his usual routine and drove to work. He noticed Tavares standing on his side of the fence, looking back at Ned from the driveway. On an impulse, Ned stopped the car and rolled down his window.
“Don’t be surprised when I come back.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m going to be in a new car. A much nicer car.”
“I got tenure!”
Tavares gave Ned the finger and Ned drove back to campus. The Indian Ocean Studies Department was deserted. The offices were empty and the lights were off. Ned called out the names of the administrative staff, teaching assistants, fellows, and other professors. No one answered back. Ned sat in his office, his light the only one on in his section of the building. He did not have classes scheduled until noon. He took the time to make sure his accounts with the university still worked. All of them did. He had the same students, the same upcoming publications, and the same access to archives, journals, and newsletters. The emails and messages in his inbox contained the familiar round of messages. One email did stand out. It was from the dean of the college. She congratulated Ned on his new tenured positioned, before announcing with regret that the rest of the department was shuttered until further details could be provided.
Right after his last class ended, Ned went out and bought the car he told Tavares to look for. He did not need it, but he felt better as soon as the vehicle was his and he was able to drive it home. It was smelled new and was painted a glowing red. When the smooth leather steering wheel was in his hands, Ned could relax. His position truly was secure. He would not have the car otherwise. As Ned turned down his street, he thought about the rest of the department. He pictured them crying, drinking, and packing up their things to try and find another school for work. Here he was with a luxury automobile, the make and model he did not even know.
Ned parked in front of his house and walked inside. He tried to cheer himself up by playing with Moroni. The cat obliged and except for a few moments devoted to sleep and their private businesses, the two remained close together during the rest of the week. For the first time in his life, the cat even got to roam the halls of the Department of Indian Ocean Studies since Ned only needed one office to work in. The office he chose to use was the largest. It also had the best view, overlooking a nearby garden and the city skyline. The only other large office with a window faced the cinderblock army of freshman dorms. For Moroni’s sake, he turned his old office into a space for the cat to rest and play in. Blankets, baskets, toys, and scratching poles went in as the books and papers went out.
Despite the feline company, Ned grew increasingly lonely in the office. One morning he held a meeting with totems and avatars representing the other lost members of the department. He printed out pictures and attached them to stacks of empty coffee cans. Moroni interrupted the meeting with his meowing and Ned chastised him. Only when Moroni knocked a teaching assistant over did Ned realize he needed the rest of the department back. The main issue was trying to secure another source of funding. The foot came to mind and Ned banished the thought. He would write letters. He would contact his congresswoman. Perhaps an ambassador or two might be interested. There was money out there for the taking if he simply asked for it. Pedalian magic would not be consulted.
None of the pleas worked. While they always seemed to be money enough for him and the bare upkeep of his office, he continued to feel ostracized and alone without a department to back him up. Things became particularly bad when the Celtic Studies Department started to unofficially use the space around him. It began with unauthorized use of the copier, followed by the coffeepot, and then proceeded to the desks and bookshelves. They took all the maps of the Indian Ocean down and replaced them with renderings of Dublin and the Aran Islands. When he complained, the scholars of Joyce, Yeats, and Ossian started to yell at him. They called Ned greedy and forced him to retreat to the safety of his office. He turned an empty coffee can into a bathroom and only left the room to teach, afraid the other department would seize this safe space.
Only the chicken foot would save him and the presence of Indian Ocean Studies at the university. Ned decided to wish for his department to be re-endowed. It took the car ride home to figure out the particulars. He did not want money with special conditions attached to it. He also wanted the source to be stable. No stocks, bonds, or commodities would be involved. Real estate was out of the question too. He would request only a direct infusion of cash. On the other hand, he had to make sure the money was legitimate, not dirty, and that it did not come from a morbid source. Ned worried his wish would result in the death of someone and the payout from an insurance policy being directed to the department.
He would play the lottery and wish to win the jackpot. With the winnings, he could make sure there would be enough money for years to come. Ned took the chicken foot out from its hiding spot and held it close to his breast as he walked back out to the car. Tavares saw him and noticed the talons he was clutching. From the distance it looked like a bird had flown into his neighbor. He did not ask what was wrong. Instead, he followed Ned’s car, hiding behind bushes and trashcans until he ended up outside a nearby convenience store.
From the other side of the glass doors and frayed posters announcing prices for ice and milk, he watched Ned hold the chicken foot in his hand. He could not hear what Ned was saying but he could see his lips move. At the end of his small monologue, a talon closed inward. Ned then turned around and approached the counter, asking for a lottery ticket. Tavares could not tell what kind it was. It had a burgundy and gold trim around the edges. Ned removed a nickel from a nearby tip jar and scratched away, blowing away balls of gray matter while he worked. The owner of the store looked on in amazement and Tavares knew Ned had won a substantial sum of money. He did not learn that it numbered in the millions until the story was on the news the next day.
