Track 3 of Hamell On Trial's first album, Big As Life. Spoken word with guitar and echo accompaniment. At once totally random and yet in some way deeply intrinsic to the album, this piece is one with the power to make my friends look over at me and wonder aloud what the hell they're listening to. I get this look-question combination a lot, as I'm forever trying to introduce people to whatever wacky independent artist is my flavor or the month.

Words: (line breaks and paragraphing are entirely my fault)

When he was 15 years old, already balding,
thin, basketball-etched frame continuously, nervously banging against a box only he could see,
my friend Frank robbed a Kentucky Fried Chicken with a fork.

He courted the girl who worked there in her off time
--- her girlfriends thought she was way off to go out with a boy that talked like an electric circuit.
They had it all worked out except she must've got cold feet on the day of the robbery, because she called in sick.

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon,
in the 85-degree blue collar melancholy sun,
disguised in his brother's red and yellow striped wool ski mask,
and armed with a stainless steel fork and 15 years of Catholic Italian longings,
Frank ran into the Kentucky Fried Chicken on the corner of Butternut and Lodi.
Finding no one behind the counter, he yelled to the two people in the booth, eating their original recipe breast:
"Everybody hit the deck!"

—and they looked up at him
and they laughed.

The manager sauntered oh so casually out from the back room and Frank screamed again,
this time slamming his fork down so hard on the counter that he cut his own hand,
and the three people saw the blood,
and the unrelenting fierceness in the eyes behind the ski mask,
they knew he was serious.

Through the dusty and streaked plate-glass window, passerbys could easily have witnessed the three people huddled on the ground, and a masked Frank, fork gripped in mid-air, as he jammed down the register button, grabbed $214 and fled.

First time he told me this story was 15 years later on a blustery evening.
We were broke down in the sub-zero snow this side of the Canadian border.
That lonely orange U-Haul, squeaking with every jet of northern icy wind,
provided a refuge in its cab for eight hours
Me and Frank in the front sharing cigarettes, and later end butts,
and flannel shirts that had been discarded in earlier summer months—
"Come on, you snakes," the sun had called, "shed those skins!"—
to lie forgotten behind the seats
but now taken out and used as blankets
and stuffed into door cracks
to guard against the razor chill.

After a few hours, when the boredom peaked,
and the conversation snowballed, and turned heated, and sillier, and confessional, and redeeming,
and Frank told me about his Italian grandmother, how she'd stare at his carved body,
every inch of which was covered with a thick ruglike hair.
She'd shake her head Sicilian-serious and she'd moan in broken English:
"Blood of the wolf, blood of the wolf."

In that truck Frank threw back his head and howled with laughter. Then he told me how he robbed a Kentucky Fried Chicken with a fork, and I screamed with laughter:
"A fork! A fucking fork!"

—so hard I actually got warm for a few minutes.

When they found us 8 blue-boned cold hours later, I was half-asleep, but Frank was still doing impressions of his boyhood hero, Bon Scott, yelling:
"And they made it out! With a bullet in her back!" across the Canadian snow.

That was eight years ago. Frank drives for somebody else, and I moved to Texas.
We couldn't make the goal of our business in upstate New York, and the bank repossessed our truck.
Last night as I was headed for the CD player, I thought I heard that truck outside beeping.
I rode in that truck half a decade, I know the sound of it, and Frank's black coffee and V-8 juice horn blast. I was ready to ride.

As my eyes scanned the Texas horizon, I thought I saw running behind the trees a boy.
He was wearing a ski mask, and holding a fork.

—Copyright Ed Hamell. Reproduced by permission; see Hamell on Trial for full details.

CST Approved

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