I s s u e N o. 13
S e p t. 2 0 1 6
Maxine Allison Vande Vaarst
Copyright ÂŠ 2016 Buffalo Almanack. All stories property of their respective authors. Cover photo by Ziggy Reed. Buffalo Almanack is a non-profit publishing outfit founded in 2013. New issues are released quarterly, on the last day of March, June, September and December. Inquire online for submission guidelines. www.buffaloalmanack.com Like us at facebook.com/buffaloalmanack
For Donald Trump, a bold and visionary leader. Just kidding. Go absolutely fuck yourself.
If You Lived Here Judith Day
Woodshop Talk Judith Day
Good Bread Julia Mascioli
Photography Justin Hamm
Fried Chicken in the State of Dade Gregory Lee Sullivan
Woodshop Talk Ziggy Reed
Hosting Sarah Glady
Review: A Map of Betrayal Scott Lang
Buffalo Alumni Checking in with #BuffaloNation
Issue No. 13 - Sept. 2016
Digital pigment metallic print with linen texture
Digital pigment metallic print with linen texture
Digital pigment metallic print with linen texture
Digital pigment metallic print with linen texture
If You Lived Here
Our house is for sale. It’s a very small house in rugged hills near the California ocean, too far from San Francisco to be primo and too modest for a fancy vacation home. Still, there are moderate sized towns nearby, so it’s possible to find a job. And being in northern California one does not lack for culture, even out here. Five coffee shops—not Starbucks—are within nine miles. A Korean family operates a great sushi house, and a library has hours four days a week. You can get the Sunday New York Times at a hotel. A movie theatre in a Quonset hut shows one quality flick five nights a week year round, but has no heat in winter. They provide blankets in the lobby. We are selling our house but we are still living inside it, which means keeping it cleaner than normal and being gone on short notice. There is a lockbox near the door that realtors can open. Ordinarily we are not gone from the house because we live here and do not go away to work. So when realtors call and say they will be bringing someone over, we have to find someplace to go.
Once we took a walk on the road. Another time we thought about getting in the car and going someplace, but there is no place we wanted to go. So we walked into the neighbor’s woods until we were out of sight of our house. This worked so well that we do it every time now. We can go in our pajamas. We take books to read and walking sticks for the steep slope, and water, and a camera and binoculars, and something to sit on. Sometimes the cat follows us. He rolls around in the exciting new dirt and sits on our laps as we read. We feel like a family and take pictures of him.
Sitting out in the woods, we are not always sure when the people have come
or if they have gone. One time we moved closer so we could watch, but my husband had worn his blue shirt and light tan cap. Someone waved at us from our deck. We went further into the woods and down the hill.
One time a realtor removed the gate off its hinges trying to get in. It seems
obvious to us how to do it correctly, but after that we put up a sign: Latch, with an arrow pointing to it. We put up other signs around the house, black felt tip on pink index cards. At the kitchen sink: For filtered water, turn HANDLE not spigot. At the top of the inside stairway: Light switch for stairs â€“ steep. At the top of the outside stairway: Caution, steep stairs.
The signs were boring. We made up better signs:
If you lived here youâ€™d be home by now. If you lived here youâ€™d be drunk by now.
If you lived here your own food would be on the walls.
We cleaned. We put up a handrail on some of the stairs.
We wonder who the people are. The time they spotted us, we also got a
glimpse of them: a somewhat obese couple who we figure could never live with those stairs. But who are the others?
There is probably a young, single woman, just the right size to live in a
small, pretty house. She wants to save money for retirement and live in a quieter town, and will drive thirty minutes to work in the bigger town. She may be the one, I think. She says little as she accompanies the garrulous realtor, takes in the warm wood plank floors that need to be refinished, the many wide windows and the endless green outside them. The biggest trees are rooted in the slope far below, and their trunks rise past the windows to heights above. They have remained in their precarious rootedness for many decades and thus may be expected to remain for many more.
She may not notice that similarly gigantic trees are rooted in the slope above
the house and soar almost too far to see. But the next prospective buyer notices this. He is burly, not fat, and his wife is slim. They have a ten-year old girl, old enough not to worry about her falling down the many steep stairs; although,
If You Lived Here
“Mightn’t she trip?” the mother wonders aloud. Mightn’t I trip? she wonders to herself, eying the flimsy handrail. Her husband is looking up the hill at the trees that will flatten even his burly self when they fall. The wife is looking down the hill at the impossibility of catching oneself when one trips. If you lived here you would be dead by now.
Over the past weeks we have made many lists. One was titled “To Do or Not
to Do.” There was a great deal to do, but here are some of the things we chose not to do: paint east side of house, level the driveway, paint posts below house, paint decks. Oh, my. We also did not make new steps for the studio or fix the crack in the office floor. We did make other lists, though. We jotted down a will, in which we listed fifteen descendants to whom we plan to leave our eight Turkish carpets, my diamond ring (which we keep wrapped in a sock in the back of the refrigerator), my laptop, my husband’s collection of Red Rose Tea figurines, his antique gun which we plan to try firing before we move away from the woods, and our several small bank accounts.
We made a list of the improvements we’ve made to the house over fifteen
years, and it was good. If you lived here you’d be safe from the propane tank exploding next to your front door, because we moved it. You’d be less wet when you entered the house because we put polyurethane sheets above the front entrance. You would not so often fall down the steep stairs outside because we put up a handrail, however flimsy. More couples come to look. A woman peering over the deck stairway asks the realtor, “Is that the only way to get down there?” Two gay men from the city are shopping for a weekend retreat. If you lived here you would have done native landscaping by now. Another couple, in their twenties, with jobs, are looking to buy their first home. If you lived here you’d have a lot of work to do on the weekends. They look behind the curtains that are our closet doors and notice too many
clothes, including the same clothes usually strewn about on chairs but now stuffed in wads on the shelf. A couple on vacation from Nebraska fell in love with the area yesterday and today they are house-dreaming before they go home. He is charmed by the idea of heating with wood, and he thinks: if I lived here my in-laws would never visit. But when he considers the large piles of scavenged firewood he wonders if the electric wall heater really warms the place enough. (It doesn’t. If you lived here you’d be cold in the winter.) She whispers to him: for this price, we can get four bedrooms, three acres, and a pool outside Omaha. They look in the fridge. If you lived here you would know what is really inside that jar. If you lived here you wouldn’t look in the freezer. An older couple comes to see the place. They are downsizing. The steep stairs are not a good feature. Still, they are a spry pair and not even as old as us. He might ride a bicycle, which is hard in these hills but people do it. She likes to take long walks and hills are good for cardio. If we lived here, we could replace the old decks and add a small room off the north side, for a guest bedroom and more storage. We could move the washer and dryer from where they sit outside on the top deck and put them down below, and build a proper rain shelter over them. If we lived here, that cute little studio building with all the windows and skylights could be a playroom for Josh when he comes, and a sewing room the rest of the time. I could spread out my quilting materials and have good light to work. I could play classical music on the radio and not bother you.
We’re in the woods again. We’ve found a place to sit where they can’t see us
but we can see them, with binoculars. There is a single man walking across the deck. Now he is peering over the rail at the fallen trees with their ancient bark crumbling off, the mess of ferns dying from the drought. He looks out at the view of trees, treetops, all across the canyon. He sees no other houses, hears road noise far in the distance, hears jays and chickadees close by. He looks up at blue
If You Lived Here
sky and soft drifting clouds, and sees the hawk’s nest which will be occupied again next spring. If I lived here, the night would be dark and quiet. The full moon would come up there in the east, a huge golden globe rising stately through the trees and shining into the house most of the night, circling through all the wide windows. I could grow tomatoes in pots, like these people have done: small red and yellow globes nestled among big leaves. I could take walks down to the river, drive easily to the ocean. Build fires in the woodstove and heat food on top. He looks out into the woods, in our direction but not seeing us, we are sure. We are low to the ground, wearing camo, and holding very still. I could go out into those woods and sit for a while, read a book. He walks back to the front of the house, disappearing from our sight.
Well, someone will buy it. The best scenario is this: the single woman who
admired the big trees wants the house but is afraid she might need someone to help with the upkeep. She returns to look at the house again and crosses paths with the single man, who is thinking he might be pretty lonely up here by himself. They talk, admiring the house together. Soon they are admiring each other.
By the end of the week, the newly paired singles are in a modest bidding war with the downsizing couple. We decide that the younger folks deserve an easier start. We explain: If you lived here you’d be divorced by now. Also, their offer may be a little fragile, since they just met. So we choose the downsizers. They’ve been through enough in life to handle this home. We accept their generous offer, and everybody is beginning to pack. It is really terribly sad for us. But we can truthfully say this to them: If you lived here, you’d be happy by now.
