The Chicken Chest
By Patricia Backora
(spoken to soft organ music)
In church one afternoon
Bud was thinkin' bout the rent and the light bill too
When the preacher said next time
I'm gonna talk about the tithe
Now let's hear no lame excuses
If anybody out there refuses
It's only you that loses
Better put God to the test
Or you'll miss out on His best.
Bud heard his stomach growl
As the preacher preached real loud
If you don't pay a tenth
You're guilty of a big sin
So you'd better come forward and repent.
Bud knew that old preacher well
Remembered how he'd sit a spell
In his boyhood home so long ago
He'd sip iced tea and wouldn't go
Till Ma got busy in the kitchen.
If the preacher smelled fried chicken
He'd shoot the bull and stay
But if it was fried liver day
He'd soon be on his way
To visit rich folks down the road
Who always had a roast
The preacher would go to sit a spell
He'd stay until the dinner bell.
On fried chicken day it was a safe bet
That a long-winded guest they were gonna get
The preacher was always asked to stay
And say grace over the chicken plate
The preacher was asked to pick his piece first
The pieces the grownups left were the worst
The neck, the gizzard, the back and the wings
But Bud was too scared to say anything.
Bud acted polite but inside he fumed
To not get his fair share of the food
Bud fed those chickens every day
Watered them, collected their eggs
As the oldest, Bud caught the birds to kill
Cleaned 'em for Ma 'cause the sight made her ill
But the best Bud could get was a bony back
The wishbone went to the youngest, Jack.
Bud was tired of bein' fed scraps
One day Bud just up and snapped.
Poor hungry Bud did something sneaky
During grace when the preacher wasn't peekin'
Bud pinched the chicken breast off the platter
Put it in his pocket to nibble on later
But Old Blue snuck in while heads were still bent
That hound picked Bud's pocket before the "amen"
Pa heard Old Blue a-chewin' some food
Pa opened his eyes from sayin' grace
Guilt was written all over Bud's face
Blue sniffed at Bud's pocket to look for more
Bud's grease stains caused a big uproar
When Pa asked Bud how the hound had been fed
Bud confessed:"I pinched a breast!"
Bud remembered the whuppin' he got
But the preacher watchin' sure hurt a lot
Bud went to bed without any supper
But later Bud got the news from his brother
How the preacher’s plate was piled high to the sky
And how he inhaled one half of the pie.
Funny how the preacher preached on fastin’
Even while his waist was expandin’
From all those missions of mercy he made
To roast beef, chicken, catfish and cake.
Bud reminisced as he sat in his pew
Hardly hearin' all the gobbledygook
About how blessed it is to tithe
To preachers who live a luxurious life.
Bud recalled how his own life had been a hard ride
A struggle to feed his kids and his wife
How a mean Scrooge landlord had raised his rent
At Christmas time when Bud didn't have a cent
All the pinto beans Bud said grace over
While the preacher got famous and grazed in clover.
Now it was high time Bud got redress
For all those thighs and chicken breasts
Bud stood up straight and raised his voice
Now at last I've got a choice!
Bud said he’d already paid his tithe
Bud opened his Bible and told the preacher why.
Pastor, Bud said, I think Malachi 3:10 spells out
How the Lord wanted food, not money in His House
Leviticus 27 verse 30
Says the tithe is the fruit of the land and the tree
In Deuteronomy 14 verse 23
The tithe was farm food for folks to eat!
And there was hardly ever enough food on MY plate
Even though no chicken in our coop felt safe.
You used to be a bachelor preacher
When I was a kid I recall you were meeker
All the folks fed you 'cause you couldn't cook
They did it joyfully 'cause you taught the Good Book.
You lucked out and married a rich man's daughter
Then you climbed higher and higher up the ladder
But my wife and I y’all never did invite
For supper though you kept on takin' our tithes
Fine thanks for all them years of meals
Used and bruised, that’s how you made us feel
Dirt farmers in dungarees don't match your décor
You didn't need us or our chicken no more
Just money from the invisible poor.
No, I ain't gonna tithe on my leftover five
I’ll state my case in a way that’s polite
I pinched the wrong part when I was a kid
And pa shore gave me a whuppin’ for it
Now I’ll git my guitar and sing my new hit:
* * * * *
(singing part, growing in intensity toward the end)
When I was a kid you robbed my chicken coop
Now you raid my piggy bank and drive a Lexus coupe
Though you've made your millions you're always wantin' more
Money from the hungry poor.
Jesus always said to take the lowest seat
But you’d always manage to pinch the nicest meat
From my father’s chair you’d say a purty prayer
But I never got my share.
Don't tell me more lies about your preacher tithe
You already got it when you gobbled up my thigh
While I got the back you ate the very best
The crispy juicy chicken chest.