Fried Chicken Hearts

Caravaggio’s Judith

During art school when I was young, I fried chicken in a country store off an empty stretch of old farm road, serving travelers and the broke down white trash trailers sitting on shoal behind the store.

One day one of the greasy-haired regulars, shuffling slowly toward death in her lumpy Walmart mumu, stood waiting in my lunch line as she often did. For the first time I’d ever seen, she lifted her downcast eyes and looked into my face. She pulled from her bosom a cut scrap of canvas, a painting of nothing but a human nose. But this nose was bathed in the most gorgeous light, proud and humble at the same time, and the brushwork was as sacred as a prayer.

I think she just wanted to find one set of eyes who could see this was not a nose, but her very heart. She told me a thief she once loved stole her spirit, and before she escaped to land here in nowhere, she cut out this piece of her art. Of course I told her she should paint to find her spirit again, but she stuffed the canvas back into her bra and said she would never ever paint again.

In the three minutes we spoke, this woman gave me that. And I gave her chicken.

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