Judith Day is the author of the short story â€œIf You Lived Here,â€? and winner of the Inkslinger Award in fiction for Issue No. 13. Here we chat with her about her process and her art. This is Woodshop Talk.
An Interview With Judith Day
BUFFALO ALMANACK: This issue is all about matters of home,
including the ever-complicated domestic space. What motivated you to write about home?
JUDITH DAY: Someone told me that the Japanese language has a simple,
short word for the feeling you have when you are home. I don’t know the word but I know the feeling, and it is as core to me as any feeling ever could be. I want to die being in that feeling. So I might as well live, there, for practice. And where I live is what I write.
BA: Your story is remarkable for the way it resists intimacy, detaching us
from the experiencing of inhabiting a home. Instead we are left only to look at one as an empty vessel, and imagine the possibilities of filling it. Which is more vital—the lived house or the empty house? Which inspires you more? JD: Both, for sure. As a kid I spent time drawing floor plans of houses. I was a tomboy with no use for girl things, except for the dollhouse in which I over and over rearranged the furniture – sofas in the center of the kitchen, sinks in bedroom corners, beds in the yard. Recurrent dreams place me in certain houses, often mostly empty, where I may be frustrated or delighted depending on whether the dream-wizard within allows me to be in certain sets of rooms. Those rooms are at the ends of the house, or the top, and have great windows and light.
Actual home in childhood was a nightmare, and I am so happy now to
inhabit good space with my husband Doug. The lived house is all about the being-together: precious, inexplicable, not in my control. Some people have found the relationship the most compelling thing about this story.
BA: You’ve written in the past about Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The
Yellow Wallpaper, which is a particularly grim expression of home. Is there an intersection of womanhood, domesticity and madness? How do you express it in your writing?
JD: Grim is the word indeed. My own mother self-medicated with alcohol and
thereby kept herself mostly out of mental institutions, which is where her own mother lived for many years before dying at age fifty-six. So madness runs in this lace-curtain Irish family where the women went crazy trying to be normal.
Restrictions and enforced expectations imprison us all regardless of gender,
but for women the prison is deeply tied to a cardboard cut-out domesticity that hides the truth of divine chaos. A friend of a friend was recently convicted of firstdegree murder after protecting herself and her son from her abusive husband. I hear that she is finding a spaciousness in prison that she never before experienced.
I’ve spent much life energy learning to live free of others’ expectations. What
drives me mad is not being free to be mad. In writing I allow and follow the madness of creativity, which is so much bigger than me.
An Interview With Judith Day
BA: What makes northern California home for you?
JD: I belong here. A native of St. Louis, I first visited the west coast at age sixteen and knew this was it for me. I felt it, knew it. Geography was not as important as other things until my thirties, but when I finally decided to choose where to be, this is where I came. Itâ€™s a value and need: rivers running through hills of giant trees to the endless, open coast in a gorgeous mix of rain, fog, and sunshine. It is wild and mild.
Importantly, it also is a place that invites and nourishes people who are
open-minded. Iâ€™ve known some of them now for many years, and they make this area home for me.
Not to be cavalier about disaster, but I also get to live on an earthquake fault
that is absolutely going to have a big one, sometime soon. What could be more home-like?
Martin recognized her immediately. He’d gone to the library to check his email, see if any of the fancy Culinary Institute chefs had deigned to reply to his job applications, but he forgot all that at the sight of her. She was in the periodicals section, flipping through an old National Geographic. Someone called her name—a boy around her age—and she put the magazine down on the table, still open to the page she’d been reading. When he picked it up, Martin imagined her skin cells rubbing off onto him.
These were the things he knew about her. Her name was June. She was 23.
There wasn’t much about her online, just old articles about her mother, and one 2008 story about a team of Dutchess Community College kids cleaning up the Hudson. There was a group photo, but June was identified—smiling, applecheeked, red hair and freckles, looking straight at the camera.
She did not know him. They had never met. But they were connected, a red
line of fate drawn between them. It was her murdered mother, and the thing that lived in the house where she’d died.
When he returned from the library, the house lurked among the turning
leaves like a tumor. Martin’s head throbbed. It was the house that drove him to drink. Just the house. He told himself this as he rummaged through the whiskey bottles in his kitchen for one that wasn’t bone-dry.
Martin began renting the house several years ago because he could afford
it. He could afford it because one of the previous tenants, Felix Giroux, had murdered eight women and stashed their corpses under the porch. Though more than a decade had passed since the murders, the stain hadn’t faded. The rent was so low, the landlord was practically giving the house away.
It was a little bit off the main drag in Poughkeepsie, a town where the only
people who stuck around were the ones who didn’t have any place to go. And Martin. He’d lived in the house for seven years without incident until July when he went away for a while. The night he came back, that was when the dreams started. Or were they dreams? Martin would wake to sounds from the walls like something inside them was coming alive.
Martin kept his box of memories in the back of the bedroom closet, where
he’d thought it would be out of sight, out of mind. There wasn’t anything bad in the box, not really, and besides—nothing he brought into this house could ever compare to what Felix Giroux aka the Grave Maker had done. Martin liked women and women liked him, and over the years he’d collected a handful of tokens—an earring here, a note there, mementoes of brief affairs. But in the summer he’d gotten some news from the owner of the pearl earring, and he had flown across the Atlantic Ocean for a chance at fatherhood. She had found him unfit. When he came back, a few thousands dollars and a child poorer (although he had never had the child to lose, so really it was the idea that she had taken from him), he found that something had taken up residence in the house in his absence, something that rattled the pipes and filled the walls with wordless wails.
The sounds kept him up late and woke him early. They invaded his dreams.
Sometimes it was a woman screaming in fear, sometimes an inhuman yowl, sometimes it was the Grave Maker hollering all of his hurt and anger at the world.
Martin yelled back. He turned on all the lights and searched every square
inch, he checked closets and crawlspaces with flashlights that flickered and died. He knocked on the wall in the bedroom. Sometimes it knocked back.
“Knock once if you understand me.”
Bam. Bam. Bam. BamBamBamBam.
It was cold too, whatever it was. It filled the house with an inescapable
chill no matter how much Martin cranked up the thermostat. He’d lost his job at the deli—after a few weeks of sleepless nights and trying to drown out the loss in booze, his boss had called him and told him not to come back—and he was spending his severance pay on heat, hot water, and his preferred form of self-medication. This couldn’t go on forever. He had applied to jobs at various restaurants in the area, but they had yet to call him back.
Now, Martin sat on his porch and laughed. If only his old man could see
him. Martin’s father had never rested a day in his life, had worked until he couldn’t. He’d been working the day Martin’s mother died. She slipped on a sheet of ice one morning in their driveway and fell and cracked her skull open. Martin’s father had stood up at her funeral and looked at the mourners and his teenage son in the front row and he’d said, “She always shoveled the walk,” and then it was like all the other words had seeped out of him and he had nothing left. The two of them never talked about her or anything of importance ever again. Now his father was languishing in a nursing home in western Pennsylvania and Martin was sitting on his porch—right there on the wood because he didn’t have any patio furniture—and drinking before noon. He raised the bottle in a toast to the old man. His dad had been a moonshine man, but whiskey would do in a pinch. It was rude to drink alone, so Martin laughed and poured a finger full on the porch.
“To Dad,” he said, then looking at the amber liquid running along the wood
that had once hidden dead women, poured out a second finger. “To the Grave Maker too, you sick bastard.”
All the women he took had been married. Martin had had his share of
married women too, like the mother of his child who was raising his baby with
her husband. Everyone had a type.
The sun felt good, and the alcohol chased away the cold, made it bearable.
He could never get warm in this house. Martin shucked off his coat and lay down on the porch, the bottle cradled against his side. He pressed his cheek to the wood. In the Grave Maker’s day, the TV had run this one clip, over and over—a widower on the steps in front of his house, asking for anyone who had seen his wife—anyone who had taken her—to come forward. And in the clip, the little girl appeared at the screen door behind her daddy, and she didn’t say anything, just looked straight into the camera. That was June. Her mother’s name was May. Someone must have thought it was very clever. Martin laughed. His laugh startled a squirrel that had been perched on the porch railing. Martin watched it scamper away. He hadn’t meant to scare the thing. The squirrel had as much right to the place as he did. Hell, maybe it lived in the walls and wailed all night at him the intruder.
Huh. A screaming squirrel. He shook his head and lay back down. He’d been
a young man when her mother died. Around the same age June was now.
After she left the library, he’d turned over the magazine to see what she’d
been looking at. It was an old black-and-white photograph of a gorge and a rope suspended across it. A man and a horse hung in mid-air below the rope, with a river far below them. The man gripped the rope with both hands, his legs wrapped around the horse. The horse was fastened to the rope, dangling below the man as he hauled them arm-over-arm across the gorge. Martin had looked up and around, but he couldn’t see where she’d gone. He’d wanted to ask what she thought of the picture.
