S e p t. 2 0 1 3
I s s u e N o. 1
Max Vande Vaarst
Copyright ÂŠ 2013 Buffalo Almanack. All stories and photography property of their respective authors. Cover art by Emily McBride. Buffalo Almanack is a non-profit publishing outfit founded in 2013. New issues are released quarterly, on the 15th of March, June, September and December. Inquire online for submission guidelines. www.buffaloalmanack.com Follow us @buffaloalmanack Like us at facebook.com/buffaloalmanack
To Nancy Gabin, for her unconditional support (even when we donâ€™t deserve it)
Emily McBride Canon 5D Mark III
â€œThe only things in my life that compatibly exists with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit.â€? - Ansel Adams
Issue No. 1 - Sept. 2013
Photography Emily McBride
Editors’ Note Max Vande Vaarst Katie Morrison
Comfort Ian Riggins
Photography Stephanie Trott
Foxhole Brandon Mc Ivor
Photography Fabio Sassi
The Nonquitt Key Rebecca Anne Renner
Photography Holly Pratt
The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection Christopher Cassavella
aunching an online arts magazine in 2013 is something like opening a Tiki lounge in
1976: the industry is saturated, you’re a little late to the party and Arthur Lyman is booked out straight through Christmas.
Still, there’s a surplus of affordable bamboo-thatched, A-frame roofed commercial real
estate on the market, you’ve got the spirit of the South Seas in your heart and you know your Mai Tais will always be the strongest east of Tahiti...
That’s us. We’re the folks unafraid to pop out our tiny paper parasols when everybody else
is folding down.
But why bother? Why, at a time when the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses
estimates there are over 600 such active publications, ranging from the all-universes at Tin House to the small potatoes at the Mickey Mouse Review, would anyone want to start an art mag these days?
Foremost, it’s because we love art and we’re excited to showcase it. For as many weeklies,
quarterlies and annuals as there are out on the digital shelves, the truth is that too many talented minds are still going underrepresented. Genre fiction, a particular favorite of ours, remains a pariah in certain corners. Photography, perhaps the most accessible and democratic of all creative forms, has primarily been resigned to specialty sites and personal portfolios. Even confident, narrative-driven storytelling has lost some of its admirable repute as editorial tastes drive further toward the hyper-literary and workshop-approved.
It is not our desire to denigrate any of these trends, but rather to provide an outlet for
the alternative, to give home to great art too big, too small, too quiet, too loud, too weird, too unassuming or too whatever for the rest of the world.
Issue No. 1 - Sept. 2013
And we’re off to a pretty good start.
In this premier issue alone, we are beyond proud to introduce a quartet of remarkable
photographers based on three different continents. Stephanie, Fabio, Holly and Emily alike have wowed us with their unique vision and wholly reaffirmed our conviction to devote our pages to the photographic field.
On the fiction end of business, we have the honor of publishing four of the finest shorts
you’ll read this season, each providing its own curious inquiry into the nature of family and social belonging (whether those families consist of brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, celebrity scions and their bodyguards or a pair of Cousin Allens). Our contributing authors Ian, Brandon, Rebecca and Christopher have together constructed a string of beautifully imagined relationships, pressed firm against the quiet spaces of rural America, a long-distance phone call, a deserted beach town and the secret farm beyond your local Italian place.
Arts magazines may be multitude online, but we hope you’ll soon consider Buffalo
Almanack among your favorites. We may be in the early phases of our operation, but we’re here to stay – if for no other reason than the fact that your writing and camerawork has compelled us to do so.
Please, grab yourself a Mai Tai and clear your plate for a heaping of Moco Loco and bad
analogies! Buffalo Almanack has arrived and we really, truly, sincerely could not have done it without you.
All the best, Max and Katie Editors
“My brother Simon grows accustomed to his new life... he dresses in his clerical black and walks the two snowy blocks to St. Gaspar’s Church.”
M y brother Simon grows accustomed to his new life. Each dawn, under the bright gaze of the Smiley Face water tower, he dresses in his clerical black and walks the two snowy blocks to St. Gaspar’s Church. Those out at such an hour greet him. Old women walking their dogs. Men in flannel shirts delivering sacks of grain and animal feed. Children shoveling driveways for comic book money.
“Morning, Father,” these people say. “Don’t expect a thaw anytime
Simon nods. He isn’t yet at the point of warm handshakes, embraces,
or sidewalk conversation. But they’ve accepted him without question, made him feel at home. Ashley City is the sort of gray Indiana town where people still read only the local newspaper.
The Diocese of Arlington transferred him out there after they found
videos on his school-provided laptop of grown men fucking. After all the headlines, the bishop’s investigation, the young boys paraded through the St. Bede’s principal’s office until the counselors were certain Simon’s sins didn’t extend beyond that computer, they couldn’t leave him in his position at the school. So they shipped him to Catholic Siberia.
Does he think, This is no place for a thirty-three-year-old man? Does he
miss restaurants that stay open later than nine o’clock? People who can talk about Degas, The X-Files, John Dos Passos?
In the sacristy, he stamps his boots on a rubber mat and unwinds his
scarf. The lector, a small, hunched woman who speaks only while reading scripture, clatters around in the next room. Cabinet doors slam. The lectionary thuds against the table.
Simon clothes himself for Mass: amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole.
With each vestment, he becomes more and less himself. The alb swishes about his ankles, the stole drapes around his neck, and he feels them making him whole, stripping away any sense he has of a life outside those walls.
Months before Simon left, his parishioners threw him a going-away
party. They were meant to judge him. Behind their smiles and sport coats, they were meant to shun and hate. I would appear, a vision of light and comfort, and tell him I understood. And Simon would think, this is what angels are. Not winged servants of God, the kind he spoke of in his Sunday homilies, but people. People who show up when you need them.
But those at the party refused to judge. In that stranger’s house—I
didn’t go to church, didn’t know anyone present and craved a cigarette— people raised glasses of Italian wine I couldn’t afford or pronounce, shook Simon’s hand, patted him on the back, said they hated to see him go. The house was large, the party a blur of awful paisley neckties, too many bracelets, and dated carpets in geometric patterns. People gave toasts that sounded like prayer. Servant of God—shepherd of their flock—patient teacher—humble, gentle—wise beyond his years. A gray-haired man spoke of temptation. He spoke of God’s strength and forgiveness like he, not Simon, was the priest in the room.
“We all have our sins,” the man said, his voice solemn, noble. Heads
bobbed. Brows scrunched over noses. Yes, people said. Yes. Amen. Simon must have known the transgressions of every person in the room. He was, after all, their confessor. They hid behind the screen, but he knew
their voices. He knew what they did in their bedrooms, in other people’s bedrooms. He knew when they beat their children, when they screamed at their spouses, when they stole printer paper from the office, when they drank too much and raked their leaves into the neighbor’s yard and swore at people who cut them off in traffic. He must have seen the irony in his outing, recognizing the way the others kept their secrets buttoned inside their Sunday outfits. Simon wore the clothes of a layperson that night, khakis pleated, wingtips polished, the collar of his oxford shirt stiff against his neck, but he still looked like a priest. He smiled at something in the toast.
“I don’t think it’s beyond us,” the white-haired man said, “to forgive
someone who’s done nothing but serve our community for the past few years.”
Those well-dressed Catholics, that small cadre of loving supporters,
they weren’t the reason Simon was transferred. They were comfortable with him being around their children. They’d miss him, they said. Their children, his students, would miss him. It was easy enough to say. He’d soon be gone. But what would they do if he were staying? If, knowing what they knew, they had to send their children into his classroom each day? No—I was certain there wouldn’t have been a party if the bishop announced that all was forgiven, that Simon made a simple mistake and would stay on at St. Bede’s. These people had gathered to celebrate the fact that he was leaving. I drained my glass of wine.
After the toasts I cornered Simon by the fireplace.
“I want to talk to you,” I said.
“It seems like everyone does tonight,” Simon said. He looked over my
head, his eyes scanning the crowd.