Ned deposited his winnings in a bank account separate from his regular savings. He decided he could afford to treat himself to a nice meal and went to a steakhouse near campus. On his trip there and back, word got out about the major prize Ned won. As soon as they verified it, a host of television crews and people from other local media started to descend on his house. Moroni did his best to scare them away from the porch until Ned came home and answered questions. He was forthright about what he would do with the prize, though not how he managed to beat the odds.
When the last of the reporters left his front yard, Ned returned indoors. He told them it did not matter if they loitered, but then they would have to deal with his neighbor Tavares. Tavares had been on his porch watching the whole media circus while polishing a pair of hedge clippers the whole time. From the kitchen, Ned heard their van doors shut and the vehicles drive off. He was pouring a cup of coffee when he heard the shriek. It was followed by tires screeching. Ned let his mug fall to the floor and ran from the house. When he reached the curb, he saw one of the news vans parked at an angle perpendicular to the street. Several cameramen and a reporter with a pompadour initially blocked his way until they saw who it was. They relented and let Ned through.
He did not see the full extent of the damage until he crouched next to Moroni. From a distance, he was his same, lazy, fur ball self. Down on the asphalt, Ned saw the blood and recoiled. For a few minutes he sat with his hands over his eyes, rubbing them to make tears come or the images of his broken cat go away. A voice pointed out that Moroni was still breathing and Ned calmed down. He looked at the circle of people around him and told them to block traffic while he went back into the house. Before he left the front yard, he looked at Tavares. It was his hope his neighbor might have some sympathy for what he was going to, able to at least relate to the loss of a beloved companion animal. Tavares grinned instead.
Ned did not have time to be angry. He rushed to his bedroom closet and took the chicken’s foot from its usual spot. He did his best to hide it from view as he returned, though everyone saw it when he tripped over a loose stone. The talons flew into the grass. The yellow skin made the limb look like a gardening rake. In an instant he was back up. His composure regained, Ned stood over Moroni and held the magical foot as tightly as he could. “Please…please…I wish…I wish for Moroni to be all right. If there’s another wish in you…please…just come out and help him…or give me a wish on loan.”
Moroni survived the ride to the animal hospital. Ned came along in his car, which a member of one of the film crews drove for him. It was a generous gesture, though not completely altruistic. He had always wanted to get behind such a make and model. The veterinarian on staff did her best to save the cat. According to her, the internal organs were too damaged. Ned asked if Moroni was in pain and she told him he would be, except for the painkillers. After the man who drove him left, Ned decided to put Moroni to sleep. He cried thinking about the decision and hated himself for it. The doctor tried to assuage him. She said it was the right choice and Moroni would have wanted it this way. Ned remained distraught. How could he have been so greedy with his wishes?
After the ordeal with Moroni, Ned was too depressed to think about his winnings. The plan for the department was put on hold. The days went by and he went through the performance of his routine. The students noticed he was distracted during lectures but said nothing. No one came to office hours. Ned blamed himself for attracting the news. If only he could have kept the money a secret, if he had to have it at all. There was no ill feeling towards the chicken foot. It did what it was told. Ned wondered where it was, then remembered he had thrown it away in a rage after it would not help him. At the time, he could not stand the sight of the talons curled up. He thought they were mocking him. Ned had no idea where it could have landed.
Once the bank started to email him his monthly statements, he remembered the money from the lottery and his plans with it. Ned did not know how to proceed and spent his free time looking at the numbers which represented what was in his account. It was soothing to see them there. Despite his recent loss, he could count on the dollars remaining in their place, ready to come to the aid of the Department of Indian Ocean Studies. One day, another feeling replaced this soothing emotion. Ned felt anxious. The money in the account was not enough anymore. He needed to help save all the departments across the whole school. How selfish he was, completely forgetting the problems of the English and Swedish departments, among all the others.
He would get more money. The university would be saved. Ned would take his winnings and buy more lottery tickets. He did not know why lottery tickets now appealed to him. He never bought them before and only used the last one because it was a sure thing. Now he felt lucky, convinced statistics and probabilities were on his side. Nothing could hold him back. The local convenience store did not have enough tickets for him, so he drove to another, then another. By the time midnight came, Ned completed a circuit around the city and was out of money. What small sums he occasionally won increased his feelings of invulnerability until they were spent.
When he woke up, Ned found himself in his office, covered in used lottery tickets. Their hidden messages were all rubbed off. Dirty coinage filled his pockets. Ned signed into his bank account and saw it was completely empty. Before he had time to process the loss, a team of deans and other higher-ups from the university walked into the department headquarters. One of them asked Ned where he was. They needed to see him. It was an emergency. Ned shouted back at them to reveal which office he was using. They shuffled in, not sure what to make of the mess spread around the room.