Martin opened his eyes. He was still lying on the porch, above where Felix
the Grave Maker had buried the bodies. The squirrel was back, just inches away.
“It’s just you and me,” Martin said. He reached out one arm but the squirrel
was farther away than he’d thought.
Sometimes he found himself talking to Felix. Not about anything real, just
about food and drink and those Culinary Institute assholes who thought they were better than him, but fancy schooling couldn’t teach you the pleasure of a good grape or the scent and sizzle of pork browning in butter. When he woke up to the strange sounds in the middle of the night, sometimes he yelled, “Pipe the fuck down, Felix!” He never talked to the women. He was frightened of what they would have to say.
A thought tickled the back of his mind. A thought about the dead. He
fumbled for the Scotch, but found it empty. A new itch grew, a need. The kitchen was full of bottles that rattled and clanked, hollow. He sometimes squirreled liquor away in cupboards, closets, drawers. Martin searched his hiding places in the living room, the study that he never used as he had never understood what one was supposed to do in a study, the dining room—all empty. He swore he’d had more.
“Got a taste for whiskey, huh?” he muttered. The house was quiet. “You
don’t want to talk to me, fine, don’t talk.” Martin was plenty good at talking to women, although he’d failed with the Pearl Earring. But there was that idea again—he wasn’t the one who should speak to them. He laughed at himself. He needed a drink.
Poughkeepsie was a depressed former industrial town, and it did not want for liquor stores. Martin twisted off the top before he was even out the door, and in the bright sunlight he stood and stared down the streets towards home and took another drink. He leaned against the glass storefront next to the liquor
store. A bakery called Good Bread. Though the name was unimaginative, the bread was anything but. The display cases were filled with dark loaves, dusted with flour or pocked with nuts and berries. And on a shelf above the counter, a cornucopia and a golden loaf in the shape of a teddy bear, its round stomach rising skyward. Martin’s mother, before she’d died, used to bake bread on Sundays, honey bear bread she called it, though it didn’t look like a bear. As a child, Martin would watch the honey drip from the bottle, and the whole house felt warm and sweet. He wanted to bottle that feeling. He wanted to give it to her. Martin pushed inside.
A few women looked at him, but he was an attractive man with reasonably
defined arms, so he was used to that. One woman edged away. Martin rubbed his jaw; perhaps he should shave. There was a tall man behind the counter, dressed in black with a white apron, and flour dusting his arms. It was hot, and Martin felt an ache behind his eyes. He took another pull from the bottle.
“You need something?”
Martin turned toward the man. The other customers had left. The man stood
with his arms crossed so Martin couldn’t miss the muscles or the good foot of height the baker had on him. Martin straightened his shoulders and stepped up to the counter. “The bear,” he said.
The baker sliced open a loaf with dark whorls inside. “This is a dry
establishment.” His voice was a low rumble as he nodded to the paper bag.
Martin contemplated the bottle, still three quarters full, then tipped it up. He
got in a few swallows before the baker protested.
“Hey, hey! Don’t do that.” He grabbed the bottle out of Martin’s hands and
slammed it against the counter. The big man looked upset.
“I need the bear,” Martin said. No wait, that wasn’t right. “June needs the
bear. I need to give it to her.” Yes, that was it. That feeling—the warm honey feel of his mother’s kitchen—he could give that to her. He could do that much.
The baker went back to slicing the bread, though his grip on the knife seemed
to wobble. Or perhaps that was Martin’s gaze. “Bear’s not for sale,” the baker said. “You can buy the fruit, though. Or how about a good sourdough?” He pointed the knife at the now half-empty bottle. “Something to soak all that up.”
Martin steadied himself on the counter. “I need the bear.”
The baker slid one slice onto a plate. “You need some water, maybe a cup of
coffee.” He sniffed. “A bath too.”
Martin pulled back, affronted. Who was this guy? He didn’t know him.
He didn’t know what he needed. What he needed when he lay awake all night listening to the sounds of that wretched house where he could never get warm. He needed to make things right. For her. “Aren’t you supposed to be nice?” he said. “After all she’s been through…after all we’ve been through! Don’t you want to help?”
The baker set down the knife and squared his shoulders. “I am an artist. I
worked very hard on that bear. Now why should I sell it to someone who comes in here stinking like a distillery, scaring off my customers, going on about some girl, and who probably doesn’t even have the money for it in the first place, and if he did he would just puke it up?”
The baker wasn’t that much bigger than him. Martin stepped around the
counter and reached for the bear.
“Hey, hey, hey!” The baker knocked his arms away but Martin was fueled
by desperation and he reached again for the bear and again, the baker batted his hands away. Martin stumbled into the counter and knocked the loaf of bread and the knife onto the floor. There was a distended moment where both men
halted and looked at the knife flat on the ground between them. The baker’s eyes were wide and he seemed to have shrunk, his hands on the wall and the counter like they were holding him up. A bell chimed and a pimple-faced young man rushed in, apologizing for being late, then stopped.
“Is everything okay, Izaak?”
Izaak the baker looked at Martin and at the young man. “Yes, it’s all right.”
There were a couple of other people gathering in the doorway. Izaak picked up the knife and put it in a drawer behind him, keeping his eyes on Martin. Then, low, he said, “You really need this bear?”
Martin nodded. The ache behind his eyes pulsed like a beating heart. “It will
help me sleep at night.”
“And if I give it to you, you will go away? And stay away?”
Martin nodded again.
“You can have the bear. After you drink a cup of coffee.”
Martin shrugged. Izaak lifted the bear from the shelf. It was golden brown,
with wrinkled raisin eyes that looked up at nothing. It was perfect. She would love it. For a moment, before he set it down on the counter, Izaak held it in his arms like an infant. He wrapped parchment paper around the bear’s legs and belly like swaddling cloth and tied it with twine thrice over so only the round face peeked out of the paper and then that too was wrapped and hidden away.
The pimply young man took Izaak’s place behind the counter and the baker
carried the bear over to a small table in the corner. Martin followed like a fish on a hook, and sat down as the baker poured coffee into a chipped ceramic mug. He set the bear on the table and sat down on the other side. Martin took a small sip of coffee and looked out the window.
The baker was saying something. Martin scowled at the weak coffee.
“I said, how long have you been drinking?”
“Not long enough,” Martin muttered. He should just take the bear and go,
but the afternoon sun and the warm bakery was making him tired.
The baker began rearranging sugar packets. “You got a problem, my friend.”
The smell of the bread was making Martin’s stomach churn. He raised his
eyebrows. “Do I know you?”
“No, but I know you.”
Martin snorted. “Are we going to sing Kumbaya?”
The baker ignored him. “I have a son, and when my son was born, he was
very small. He could not breathe. And so I drank. I can’t remember the day we brought him home. I can’t remember the first time he smiled or opened his eyes. My wife has forgiven me. But what they don’t tell you is that’s the easy part. Other people’s forgiveness.” He twisted a sugar packet between two fingers.
Martin gripped the bottle by the neck. Oh to have the luxury of forgetting, he
thought. You cannot forget the child you will never know.
The baker was still talking. “You got someone in your life? Someone you’re
going to give that bear to?”
Martin took a long gulp of coffee. He had his buddies, he could pick up a
woman whenever he wanted, and he had a dead serial killer he talked to. He didn’t need this know-it-all baker. “Thanks for the chat,” he said. He pulled some bills from his wallet and dropped them on the table. He picked up the bear and the bottle and left the baker sitting there.
It hadn’t been hard to find her. She was in the phonebook. He hadn’t gone
before because he wasn’t sure what to say. Maybe she would cry. Maybe she would yell. Maybe she would invite him in. Maybe she would tell him about
her mother, her father, her life. Maybe she would open the door and he would show her that National Geographic photo of the man holding on to the rope over the chasm, and the horse hanging below him. The horse dangled from the rope bridge by a cable, but the man still gripped the beast with his thighs and hauled both of their weight arm over arm across the river. Maybe she would say nothing, and he would tell her what he saw in the photograph.
“The man in the photo is me,” he would say. “Maybe he’s you too. The
Grave Maker is the horse dragging us down.”
“Are you sure it isn’t the other way around?” she would reply, with her
piercing eyes. “Are you sure you aren’t the horse, clinging to the man?”
But now he had the bear—something to give her, an offering to lay at her
altar. He would show her the bear and she would feel its love and whatever had taken up residence in his walls would be eased.
The Scotch sent heat through him, but it was the bear cradled close to him
that carried a mother’s warmth. He could smell the rich fragrance of the bread with every breath and it hollowed him out and made him hunger. He opened the paper at the top and ripped off a piece, small, she wouldn’t notice, and closed his eyes as he chewed, the crust suffused with something sweet, the bread inside feeling moist and expansive. He washed it down with another drink.
