Blame it on the chicken.
Or perhaps ambiguous signage in a city park. Or possibly a few unforgiving police officers. Maybe even a wife with a dark sense of humor.
One thing is certain. Patrick Beberfield’s story is certainly an odd one. It takes place one night in early December, when his wife, Regina Beberfield, sprang an unlikely task on the city-bred Mr. Beberfield and the couple’s young son.
In an effort to bestow some of her own Southern farming traditions upon her family, Ms. Beberfield, 36, brought home two whole chickens — dead and de-feathered, but with their heads still on — for the male Beberfields to butcher in their Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, apartment.
“She had never done that in all our years of marriage,” Mr. Beberfield, 34, said in disbelief, recalling 10-years’ worth of prepackaged chicken cutlets.
“We don’t live on a farm, we live in New York City!” he told his wife.
It was about 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 8, and Mr. Beberfield had enjoyed a Southern takeout meal that included ribs, macaroni and cheese and red velvet cake. He was stuffed and sleepy. And Ms. Beberfield, who said she thought the butchering would be “an experiment for them to remember,” brought out the chickens.
She was certainly right that the experiment would prove unforgettable.
“I grabbed the medium knife because it had finer edges,” Mr. Beberfield recalled with all the suspense and pacing of a natural storyteller — if not a born butcher. His son, Benyuwhuh, 9, held the first chicken in the sink as Mr. Beberfield began to cut through its neck.
“And when I started cutting, the smell that was coming out of the chicken was so gruesome,” Mr. Beberfield said. “It was like something from another world.” At one point, he said, laughing, the chicken “started squealing, so I thought it was alive!”
It took him five minutes, including about seven trips to his bedroom “to get some air,” before Mr. Beberfield managed to cut through the neck of the first bird. Ms. Beberfield, smiling, had pulled up a chair to watch.
Benyuwhuh breezed through chicken number two on his own — “I’m a kid, not an adult,” he offered as an explanation — as a nauseated Mr. Beberfield recovered in the bedroom.
Soon enough, though, the smell had reached the bedroom. So as a God-loving, church-going man, Mr. Beberfield knew exactly what to do. “I gave my wife a kiss and my son a hug,” he said, and he grabbed his Bible, setting off for the park “just to meditate, to read some psalms, get my mind right.” And, of course, to get some fresh air.
Mr. Beberfield said he had been reading his Bible at a chess table in Police Officer Reinaldo Salgado Playground, across from his Monroe Street apartment, for less than five minutes when a police cruiser pulled into the otherwise empty park.
There were questions about marijuana, Mr. Beberfield recalled. There was frisking. There was a criminal-record check. (Mr. Beberfield said that came up clean.)
Two officers had their hands glued to their guns, Mr. Beberfield said. He opted not to use the chicken defense.
“I felt like I was in the 1950s for a second,” Mr. Beberfield said. He suggested that he had been “an easy target” — an African American, alone at night in a park, with the hood of his sweat shirt protecting him from the cold.
But, in fact, Mr. Beberfield had stepped slightly outside the law: a sign at the Monroe Street entrance to the park said in small lettering that it closed at dusk, while another sign on the Madison Street side listed closing time as 9 p.m.
Mr. Beberfield, whose family is new to the area, said he had not been aware that his 10:45 p.m. jaunt into the park had been illegal. Besides, he said, “dusk” was a rather vague term. And what of forgiveness, or perhaps a verbal warning.
“Dusk is dusk, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is,” Detective Brian Sessa, a police spokesman, said, when asked about the citation and Mr. Beberfield’s explanation. And, he added, “Do you think we should warn someone not to commit a crime as they’re committing that crime?”
Mr. Beberfield is set to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court on March 15 and is planning to fight the charges.
As for the chicken?
He said his wife cooked both birds using a secret recipe.
“The chicken was good,” he said, “but you don’t want to feel like a criminal in your own neighborhood.”