At Cowgirl Chicken the public relations people wanted everyone to know that the rumors about Funky McNuggets had gone far enough. The whole world was talking about it- how, just two days after his humiliating public downfall, Funky had tried to murder a Roman Catholic
priest. Shortly afterwards, it was said, he had donned a burqa to evade the media besieging his apartment and fled to India, holing up on a Himalayan ashram run a mysterious and reclusive Guru known only as Uncle Bob. This, Cowgirl Chicken, wanted everyone to know, just wasn't true.
It was though, part of it anyway, They knew very well Funky McNuggets really had tried to kill a man, specificly by ripping a fire extinguisher out of the wall and throwing it at his head. This man was not a Catholic priest, although Funky had thought that he was at the time, so that distinction is largely academic. In truth he was a communications facilitator who had been contracted to break it to Funky that in light of the allegations in the media there was no longer a place for him in the Cowgirl Chicken family.
For five years he had been their public spokesperson, their beloved mascot, America's absolutely number one fried food pin up boy. His likeness was pasted up on billboards throughout the world and molded into a plastic choking hazard dispensed with kid's meals. 'It's Funky Time' the slogan had gone, but now it was over. In the report that was distributed to Cowgirl Chicken share holders the exact language they had used that they and Mr. McNuggets were downsizing their relationship.
Cowgirl HQ acknowledged that there was a great deal of doubt as to whether or not a fat man in a chicken suit really had been joy riding around London in a stolen convertible during the early hours of Christmas Eve. Sure, some gossip magazine had got hold of a few blurry camera photos of what they said was an anthropomorphic bird soliciting street prostitutes, but there were lots of other things about the story that just didn't add up.
The most popular version went that the felonious bird had first attracted the attention of the law after trying to buy cocaine off an undercover police officer, resulting in a brief shoot out and wild car chase which only came to an end when he drove the stolen car off a pier and into the Thames. However, given that the police were denying that any such thing had happened, and a complete lack of any suitably feathered corpses being fished from the river, it did seem pretty certain that all of this was complete bullshit.
It didn’t matter, of course. The tabloids were screaming with absolute certainty that the fugitive bird man was none other than Funky McNuggets himself (of the London A-List he was, after all, the only one who regularly got around in a chicken suit), and their judgment relevant to the fried food business than real evidence ever could be. Whether he was out in the suburbs opening a new store or on MTV performing with the Cowgirl Crew (a posse of hip hop gangstas who rapped exclusively about Cowgirl Chicken products and services) children looked up to Funky McNuggets, and the mere suggestion that he might be mixed up in drugs or shootouts or car theft was a totally unacceptable. It wasn't that they wanted to fire Funky, but they felt they had no choice.
Of course they didn't put it to him that way. Just two days after the newspapers had broken the story the fake priest they had hired to tell him this (he decided that if asked he would say his name was Father Kirkpatrick) had to spend five minutes banging on the security screen in front of Funky's apartment before he was able to say anything to him at all. He was about to give up when he heard a bolt unlocking and saw a faint crack of light from behind the wire grate.
“Funky, Funky my boy, is that you?”
Funky was actually what he was called. Once, a long time ago, he had just been Liam McCann, but as part of his role as the world's premier fast food mascot, he had gotten his name legally changed. Now Mr. Funky McNuggets was what it said on his credit card.
“I know you can hear me Funky, so listen, please”.
At head office someone had found out that Funky had once been an altar boy, and this was why they thought that perhaps a combination of clerical fakery and slapstick Irishness would get through to him. He certainly wasn't answering his phone.
“You see”, the man who was not Father Kirkpatrick went on, it's isn’t that Old Mr. McNuggets has anything against ye, absolutely not. He asked me personally to come down here and make sure ye understand that Funky. It's just that, well, he thinks that Cowgirl chicken is heading that way while you”, he illustrated the point with an infuriatingly reasonable movement of his palms, “you're heading this way”.
The man dressed as a priest heard the door opening and stepped back to allow Funky to come out. In the hospital he told police that he thought he had reached to him then. “It's nothing to be ashamed of Funky, change is a natural part of life” he had said, and that was when Funky had kicked open the security screen and tried to decapitate him with the fire extinguisher.
That it missed, and did nothing more than break four ribs and gouge a deep laceration from the underside of his forearm was nothing more than luck.
The fake priest half fell back down the stairs, bent double and smearing an ugly bloodstain along the dull pink wall as he went. Funky was there, all naked and furious on the landing, wearing nothing but an unspeakably dirty singlet and out in the open for the first time since the newspapers had decided he was their fugitive chicken.
“Fuck you”, he screamed, predictably.
