“So it’s not just us trashing our cars then?”
“No, Mickey; it’s not about trashing our cars. It’s science! There’s a point in a model of conflict where one person yields on the course of collision, and the other does not.”
“What if we both “yield”?”
“Then we’re both chicken.”
“And if we both don’t..?”
“Then we’re all f-riiiiiiiied.”
The two lads are sitting in a Ford Fiesta – a “classic model” – once shiny red paint sunburnt-dulled and peeling away, the metal shell pockmarked with as much teenage acne as its drivers. Mickey and Ste. Waiting for Godot. Ste’s mum would say. But they don’t know who the Hell that is. Some guy from another village’s council estate maybe. One of her old boyfriends who once stood her up? It’s too gross to think about Ste’s mum getting laid. She’s too Mother Hen to be Sex Symbol Chick.
They’re parked up in a layby waiting not for Godot but for The Callaghan Kid. It’s a matter of honour.
“He’s messed up, that guy.”
“Mickey, he’s messed up and he’s proper late. That’s what he is.”
Outside the car the once-green pastures are humming with the drone of chicken shed extractor fans, interspersed with the graunch of thick rubber tyres negotiating the uneven crust of cement tracks, and the occasional reversing pip-pips of the lorries loading up their avian hoards – like they’re stacking hundreds of egg boxes not filled with eggs but with those manmade banana-yellow nylon chicks on the top of Easter cakes – to transport to the chicken place on the outskirts of the county town. Living in the sticks as they do, miles from anywhere, Mickey and Ste have to drive a good hour to get their sacred Cajun chicken. It’s not a waste of petrol for this ritual, although the irony falls somewhere by the convenience food packaging blooming on the wayside. The aroma infuses around the plastic interior of the Fiesta. Molasses. Sunflower oil. Exotic spices. Outside the car…
“Mate, close that window, this place reeks of chicken shit!”
“You’re right. Callaghan’s not coming. Let’s go somewhere else.” Ste aims the oil-libated polystyrene containers into an old tyre in the scrub. They miss and land next to another votive offering to the Roadside Gods – an unsmiling, upside-down car bumper.
“Aren’t you going to pick that up?”
“Why bother? Leave it to some do-gooder. Ha! Leave it to Godot.”
The solar-panelled roofs in the valley glare back at the sun through a pale straw mist of talc-light excrement; the humming chorus of fans is joined by the baritone of a hulk of a bio-digester; and underneath the last remaining parcels of greenery, nitrates and phosphates seep from unseen urban drainage systems into the river beds. Everything waiting for Godot to stop playing chicken.
Ste coaxes the squawking engine to life, Mickey cranks up the volume of the stereo; Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Like That” is setting the beat when a black van accelerates towards them.