On every street in America, there is a man like the Chicken Man. How will he be voting this election?
I live on a nice, quiet, tree-lined street. Even as September makes its way, inexorably, into October, flowers bloom along my street. Respectable, well-heeled young families raise their children here.
Across the street, a level below, lives the Chicken Man. I will likely never know his name, so by that monicker he remains. On any given day, the Chicken Man greets the day with the "COCK-Aw-CAWW!" of the Mexican hen. Whenever children frolic in the streets below he is soon there on the balcony to meet them, taunt them, goad them into singing along: "COCK-Aw-CAWW!, COCK-Aw-CAWW!"
All. Fucking. Day. Long.
I have gathered next to my kitchen windowsill to smoke a cigarette. The moon has already risen above the palm trees, and is cloaked behind a wet grey curtain. The clouds loom just over the rooftops, just fog really, and threaten to chill me should I step outside, untwist the blinding fluorescent bulb above my doorstep, and saunter outside my door. Better to just stay inside this evening, and enjoy my occasional thrill.
My box fan has broken. I twist the switch back and forth, but only a timid vibration and whimper come out of the plastic frame. On closer inspection I notice that the fan is covered, completely gummed up, with the mysterious black soot that filters in from all my windows that open upon the street. "Where does this come from?" I wonder, trying not to think of where it all goes, the black soot which doesn't land stuck upon a kitchen fan before being sucked invisibly, quietly, into my lungs.
I toss the ungainly, lame fan into the trash, and fetch my spare fan from a cupboard. As I turn it on it seems to rip into the night like a propeller from a piston-engined fighter plane. This fan is much louder than the tame window fan it replaces. It seems so wrong, to rip into the night outside my window, into such a quiet street.
As I light my cigarette, I notice that the Chicken Man is stirring. Behind his curtains, I can see his form. Shirtless, if it is possibly to judge by his silhouette, he spins around his apartment, careening against invisible objects. One of the lights in his apartment extinguishes, now there is only a table lamp and the mercury glow of his television set to cast shadows against his curtains. He is whistling, loudly, out his window.
I notice how many plants the Chicken Man has on his balcony. I try to count them, but after 20 I lose count, distracted by his arms waving in front of his television. What is he watching? Meet the Press? CSPAN? No, certainly not.
The Chicken Man is not a stranger to politics, however. When the election season is upon us, and signs go up around San Francisco, they also go up around Chicken Man's balcony. Not in any random order. From the signs Chicken Man has posted over the years, I have begun to decipher a distinct track record among the candidates whose names he chooses to feature, in colorful signs, below his bare hairy chest in the mornings: "COCK-Aw-CAWW!"
Chicken Man doesn't work, not in any traditional sense. He finishes furniture, sometimes, either on his balcony or on the sidewalk below his apartment. At first I thought he might support himself this way, but later I came to connect the broken pieces of furniture which lay in the street below his balcony. A recently repainted desk tossed from the second story balcony, broken, left to rot in the street. A bookshelf, half painted with clumsy strokes, propped up in the doorway, leaning out into the rain. This furniture was not intended for other people to use, nor would they want it if it were.
I wonder, briefly, how the November election will affect Chicken Man. Will it matter to him, one way or another, in any real sense, whether we will have a Republican or a Democrat in the White House come January? How will he vote on the 16 (yes, sixteen!) voter propositions that face the voters in my precinct this election? Will Chicken Man vote the same way I vote, or will his votes stand in direct opposition to my own, canceling them out one by very one?
I cannot answer these questions. As my cigarette turns to ashes, and I forcefully extinguish the rest in the ashtray, I realize I will never know how the Chicken Man will vote, though I might guess. I take meager solace in the knowledge that the Chicken Man will probably not vote for George W. Bush, but beyond that I cannot be sure what drives a man like the Chicken Man when he takes to the polls. The only thing I can be sure of is that, this November, the Chicken Man will have his vote counted.
The Chicken Man votes. In a democracy, each individual vote counts just as much as all the others. My vote counts just as much as the Chicken Man's. Your vote counts just as much as the Chicken Man's. Your vote and my vote together are the only thing keeping the Chicken Men from voting the rest of us into servitude.
Vote, damn you, vote. Otherwise, we all belong to the Chicken Man.