“Ned we need to talk.”
“Now, we pride ourselves here at the university on diversity and inclusiveness.”
“And we do our best to make sure all opinions are respected. We never want to be accused of censorship of any kind.”
Ned was unsure of what to say. “Censorship…is a bad thing.”
“Exactly. However, there are limits to our tolerance. One cannot be tolerant of intolerance.”
“We’re only bringing this up with you because of complaints we received from the Sri Lankan student association.”
“What? Nobody’s complained to me.”
“That’s part of the issue. They felt that based on your writings, you weren’t going to listen to reason.”
“I’m sure there’s been some misunderstanding.”
The associate dean of the college stepped forward and handed Ned the incriminating paperwork.
“It seems you’ve been sending these essays from your computer. From your account. Yes, we were skeptical too at first. Then we ran a check of your word usage and composition with the mathematics department. They were confident it was your work.”
Ned looked at the essays. They espoused views he had no idea he had. According to the accusations, he was advocating for the existence of Kumari Kandam, often conflated with Lemuria, the mythical lost continent believed to be submerged under the Indian Ocean and often used to denigrate the claims of Sri Lankan sovereignty From the look of the writing and the style he employed, complete with citations, it appeared he meant for these to be peer reviewed articles. However, they could only be published as letters to the editor in various substandard nationalist outlets. On the top, he accused various groups of covering up the history of Lemuria just as water now covered the landmass. These included Sinhalese radicals, Marxists, and the World Bank. Zionists might also be involved through the latter two as well.
“This is all a big misunderstanding. Still I don’t see what this has to do with me as a professor.”
“Look at the bottom of those papers.”
He looked. At the end of each well-researched, yet vitriolic piece he saw his name floating above that of the university.
“We can’t be associated with anything like this Ned. I’m sorry but you’ll have to go.”
“But don’t I get a hearing?”
“Did you ever read your contract?”
“According to your contract if the board unanimously votes against you because of a violation of racism or sexism, there’s nothing you can do but pack up and leave.”
Ned promised to pick up his things later. At the moment, he just needed to process the dismissal. He secretly hoped word would get out to the student body. After enough outrage from them, he would be reinstated. Until then, he could only sit in his home and think but he had to get their first. While he drove, Ned thought about who might have written the articles in his name and somehow managed to pass them off. Tavares’ name came up and he thought about how he could have harmed him. If the papers came from his computer, how did Tavares get them on there? It had to be someone else. Maybe one of the former department members was disgruntled with him. He was the only professor retained after the cutbacks. Envy would be a natural response. Another teacher would have the means to access his account, write the articles, and notify the right people to register their offense.
He was unable to park in his driveway. A large orange truck took up every available spot on the paved surface. Ned left his car by the curb and walked up to a construction crew pouring concrete in between Tavares’ house and his. They wore bright neon orange jackets that matched the color of the truck. Ned noticed there was another vehicle mixing the gray concoction in the backyard. One of the crew members did not have an orange jacket. He wore yellow instead. Ned assumed he was the leader and asked him what was going on.
“What? Did the company tell you?”
“We’re with the gas company. Turns out the pipeline we were running down between your houses isn’t needed anymore. We’re patching the area up the best we can.”
“We’re going to be attached again? But I liked being separate.”
“Hey, don’t ask me what it’s about. Eminent domain isn’t my specialty.”
Tavares emerged from his house and tied three balloons to the rail around the porch.
“Hope you don’t mind. Having a little party tonight.”
Ned looked away and faced the damage of his front yard. Grass and dirt swirled under him. He walked back to his car and drove off .
The man was unsure if anyone else was in the store. He noticed a small gong over by the counter and stuck it with a proportionally tiny mallet that hung nearby. The owner appeared from behind a counter filled herbs meant for supplements and spells.
“Please do not play the gong, sir.”
“Hey, I bought this at a garage sale and I was wondering if you might be interested in it. It’s this chickens foot-”
The owner snatched it out of the man’s hand.
“Maybe we could trade? The guy who sold it to me said it was magical but dark. He said he ruined another man’s life with it. Made him jump off the Washington Bridge. I don’t know what he meant by that.”
“One man got what he always wanted and another man took it away, which is what he wanted too. It always happens with this foot.”
“So it makes everything come out even?”
“The universe never comes back to where it started.”
“Huh. I guess you want it then?”
“It’s that good?”
“It’s terrible. It’s a terrible thing that gives and takes.”
“Maybe I should’ve destroyed it?”
“No, it cannot be destroyed, only ignored.”