The sun was roosting on the edge of her roof when he arrived. She lived in a
townhouse, cream-colored with pale blue trim around the windows and a small patch of grass out front. There was a car parked in front of the house—she was home. Martin’s breath began to quicken. He took another swig to calm his nerves.
Leaves crunched under his feet as he weaved his way up the sidewalk. He
stepped on a crack. Broke his mother’s back.
“Oops,” Martin said to the bear. To be fair, he stepped on a line to break
his father’s spine. A sound from inside the house made him look up guiltily. “Sorry,” he said. Martin rang the doorbell. He clutched the bear closer to his chest. The door opened.
“Hello?” She was short and a bit round, in a blue polo shirt that had some
corporate logo on it. She blinked at him from behind thick plastic frames, her red hair in a messy ponytail over one shoulder.
His mouth was dry. He lifted the bottle, then thought better of it. “Hello,” he
said, “my name is Martin.”
“Are you here to fix the washer?”
She put one hand on her hip. “You’re not selling something, are you?”
“I’m not selling anything. I’m—here.” He pushed the bread bear wrapped in
parchment paper towards her. She didn’t take it.
“What is that?”
“It’s for you. Please, take it.”
She opened the screen door just enough to reach through and grab the bear.
She peeled the paper away but her lip curled slightly when she saw the bear’s face.
“Oh, um, sorry about the ear, I was—”
“What the hell is this?”
This wasn’t going as he’d planned. “Listen, I, I wanted to say sorry. Sorry.
You see, I live in the Grave Maker’s house, and—” “You what?” Her face was pale, and she looked not angry so much as lost. Could she not know?
“In Felix Giroux’s house.”
“I know who he is,” she said. She pushed the bear back at him and for a
strange moment they engaged in reverse tug-of-war until she let go and his arms came up automatically to catch the bear.
Martin tried again. “What he did to you…”
“What in the name of—you’re not one of those fans are you?” Her eyes had
gone wide and round, and he thought he could count the flecks of her irises.
“No, I just wanted to give you something, and—”
She slammed the door. He heard the deadbolt hit home, and then nothing.
No footsteps. She was just there on the other side. He touched the tips of his fingers to the wood, then he slid down with his back against the wall. He looked at the one-eared bear. He ripped the other ear off and ate that one too. He put the bear down on the welcome mat and patted its belly, there there. He raised the bottle to his lips and drank, and drank, then sputtered and hurled it at the sidewalk. The bottle didn’t even smash, just rolled a little and dribbled drink on the cement.
“Damn you,” Martin said, and he didn’t know if he was talking to the
whiskey or to himself. He looked at his hands. Damn you sorry son of a bitch. She still hadn’t moved on the other side of the door. He wondered if she were sitting like he was, like his mirror image. Look at the two of us, he thought. A motherless girl and a drunk.
The house was waiting for him. It loomed through the sparse trees, yellowbrown leaves seeming to wither around it. He tromped up the steps and let the door bang shut behind him. Let it know he was here.
Besides the strange sounds and the unshakeable chill, the house greeted
him with dusty curtains and cheap furniture, ugly upholstery he ought to rip to shreds—that would be an improvement. A few pictures on the wall: framed
paintings of trees, mountains, rivers. A piece of abstract art that supposedly captured the relentless chaos of living. He went straight for the kitchen where he threw up in the sink. He turned on the tap and drank water from his cupped hands before spitting in the sink and watching the water clear the mess away. “You’re fucked up,” he said aloud. The kid was better off without him. He tried to picture it: himself, a father. All he could see was that baker who couldn’t remember his son’s first smile. He could go back to the bakery. It was getting late, so the doors to Good Bread would be locked. The chairs would be up on the tables, but a single light would be burning in the back when Martin hammered on the door. The baker would let him in. He would be grudging at first, but then he would unfold his arms and step back. In the kitchen, the sourdough smell would wrap around them like an embrace.
Izaak would empty a sack of flour on the table, the powder rising up like
mist around his face. In the steam and the fire, Izaak would bend his whole body into the rolling pin, and Martin would tell him about June, and the Grave Maker, the Pearl Earring and the child he would never know. “Other people’s forgiveness,” Martin would say. “I can’t even ask for that.”
Izaak would say nothing. He would push the rolling pin into Martin’s hands
and set a fresh mound of dough before him. Martin would shove the rolling pin into the dough. Sweat would drip from his brow in the heat of the kitchen. The room would grow rich with the sounds of the ovens humming and hissing, and with the pounding of his head and his heart.
His head did ache, but Martin’s own kitchen was chilly and slightly rank.
There were empty bottles on the counter, the table, one or two on the floor—he chucked them one by one into the bin. Then he heard it.
Bam. Bam. Upstairs. The bottle he was holding slipped from limp fingers.
“God damn,” he said. This goddamn house. The pulsing in his head matched
the pounding from the walls as he walked up the stairs to the bedroom.
It was cold; he slammed the window shut. He didn’t think he’d left it open.
Then he smelled it: the stench of rotting meat, coming from the closet. He dug through the piles of clothes and shoes, and there it was, his box of memories. His trophies. He upended it on the floor in the middle of the room. The leather-bound diary, the flower pin she’d worn in her hair, the pearl earring, the feather, all detritus of past lovers, and the gold ring that fell on its side and rolled away under the bed.
He swore and stretched one arm under the bed to retrieve it. His hand grasped
only dust and for a moment he thought the mattress above him sagged under an invisible weight. The house creaked and groaned around him. Something was crying out from inside the walls. Something was dying. He abandoned the ring to the darkness and slammed his fist against the wall. He kept tearing at cracks in the plaster until his skin split and then he kept going. It sounded like a woman wailing, and he felt the specter of the Grave Maker breathing down his neck and lifting his arm as he kept hitting and tearing until a chunk came apart in his hands and he stumbled back from the force of it.
In the moment of silence, of release, Martin shivered. He dropped the broken
plaster on the floor and approached the hole in the wall.
Pipes. Insulation. He stretched a hand through. There had to be something
there. Someone. Someone had been making him crazy all these cold nights. He sobbed. He began to rip at the edges of the hole, tearing it wider, but what he saw inside didn’t change. A moan echoed through one of the pipes. But it had to be a trick, it had to be, and he tore at the hole in the wall with bloody fingers. He wanted to destroy the house. He wanted to crawl inside and see if anyone would hear him.
Justin Hamm Canon T2i
Justin Hamm Canon T2i
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Justin Hamm Canon T2i
Justin Hamm Canon T2i
Gregory Lee Sullivan
Fried Chicken in the State of Dade
I was telling a story just the other day, actually—not this exact story but something similar. And one of them, one of the roommates from back in those days, had to correct me over the phone. Over the phone because I stay hidden away now, deep within my own country, away from all them and their native Georgia chicken places. And so that’s how I must communicate now with all my old friends, by phone. You’re missing the part where Rich stands up in his man pants, the old roommate told me. His name was Winchester Henry Flykat. I knew him best when he was a short Jewish kid, but now he is a short Jewish man. This is what we both then recalled Rich had said back then, standing in our old apartment with a hand on each of his slender hips, in just his colorful “man pants” underwear: tie-dyed whitey tighties, which he claimed he wore anytime he was partying, his bony waist thrust forward like the Captain Morgan figure, in that most awkward of poses. I like Zaxby’s, Rich said long ago, because they give me quality chicken at affordable prices.
Rich might be dead now, of course. He was several years older than the
rest of us anyway. Flykat and I both are unclear of any current whereabouts. Rich hadn’t gone to college for a long time even then and hadn’t come close to finishing. His Zaxby’s comment had to have happened on a weekend because my understanding is that Rich was an electrician back in those days, and we believed that he lived with his parents somewhere near Atlanta during the week. So he’d drive up to Athens every weekend in a Jeep with sweaty cash in his pockets from his forty-hour job and crash on our roach-infested apartment couch only because he’d lived in our same apartment complex several years earlier. He would sometimes draw a complex friendship tree with the names
Gregory Lee Sullivan
of a dozen or so former tenants of Apartment 86-B for us into the blacktop of the parking lot with a piece of chalk he carried with him. We were thus inclined to offer him weekend asylum every week so he could get out from his overbearing parents (he was at least thirty years old, while we were around twenty). Sometimes, though not usually, he would be sober enough on arrival to go to the bars with us. If he’d go, he always insisted on picking up the tab for everyone. There was a condition, however, that we could only drink Lone Star beer when he was buying. If he caught one of us ordering something else, he’d make a scene. He shattered a beer bottle once that left a hefty shard in an unsuspecting sorority girl’s foot. She didn’t make a sound, the sport she was, but her face began to change, like someone’s face does when they’re fixing to cry. You wore flip-flops into a bar, he shouted at her, as she tried as best the best she could to mask what must have been seething pain. Someone play this cunt a sad song.