“Isn’t that what priests are for?” I said. “Talking to?”
Three gray women in dresses and shawls approached. They stood close
by, smiling, clearing their throats.
“Give me a minute,” Simon told me. He turned away and the women
embraced him, one by one, their thin, spotted arms encircling his waist like a favorite son.
Everyone at the party had a little too much to drink. That was one decent thing about Catholics—they could have fun. I found myself in the living room, the white-haired man leaning toward me to speak over the voices and music. His name was Roger. A crumb of cheese stuck in the corner of his lips.
“I know your parents,” Roger said. “Where are they tonight?”
“I don’t know,” I said, though I did. I thought of their reactions when
they first found out. It had been a front-page story in the Post. I recalled my father, bald, round in the stomach, as he spread the paper out at the kitchen table. “Oh my God,” he said. “What is it?” my mother asked. Simon.
“They’re fine people,” Roger said. “Very involved in the church. They
almost don’t leave anything for the rest of us to do.” He laughed, then coughed. “I met you, once. You were much younger. It’s amazing how time passes. What do you do now?” He leaned toward me, rested his elbow on
the back of a chair.
“I just got a job writing for the City Paper,” I said. I didn’t explain that
I was only an assistant listings editor, that all I did was call businesses to find out when they opened and closed. Roger was handsome enough, his skin weathered but still tight along his jaw. His suit was dark, his tie thin. He probably worked for the government. He probably spent his weekends in the garden, or rafting on the James. He smelled like salami and olive spread and too much cologne. “I live with a married man,” I said. Which was, technically, still true. Matthew hadn’t yet found a new place.
“Do you?” Roger looked around the party, maybe checking for his wife,
then turned back to me. His eyebrows twitched.
Simon and I last spoke a year ago, though only because our mother
asked him to call me. She cried on the phone when I told her I’d moved in with Matthew. It wasn’t only because we weren’t married; it was because Matthew was. We met at a gallery opening. I dropped my plastic cup and splashed wine all over his chinos, then rushed to the bathroom for paper towels. We’d been seeing each other for six months before he left his wife, his children, and their big Fairfax home to move into my carriage house apartment in the city.
“I didn’t want to lie to you,” I told my mother over the phone. I put a
pot of water on the stovetop to boil. Matthew had his kids for the night and he’d taken them to a movie. I wanted to have dinner ready when he returned. A part of me wished he’d bring the kids back to our apartment with him, but I knew he wouldn’t. I didn’t have a job at the time and I’d
begun to enjoy playing housewife. Organizing his shirts by color in the closet. Keeping the freezer stocked with Cherry Garcia in case he had a rough day. Answering the phone with “Mrs. Clearfield speaking,” which confused the bill collectors. But I knew that’s all it was. Playing. “I didn’t want to hide anything,” I said.
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” my mother said, blowing
her nose into the receiver. I pictured her leaning against the refrigerator, its surface covered in family photographs, her back to the bay window. “Lying isn’t as big a sin as—what you’re doing.”
“Give me a break,” I said. “There’s no such thing as sin.” It sounded
nastier than I’d intended. My mother muffled her sobs—in her shoulder, perhaps, or a tissue. Later that night, Simon called. “Elaina,” he said.
“Not you, too,” I said. I watched the street for Matthew’s car. Dinner
had been ready for half an hour.
“I’m not going to scold you like Mom did,” he said. I hated how calm
he sounded, how firm and confident. I supposed that’s how priests were supposed to sound.
“She didn’t scold me,” I said. “I’m not a child.”
“I just want you to think about what you’re doing,” he said. “That’s all.
Just think about it for a minute.”
“You think I haven’t?” I said. “Matthew’s happier with me than he was
with his wife.”
“Listen,” Simon said. “Sometimes we don’t understand the
consequences of our actions until much later. It’s hard to see the full
context when we’re in the moment.”
“You have no idea,” I said. “Look, Matthew’s home. I have to go.”
I hung up. Matthew wasn’t home. I leaned against the windowsill and
Across the room, the women speaking with Simon drifted away. He stood there in front of the fireplace, shoulders hunched, glancing about like a schoolboy whose homecoming date danced with someone else. Pimple scars nested in the creases of his chin. He looked so young all by himself. “I wonder,” Roger said in my ear, “if we could go somewhere a bit more quiet. It’s so loud in here. Don’t you think?” It had gotten loud. Someone turned up the jazz on the stereo so it could be heard over the conversation, the laughs, the clatter of dishes and serving spoons. “Excuse me,” I said. I stepped around Roger and filled two clean glasses with Pinot. I handed one to Simon. He took it in both hands and blinked, like I’d shined a flashlight in his face.
“Come on,” I said, pinching his elbow. “You look like you need some
We stepped onto the covered porch and leaned against the railing. The
night was dark and wet. The leaves that now clumped in the gutters fell early. It was hardly October and too cold by far.
We didn’t speak for a time. I lit an American Spirit and listened to the
fall of rain in the grass. I closed my eyes and visualized my love flowing into Simon as a wave of autumn leaves, all reds, golds, oranges and
“Chilly,” Simon said at last. He glanced at the smoke I released from
“When did you first know?” I said, surprising myself. It’s not what
I wanted to begin with, but I couldn’t unsay it. “I mean, I always had a feeling. Even before I knew how that sort of thing worked. You never had girlfriends.”
“This is a nice party,” he said. A muscle moved in his cheek. In the
darkness he looked bigger, his crooked nose less charming than rough. “It was kind of them to do this.”
He looked into his wine, twirling the glass slowly. I wished he’d take
a drink, loosen up a bit. The time for secrets kept between each other had passed. I wanted to tell him about my boyfriends, the ones I loved, the ones I hurt, the ones who hurt me. There were things I wanted to cry about. Things I’d told friends, but I’d never been able to tell Simon. I wanted him to be a big brother.
“For the record,” I said, “I hate what they’ve done to you.”
“I understand why they had to,” Simon said.
“Fuck that,” I said, and refused to be ashamed of my language. “What’s
the big deal, anyway? If it had been pictures of, you know, women. On your computer. Would they have reacted the same way? I’d be mad as hell, if I were you.”
“I’m not angry,” Simon said.
“You should be,” I said. I flicked my cigarette into the yard, lit another.
“But you should be relieved, too. Not having to hide that anymore. Why are you even going back to them?”
“You don’t understand.”
“Clearly. You’ve done nothing wrong. And even if they think you sinned, or whatever, there are worse things. You know what I mean. So forget about them. You’re free, now.”
He turned, and there was nothing kind in him. Standing with the porch
light at his back, he’d become a silhouette. I recognized nothing in the dark form. Something small and painful curled inside my chest.
“What are you?” Simon said.
“Describe yourself. In one word.”
“That’s a hard thing to do,” I said, my voice soft, barely more than a
“Okay,” I said. I held my cigarette between my fingertips, placed my
other hand on my hip. Tried to look cool, unconcerned, but my words came out clumsy and rushed. “Sincere, maybe. Creative. Spontaneous.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Simon said. The hardness had gone out of
him. His shoulders slumped forward again. It seemed as though some unknowable part of his body had retreated into the darkness. He set his glass of wine on the railing, held it in place with a trembling hand. “I meant, what are you doing with your life. A noun.”
I couldn’t think of one.
“Okay,” Simon said. He leaned against the railing again, looked out at
I wanted to say more. But my lungs expanded, my heart tightened,
and I hated him. I didn’t have to explain myself, didn’t have to apologize
for anything. I thought, I could go inside and fuck Roger. I could tap him on the shoulder, lead him to the basement, sit on the dryer, wrap my legs around him. It would be quick. No one would notice we’d gone.
I finished my wine, gulped down Simon’s untouched glass, stamped
out my cigarette and rejoined the party.
The wine was free and there was plenty of it. I stayed for a few more
drinks, talked to those righteous people, pretended to be interested in their jobs, their families, the vacations they planned for winter. What I really thought was, how sad. How very, very sad.
Simon moved through them all, comfortable, talking, laughing.
