Earnest was in kindergarten when Jackie the Janitor got fired for “choking the chicken” in the girls’ bathroom. That phrase, along with his best friend Bradley Watson’s accompanying hand gestures, stuck in Earnest’s head so hard that whenever he looked at the thing between his legs, all he could see was a bald, pointed bird head, like the ones attached to the roast ducks hanging in the window of a Chinese restaurant.
He didn’t learn what “euphemism” meant until the third grade, and by then it was too late. His chicken had grown feathers and a beak. When it started to open and close its mouth, he asked his mother if he could take showers instead of baths; he didn’t want it to drown.