I, for the record, also liked Zaxby’s. As far as I know everyone did. But I was
only so-so on Lone Star.
The thing was Flykat or Flykitty or Flypussy, or whatever we were calling
him back in those days, was quite a character himself, although you had to take him more seriously than most of the others. And he liked Zaxby’s even more than Rich did. Zaxby’s was a fried chicken chain restaurant that all ten of us from 86-B found so addictive, but Flykat was its greatest advocate.
He’d say: Man. I need a Zalad, man. Love a good Zalad. Really need a fucking
Zalad. Ever since I had my first Zax Snak. Dipped my fries. Also my fingerz. And my fingers. In Zax Sauce, and licked them. Been hooked ever since that, man. When my friend Tail from Savannah goes to Zaxby’s with me, he gets a Zandwich, but not me. I
Fried Chicken in the State of Dade
stick with the Zalad. Texas Toast and Zax Sauce. (Turns out Flykat had worked at a Zaxby’s for a while down in Savannah, where he’s from, back in high school, though we didn’t know that at the time because he wasn’t huge on backstory). He’d continue: I usually get Ranch on my Zalad. And sometimes I get a Znak to take home. I mean, a snack. Zappetizers, man.
A little on my homeland, the State of Dade:
The State of Dade is the country where I’m from and reside in yet again, and
most people outside still don’t know it’s here. The mountains in the fall here glow a brilliant mix of orange, red, and yellow due to the brilliant foliage of our trees. I’m the first citizen in my home country to have attended college, but they still won’t accept me into the cultural elite. Alas. The only sound you’ll ever hear in Dade is that of our water gushing down slick rocks into the base of Cloudland Canyon. That is, unless the school marching band is out rehearsing for its weekly Friday game. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear the blond-headed kids’ snaredrum rim shots and horn blasts of “Dixie” echoing from off the sharp edges of Alabama and Tennessee. That’s the local fight song in this magic place. At night there is almost nothing to be heard, just the sound of an owl or small bat fluttering up into the twilight over the scattered chimney tops. We burn our trash here, piled high and caddywhompus in a twenty-foot-tall enclosure surrounded by chicken wire. I always stay to watch it burn and the smoke drift into the night sky, and I smell the rubber burning too as the flames slowly sear all the black and white plastic trash bags of our little nation. And the smell gradually dies off. And even after you know it’s died off, you can still smell it just slightly, like how you can sometimes still feel an energy from recent laughter in a house after a good party.
Gregory Lee Sullivan
Who runs this Dade? It depends who you’re asking. The United States of America often winks in our direction. I suspect there exist some federal agencies that have long known we’re here, smack in the middle of the South. Mostly that country chooses to ignore us. For instance, the US Mint left us off their Georgia quarter. Take a look at one some time. All of Dade is missing, that big isosceles triangle severed off from the northwest corner on the Georgia map, prominent and embossed, rising off the tail side of the coin. The state of Georgia forgot the State of Dade entirely for most of its history. It left us to do our trade in Chattanooga: the closest city of importance, but in Tennessee. Our forefathers would set off to and from Chattanooga in their wagons. We were even attached somewhat to northeastern Alabama by dirt roads back in those days. But Dade wasn’t connected by road to the state of Georgia until 1939 when the state purchased the land for what would become Cloudland Canyon State Park, what outsiders call Dade County. But this same place is what we locals refer to as our State of Dade, an entirely independent nation.
The county had a state secessionist movement during the Civil War. The
locals wanted to secede from the Union while the state of Georgia on the whole was initially cautious. The way the legend goes, the people of Dade were so restless to secede, they simply seceded themselves from the Union and, therefore, also from Georgia, tucked away from the larger world in the tall shadows under Lookout Mountain. The whole ordeal came further to light on Independence Day 1945 as American patriotism enjoyed its post-war boom. In an attempt to drum up regional tourism for a harvest festival, it was announced that the State of Dade would “officially” rejoin the United States. A telegram from Harry Truman was read celebrating the county’s rejoining Uncle Sam. Symbolically, at least, the event took place. Although, the majority of credible
Fried Chicken in the State of Dade
outside historians believed Dade County only officially seceded along with the State of Georgia during the Civil War, and therefore reentered the Union long ago along with it. On paper, all that made sense, but tucked away, in absence still of the networks of roads which blanket most similar places, aside from Interstate 59 and a single, bumpy state highway, most of the county remains quite isolated. Almost no one knows what happens here under all the treetops and inside all the caves on the mountains. Over time, our small country has experienced something thought not possible anymore to the rest of North America: quiet growth. Each decent drifter that comes through here seems to never leave. The county’s population on the books last Census was 16,633. But there are easily 40,000 people here, hidden from view, and we are the true stewards of the State of Dade, a shadow nation of bandits and outsiders. For centuries we lived in a state of relative peace. But that was until someone who ran the new Zaxby’s in the county seat of Trenton was so intent on not paying federal taxes out of principle he exposed us all during his protests, detailing who we were and what we stood for and, in the process, led to our current showdown with the federal and state governments of the United States and Georgia, respectively—who contend that as citizens we rightfully belong to each of them. The Zaxby’s operator must not have thought through the cost of his words. And now they both are trying to root us all out and force us to resettle elsewhere. And they are clamoring for back taxes, but we won’t pay. They say the land isn’t ours, that we should stand down, that we should surrender. But I say long live the State of Dade, and Zaxby’s forever!
You see, I can’t be mad at Zaxby’s, despite their outing of our existence and
what might ultimately wind up meaning the death of my home country. So I eat
Gregory Lee Sullivan
my words. The chicken is far too good. As is its Zax Sauce and fries, which are perfectly seasoned. For a long time, all our country had was its Hardee’s. And I do love Hardee’s’ breakfast biscuits. I fear they are still lost to many out in the world at large, but we have them here in abundance. There is Hardee’s breakfast for every good man. Regardless, I’m grateful as a citizen of Dade to have another local dining option, and a good one. I agree with how Rich put it back when I was out seeing the world in Athens: Zaxby’s bestows upon us quality chicken at affordable prices. And thank God for it, and more jobs, too, for us locals.
And guess who opened the first Zaxby’s restaurant in the State of Dade?
Winchester Henry Flykat. He’s the one who got us in this mess. I’d visited him in Savannah once after college. I’d like to think we’ve remained fairly close. Turns out, he was a natural entrepreneur.
I’ll always remember that visit right after college. I’d always enjoyed
Savannah. I really liked how you were allowed to have an open container down on the riverfront. My girlfriend and I drove back to Athens from Savannah on the back road you had to take. It was nighttime and not a single gas station was open on the two-lane road. My truck burned three-quarters a tank of gas without passing a thing, and I remember I nearly prayed when I was on empty, and right then a gas station that was open appeared in this one town I can’t even remember. One never knows when something will materialize out of thin air. It often works like that, I’ve found. When you least expect it.
They still fly the old state flag outside the courthouse in Trenton. The one
with Confederate battle flag on it that cost Governor Roy Barnes the election in the early 2000’s when he had it pulled down in Atlanta. And Georgia, in retaliation, seemed to have completely shifted to the Republican Party forever,
Fried Chicken in the State of Dade
although the flag removal was to some of us the right thing. It’s the official flag of the county now. The State of Dade, however, doesn’t yet have a national flag. See, we are two different things, the county and the nation. We never needed a flag. But now that we’re out in the open, we should get one. I’m thinking it could have a Zaxby’s logo with a white chicken with the red crest and golden feet, and that beady-eyed sun logo of Hardee’s taking a siesta in one of the flag’s corners, with its legs and arms contorted in a way that folds its body up into the perfect shape of Dade. Showcase our strengths. We could lure McDonald’s too, but I’m talking about business now and not just flags. Perhaps we could have a small mall of fast food places out here like they have at some truck stops now out on the highways not too far from our borders where you can get any kind of food you want.
The new Zaxby’s here in Dade is okay. It’s not like the one in Athens near our old college apartment, one of several they had over there, with all its pretty young women who smelled of fresh chicken and citrus shampoos and hangovers when you’d go in on Sunday mornings. And I say that conceding the view at the one here in Dade now that my old friend Flykat has recently opened can only be described as majestic, with the face of Lookout Mountain jutting out the back end of the parking lot in a cloud of mist, making me feel miniscule in the eyes of our benevolent God.
My slight sorrow with this Zaxby’s, I can tell you, is probably due just to me
not being the same as I was because I’ve aged. Sadly. So it’s not quite the same anymore. But I can still get a Zandwich or a Zalad or a Big Zax Snak. That hasn’t changed. Flykat says it never will as long as he’s around. No way, man.
