Outside a Wall Street café heads began rubber-necking as a seven-foot high, bright yellow, inflatable chicken appeared conferring with a blond man with flyers. They seemed to discuss possible marketing strategies; blond man would whisper something to chicken and chicken would elicit strange birdish sounds taking a step or two forward, testing his weight against the wind beneath his wings. It was difficult since the wind wanted to seize up and balloon his yellow body skyward.
Then they were all set. Enraptured, we watched as the first unexpectant passerby, a balding, fortysomething, beige-suited Wall Streeter was handed a flyer and promptly chirped at. A bit flustered, the man on the receiving end quickly pocketed the flyer. He took a step away from the bird before stopping, thinking, turning, straightening his posture and giving the bird a long, slow, appraising stare. There was a sense of foot shifting among us. At first the bird stood passive, a style of stance more artifact than creature. Then the bird responded (at first hesitantly): Bac-bac-bac—(but then) BWAAC!” His inflated beak appeared to shake.
The couple next to me flung hands into pockets, desperately digging for napkins to clear up the coffee and other such spillage of their surprise. The plaza echoed with laughter and cheers. A few of the conscientious among us began to clap. The man in beige, almost begrudging his own grin, held out a hand to the bird and they shook heartily, hand to wingtip before parting.
A tired but nonetheless palpable parable was beginning to glimmer on the edges of the midday spring sunshine; that by daring to chirp back, the bird had won our respect. And as we watched a chain of middle management women wave enthusiastically back at the bird, stashing away stacks of flyers, we arrived at another conclusion: the bird was a damn success. Anyone who couldn’t guess the menu of the next dozen corporate luncheons simply wasn’t paying attention. And as the sun shone on his vinyl skin, lighting him up like a paper lantern against the granite grayness of downtown Manhattan, we knew the bird knew he was selling a little more than spicy wings with a side of sauce.
Then suddenly a tall angry man in green uniform stormed up to the chicken and his flyer flagging proxy, “Leave! You are not allowed to solicit here. Building rules!”
For a moment we all froze. The bird, who by now had worked his bit into an artful mix of disarming alarm and nonchalance, fell silent. We waited and watched, this time ready for anything, but the bird stayed motionless, and the man beside him seemed to mumble only feeble pleas. We wanted our bird to speak up. He, after all, had the showman’s charm. He was the gold-feathered maverick of Pearl and Wall, but now he just looked yellow. I wanted to come to his aid, but how?
Then two young men got up to leave, or at least that’s how it looked. No. They were walking toward the green uniformed man, “Hey, leave him alone!” The young man’s voice was raw, like Keanu Reeves-does-sincerity. “He hasn’t done anything to your building! You lackey!”
I don’t know exactly what happened next. I only know we cheered and the building man left, deciding to leave the bird alone. Maybe he’d caught on that the bird had backup. The populace had determined the verdict and the uniformed man had stormed away defeated by a chorus of bac-bac-bacchis.
BAAAAAAAAACK!” The chicken let it rip. This time it was more than tacky salesmanship; it was cry of freedom, super-sized.
Vanessa DeSantis is a Californian-turned-New Yorker who at one time worked on Wall Street—but not in finance. She holds an MA in History and is an adjunct lecturer at various colleges in the New York area. She is currently at work on a book that weaves together historical excerpts and a related fictional narrative set in the late 18th century. Until that book sees the light of day she’s hoping to rack up some lit cred online, where all the 21st century action is…