I found Roger—he sat on the living room sofa beside his wife. She was
small, pretty, her bangs too short for a woman of her age. I walked right up to them, crossed my arms, smiled the most innocent smile I could manage.
Roger looked at me, then at his watch. “Well,” he said to his wife, “it’s
getting late. We should probably get going.” They stood.
“Hello,” Roger’s wife said to me. “Have we met?”
“I don’t believe so,” I said.
Roger shook my hand. “Good luck at the paper,” he said, smiling a
tight, thin smile.
The party emptied. Coats draped over arms, keys were retrieved from
pockets. The house seemed to expand and brighten with each couple that left. Someone switched off the stereo. Maybe I stayed longer than I meant to. I, like Simon, am a lingerer. It’s one of the few traits we share.
When it was time, I gave Simon a brief hug, pressed my nose into his
shoulder. His fingertips rested on the muscles of my back, but his forearms
kept their distance. I smelled Old Spice on his cheek. The embrace was quick, habitual. The sort of hug exchanged between the spouses of friends.
“I guess I’ll see you at Christmas, then,” I said.
“Maybe,” Simon said. “Around then. I’ll have to say Mass at the new
church, though. Out in Indiana.”
“Right,” I said. “Indiana.”
I’d parked my car at the end of the driveway. I started the engine,
switched on the windshield wipers. It’s a well-used Civic, the first big thing I purchased as an independent adult. I love that car. I wash and vacuum it weekly, replace the cinnamon air freshener often. Matthew once pointed out that those were my scents: cinnamon and American Spirits. I liked that. I lit a cigarette. The wipers packed wet leaves into the corner of the windshield.
Simon stood in the doorway, saying goodbye to the partygoers, framed
in warm light.
But imagine my brother doesn’t grow accustomed to his new life.
Maybe he tires of kind, simple people, people who work and go to church and fall asleep early. People who don’t throw parties. He tires of the short walk between his house and St. Gaspar’s, of endless snow, of the same diner and pizza shop and Chinese place. He looks out his window at the Smiley Face water tower, bright on the horizon, like it’s replacing the absent sun. He thinks of what he could have done differently. A lie he could have told; not even a lie, but a partial truth. Some fact withheld, some detail added that explained everything. He doesn’t know what that could have been.
Maybe, even alone, I still keep the apartment clean. I hang potted
plants, smoke only with the windows open. I make myself meals. I take care of my little car. From time to time I drive to my parents’ house, and I don’t even mind the friendly, tense dinners, the unspoken judgments across the table, the avoidance of conversation that might bring discomfort, hurt feelings. When we talk about Simon, we talk about how he’s doing now, when he’ll be able to visit. Never about what’s come before.
Maybe, one day, as he’s preparing himself for Mass, Simon realizes he’s
been holding his breath. He doesn’t know why, can’t remember how long he’s been holding it. But his lungs ache. So he lets the air rush from his lips. He relaxes. He sits down in the sacristy and writes me a letter.
Canon Powershot SX 120 IS
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS
â€œThese photographs were taken on a recent trip to the Azore Islands and to mainland Portugal. I photographed my travels as a way of piecing together the stories of local people and places. The young girls whispering to one another were part of a local dance troupe featured in the Festas Sanjoaninas on the island of Terceira, while the metallic sardines and jilted facade of the abandoned restaurant were treasures found in Lisbon.â€?
Brandon Mc Ivor
â€œThe owls that lived in our roof were acting up. They were banging themselves against the window in her room, as if to break it open.â€?
I get a phone call in the evening from my mother. About a week
ago she was woken from her sleep, back in Trinidad. The owls that lived in our roof were acting up. They were banging themselves against the window in her room, as if to break it open.
She tells me, “There is a girl working for me now. They say she does
do Obeah. Brandon, when I looked over at the window there was a thick cloud, like smoke, but more viscous.”
“Inside the room?”
“Yes, Inside. It wasn’t the first time I had see it.”
My mother reminds me that when I was younger I had fitful
hallucinations: speaking with the devil, bloodied apparitions in the corner of the room and so on.
“We have a history with these things,” she tells me.
The only exorcist on our island — our neighbor, actually — had
died some ten years ago. Just before his passing, my mother had him bless me.
“Brandy, do you still say the prayer Bishop Mendes gave you? The
prayer to Saint Michael?”
“I haven’t said it in some time.”
“You should say it,” she says, “I wonder, when things like this
happen, about when you were little: when—”
A wailing ambulance drowns her voice out, so I have to plug one of
my ears to hear what she is saying.
Brandon Mc Ivor
“Do you remember that, Brandy? You were only four. You were
playing on the lawn and I remember, all of a sudden, you just got very serious and sat down. You said you were talking to the devil. I was so worried about you.”
I am outside Grand Central Terminal and I cannot fathom the
smoke that my mother saw in her room. But I remember sitting on the lawn and speaking with the devil, when I was a child. He spoke like a Trinidadian — no one spoke any different then—and I had muttered back things I cannot recall.
I listen to my mother. I think about the owls in our roof. I pray to
Saint Michael. And I listen for the devil — quiet for twenty odd years now.
Fabio Sassi Yashica FX-3
Fabio Sassi Yashica FX-3
“Orkney, Scotland are my favorite islands in North Europe. There‘s plenty to do but what I like most is to cycle along lonesome roads and walk along the coastlines through stunning landscapes where the rocks are simply beautiful and carry you back through the ages.”
Rebecca Anne Renner
“The cabby had never heard of Nonquitt, so he followed the GPS, through Connecticut and Rhode Island to the coast of Buzzards Bay. ...The cabby said, ‘You want out here? Do you got an address?’” 29
The Nonquitt Key
Footsteps tumbled up the front stairs. Tremaine stowed the magazine under the couch cushion, hiding the infamous mugshot of his boss, gossip column party boy du jour Bobby H., facedown. Tremaine ran a hand over his shaved head and tugged his lapels straight. Nothing out of place, except for the worry lines. In this first month of his employment as Bobby’s butler, Tremaine had spent most of his time playing bodyguard and conscience, sprouting worry lines like whiskers and giving Polaroids to the maid so she’d arrange the clean clothes on the floor in the same heaps as Bobby left them. Tremaine stood, six foot four and sturdy, ready to tower over anything. The door shot open. Bobby tossed his coat over Tremaine’s head and skidded on melted snow to the guest bathroom. While Bobby retched, Tremaine thought back to his time as a nightclub bouncer, and then to the rapper whose security detail he had headed. That brother quit touring to join the Jesuits. No more saintly word-spinners for Tremaine. He got an off-his-nut, entitled, packrat of a white boy. A heavy plunk and something clanked in the toilet. Against his better judgment, Tremaine opened the door. Bobby gripped the toilet seat like a steering wheel, pasty-faced and pouting like his mugshot. “I think I’m gonna to die,” he said. “What did you do this time?” said Tremaine. Bobby reached into the toilet and withdrew a silver key. “I swallowed two.”
Tremaine called a cab and guided Bobby down to the stoop with sloth-
Rebecca Anne Renner
like grace. Saturday night traffic jerked through Manhattan. They stopped at a light, and Bobby inhaled through his teeth. “Tell him to drive better,” Bobby hissed. “If he speaks English.” “You’re not going to die,” said Tremaine. “Stop being an asshole.” “I’m docking your pay.” “I’ll tell Daddy Morebucks what happened, and he’ll prolly give me a goddamn raise.” “Shut up.” “Thank you Mr. Louis for saving my dumbass son—”
Bobby clutched his wrist.
Pictures of Bobby slumped in a wheelchair popped up on the internet
before dawn. Tremaine surfed TMZ on his phone, hiding it behind an old issue of Men’s Health. Elsewhere, surgeons passed a scope down Bobby’s throat, removed the key, and sewed up the slice in the wall of his stomach. Hours passed with Bobby in recovery. PerezHilton.com said, Bobby Healy Sloppy Drunk After Benefit Soirée. E!Online had, Housewife Barbara Kendrick Talks Her Fight with Bobby H. Rumors snowballed out of proportion. Bobby H’s Padded Room at Lennox Hill. Bobby Healy: Cancer Scare. Robert Healy Junior’s Suicide Attempt. Tremaine pushed into Bobby’s room through a cluster of photographers . Bobby was sitting up against the pillows. A specimen container on the tray table held the infamous key. “Did you get me a change of clothes?” said Bobby. Tremaine raised the duffle bag.