And thank God Flykat is still around. He comes up now and then to check
on the new franchise. He tells me about how a former University of Georgia head football coach also is involved with some franchises around the area. We
Gregory Lee Sullivan
usually don’t talk about the Dade Revolution. We got in a conversation recently about what all some of the other old SEC football coaches have gotten into career-wise since coaching. One who was head coach at Vanderbilt worked in a tollbooth down on the Florida Panhandle after he was fired. Another who was head coach at Florida works at a small bank branch. There was another from Georgia who got busted on allegations of a Ponzi scheme, and he was accused of having preyed on some notable former star players. These guys, these former big-school football coaches, were some of the biggest celebrities in the South in their times. They were gods. But you’ve got to go on and do something. You’ve just got to suck it up and go on. You must persist.
Flykat is still so salt of the earth. He rubs his hands through his wild black
hair and eats at his Zalad with a plastic fork. We talk about our old friends from 86-B, like John, Tex, Fat Tasker, the Bunny, and of course Rich, and all the others and their many stories, their successful marriages and failed music careers. Their eventful and uneventful arrests, their lengthy and haphazard careers in cinema and pornography, and then the one of us, Balboa, who according to the internet became a Catholic archbishop in a country where most, we’d been fairly sure, still worship demons. And always the disappearances of us from the map, which were the worst because it’s like you just die. We’re sitting together in a booth by a window, Flykat and I, talking about how things are changing in Dade now. How an Indian family opened up our first Dairy Queen franchise a few months after 9-11, and some guys stood outside and protested Muslims, even though the family in question were Hindus. I didn’t tell Flykat this, but one time, back when I used to leave the country more often, I drove up to Nashville in my truck. I drove by a synagogue and there were people outside it protesting the fact that people, Jews, were
Fried Chicken in the State of Dade
practicing a religion other than Christianity. They could do it outside Planned Parenthood places too, and be men with big cocks.
I love fingerz. I swirl one in an orange puddle of Zax sauce, like a little
orange lake I’ve created upon my tray. I lick salt off a fry, eat it, and wash it down with cold tea, and chew on some of those perfect ice cubes from the bottom of my Styrofoam cup.
Flykat looks at me and laughs. What’d I tell ya, man. In reality, he’s told me
a shit-ton over the years. A breeze picks up outside and the county’s official flag blows in the wind, and I think I hear the band playing “Dixie” again. On a Saturday? I eat another of my fingerz, thinking it’s a dream, and all I can think in my brain is how what I’m chewing is so different than anything from Chickfil-A (which we’re due to get soon, the paper said), and there is that zing of extra flavor to the chicken, and I’m not talking about the new Cajun Zandwich either. Flykat munches on his Zalad, and I don’t think about all that has changed so much for a bit. I don’t think of the girls in Athens, either.
Just then, a man walks in the restaurant wearing a blue jean coat. I don’t
recognize his face. He could be anyone. “What do you want?” I ask. He doesn’t answer, so I ask him again, “What do you want?” He turns and walks out the door and doesn’t say anything. I didn’t get a good look at him, and we never found out what he’d wanted. We’re going to lose the revolution eventually.
When Flykat asks what I know, I know that’s his way of saying he’s leaving
for a while and I chew the last of my fingerz. Think of the fate of the hog that’s growing fat, I want to tell him, leaving him with a last slice of my musing on the entire state of things for him to take out to the road with him. But I realize he could easily say almost the very same thing, looking at me, because I’ve grown somewhat chubby over the past few years. Think of the fate of the hog that’s
Gregory Lee Sullivan
growing fat, man. Instead, I ask him about his old friend Tail from Savannah who used to suck royally at guitar. I don’t listen to what he says back to me. Instead, I’m in a deep internal debate on whether or not to grab some of the fries he’s left on his tray that he doesn’t seem like he’s going to finish off. On shaking my hand goodbye, Flykat walks out of the restaurant. There are at least a million Zaxby’s from here and where he’s got to be by sundown, and he’s got to check in on all of them. But I can see in his eyes my friend misses me almost as much as I miss him. In his sports car, he revs up his engine at the parking lot exit as a joke, watching me for my reaction and seeing me wave. For a minute, I miss living with him again in our old college apartment, and I see him head off far beyond that invisible border into what’s now become a storm, with his exhaust smoke mixing, at least temporarily, with the burning trash from our secret villages. And, to me, it’s beautiful.
Fried Chicken in the State of Dade
Ziggy Reed is a photographer and winner of the Inkslinger Award in visual arts for Issue No. 13. Here we chat with him about his process and his art. This is Woodshop Talk.
An Interview With Ziggy Reed
BUFFALO ALMANACK: You mention the “woes of a common
suburbanite.” What are these, and what about them makes a suburbanite “common?”
ZIGGY REED: My biggest fear has always been that I’d end up Normal. It’s
a scary proposition. I see it all around me. You can’t be Normal and Special at the same time. So you find yourself in a blind rebellion against normalcy, which inherently is a masochistic reaction - you harm yourself so no one else can do it for you. It’s an odd form of control.
The woe of the common suburbanite is a reflection of our priorities. When life
becomes dull what are you left to care about? I have food, I have money, I have comforts that people in this world do unspeakable things for. Does that make my pain less? A lot of people say it does, and maybe they’re right, but everybody hurts, just differently. I’ve never met a person who has it all figured out.
If I neglect to cut my grass or take my garbage cans from the curb I get
a wrathful letter taped to my door. It’s easy to get caught up in things like that. You become angry and you want to retaliate. But Tamra across the street can’t really hate me. She doesn’t even know me. These people live in a slew of misguided emotions. It’s impossible to reason with that kind of mentality.
BA: I might ask where you live, but perhaps its doesn’t matter. The
American suburbs are all one place. What does that place mean to you?
ZR: I grew up in a town that no one ever leaves. No one’s rich but no one
is really poor. My parents worked hard to get us here but died when I was 9. They were never wealthy by any means but they subscribed to the idea of Life Insurance, and that left me with a house and more money than either of them ever
Ziggy Reed Canon 60D
Inkslinger Award Winner
had. So I turned 18 and I never had to ‘do’ anything for what I owned. That’s the main reason I never related to anyone around me.
I used to feel sorry for myself. No one ever bought me an ice-cream because I
hit a home run, or grounded me because I snuck out. I always kind of did what I wanted. My Uncle was my guardian but he never had any real rules and I didn’t go to school, so parents wouldn’t let their kids hang out with me.
When I became a legal adult my Uncle moved out. All of my friends still lived
with their parents so naturally my house became the party house. It’s 4 years later and the neighbors still look at me like I don’t belong and call the cops when I’m loud. But their kids used to get drunk at my parties so I laugh at the hypocrisy. Also, I’ve slept with a good number of their daughters so I feel like I won a little there.
BA: Why do you refer to your neighbors as “the suburbanites?” What makes
them so suburban, and you so—not?
ZR: The people I live around have worked their entire adult lives to afford
what, in their eyes, I was simply given. That’s the main difference. But no one ever gave me the choice - money or love- because I’m certain that I’d choose to watch my mother grow old every time. And maybe therein lies the mutual disdain.
Sometimes I think that I am them. I mean I live amongst them, I eat at the same
restaurants, and I get gas at the same 7-11. Sometimes I feel I’m just as ignorant too, just maybe in a different way. However, I definitely do a lot more acid than they do .
BA: If you could look out your bedroom window and see anything, what
would you see?
ZR: My mother pulling up to the driveway with a car full of groceries.
I am from the city that drives. I am from the city that called to the motor
city to the windy city, and pulled the Midwest into the desert to try again to find health to escape the wars born on the east coast to come to the border, the other one, the one not lined by lakes. I am from the city that was planted and paved, was comforting, was an invasive species, was like the mulberry trees and the casseroles we stole from Michigan, from Illinois.
I am from the city ground upon centuries of farmer-survivors in the heat and
then built up and out on Midwestern hospitality. We went west we moved out and we took our cars with us and based our hospitality around driving to the ones we love, waiting on the engines and the machines to bring us our partners and sisters, waiting to host and survive.
I am from the city that drives, and so I listen to the radio. I’m not from the
Midwest and so I listen instead of talk, or I try, and I listen and there’s this show that’s on most weekday morning has a segment where the hosts surprise a cheater. The hosts get a call from a fiancé or a wife or a boyfriend who is past worried and can only see anger, betrayal. They make that person wait in silence and they call their partner, tell them they’ve won it all and ask to whom they want to send their free flowers or chocolate or vacation. The person on the other line always hesitates—sighs deeply—then goes for it and sends it to their new lover, to their boss, to their teacher, to their other girlfriend. They ask to sign it with their real name, their fake name, with an ILOVEU or a SORRY FOR THOSE TEST RESULTS. They never make it through their call before their partner jumps in, vindicated, screaming, and crying. The accused and guilty always
screams back, denies it, and then says exactly why the accuser drove them to cheating—why they deserve it. It’s the highest rated show in every state it plays. Millions and millions start their weeks, their work amid these screams and sobs. The hosts laugh. The hosts are from the coast on the west with water. I am hurt by their reception.
