The Great Fried Chicken Caper

Long ago, in my high school days, I spent quite a bit of time at my friends' home in St. Albans, Queens. Sometimes I would stay for over a month at a time. My friend's mother treated me like family – like I was one of her own children. It was a great feeling –something I had rarely experienced before. I would have stayed there all of the time, but my own personal guilt stopped me - I didn't want to be a freeloader.

One day, I found myself with some extra cash – an uncommon occasion in those days. I decided to buy some Kentucky Fried Chicken for everyone for dinner. The closest KFC was about ten blocks away, on the corner on Linden and Francis Lewis Boulevards. So I went with one of my friends (B, one of three brothers) to buy the food.

When we arrived at the KFC, it was moderately busy. We did notice a group of three guys complaining about how expensive the chicken was. The chicken was a bit pricey, but that was normal for KFC. I bought the chicken (about twenty dollars' worth) and then we started on our way back. The chicken smelled really good, and I was hungry. I was looking forward to the meal. I was also looking forward to doing something nice for my friends and their family.

Suddenly, someone on a bike tried to snatch the bag of chicken from my friend B. B reacted quickly, and the bike thug wasn't able to get a good grip on the bag. In the next moment, I heard a loud smack. Someone from behind punched B in the face while he was distracted by the bike thug. Me and B both turned around to find two more thugs behind us.

"Give us your chicken, kid." said the puncher.

It was the three broke guys from KFC who were complaining about the prices.

As much as I would like to say that me and B got down and kicked some ass, I can't. Because that's not what happened. Fear held me tightly in its grip, and my strength started to fade. It was a similar feeling to the weakness one experiences when giving blood, only worse.

Smack! One of the thugs punched B in the face again.

"Give us your chicken, kid." said the puncher again.

B then noticed that I would not be of any use in this fight, so he gave me the chicken to hold. "Here, hold the chicken, Steve. I'll take care of this."

"Drop the chicken!" the puncher said to me. I was thoroughly intimidated and dropped the chicken. The other thug picked it up.

B was really pissed by now. He took great offense to being punched in the face twice. He was ready to fight both thugs by himself. (The bike thug had backed off)

I muttered weakly to B to let them have the chicken, or something to that effect. It was a bit of a blur in the moment. By that time, I was having trouble breathing.

They took the chicken and left. I was so weak that I could barely stand by then. I had to lean on a nearby mailbox to keep from falling down. My chest was filled with an intense nervous feeling, and I could barely breathe. I didn't know at the time, but what I experienced was a full blown anxiety attack.

While I was using the mailbox as a crutch, B found an empty beer bottle and went after the thugs.

He was gone for about ten minutes or so. He didn't find them.

B was angry at me for not fighting back, and rightfully so.

I was angry as well - at myself. Though small, I was very tough and strong physically. But, unknown to me at the time, years of emotional abuse had eroded my self confidence, so that my physical assets became useless. So in the moment, I hated myself.

I think B realized that I was angry at myself, so he didn't press the issue. He was, and still is, a good friend.

We returned to his home empty handed, with quite the story to tell. Everyone laughed at us. I guess it made sense, I mean seriously, who gets robbed for their fried chicken? Well, we did. A friend from next door dubbed this the "great fried chicken caper" amid howls of laughter.

As I write this, I realize that this was probably the most embarrassing moment of my life. I really felt totally and utterly humiliated in that moment. Looking back now, I can freely laugh about it.

Ironically, this experience (and another like it) made me tougher mentally. After getting robbed for a bike on that same street, I started carrying a large knife (concealed, of course) fully intending to use it if anyone ever tried to rob me again.

Luckily, no one tried to rob me after that. At least not until I moved to Bushwick, Brooklyn.

But that is another story.

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