The Nonquitt Key
“First you tell me why you’re swallowing shit like a fucking toddler.” “Fuck you,” said Bobby. Tremaine dropped the duffle and went for the key. He opened the container, pinched it by the blade. Nickel-plated, hardware store. It looked like any old key, except for its inscription: Don’t Throw This Key Into The River. “What’s it open?” “Do you know if they’ll let me eat anything?” Bobby said. “I’m famished.” “I asked you a question.” “And I asked you one.” Bobby frowned at him. Tremaine frowned back. “It’s the key to my fucking heart,” said Bobby. “Get me a pudding cup.” Tremaine made an exaggerated bow and threw open the door. Reporters gushed in like salmon at spawn. Tremaine stepped out into the hall. “I’m sorry, Trem,” Bobby yelled over the reporters. “Please come back. Ow, you lunatic. Tremaine!” Tremaine passed a man in a linen suit and Hawaiian shirt. “Tremaine Louis?” he said, brandishing a legal pad. “My name is Nicky Dew. I’m with the Post. Can I ask you a few questions?” Happy to be in print — and tired of Bobby’s crap — Tremaine embellished the night’s events, from Bobby buying the cabby’s sunglasses to hide his face, to his histrionic ducking of teenage girls in the waiting room. “So that key,” said Nicky Dew. “Is it true he got it from Barbara Kendrick? And that she’s, well, you know. She’s diddling Bobby’s pop. I really thought this sort of all confirmed it, don’t you think? I wanted a definite before I let anything roll, you know, having several witnesses from their fight last night and all.” “Healy Senior and —”
Rebecca Anne Renner
“Bobby and Barbara. They went at it at the Evance after-party. She dangled those keys in front of his face. He says she shouldn’t have them. Bing bang boom. He grabs them. She yanks off her heels and runs him down. Next thing everyone knows, he’s got them off the ring and he’s swallowing the things. You don’t know what they’re for, do you?” Tremaine glanced down the hallway. Bobby’s door had cleared of intruders. He opened his mouth and closed it again. Nothing he had to say belonged in print. None of it. “Too bad,” said the reporter. “I can use this, though. Good eye for detail.”
Daylight came after only a few hours’ sleep. Tremaine returned to the
hospital. He sat beside Bobby’s bed until he woke up. Bobby asked for some coffee. “And not the shitty stuff from downstairs.” Then he paused. “Please.” Okay, sure. Tremaine hiked down to the street, bought some from a cart. On the front page of the paper: BOBBY’S BREAKDOWN. Tremaine turned stiff and robotted inside. Tremaine bit back his comments for the rest of the day and acted like a real butler. He went on trips to bookstores, a bodega, and a tech store. He fielded reporters, let in the right photographers, and intercepted flowers from people he didn’t know. That night, when Bobby was released, Tremaine even tied Bobby’s shoes. “That’s really not necessary,” said Bobby, but he winced lowering himself into the wheelchair. They made it outside before the wave of flashes hit. Bobby’s name
The Nonquitt Key
rebounded like an echo chamber. “How are you feeling, Bobby?” “Do you really have cancer?” “Is it true you tried to kill yourself?” Bobby didn’t pause for their questions. He gave them a half-smile, a swoon-inducer, and they ducked into the waiting Bentley. “I’m sorry I yelled at you,” Bobby said after the locks clicked. “I was a mess.”
Soon as Tremaine helped him upstairs, Bobby fell asleep on the couch.
Tremaine went to his own room to change clothes. He found the maid’s usual complaint note on his bed along with the first key, which was inscribed with the name Barbara. The elder Mr. Healy must’ve had it made for her, to get into—a what? A house? A love-nest? He slipped it into the pocket of the coat hanging on his closet door and left the room. Bobby was standing in the kitchen, a little pale, waiting for him. “Don’t take this wrong or anything,” said Bobby. “But can you bend down for me?” Tremaine fetched chicken from the meat drawer, rice from the pantry, broccoli from the crisper, all enough for two. Bobby, the Culinary Institute dropout, let the chicken sit in a lukewarm pan until it finished cooking on its own. He said, “I’m such a dick,” and, “I should tell him,” and, “Trem, I’m sorry. I have to tell you something. You’re going to find out anyway, and it needs to be from me.”
“So here goes. Last night. God, not last night. Whenever it was I was at that party for that perfume pretending to fund AIDS research. It smells great, and they gave me all this free shit, paid me to be there even, but I left it all there.
Rebecca Anne Renner
I’d had a few glasses of champagne. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not such a lightweight I can get shitfaced out of a shot glass. Nobody was talking to me since I had the most super-fun talk with Juney. I said I like steak, and she called me a murderer or a caveman or something. Who cares. I was out and I guess I was trying to find a waiter to bum a cigarette off, or maybe someone capable of facial expressions, to talk to them. My mom wasn’t there like she said she’d be, thank God. But yeah, the convo with Juney. Not only do I eat meat, I cook with it. How did she miss that? So we split before the photogs could catch us and blow the thing up, and I evaporate from that room and into another, and who do I see, drink in her hand, but Barbara Kendrick. Let me tell you, she’s really as plastic as she looks on TV. Thing is, I didn’t know why she came up to me. I never met the woman in my life. So Bah-bra Kendrick comes sashaying up to me and is all like, ‘Dah-ling,’ and I’m like, ‘Dolling?’ She kisses the air, and I play along, thinking she has maybe some spinoff idea for me. I can always use the press. When she says, ‘We should really get to know each other, Robert. We’ll be seeing a lot more of each other very soon.’ I’m thinking, another E! show, or she’s hiring some ghost-writers to pretend we write about our escapades, make up some escapades, etc. No. She comes right out and says it. ‘Your father and I have been seeing each other, Robert.’ She says he just filed for divorce, that they were just waiting for Sasha to turn 18. Just for her. Like I’m some kind of nothing. Like it doesn’t even matter that the most important relationship in my life, the only one I’ve ever seen work, is fluff, zip. So I call her a liar. And she’s all like, ‘How dare you!’ in so many words. What kind of person
The Nonquitt Key
says that? Who is she? The Queen of Long Island? But I was yelling at the top of my lungs. ‘Liar! Liar! Liar!’ I wanted everyone to hear me. All of them. Plaster it on the side of every city bus, hire me a skywriter, liar! But no. She pulls out proof. The keys to our summer house in Nonquitt. ‘Where did you get those?’ I say. ‘Your father gave them to me.’ But they’re skeleton keys. They open everything. Maybe I saw it in a movie. Spy swallows a poker chip, hacks it up at HQ. I guess it goes without saying it didn’t really work out quite so easy.”
Bobby set out two plates and salvaged dinner. Tremaine ate—Not bad, really. Not impressive, but not bad. Bobby picked and rearranged. “Thing is,” Bobby said, “I kind of want to go out there. To Nonquitt I mean. It’s been so long and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’d like to go tomorrow, but I don’t think I could go by myself.” “You’re asking me to take you there. Out to — where is it exactly?” “Sort of the east side of Buzzards Bay, in Mass. Near Rhode Island.” If he goes out, the paps’ll slam him, thought Tremaine. Easier to keep him from reading the Post. “I don’t know,” said Tremaine. “Your dad will kill me if anything else happens to you.” Bobby pushed his plate away and left the bar. He went back to the couch to sleep.
Three days had passed without a mention of Nonquitt or of the article in
the Post when Bobby’s bedroom door banged open. Tremaine hid the magazine
Rebecca Anne Renner
he was reading. “You rat bastard, no good, fuck all —” Bobby’s string of profanities escalated until he slammed his laptop on the table so hard the screen flickered. On it, an article from the Post, the headline: THE HEALYS UNLOCKED! by Nicky Dew.