Last week it was a teacher catching a movie attendant who was in love with
a blogger. I listened while I bought the ingredients to bake for my friends, for the ones uprooting. We drive to new places in the sunset of their time in the city. We try donuts. We try diners.
I have to drive everywhere. I drive to work to family to friends to cities to
bars to libraries to empty lots where I can think or tune out or drink a coke to the sorrow of the abandoned on the radio. I will soon drive north, back to the Midwest. I am driving to the store now to buy the things to make care packages for my friends. I want them to be welcomed home to their new states—I worry no one will welcome them. I worry they will forget me, the one with the open door in the desert.
But my worry is excess. I’ve been trying to cut back this year. I want to cut
back on the pain I cause, on the pain I feel, on the damage my engines put into the sky. I’m sick of being an invasive species. Mi casa es su casa es la tierra es una puerta abierta. I scroll through my phone every day looking for ways to simplify. To reach my quickly drifting friends by foot or bike or bus. They are far from me and going to be farther still. I want to be with them but I would need to use the car with the radio with the partners breaking across the radio waves.
I live just enough away that I canâ€™t walk anywhere. I have to pay others to
take me there or take me home or cash in favors with friends to pick me up or drive and stay away from the wine or the shot glasses or the other badges of being twenty-six. When I can afford it, I always pay others. Their cars have different radio. Have only love songs or classic rock or yelling male comedians.
The hosts on the radio are sad sometimes. Sometimes they talk about their
dead mothers, about their stillborn children. It is a glimpse of their homes, from their voices invading our valley spaces.
In March, it was a game and fish warden crying at a mechanic yelling about
a co-ed. They took everything from each other and cracked it to the marrow on the air.
My cat cannot hear the radio. She plays host to my friends, to ticks. She is a
host like the trees outside my window being choked by vines and the sun. She is breaking her body, pouring out her blood for the little ones.
I buy wine for others I pour out myself I get broken sometimes others host
me and take and take.
The cab driver in February took too much from me. I was coming home,
drunk, from a wedding. A hotel full of hospitality majors grown up to bring wine to trust fund babies and new money and the rest and she was a childhood friend. She put me at the singles table. I hadnâ€™t been single when she invited me, but she put me there anyway. I tried to talk to the east coast think-tank violin player.
The old money got drunker and the smart and sweet violinist left to speak
to old ivy friends on the patio. I tried to talk to the bride, I talked to a couple my parents’ know, (It’s so sweet watching you kids grow up. I know we all cherish seeing the beautiful and great and successful people you’ve all become). The old money got drunk, tried to dip me to the band’s version of Sinatra. Slides his hand between my legs. I move it and leave the dance floor. The friends of my parents watch me, don’t stop it, but find me, (Sarah, good for you, you’re always so sassy. I tell my daughters to always protect their goodness too). The consultant tells me about his helicopters, asks me if I ever wanted designer things, old money things. Tells me that the ivy crowd isn’t there for me. He touches my leg and gets a phone call.
This is not my home. This is my old city, but not my home. I leave and cry a
little. Text my friends. My phone is too full for the driver app. I ask the valet to call me a ride. He’s blasting the radio.
It’s an unmarked car with no meter. I try to ask about the company and the
valet tells me it’s the restaurant’s preferred brand. My heart is too full.
The driver is friendly, asks me about the wedding, tells me about his wife
who left him for another man. Turns up the jazz on the radio. Asks me if I’m single. I tell him about the old money, tell him about an ex-boyfriend, tell him that things ended okay and that we will probably stay close, (Oh, I see girl. You still love him. That’s a tough place to be, carrying someone who doesn’t want you in your heart). I pour out too much he is not the Midwest not the Sonora not the desert kind that is strong, no he is a breaker.
I stop talking to the cab driver. I cry a little again. I trace my arms, my hip
bones and know that I will have small and faint bruises from itching at the spots where I was trying to pull away from the consultant and his helicopter hands and his helicopter promises. We get to my place. The driver tells me it’s $80.00. I tell him it’s usually $11.00. He calls someone, put him on speakerphone. I argue back, making sure he knows I heard everything on the other line. I text my friends, hoping for company. I’m a little too far away and it’s a little too late in the evening. My cat welcomes me home, licks my eyebrows.
It’s not February now. My people are leaving and things move forward
and home will be worn and flooded up and reshaped by the monsoons that are coming. I am harder, better, faster, stronger. Rested. Working on my own ledgers and meters and healing the muscles holding my ribs together and holding the other people closer. There’s less radio time for me now. Those hosts are gone. Now I can pick my music, put lighter frames in my headphones for my mornings. Now I can pretend everyone in my city is faithful, is satisfied. I can pretend their doors are all unlocked and that I have keys to the safer places and that they will always come into my living room onto my porch, into my kitchen. I try walking farther and almost can make it to my friends’ houses and bars before the force of the desert starts to predict summer. I still live in the city that drives.
Some of them are leaving soon. I’m trying to soak up every detail of their
faces while I wait for work. I’m in a different car, the one with footprints on the ceiling and the seat covers that don’t quite stay on but smell like the rugs in my grandma’s car or like the rags in my grandpa’s woodshop and worktable. It is fast and it is mine and I leave it littered around town some nights. I don’t have to hear the broken in the morning. I get up and move my body to music and prepare for their trips, try to make them know they are welcomed, loved, missed. I abandon the car when the moon is out, pick it up when the sun is at its peak. This night I do not prepare to leave it. I am whittling down things in my life, trying to narrow to the important. I look at my money and I look at my apartment and I need to conserve. Money does not mean a better place for friends. Friends come in the heat, in the leanness.
Tonight I cut my car. I call for a driver, this time I know the company, know
how much money, know who to burn if the driver tries to cheat me or hurt me. I check the box of “no music—no radio.”
Her name is Blessing, but not really, or it is, but not in those letters, and I
won’t try to remember her real name. She looks my age but calls me hon and I sit in the front seat. Asks me where I’m going, (drinks with friends to celebrate— they’re leaving, I’ve got an interview, it’s Wednesday, we’re all a little in love in the nostalgic way). I ask her if she’s a wine person and she tells me she doesn’t drink but she tried beer once when she first got married, but it tasted like bile to her thirteen year old mouth. I ask again and she repeats the same age the same years and I understand that her homes and open doors have been different from mine.
She does like smoking, well, not weed, not anything harsher, only shisha.
We pass Mijana’s Buffet and we both point and ask at the same time if the other has been there, smoked there, seen the belly dancers. I want her to be my friend. I want her to come meet my friends. She is funny and her laugh actually rings like crystal plates clinking. I ask if she ever needs a hookah partner. She ignores my question and says, “Yeah, no I never drink. Plus, it is so hard with the kids, you know. It used to be easier with my boyfriend, but his mother told him we couldn’t get married because I’m not Catholic, because I’m a Muslim.” Her boyfriend lived with her and her two children for two years, he didn’t pay rent, but he took her out once every other month or so and he tried to give her another baby so they’d have a reason to get married and be together forever, which would have been fine with her jobs, but his mother said no and she couldn’t get pregnant.
Blessing tells me her husband may have poisoned her womb. She tells me she ran away from him when she was 21, after they had two children and she had been with him for five years in three countries. She tells me she is Russian, but that she also lived in Sweden and that her parents traded her for financial security and told her she’d be safe with her educated and driven 56 year old husband. Blessing tells me it’s a blessing that she learned English as a child in Russia. She’s trilingual. I’ve put her so high up on my hero pedestal that I start sliding down from the climb. Blessing lets me go into the night. I rate her high on my phone. I see that she’s almost always not in this side of town. I think about her when I drive by the buffet and hookah dive by my house the next day long after the break-up show. I think about what I would cook for her. I wonder who she knows in Michigan.
But before the morning, there is another driver to bring me back. I am sad
when he picks me up, but he doesn’t ask and ignores my boxes in the message and blasts Kid Rock. He moved here with his wife from Vegas, and he finally learned his lesson about not giving those kids by the university rides for beer runs (They’re always gonna leave their cardboard case boxes.) He likes young folks though, he’s always been one for parties, and it hasn’t stopped into retirement. He tells me he likes downtown Scottsdale, but prefers Mill (fewer cougars, you know?), and says he feels like there’s a place there for him even among the sophomores trying to be hotter than their STDs. Tells me at twentysix I might be too old to really taste what he’s getting at. His daughter is close to my age, married for five years, has three beautiful children two of whom just met their favorite godparent, met the family priest. He asks me if I’m at least having fun, you know getting to live in such a cheap sunny place. After he drops me off, I wonder about his marriage. I hesitate, and then give him a mediocre rating on my phone. I doubt they have people over to their home. I doubt their families came from the great lakes. They do not understand the city that drives, they have chosen a misshapen way to fit into the welcome sign.
