Chapter 6: The Ballad of Chicken Soup

The next morning I woke up with the imprint of the antique wood carving on my face from the chair. I slowly shifted my gaze over to Spike, convinced that he would be dead by now. "You alive?" I asked him.

He didn't respond, but I could see his chest rising slowly up and down and little more easily than before. Vicious always said that kid had nine lives. At that point, I believed it.

Not knowing what else to do and suddenly realizing I was starving, I attempted to round up something to eat. I didn't have much. I was supposed to go food shopping that afternoon but that seemed somehow inappropriate with a half dead guy on my sofa. The only reasonable thing in the house left to eat was a can of soup. There wasn't anything too objectionable about chicken soup at 9:30 in the morning. True, chicken wasn't really breakfast meat but I could think of worse. A hamburger for instance. Now that I wouldn't want to eat in the morning. I realized I was stalling for some reason so I cracked the can open and dumped it unappealingly into the pot. I thought of a song that I used to sing when I was little, though I couldn't remember where it came from.

I told you once
I told you twice
all seasons of the year are nice
for eating chicken soup with rice


I froze, startled to hear another voice in the house. "Hello?" I called back.

There was a pause. "Am I dead?"

I let out such an incredible sigh of relief that I think it actually took about three liters of air out of me. "Not yet," I smiled at him, leaning in the doorframe.

An expression of great confusion washed over his face, followed by relief when he recognized me. It was both adorable and heartbreaking. "Oh," he smiled, visibly relaxing. "Hi, Julia."

"Hi," I sat back down on the rocking chair across from him. "You want soup?"

Spike seemed to consider it. I had never known him to turn down food but there was always a first time for everything. "I better not," he said weakly. "I think it might leak out," he pointed almost sheepishly to his poorly stitched stomach. "Sorry about your towels."

"Don't worry about it. I've already added it to your bill," I winked at him while I went back to the kitchen to fetch my soup.

"Were you singing before?" he asked me, his voice scratchy and strained.

"Yeah," I called back from the kitchen. "Why?"

"I think you kinda woke me up. In a good way though. I was having all these miserable dreams and then I heard that and it just...I dunno. It was nice."

I smiled as I sat back down with my condensed soup. "Well, thank you. I used to be a choir girl, you know."

"Shut up."

"No, I'm serious. Every year I had to sing that bit in Oh, Holy Night. You know the part. The down on your knees part," I laughed slightly as I realized what I had just said. "Of course, the priest didn't realize I was actually predicting the rest of my high school social life."

Spike smiled. "What were you singing, anyway? It sounded familiar."

"I dunno," I said through a gulp of chicken noodle. "It just popped into my head suddenly. Something about soup in January..."

"January is so nice. For slipping on the sliding ice," Spike recited rather than sang. "But something something something twice. Sipping chicken soup with rice," he seemed to evaluate his own performance and then added, "I'll be here Ôtill Thursday."

I looked at him strangely for a moment before laughing so hard I snorted my soup right off the spoon.

"What?" he asked. "That's the song, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's the song," I choked out through my own giggles. "But that was just the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard."


"Why? I dunno. Cause "slipping on the sliding ice" sounds nine times as strange coming from a gangster who just narrowly avoided bleeding to death on my couch," I replied, still laughing slightly.

"Lesson the Third," Spike said, imitating Vicious' over-serious growl. "Separate the business from the man."

I shook my head. "He told you all that stuff too, huh?"

"Nah. Mao taught us. And I suppose the elders taught him. It's like...tradition. None of us have families so we kinda make up our own little rituals. I guess it's sort of cute, when you think about it. Like the Mafia version of the chicken soup song."

I cocked my head at him. "How do you figure?"

"My mom used to sing that song when she was cooking and stuff. Which is why it freaked me out a bit when I heard you. I thought I was at the pearly gates for a second. But she said her mom used to sing it and her mom used to sing it. Very few of us cook chicken soup around here though so we make up little rhymes about killing things. I'm not saying it's the stuff that greeting cards are made of but the principle's the same."

I sighed as I rested my head on my hand, idly poking at a stray noodle clinging to the side of the bowl. Something about his voice as he spoke in that moment made me feel sad. I've felt a lot of things in the company of these killers before but never sad. "Your mom, huh?" I asked softly. "To be honest, I didn't think anyone around here had such things."

"I did once. We all did once. But none of us were able to hold on to them," he said, closing his eyes for a moment.

Just then, the phone rang. We both snapped our heads in its general direction, dreading to receive whatever news was on other side. We looked at each briefly and gulped as I picked up the phone. I practically winced as I touched it to my ear. "Hello?"

"How is he?"

I exhaled slowly, though I wasn't even aware I was holding my breath. "Vicious." Spike seemed to have a similar reaction. "He's awake. You wanna talk to him?"


The two of them exchanged brief pleasantries for a moment before Spike's face got very solemn. There was very little out of him except for some grunts or lack-luster "hmmm-mmms." Finally, he handed me back the phone.

"I gotta go, Julia," Vicious practically barked. "I'll see you tonight." Click.

I stared at the dead receiver for a second before slamming it back in the cradle. "More business that doesn't concern me?" I asked Spike spitefully.

"He'll tell you tonight," Spike sighed.

"What exactly happened yesterday?"

"We were fucked, that's what. One of our own sold us out and with that happens, there are no easy answers."



Back to The Agent Orange Collection

Back to Main