“…I would never have publicized such a private affair,’ says Robert
Healy Sr., adding, “I would love to put this whole embarrassing episode behind…” was all Tremaine managed to read before Bobby closed the computer. “How did he get into my bathroom?” Bobby shouted in Tremaine’s face. “How could he know what I said? Verbatim!” Tremaine opened the computer and read. It started out like a story, with Bobby on his knees saying he was gonna die, reaching into the toilet. Even nailed the inflection of, I swallowed two. Next, a first-hand account of the Bobby-Barbara argument (from a vegan parfumier named Juniper Smiley) described Bobby as violent, made him sound like a maniac. Then the frigid Taylor-Healy union and the effects it clearly had on their children, especially Bobby, when Bobby yelled, “What did you tell him?” “I didn’t think it would come out like this.” “How’d you think it would come out?” Bobby shouted. Big Tremaine felt about a foot tall. “You said it yourself. You always need press.” “Not when it breaks up my family!”
Bobby regained composure one breath at a time. Then he left the dining room. When he came back, Tremaine was still stunned. Bobby hoisted the duffle over his shoulder, said, “I’m going to Nonquitt,” and left. Tremaine called Bobby’s publicist.
The Nonquitt Key
“Retraction?” she said. “You must be a little touched, honey bear. This is the best thing happened to Bobby since that fake sex tape. Retraction. Ha! Do you realize how many pingbacks I’m getting? Bobby H. is trending on Twitter!”
After that, Tremaine used Bobby’s laptop to find a number for the Post. He bounced from desk to secretary to answering machine and back again, an infinite loop of “He’s out,” “She’s busy,” “He’ll be back later.” On to the emergency contact list. “Don’t be mad at him — sir. Your son isn’t taking this well,” is part of the message Tremaine left with Mr. Healy’s assistant. “I’m not sure if he’s had enough time to heal, and he’s got it in his head he’s going to your house in Nonquitt.” Then, to the assistant, “You got all that?” “You really think Mr. Healy’s going to want to hear this? No I don’t ‘got that.’ Where did you go to butler school, the hood?” “He really needs to know what’s going on with his son.” “Everyone knows. Clean up your mess, Tremen.” “It’s Tremaine,” he said, but she had already hung up, mocking him with the dial tone.
One by one, Tremaine went down the list of Healys. No one answered for the mother, not even an assistant. The elder sister hung up after Tremaine introduced himself as Bobby’s, eh-hem, “butler.” His brother gave Tremaine a message he wouldn’t relay: “Get your shit together, Bingo. Enough’s enough.” The little sister, Sasha, though at the moment inconsolable, answered her cell phone. She had stepped outside her boarding school’s chapel, into the snow. It fell muffled past the speaker, into her hair. Tremaine could picture her face, like
Rebecca Anne Renner
Bobby’s, proportionate and fair, nipped by the cold. “Give him a hug for me, Tremaine, would you? Oh, I wish —” her connection fizzled out, “wrong. We deserve better than this, and they know that. You tell him that. Tell him that I’m on his side.” “Have you called him?” “He isn’t answering his phone. He’s okay, right?” “Sure. Tonight, I’ll have him call you.” “Oh, please, thank you, Tremaine. Make sure he does.” Tremaine said goodbye and hung up. He grabbed his coat. Then he went outside to hail a cab.
The cabby had never heard of Nonquitt, so he followed the GPS, through
Connecticut and Rhode Island to the coast of Buzzards Bay. The cab rounded a ridge of pavement by an empty wharf, and the cabby said, “You want out here? Do you got an address?” “I’m looking for someone,” said Tremaine. “Can you drive around?” The sunset over the water was ringed in hazy snow clouds. They wove through the streets, inland first and then toward the shore. Tremaine peered through the window in search of Bobby, of anyone who might have seen Bobby, of anyone at all. An hour passed, the meter ticking. What if Bobby froze? Tremaine thought. He chewed a cuticle until it bled. “It’s the offseason, huh?” said the cabby. “Maybe you’re out of luck.” Far back from the road, the houses evolved from fishing shacks into fantasies, magnificent Victorians with turrets and wood lace. The road grew more rocky, the view more desolate, out onto a marshy peninsula into the bay.
The Nonquitt Key
A solitary mailbox passed the driver side. Its brass lettering read: Healy. Tremaine slapped the partition, the cabby slammed on the brakes, and Tremaine climbed from the cab in a sparse tidal stand of trees. The drive marked by the mailbox snaked toward a tall-grassed bluff. The cabby grinned so wide his fillings showed. Tremaine paid the man with a card, the one reimbursed by the Healys. It didn’t seem right to charge Bobby for rescue, but considering the height of the fare, Tremaine didn’t have much choice. “You want I should wait here?” the cabby asked. “Keep the motor running?” Tremaine glanced at the dusty inlet to the drive, and with a strong hope, he tried to conjure the image of a palatial stronghold waiting warm on the other side of the hill. “No,” he said, and the cabby shrugged. He drove a length and stopped again to lean out the window and call, “Good luck, my friend!” before shrinking over the tideland. Tremaine hiked up the drive. Soon, the house rose above the horizon, first the gambrel roof, its gray clapboard trimmed in white. Towards the east, a sweeping deck met the view of Buzzard’s Bay, a boardwalk, a discarded rowing hull. On the forest-side, the drive snaked to the garage, three separate doors for three separate cars, and nailed to the lattice beside the kitchen door, a weathered basketball hoop hung with leafless vines. Bobby hunkered at the foot of the lattice, barely protected from the wind, and hugged a half-deflated basketball to his chest like an egg he was trying to keep warm. “I can’t get inside,” he said. His face was puffy from crying. He spoke through muffled tears. Up a set of steps, the key, jammed in the lock, stopped the screen from closing over the kitchen door. Tremaine blocked open the screen door to try the
Rebecca Anne Renner
key, turning, pushing. It wouldn’t budge. It was the one that said Don’t Throw This Key Into The River. “My dad took it back when I got into that fistfight at the Met,” said Bobby. “He took it back, so I didn’t think he’d change the locks. He doesn’t ever want to see me again, and I don’t blame him. I don’t want to see me either.” He wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Haven’t you noticed I never finish anything? I can’t even get inside my own house. That damn key is probably half-stuck in that damn lock. I’m the only person in the world who could dig half a goddamn hole.” Before he could stop himself, Tremaine snorted. He glanced at Bobby, who reluctantly smiled. “What’s so funny?” Tremaine let himself laugh. “You should have seen my cab bill!” “I’m sorry,” Bobby said. He pressed his thumbs into the basketball, making a dent. “I guess that cab is long gone, huh?” “If I knew you were locked out, I would have gotten it to stay.” Bobby sighed. “I thought I could get inside, like it would mean something. I could show my dad I’d finished something.” Tremaine offered down his hand. Bobby gave him the basketball. Tremaine passed it around his back and reversed to do a lay-up. When the ball hit the backboard, melted ice showered from the naked vines. Bobby covered his head. The ball swished through the waterlogged netting and hit the ground with a flat thump. Bobby rubbed his hair, trying to dry it. “The point was—There’s no internet out here. Only one phone. So if somebody wanted to talk to me, they’d really have to want it. Even then, they’d have to know where I was. I don’t know. Sometimes I think I sold my privacy away.” He looked out across the marshes.
