“Chickencheese in Calgary”

(2013 – 592 Words)

This is my commentary on cynical and “edgy” advertising campaigns. It was originally written for the Something Awful Chickencheese Challenge.

A dead man lay in the alley on 14th and 14th, his body already covered in light snow. Started an hour ago—no fresh tracks except the homicide crew shuffling behind police tape. As the white shit settled on the stained pavement, it turned into a blood slushy. I pulled my coat collar around my ears and kneeled beside the corpsicle. The fingers had worn out on the man’s gloves, and his parka had ragged holes.

“Homeless,” I said. “You know this guy?”

“Frenchie,” said Seargent Philmont. “Used to holler like a lunatic at passers-by. Harmless, but he scares the hell outta pedestrians. We pick him up damn near every week. His broom is over there.” He pointed toward a dumpster. “No sign of his bike.”

“What about this?” I pulled out a pen and poked at the sandwich still clutched in the dead man’s hand like his last salvation. The foot-long sub had a few bites taken out of it.

“That’s what I don’t get.” The sergeant bent over. I noticed he didn’t shiver as obviously as I did, meaning he’d been out in this freezing bullshit too damned long. “If another hobo stabbed him, why didn’t he take the sandwich?”

“Damned fine sandwich too”—chicken covered in melted provolone, sautéed mushrooms, onions, green pepper, and a creamy orange sauce I couldn’t identify. My stomach growled, and I realized I’d missed lunch. Even spilled all over the pavement, in a dead man’s hand, half eaten, this chicken cheese sandwich called to me. I pulled out my phone and looked up the nearest sub shops. “There’s a Subway a block south and a Mr. Sub a block north.”

The sergeant stamped snow off his boots. “I’ll send a couple officers—”

“No need.” I stood up and worked the kinks out of my knees. “This here’s a Chickencheese.”

The sergeant gave me a dubious look. “Looks like Chicken Philly Cheesesteak to me.”

“Hell no.” I pointed at the sandwich. “Look at the bread—panini. See the grill marks? This hasn’t been in a Subway toaster oven. Mr. Sub does proper panini. Let’s get lunch, and a lead. I got a sudden craving for Chickencheese.”

The sergeant shrugged. “Man, I haven’t been in a Mr. Sub in ages. Didn’t even know they did panini.”

As we walked toward the police car, Captain Janson opened the door. She huddled in the driver’s seat rubbing her hands and puffing white clouds into the frigid air. “Temperature’s dropped ten degrees in the last hour,” she said. “Calgary weather is a joke-and-a-half.”

I piled into the backseat and put on my most charming smile. “Up for lunch, Captain?”

She craned her head around to face me, her cheeks all ablush from the cold and her nose rosy. She looked adorable, especially when she broke out in dimples when she smiled. “Off to Timmies?”

“Naw.” I beat the snow off my shoulders and stamped my boots. “Mr. Sub.”

Her face turned sour. Poor Mr. Sub, forsaken, uncool, because they didn’t sell themselves out to the Americans and spend millions on annoying ads like Tim Whoretons. These boys—and girls—in blue didn’t give a solid shit. If only they knew the glorious mouthful that is Chickencheese, the finest Canada had to offer.

“Got a lead there,” said the Sergeant. Imagining a hot, fresh Chickencheese in my frozen hands, I found the excuse serviceable enough.

“Don’t knock Mr. Sub,” I said. “Seriously. You gotta peep that Chickencheese. It’s to die for.”

Get the new Chickencheese at Mr. Sub (only $5.99) before we close forever.