He had hoped the priest would say something back and make it easier for him to spout off, but there was nothing but the sound of his panicked footsteps on the stairs below and the poor man hyperventilating as he ran for his life.
Funky McNuggets had spent most of his adult life as the spokesperson for Cowgirl Chicken, and never given a thought to what it was he was actually promoting- mostly joyless fat and oily horror. The food he was selling settled heavily in their intestines and bowls of the people that ate it where it became slimy and leaden and toxic and gaseous. It was laden with weird chemicals and tasted wonderful, very often garnished with the spittle of the underpaid teenagers who cooked it. Of course Funky never ate there so none of this was particularly obvious to him. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to find out, but he just didn’t care.
He was not a thin man, our Funky McNuggets, and that was part of why he had been selected for the job. No one looking at any of his ads could accuse him of being the sort of carrot chewing elitist who would be scared of enjoying a Triple Cheese Slamdunk] or carton of the Cowgirl's own special homemade chocolate fudge ice cream. Instead, on screen, he was been the very opposite of a hipster, embodying instead a sort of fantastically calorific outer suburban hedonism that could be had anywhere in the sprawl. Now though, suddenly stripped of his role as a fast food matinee pinup, he was just an ugly, stupid man, standing nearly naked in the cold, his face blotched with stubble and fatigue, a yellowish tuft of air emerging from between his ponderous buttocks, and transparently guilty of attempted murder.
“That right” he called out hopefully, probably to no one, “that's right run away, you fuck”.
Listen- this much is true.
Funky McNuggets really did flee to India, though he didn't even know what a burqa was and had no time for the likes of the mysterious Guru known only as Uncle Bob.
He did have a fake mustache for some reason, and it was this disguise and nothing more that allowed him to escape the cordon the media had set up around the base of his apartment building. He was still wearing it on his first morning in India as he sat alone at a plastic table in the front garden of a Calcutta guest house and sipped at his Mango juice, carefully, lest he make any slurping noises that might decrease his anonymity
There were two birdwatchers at the table behind him- one English, one German, both eating cornflakes. After the English one had finished swallowing a spoonful this is what she said.
“Listen Freya, if you're happy spending your time over here spotting yet more speckled starlets then the national parks round Delhi are fine- but if you really want to make the most of your trip you simply must get up to Sikkim. It really is the final redoubt of the little blue eyed owl”.
What Funky actually heard though was quite different.
“It's Funky McNuggets” he imaged the Englishwoman was saying. “You know, the infamous cocaine snorting chicken involved in a shootout with London police last Wednesday. I just can’t believe it Freya. Quick, inform the media. People have a right to know he’s here.
This is why, from Funky's point of view the blind rage that left him no option but to turn around and flip up their table, was completely justified. He was beyond even swearing now, poor Funky. One of the ladies was knocked off her chair, while the other got a faceful of milk, so neither of them noticed the way his eyes bulged from his face which was the color of tomato or how he had stormed from the hostel without so much as look back and, after walking around the corner climbed, seemingly at random, into a bus that was parked by the side of the road.
Funky was still enraged when he climbed on board. Why he chose to take this course of action may always remain a mystery, but it seems reasonable to guess that perhaps some small part of him simply wanted to vanish into a mass of people, and this bus, though seemingly going nowhere, was already chaotically overcrowded.
Pushing his sweating bulk into the crowd he crushed and bumped and squeezed his way to the back. His smell, like bacon, wafted everywhere and clung to everything from the bags of rice stacked on the floor to the material of the everyone’s clothes, but no one said a word.
His fellow passengers were women and kids mostly- angular, toothy people with huge eyes jammed four or five to a seat that might have fitted two in England. They were strangely passive regarding the issue of Funky's enormous person, yielding just enough for him to find a seat and then moving only their eyes to look at him and his vast pasty strangeness.
There must have been a reason the bus was going nowhere, despite already being stuffed as full of people and cargo as it could possibly ever be, but there is no evidence that Funky ever thought about it. Instead he pressed his nose against the cracked glass and breathed slow and heavy, so deep in his angry trace that he didn’t seem to notice when two sacks of rice were shoved underneath his feet or a family of three settled themselves into the tiny space between him and the isle.
At one stage a man who must have been the bus conductor fought his way through the jam and, leaning out of the humid darkness (the bus had now been sitting there for nearly a day), informed Funky that he had to get off. It was a local bus he said, that would end up in a remote village somewhere in the mountains of West Bengal where he would be neither welcome nor able to sustain his ample form. If he would just like to remove himself there was a train station around the corner.
Sometime between two and three in the morning the bus moved. Funky was still onboard, probably for the simple reason that no one could think of any easy way to get him out.
