Refusing the Chicken

     I was tired. That’s the first problem. Tired and so very hungry. We were eating at a neat hole-in-the-wall west indian place. The food was great, for meat eaters. For vegetarians, there wasn’t much more than a veggie chow mein. An insipid, cold chow mein. Yums.

     I couldn’t stop looking over at the chicken leg my son was not eating. It was fried and tender and perfect-smelling. It wanted me to eat it. I swear, it did. I picked it up and looked at it. It looked back at me. Remember the scene in Hichhiker’s Guide where the mutant livestock was excited for Dent to eat him? That drumstick seemed to be doing the same thing to me. I was on the edge. I opened my mouth to take a bite.

     “Papa, are you eating meat?”

     My son’s voice was not accusatory. He wasn’t judging me. He was just curious. I could have eaten and he would not have thought any less of me.

     He asked me, so long ago, why I didn’t eat meat. I gave him the simplest answer I could: I refuse to partake in any violence. Any. No violence in defense of myself or my country. No violence in instruction or teaching. No violence to satisfy my taste buds. He understood it. He sympathized with it. Sometimes he flirts with vegetarianism because of it.

     But now his dad is holding the leg of a dead chicken, ready to consume it. He doesn’t even realize the real questions he’s asking: “So you’re not as big on the whole non-violence thing as you said, eh? You like non-violence until you’re hungry or tired, eh? You walk the path of peace so long as you feel like it, eh? Good to know. I’ll remember that.”

     I put the chicken down. “Naw, man,” I said. “I don’t eat meat.”