The Nonquitt Key
“I used to love it here. I never wanted to leave.” Bobby ran his palms over the wet pebbles. “I was going to come out here and finish the boat and let this whole damn thing blow over, but it’s like he was already here. We might as well hike back into town.” “Do you think you can make it that far?” said Tremaine. “I mean, walking, your stomach and all.” Bobby reached out, the slow motion of the night when everything collapsed for a memory of summer. Bobby snatched up a rock the size of his fist. He crawled to his knees with the rock in his grasp. “I can’t believe you cared enough to come out here,” said Bobby. He hurled the rock at the kitchen window. It crashed through the lowest pane. “Shit,” Bobby said. He picked up another, hidden by the foliage at the base of the lattice. It was slick with melted snow. He pitched. Three of the remaining panes shattered. He approached the window, absent of his reflection, of the tire swing from the tree halfway to the woods and the canoes land-bound forever by invisible holes that filled with water. Of lobster pots hung drying, cracking in the day. Of fireflies out of season beaming messages between blades of grass disappearing as the night fell. He turned to face the only friend he could remember, who had betrayed him and come back like no one else, and he said, “I’m sorry for the blood,” before forcing his hand, through the jagged glass, to turn the lock.
Olympus SP-800 UZ
Olympus SP-800 UZ
â€œWhile travelling the Wild Coast in South Africa in 2011, we visited Hole in the Wall and happened to stumble upon a group of local boys swimming in the river and soaking up the sun. I was struck by the beauty of their rich dark skins against the glaring white sand and was able to snap a few shots before they realised they were the subject of my lens and grew too selfconscious.â€?
â€œThere was a cute girl right outside and she had a purple streak in her hair and I wondered about her and when she had put that streak in her hair. I thought about us getting married for a second too. You can do anything with your mind.â€? 45
The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection
Sitting at the table after supper was done and my stomach could breath again, I stared out the window, looking past my cousin Allen who called me Patrick with a mouth that was as dumb as a car without brakes. And listen here — his mouth really had been built with no brakes, a design flaw probably caused by his father’s small head.
Patrick, he’d say.
I thought there would come a day where I would have to kill him.
Patrick was not and had never been my name. My name is Allen just like
his and I will always wonder what our parents were thinking. Both of us Allens knew my real name, everyone at the table knew it, the waiter knew it and so did my completely authentic birth certificate that had been looked over and signed off on by completely authentic doctors.
Outside the restaurant there was a tree. I watched it as Allen called me by
this stranger’s name, pretending my ears had fallen off, wondering if I watched it long enough if it might come to me so I could climb it and escape. Maybe I’d see something new up there, or maybe up on the branches I would meet a man named Patrick who liked to climb trees. But somehow my ears grew back and I turned my attention to Allen. If you’re wondering, he was the original.
“What do you want?” I said.
The words fell like crumbs from my mouth.
“Patrick . . . Patrick, you wanna see my new pet?” “No.”
Another crumb. “Come on Patrick. Let me show it to you. It’s really great.”
My kid brother, sitting to my right, pulled at my sleeve. He wanted to see Allen’s pet. “I guess you’re going to tell us you have a dog and he’s just asleep in your pocket?” I asked. “No,” Allen said as he laughed. “It’s no dog. Look.” He pulled out a fucking rock. A plain, gray rock that was the size of his palm. But this rock wore a blonde wig. I admit — it was funny – but Allen thought it was just hilarious and great and put it there on the table and made our parents look. Two minutes passed and his plea for attention was really just slaughtered, but he and my kid brother both laughed longer than I thought they should have. The wig matched Allen’s own haircut and looking at the rock and then to him it was much too easy to see a resemblance. Allen was across from me, in a white tee that had stains for each color of food on his plate and a mark of dirt above his eyebrow that always seemed to be there in the very same spot. This dirt was perpetual. Maybe it was a birthmark or maybe he rubbed the same amount of dirt in that spot every day for some reason. I never knew what Allen was going to do or what he was about. He lived a state over from my family and so I only saw him once every few months when my parents thought to punish me. Every time he came by I was certain he would get us killed or at least badly injured. When he left and I still had my eyes, sanity, or dignity I was in a good mood. This fool would try to get squirrels to smoke cigarettes or push trees over using just his own two arms. He would tell us stories that involved screaming, bloodied females and motorcycle riding madmen. It was hard to think we had the same blood, even though I never knew what that really meant.
The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection
His parents and my parents were eating slices of carrot cake and drinking coffee and cappuccinos. We were at the end of the table and every few minutes me and my mom made eye contact. She’d wink at me and I would wink right back. But she was a better winker than me. Over the years it became a game to us, to see who could wink bigger at the other. She somehow made it seem like half her face was winking sometimes. I swear her eye could almost reach her front teeth. Her and my kid brother were my favorite people at the table. My dad was alright too, but if there was a fire he’d be the last one I’d save. It’s just true. Allen—with that dirt scar above his eyebrow and with breath that smelled like green apple candy canes, leaned forward to me and my kid brother. “You know the turkey we just ate?” I nodded. “Delicious,” my kid brother said. He rubbed his stomach with his greasy hand for emphasis.
“They got a whole fucking farm of them out back,” Allen said. “I saw it on
the drive here. A thousand turkeys at least.”
“Why?” My little brother asked, still rubbing his small stomach. His hand
had forgotten to stop.
Allen looked to me. “Not the brightest kid is he?”
“Shut Up,” I said.
Allen smirked. “Where do you think the turkeys come from?” he asked.
My kid brother stopped rubbing his stomach and thought about Allen’s
question. He took a piece of turkey and ate it, maybe for inspiration. For some reason we waited for his answer. “From somewhere where they have turkeys and chickens?” he said.
Allen shook his head and I chuckled.
“You need to pay more attention to life and . . . maybe read more,” I said to
“They keep them in the back so they can supply the customers who want to
eat them,” Allen told him.
My little brother didn’t seem much interested in learning. He just petted
back the pet rock’s blonde hair. He was young and his mind was built for cartoons and cereal.
Allen got a little closer to us and whispered, “Let’s go look at them.”
I shook my head. “Nah, we can’t, we’re about to leave.”
He leaned back and called out to his mom. “Can me and Patrick go outside?”
he asked. He turned towards the window and pointed at my tree. “Just over there. Just to look around.”
“Sure, but stay in view.” Then she looked down at the dishes and said,
“Don’t any of you want some of this carrot cake?”
I shook my head and threw my napkin into my plate.
“That shit is gross,” Allen said.
His mom gave him that terrific mom look but she didn’t correct him.
“Let’s go,” he said to us.
“Nah. No thanks,” I said.
“I wanna go,” my kid brother said. “Don’t forget to take your pet, Allen.
Does he eat anything?” He got up out of his seat and about three pounds of broccoli fell off his lap.
“Stay here with me,” I said to him, but I knew he wouldn’t and I couldn’t
leave that cute, dumb kid alone with my ugly, wiseass cousin. My little brother would probably end up getting beat up by a gang of turkeys as Allen laughed
The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection
I got up and followed them.
We walked from the dining room and stumbled out the front door of the
restaurant and headed toward the back. The sun was bright and the breeze was pleasant as it sometimes is when you emerge from eating a good meal in a dark room. There was a cute girl right outside and she had a purple streak in her hair and I wondered about her and when she had put that streak in her hair. I thought about us getting married for a second too. You can do anything with your mind. We walked past her and went behind the restaurant, near my tree and looked inside to our parents.
“I just want to give my mom a gay wave to show her that we’re where we
said we’d be,” Allen said to us. He waved to our parents. My mom winked at me, and I winked back. My kid brother saw us and tried to wink too but he was bad at it. He was jealous about our game.
We backed away from the window and walked a little ways to the side,
towards a fenced enclosure that had just six turkeys inside.
“That’s it?” I said.
“I’m telling you, there looked there was a ton more on the drive past.”
My kid brother laughed. “It’s like the world’s smallest turkey collection,” he
said. “Can I pet one Allen?” I wasn’t sure if he was asking me or my cousin.
“Go right ahead,” Allen said as he dragged him towards the fence.
“No,” I said.
“Let him pet one, you sissy bitch.”
“He can’t pet one of those. They aren’t dogs, these are wild turkeys. They
might bite or attack him.” And I held him back, away from the fence.
“You’re a jerk, Patrick,” my kid brother turned around to say to me. He knew
I hated that name.
Allen laughed. He picked up a pebble and hurled it at one of the birds. He
hit a bird and it didn’t seem to notice. The birds had ugly faces but their plump bodies and plentiful feathers were handsome. It was eerie how they walked back and forth. They were alive like us. Just different.