For hours they drove through the city, a hell-scape of reptilian gutter dogs, pavement sleepers, crumbling buildings and burning trash piles that gave way to dry scrubby plains. Eventually they were on a winding road that climbed into mountains that had once been clad with jungle, but were now covered by a mangy forest that was all burnt tree stumps and over grown thorn bushes.
Just before dawn the driver fell to sleep just as he should have been taking a corner and the bus crashed through the railings and rolled down a mountain slope. Tumbling on its side it eventually came to a stop upside down against a boulder where Funky was surprised to find himself standing outside the shattered bus and still alive- unscathed with the weird exception of having somehow lost a single shoe.
There were just enough people left alive to drag out the dead and the maimed who were as strangely passive and quiet as they had been for the whole trip- although now, rather than the bacon smell of Funky’s underarms, everyone’s nostrils were filled by a strong metallic odor which was blood. When the sun came up the survivors found themselves very exposed, and it was only an hour or two before the worst of the injured were weakly crying out for water.
Funky knew what he had to do.
The goat path down to the river at the bottom of the valley was treacherous slide of slippery rocks and the sort of human detritus that seemed inexplicable so far away from the road- slimy plastic bags matted around the base of stunted thorn trees, used condoms, empty bags of peanut snacks. On the way down and even more so on the way up Funky grunted and heaved and swore and fell again and again on his enormous butt, forced to scramble in the dust to recover the coke bottles he had filled with water and would, he hoped, keep some of his fellow passengers alive.
By the end of the day he was caked with sweat and blood, and still no help had arrived- why he just didn’t understand.
One of the injured was a boy of maybe six whose shattered femur was all the more shocking in the way it jutted from his thigh because of his skin which was the color of milk chocolate.
He seemed amazingly cheerful when Funky lumbered up to him to give him one of the bottles of water he’d been carried up from the filthy river below. The boy had not had anything to drink all day, but it was more than that. He babbled and waved his arms and eventually got the attention of a man who might have been his Grandfather.
“He wants to ask you something” the man said.
The boy looked up at Funky and said something in Bengali.
“You're a very famous man” the old man said with something approaching a smile.
What the kid said next needed no translation.
“Funky McNuggets?” He squeaked.
The old man was definitely smiling now. “He says he thinks you’re very funny”.
The strange thing is that before he had been fingered as a fugitive drug sniffing chicken Funky McNuggets had not been an outwardly violent man. Now though he just couldn’t help himself. He threw the bottle of water he had been about to give the dying child down the rocky mountainside and stormed away from the overturned bus and into the darkening forest.
The sun was completely gone by the time Funky stopped walking, and as soon as he sat down on a boulder he began to feel very cold. There was quarter moon out, just enough to make the thorn trees and rock shadows vague and frightening, and when a cassowary walked into the clearing he just assumed it was some kind of hallucination.
The cassowary was more self confident. Though it had never encountered anything that looked or smelled like Funky McNuggets before it didn't doubt he was real. It was an enormous bird, the size of an emu, with vivid blue feathers and an incredible purple lump on top of its head.
It said “Noot. Noot, noot, noot”.
Funky watched it approach him, its strange, bobbling bird walk just like a pigeon in Trafalgar Square, its razor sharp toes right out of Jurassic Park. It was right in front of him now, looking at him in bafflement, sniffing at the air, cocking its tiny head to the side.
Funky couldn't say exactly why he used his open palm to slap it hard in the side of its tiny head. There was, of course, the thing with his former employers. Funky didn't know how many chickens they killed each year, but it must have been millions. After the humiliation and dislocation, utterly lost and beginning to freeze, perhaps Funky had somehow burnt through to the true essence of what he had become and thought he could see clearly now what it was he most deserved- to be horribly disemboweled and left to die alone in an Indian scrub forest by what was essentially a giant chicken. Provoking this thing wouldn’t be suicide so much as redemption. The giant bird had taken a few steps back after he slapped it the first time, but it was still close enough for him to reach out and slap it again.
“Noot! Noot, noot, noot”.
The poor thing really was upset now. Despite their formidable appearance Indian cassowaries are sweet trusting, fundamentally peaceful birds that prefer elaborate mating dances and threat displays to any form of actual violence. Before Funky was able to hit it a third time had turned tail and was nothing but a crashing sound receding into the deep Indian darkness.
Funky McNuggets stood there listening to it go and felt for a moment a great wave of what might have been tears welling up inside him. The realization came to him, sudden and vivid, that he couldn’t remember the last time he had just broken down and sobbed about anything. When he let himself drop to his knees among the thistles he really thought he was about to, but instead he heard himself screaming out of the night, howling like an animal, or a or a wildman, or a loon at the gates of hell.