Soon after the onset of the holiday break my college-age children began to live like owls, hooting and hollering all night, and sleeping during the day. Lest I begin to sound too judgy, I should probably fess up and admit I was playing with them, right up until my alarm scared me at 5:30 a.m. on Monday, January 4th, when I had to tape my eyelids open and drag into my classroom like a responsible adult. By Thursday I was far enough back into my regular routine to be a little stunned when my daughter, Abby, woke up and burst from her room at 9:38 p.m. talking a mile a minute. “KFC, anyone want KFC!? We need KFC! We want KFC! Some for today, and some for tomorrow! They close at 10:00, we have to hurry!”
Having eaten dinner a few hours earlier, this is the part where Porter and I looked at each other rather nonplussed. KFC, or Kentucky Fried Chicken, is not a meal to be taken lightly. “Why don’t you go?” Porter suggested, rather reasonably, I thought.
“My battery’s dead,” Abby replied with a determined gleam in her eye.
“Take mom’s car.”
“Mom’s car is too big and scary.”
“Take my car,” Porter said.
Abby hates driving other people’s cars, especially big black SUVs like mine, so even as the words came out, we knew this conversation was a dead end. In fact, she hates driving in general which is why, in this time of covid stay-at-home, her car has sat idle so long that the battery has largely given up the ghost. Consequently, feeding this sudden frenzy for chicken meant she required accomplices. Time was ticking so she pulled out the big guns.
“I’m calling it, BIRTHDAY POWERS, we’re going to KFC!”
To be clear, Abby’s birthday was not for another four days, but somehow things have gotten warped and elongated at our house. When the kids were little we had Birthdays like normal people, then we somehow added Birthday Eve, for a bit of extra fun. Then we moved to China where the time zone put us a day ahead of the U.S., so Birthdays committed mitosis, morphing into Birthday Eve, Chinese Birthday, and American Birthday, a three-day event during which Birthday Powers somehow radiated both fore and aft. It’s the very definition of creating a monster. She knew she had me.
“Okay,” I said dolefully.
“I’m gonna put on pants!” she said with glee. “You coming Porter?”
Apparently, my agreement to drive was enough to convince Porter that a bit of midnight chicken was just the thing, and in minutes we were all backing out of the driveway with pants and shoes, but no coats because that would have taken far too long. At 9:55 we pulled into the KFC drive-through where we were welcomed by a cheery young man on the intercom.
“Welcome to KFC, what can I get for you?” he asked hospitably.
“Are you still serving?” I asked, unable to keep the note of apology from my voice.
“Yes, of course, what would you like?”
I knew the time, so I should have been suspicious, but I was won over by the clerk’s tone of absolute confidence, and had begun to believe he truly could supply all my children’s hopes and chicken dreams
“I’d like four popcorn chicken.”
“And four Crispy Colonel sandwiches.”
“Wait, we don’t have popcorn chicken.”
“I see, what about chicken tenders.”
“Yes, we have chicken tenders.”
“Great, can we have four orders of chicken tenders?”
“How many pieces each?”
“Large size with ranch and bbq and KFC sauce.”
“Okay . . .”
The clerk’s composure faltered, but just a tad.
“Actually, we only have six chicken tenders.”
“Six orders or six total?”
This required a bit of family conferencing because it seemed that popcorn chicken had been the major impetus behind putting on pants at 9:44 p.m., chicken tenders being the first-place runner-up, taking the crown only if the winner was found to have posed nude and lied about it. But we were already pantsed and in the drive-through, so we had to roll with it.
“We’ll take the six tenders.”
“Okay, what else would you like?”
Having established that six chicken tenders were most certainly on the docket, it occurred to me I’d better confirm an earlier stage of the order.
“And four Crispy Colonel sandwiches.”
“Can you hold a moment?” Off he went, but he soon returned just as buoyant as ever.
“No problem I can do that, but I need three of your chicken tenders to make one sandwich.”
“Uhm, so you can give us three sandwiches, plus one made with tenders?”
“No, just one sandwich, but I need the three tenders.”
My trust was waning.
“Let’s back up, what do you actually have?”
“We have everything,” he said brightly.
This seemed a bit of a stretcher, but I wasn’t quite ready to challenge his perspective just yet.
“How about hot wings?”
“We don’t have hot wings.”
“For a chicken shop you seem curiously devoid of chicken,” I said.
He paused, but only for a moment.
“We have everything, biscuits . . . everything.”
He said it so convincingly, I do not doubt he truly believed it, but I needed specifics.
“Can you tell me what you do have?”
“Actually, we have wings,” he said.
Hot wings were definitely fourth runner-up, but it seemed pointless to trial and error through the rest of the menu. Besides I was getting tired of hanging my head out of the open car window to holler into the scratchy speaker, not to mention cold. January with no coat– remember, that would have taken too long.
“We’ll take the wings, and the tenders,” I said.
“You don’t want me to use three tenders for a sandwich?” he said disappointedly.
“No, just six tenders and six wings,” I said.
“Anything else?” he asked, rather more optimistically than the situation warranted.
“I think that’s plenty,” I said.
“I’ll only charge you for three of the tenders, for the inconvenience,” he added helpfully.
“Thank you,” I said.
It wasn’t quite the miraculous bounty we had hoped for, but we did manage to clear the shop of everything but the biscuits. Abby and Porter were laughing their heads off, and they had each managed to make off with a midnight snack to support their nocturnal revelries, so all around I’d call that a win.
Until that night I didn’t know it was possible to live a Monty Python sketch, but clearly it is, and if you haven’t seen “The Cheese Shop,” you don’t know what you’re missing. However, if you have seen it and always secretly wanted to give it a go, head on down to the KFC drive-through at 9:55 p.m., but you might to take a coat, and it would probably be best to eat first.