“What are you guys doing out here? Messing with the dinners?”
We all turned around to see our waiter lighting up a cigarette.
“Give me one of those,” Allen said.
The waiter gave him a look. I wasn’t sure if he was going to give him a cig or
not. “Where’s your parents?” he asked.
“Inside, man. They ain’t coming out here. They’re still eating their cake.”
“How do they usually tip? Are they cheap?”
“They’re good tippers, just give me a smoke.”
The waiter took out another cigarette and Allen put it between his lips and
the waiter threw him a lighter and Allen lit that cigarette pretty good, like he’d done it many times before. “That’s nice,” he said on his first drag.
My kid brother looked to our cousin and to the waiter, said, “Give me one.
Our parents tip good too.”
I looked to the waiter, who looked back to me and I slapped my kid brother
in the back of his head.
The waiter laughed and threw him a cigarette anyway. “That’s all you get
though. I ain’t giving you a lighter. Let this be like show and tell for you.”
My little brother seemed satisfied enough with his unlit cigarette, and
studied it and lifted it to his nose.
“I knew it was all bullshit inside,” Allen said to the waiter. “You’re fake
man, you’re like me and I’m like you. You’re an actor, putting on a show for
The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection
a paycheck. I like that, I respect it. I’ll probably have to do the same shit soon enough.”
For an easy minute it was quiet as they smoked and my kid brother put the
cigarette in his pocket and went back to looking at the turkeys. Good choice. He rubbed his stomach as he watched them.
Then Allen threw half a cigarette in the turkey pen.
“Who kills those fucking turkeys man? Is it you?” he asked.
“Nope, it ain’t really ever me.”
“Who does it then? What does this guy look like? I want to know what kind
of man he is.”
“Usually, I have Manny do it.”
“Do you think . . . we can watch him kill one of these things?”
The waiter pulled on his cigarette and the smoke he exhaled headed over
towards the turkey pen.
“No one is ordering a turkey right now. You’d have to wait around and your
parents are already on dessert. But, yeah, I’d let you young guys watch if the timing was good.”
He had this tattoo of a woman on his forearm. A black and white portrait.
You’d assume it was his mother. She had a nice smile. He didn’t take after her or inherit that smile though.
“Can’t you just kill one for us, man?” Allen said. “You could kill one now
and save it for later. It’ll still be fresh. People are gonna order turkey tonight again.”
“He’s not gonna kill one for our amusement,” I said and shook my head.
“I wouldn’t kill one for your amusement, but I would kill one for your
education, to teach you something . . . Why not? They’re going anyway.” He
looked us over. “I think curiosity is a good thing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to see something like that. That’s really good that you boys want to see this.”
Allen saw his chance. “You’re right sir. In a huge way you’d be like a teacher,
showing us an important part of life . . . death too, I guess. I think it would be good for us.”
The waiter really thought about what Allen said. His mother smiled at me
and I wished it was my mom instead and that she was winking at me.
“Manny,” the waiter shouted. He was staring at the turkey pen just like my
little brother was.
We waited. I was about to protest and Allen saw that I was going to say
something and I knew the shit I would hear if I ruined this for him.
When Manny came out I was surprised to see he was a short, skinny man
with two matching moles on both sides of his face. In my head, he was husky and very angry and had thick blue veins glowing out of his neck.
“What is it?” Manny said to the waiter.
“We got a turkey order.” The waiter nodded to Allen.
Manny nodded and walked to the pen and opened the latch.
“Wait, Manny. Slow it down…I’m leading a fucking class expedition here.
I’m teaching these kids something, man, I really am. I want to walk them through the process of all this shit we do.”
Manny slowed down like he was a tool in the waiter’s pocketknife and
said, “Teaching the kids? That’s good. I like that idea …Does that make me the teacher’s pet?”
The waiter shook his head. “Why would that make you the teacher’s pet?
You’re more like a student, doing what he’s told to do.”
The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection
Manny nodded. He was hurt by this. I felt bad for him and I felt bad that in
my head he was so big and angry but here in life, he was small and sad.
“Pick a turkey,” the waiter said to Allen.
Allen moved my kid brother to the side to get a nice picture. I wasn’t sure
what he was looking for but it took him a long minute to find the turkey he wanted to watch die.
“Right there.” He pointed to a turkey pecking at the grass. Every ten seconds
a ghost called his name and that turkey would look up.
“Manny, get that one turkey. Make sure it’s the one the kids want.” He
slowly nodded to Allen like there was a song playing in his head.
I went back over to the window and saw our parents drinking their after
dinner drinks and none of them paid me any attention. I thought about going back inside and sitting at the table. But really, there was some curiosity about watching that turkey get slaughtered. I kind of wanted to see it and I felt wrong but not as wrong as I thought I should. I walked back over to the pen and watched skinny Manny go up to the turkeys. They backed away and shouted at him. Manny was good though, he was quick and he took Allen’s turkey by the neck and cradled it in his arms. Allen and my kid brother watched on. This was a movie to them. I guess it was to me as well.
“Alright, let’s go kids,” said the waiter.
“Where?” I asked. I thought this would be quick and that he would just twist
the bird’s neck there in the pen in front of his friends.
He pointed towards my tree and right near it was a small shack. I hadn’t
noticed this shack before. It wasn’t bigger than nine feet or wider by twenty.
We walked. Manny first with the struggling bird, who really did have some
handsome feathers, Allen second, my kid brother and I third, and the waiter
behind us. We passed the restaurant window again and I didn’t want to look in just in case I made eye contact with them.
“Think of this as the school bus ride before the field trip,” our waiter said. He
really had this notion he was our chaperone on a class trip.
Allen heard him and did the universal sign for getting a trucker to honk their
horn. But this was no class trip and there were no truckers around.
We went into the shack that had cooking supplies and cans and shelves of
bags of food bulk. There were a few different sinks and a few cutting tables. The place was filthy. As soon as you entered you noticed all the stray feathers. There were feathers everywhere. I felt like I was inside a pillow. Feathers flew around, others stuck to the wall and bloody ones on the floor. Shoeprints had walked over them and cemented them in.
Manny was getting angry at the bird who was trying to run away but Manny
had a great grip on him and the bird was stuck there inside those skinny arms.
“Alright, put him on the table,” our waiter said.
“I hope I picked the right bird,” Allen said. I didn’t know what that meant
but he said it and he was thinking about something.
“Hey Allen, do you think I can I hold your pet?” my little brother said. I
thought of before when he had rubbed his stomach.
Allen didn’t say anything, but handed the rock over to him. My kid brother
rubbed the rock, petting it like it was a real pet.
“So class,” the waiter said. “This is the storage room, as you look around
you’ll notice we keep a large supply of food around. Over on the left wall we—” “Get on with the bird, teacher,” Allen said. “You want detention kid?” This guy would never be a teacher so I guess it was fun for him to roleplay. I was embarrassed for him though. He was an idiot.
The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection
My ears started to hurt, the turkey wailed away and the walls gave him an
echo. A sad, pained echo.
“This here,” the waiter pointed to the table, “is where our feathered friends
go to bed. And here we have their blankets and pillows.” He picked up a few different butcher knives and held them to our faces.
“Put him to bed,” Allen said. “It’s getting too late for him.”
The waiter nodded and took the bird from short Manny and laid the jerking
bird onto the table. With one hand he held the bird by his head and with the other, his legs. Manny picked his knife and was just about to lean his arm back and bring it forward when Allen said, “Wait.”
I looked to my kid brother who was still petting the rock. My parents really
ought to buy this kid a dog.
“What?” said the waiter.
“Let me do it,” said Allen. “Let me kill him.”
The waiter looked at him for a moment, still holding the bird down as it
“Manny, give the kid the knife. I better get tipped good kid. Or what’s the
point of teaching you anything.”
Manny did as he was told.
“Now kid, you have to chop at his neck in one strong motion. You’re going
to hit that knife into his neck but not right in the middle, closer to his head.”
