We frequently had to push-start the Peace Chicken. It turned over with a little nudge, back-fired and roared in first gear while the pusher climbed back in the sliding bay door and said, “Hit it!”
With that, the driver would ease the clutch out and in that last inch of play the old air-cooled pancake motor would thrum us away in a coughing cloud of blue. The Peace Chicken was an early 1970’s VW bus, brick-red with bags of stale to moldy bagels piled so high the rear-view mirror was useless.
The bagels were cast-offs we intended to give to the poor and hungry, although I do not know what we had against those people. We would pile in the Chicken and attend meetings around town with other noble idealists, sweat running down our backs, into the cracks of our asses, puddling on the vinyl seats before dripping out the rusty holes in the floorboards. Boxes of STOP GENOCIDE flyers mouldered in our laps waiting to bring people down as they ate pizza, or shopped for a Bob Marley poster in the student union at FSU. For those who needed further explanation, we carried folders of color-copied photographs depicting children murdered in the streets, old women cooking grass soup, and city parks lined with tombstones and freshly dug graves. This was our calling card.
That winter, the Peace Chicken carried two of our emissaries to a meeting in Washington D.C.
Prior to their departure we collectively worried over the Chicken. Those with abilities changed oil, tightened throttle cables, and checked brake pads. Those of us without lined the floor with blankets, made peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches by the dozen and passed bottles of Dewar’s around and watched the others work. I have pictures from that trip north of the Peace Chicken coated in clear ice so thick they couldn’t open the doors, the driver and passenger swaddled in sleeping bags as they rumbled up I-95 to join the voices for Bosnia, prosthetic stump socks on their heads to keep them warm.
Sometimes I think I see it around town.