“And if you hit my hand, I will kill you. I swear to God. Manny won’t let you
leave and I’ll do you like this bird here.”
Allen practiced his knifing motion. “I ain’t gonna hit you, stop being a
pussy,” he said.
Allen stood in front of the squealing bird with a knife as long as his arm and
stared at its neck.
“Patrick, look at me, I’m killing a bird. I’m gonna kill it, Patrick.” he started
to chuckle. And then he brought down the knife.
I kept my eye on the bird the whole time.
“Goddamn it, kid!” said the waiter.
I thought Allen had hit the waiter’s hand but if you looked at the bird, you
saw he was still alive, just that his neck had a line going through it and blood poured from it. The bird screamed and the walls joined him.
“You didn’t hit the fucker hard enough,” the waiter said. “You’re torturing it.
Do it again!”
Allen got nervous and swung the knife at the bird’s neck again. And then he
brought the knife down again and again. He brought it down about eight more times and our waiter was telling him to stop but Allen would not. The bird’s neck was definitely not attached to its body any longer. Anybody could’ve told Allen that.
“Manny, take the knife from this fucking lunatic.”
Like always, Manny did what he was told and grabbed Allen’s arm and took
the knife from him.
We all let ourselves breathe again.
“What the fuck was that kid?”
“I wanted to make sure I killed it,” Allen said.
The waiter shook his head. “I think you had it dead on the second time.”
“I wanted to make sure.”
Manny took the dead bird and threw him in the sink. He started to rip its
The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection
My kid brother watched all this, still petting that stupid wig wearing rock.
“Last time I ever let a kid kill a bird for me,” said the waiter.
We all walked outside again, in different order this time. It smelled so much
better on the outside. I noticed Allen was holding a feather in his hand. He saw me looking and said, “Souvenir.” Then I noticed he had another stain on his shirt. This one was red. We passed the window and our parents were still sitting down. I thought I made eye contact with my mom but I don’t know if she winked at me since the sun glare was strong. Just in case, I winked back.
As we walked past the turkey pen, which now had only five turkeys, I
remembered that Allen called me Patrick right before he killed the bird. The damn turkey went out of this world thinking my name was Patrick. I shook my head and turned towards my tree. I thought, one of these days that tree will come to me and when it does it’ll probably think my name is Patrick too. Maybe I will turn out to be that stranger Patrick who likes to climb trees and won’t want to see what else is new out there. Anything could happen. I was still young.
When we sat back at the table with our parents, my kid brother turned to me
and said, “Allen killed Tommy, Allen.”
“What?” I said.
“I had a name for all of the turkeys. It was the world’s smallest turkey
collection, I had to name them.”
“When we get back home, you can tell me all their names,” I said. And I pet
his head like he had pet the rock.
Across the table Allen shook his head.
“ What?” I asked him.
“I still don’t know if I picked the right one.”
I had no idea what he meant. But with Allen it probably didn’t mean anything.
Issue No. 1 - Sept. 2013
C hristopher Cassavella graduated from
Kingsborough Community College with a degree in Liberal Arts. He currently attends Brooklyn College. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his four cats.
Emily McBride is from Lima, Ohio and has been
shooting since the age of six. She likes to find beauty in those things that go unnoticed: the abandoned farm houses, old factories, the bum on the street. Her photography has received several awards and has appeared in numerous publications.
Brandon Mc Ivor was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. In 2009 he came to New York City to study English. He will likely spend the rest of his life coming and going between those two places.
H olly Beth Pratt was born in Cape Town, South
Africa in 1987 and has her Honours degree in Linguistics from Rhodes University. She bought herself a mid-range camera in 2011 and began snapping away. Her travels around the world have provided numerous photographic opportunities and lucky shots. She currently lives in Washington, D.C.
Issue No. 1 - Sept. 2013
Rebecca Anne Renner is a graduate student
in Language Arts Education at the University of Central Florida. When she’s not substitute teaching, she likes long walks through the swamp and not getting caught in the rain. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Underground Voices, Pedestal Magazine, and others.
I an Riggins is a graduate of Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He lives and teaches writing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is currently working on a novel about the 1937 Dominican baseball season. He can be found at www.ianriggins.com.
Fabio Sassi started making visual artworks after
varied experiences in music and writing. He makes acrylics with the stencil technique and still prefers to shoot with an analog camera. He lives in Bologna, Italy and his work can be viewed online at www. fabiosassi.foliohd.com.
Stephanie Trott received a B.A. in English
and Creative Writing from Bryn Mawr College in 2012. Her work has appeared in Polaris: An Undergraduate Journal of Literature and Arts, Bryn Mawr’s Nimbus Magazine, and Cleaver Magazine. An aspiring writer and photographer, she presently lives and works in Mystic, CT.
M ax Vande Vaarst is the founder of Buffalo Almanack and serves as its Fiction
Editior. He is a writer of imaginative fiction whose work has appeared in such sexy, sexy periodicals as A cappella Zoo, Inscape and Jersey Devil Press. He grew up on a near-constant stream of fantasy serials and hero’s journey adventure stories, but he can do proper literature too, if that’s what you’re into. Originally from the great(est) state of New Jersey, Max received his B.A. in English and history from Purdue University and presently resides in Colorado. He can be found online at www.maxvandevaarst.com.
Katie Morrison serves as Photography Editor for Buffalo Almanack. She is an
historian of art and visual culture. She received her B.A. in art history from Purdue University and is presently a Masters candidate in the same field at the University of Colorado. Her research tracks the visual development of urban identity in Detroit, Michigan, from images of the Civil Rights Movement and the 1967 riot through the contemporary phenomenon of “ruin porn.” She is an avid cat enthusiast and possesses a deep passion for iced coffee.
Your lovely editors, pictured hard at work on this very issue. 09/14/13 Thornton, CO
Issue No. 1 - Sept. 2013
J ohn Gummere operates Studio 264, a graphic design studio serving
businesses, institutions and non-profits coast-to-coast. Illustration has long been his speciality, and he works in a variety of media and styles depending on what is most suitable for his clientâ€™s needs. He received his B.A. in architecture from Columbia University in 1977 and lives in Philadelphia.
lesser-known element of the famed Paul Bunyan legend, Johnny Inkslinger served as Bunyanâ€™s office clerk and bookkeeper. To keep up with the demands of his bossâ€™s outsized work, Inkslinger invented a heavy-duty fountain pen, which drew its ink from a barrel-tap and hose. Buffalo Almanack is pleased to have established the Inkslinger Award for Creative Excellence in his honor. This award is issued to the best short story and individual photograph of each issue, as selected by our editors. The cash prize as of September 2013 is $50 per winner, though this amount may be raised in the future as more funds becomes available. There are no fees required for entry into the Inkslinger sweepstakes and all submissions to Buffalo Almanack are automatically in the running. Winners are notified shortly before the release of their respective issue and are recognized on the Buffalo Almanack website, as well as in the pages of our digital journal. A pair of personal checks will be delivered to the winners via the U.S.P.S. sometime during that same month.
Issue No. 1 - Sept. 2013
Buffalo Almanack considers fiction of all styles and genres. We neither
discriminate against the traditional nor the experimental, neither the “literary” nor the fantastic. Our interest in domestic micro-fiction is as great as our interest in space-travel novellas and we’ll always save a seat for the remarkable and unexpected. What then are we looking for? Well, we’re looking for greatness. We’re looking for rich and muscular prose, for stories that make us believe we’ll never read better. We’re looking for plot, for character, for setting, for diction. We’re looking for a writer’s best because the world deserves their best and we know they’ve got what it takes to deliver. Concerning photography, we invest in a diverse range of photographic subjects and styles. We are attracted foremost to strong composition, skilled technical craft and assertive authorial presence. We want images that tell stories, whether through a single frame or a broader narrative series. We want art that makes us ask questions, that leads us to wish we had been there behind the camera ourselves.
Short fiction by Ian Riggins, Brandon Mc Ivor, Rebecca Anne Renner and Christopher Cassavella.