Before that, before he’s picking me up, I was away from infidelity and was surrounded by the glow of a Tuesday and we all had wine and bread and oils at the place by their work. I spoke a little too loudly about my feelings about the head of their company and they all whipped around to see if anyone more important and higher paid was near enough to place them with me. There isn’t. We all finish our wine and hold each others’ glances and joke with the idea of going out dancing, a last hurrah, or diminish into the west, and remain unchanged. Tonight, I have no bruises on my shoulders from old money
consultants. I have no poison in my gut from a policed and required marriage. I can host them all in my city, beyond the door of my home, beyond my wallet. There is no one to report to the radio host, no one who can call about me. I am a good and faithful servant. I have no clear idea of who Iâ€™m fighting or why. I have no reason to leave the people around this table. I have no job waiting in the morning. I am twenty-six and have no reason to not go dancing. I want to welcome the moon and the drivers and the survivors and my family and I will welcome them forever.
Review – A Map of Betrayal
In his personal essay “Exiled to English,” Ha Jin emphasizes that “loyalty is a two-way street.”
This idea similarly informs his latest novel, A Map of Betrayal, which deals
with the relationship between loyalty and betrayal. The book relies on this dichotomy to structure the narrative, which is woven together skillfully by the author. Jin’s protagonist, Gary Shang, is a low-level Communist spy who works up the ranks of the C.I.A. as an interpreter, ultimately revealing that his allegiance is to both countries. Shang states in court that the “two countries are like parents,” but finds out too late that national loyalty is bitterly one-sided. The result of Gary’s lifelong sacrifice as C.I.A. mole is nothing more than a prison
sentence in America, and disownment by his home country of China. This intriguing narrative certainly delivers on the title’s promise of betrayal.
However, Jin’s real achievement comes not through the construction of
his spy novel façade, but in the way he reveals how Gary Shang’s doublelife unfolded from the years 1949-1980 through the eyes of Shang’s daughter, Lillian. This second narrative, set in both contemporary America and modernday China, sees Lillian acting as a bridge to connect her father’s past with the present day. The chapters themselves, demarcated by year rather than number, oscillate between the past and present seamlessly.
An historian by profession, Lillian attempts to reconstruct her father’s
dubious past through his personal journals, sent to her by his former mistress. What is revealed from Lillian’s examination of these journals provides redemption for her father, who was once considered, “the most important Chinese spy ever caught in the United States.”
Compellingly revealed throughout the novel are the other dimensions of
Shang’s life. Rather than be demonized as a Chinese spy, he is compassionately presented as a man who spent his whole life carrying great secrets at the risk of running afoul of both the U.S. and Chinese governments Ha Jin skillfully weaves together a novel that is both a family history and a Cold War tale of espionage, as well as a title which will surely resonate with contemporary readers, steeped as we are in headlines about D.N.C. hacks and Edward Snowden. This novel broaches the topics of patriotism and loyalty to one’s homeland in a refreshing way—by considering them from the individual level.
J udith Day grew up in St. Louis and lived for thirty
years with her husband near the northern California coast. Her stories recently appeared in Persimmon Tree, Canyon Voices, The Otter, and Behind the Yellow Wallpaper, an anthology of women and madness. She is working on a novella about three people who lived through war.
Sarah Glady writes, teaches, hikes, and lives in
Phoenix, Arizona. She holds an M.A. in literature from Arizona State University. Her recent work can be found in or is forthcoming from Parcel, PANK and Knee-Jerk.
J ustin Hamm is the founding editor of the museum of
americana and the author of a poetry/photography book, American Ephemeral, as well as a full-length collection of poems, Lessons in Ruin, and two poetry chapbooks. His poems or stories have appeared, or will soon appear, in Nimrod, The Midwest Quarterly, Cream City Review, Sugar House Review and a host of other publications.
Scott Lang is a native of Salt Lake City and
currently an M.A. student in English at Weber State University. His love of writing focuses largely on contemporary social concerns, with his most recent work appearing in the New Orleans Review, published by Loyola University New Orleans.
Issue No. 13 - Sept. 2016
J ulia Mascioli is the winner of the Readersâ€™ Choice
Award from District Lit. Her fiction has appeared in District Lit and Orange Quarterly, and is forthcoming from the Bellingham Review. She has an MFA in Fiction from Emerson College, and is a proud member of the Pug Squad.
Taly Oehler is a photographer and writer. She
obtained a M.S. in Psychology from Cal State University. Her images have been exhibited in various group shows throughout Los Angeles, including XIX Studios, Zen Studios, Shoshana Wayne Gallery and LA Music Center. Her art and writings have been published in various online and print magazines.
Ziggy Reed manipulates light and likes to write. He
has disclosed the spoils of his life's work to five of his closest friends and they are all kind enough to tell him that he's good enough to keep going. He wishes things were different but he is grateful for how they are.
G regory Lee Sullivanâ€™s writing appears in the
Washington Post, The Guardian, Barely South Review, The Nervous Breakdown, and other places. Before completing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Rutgers University, he worked as a newspaper reporter and editor in Georgia and Tennessee.
M axine Allison Vande Vaarst is a scholar, writer and critic, as well as the
founding editor of Buffalo Almanack. She has lectured at conferences from Paris to Toronto, and her newest essay appears in South Dakota History. She has an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Wyoming, and is now pursuing a PhD. in that same field from the University of North Carolina. Maxine is a proud transgender woman, and an even prouder daughter of the great(est) state of New Jersey. She is an unapologetic fan of the New York Jets and doesnâ€™t care that you know this.
Katie Morrison serves as Visual Arts Editor for Buffalo Almanack. She received her M.A. in Art History from the University of Colorado and is presently committed to spreading her love for art throughout Indiana, through her work with both the Tippecanoe Arts Federation and Purdue University. Her research tracks issues of race, violence, and urban identity in American photography. She is an avid cat enthusiast and possesses a deep passion for iced coffee.
Issue No. 13 - Sept. 2016
J ohn Gummere operates Studio 264, a graphic design studio serving
businesses, institutions and non-profits coast-to-coast. Illustration has long been his specialty, 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 visual art piece of each issue, as selected by our editors. The cash prize as of now 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 money orders will be delivered to the winners via the U.S.P.S. sometime during that same month.
Issue No. 13 - Sept. 2016
Founded in Denver, Colorado in 2013, Buffalo Almanack is an attempt to dredge the online arts journal—as saturated an endeavor as any these days—from the morass of clinical snobbishness. We don’t care if our contributors hold fine arts degrees or just okay arts degrees no arts degrees at all, and we sure as hell don’t care if our readers do. Our lone desire is to showcase talent to the world, regardless of how that talent finds us.
As such, 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. Concerning the visual arts, we invest in a diverse range of subjects and styles, and welcome submissions from each and every medium under the sun. We are attracted foremost to strong composition, skilled technical craft and assertive authorial presence. We want art that tells 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 brush, pencil or camera ourselves. 78
CHECKING IN ON #BUFFALONATION
What’s the old saying? A buffalo never forgets? Publishing with Buffalo Almanack isn’t just a fantastic way to share your art with the public, it also marks you as a proud lifelong sister or brother in our big, sexy litmag family. On this page we check in with our past contributors to see what kind of accomplishments they’ve secured in the time since they appeared in our pages.
Issue No. 13 - Sept. 2016
AN BLOCK (Author, "Family Business")
Just up to some travel this year to California, Peru, and I’ve had a bunch more
stories accepted for publication in the Maine Review, New Pop Lit, DenimSkin, Crack The Spine, Constellations, Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Flash Frontier, Contrary, and The Nite Writers Literary Arts Journal. Not sure if any of that is “newsworthy.” [Ed. note: It is!]
HARIS DURRANI (Author, "42 Reasons Your Girlfriend Works for the FBI,
NSA, ICE, S.H.I.E.L.D., Fringe Division, Men in Black, or Cylon Overlords")
Since “Forty-two Reasons” came out in Buffalo Almanack in Dec 2015, the story won
the McSweeney’s Student Short Story Contest and I’ve published my first book, Technologies of the Self, which was a winner in the Driftless Novella Contest from Brain Mill Press and was a kind-of sequel to “Forty-two Reasons.” I also wrote a piece at Catapult (at Daniel Jose Older’s invitation) on Santiago, the time-travelling demonic space knight conquistador from Technologies. I had a novelette, Tethered, republished in Lightspeed Magazine (originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact). Another short story, “Jedi Night,” will be republished in Skin Deep Magazine’s Imagining 2043 Issue in just a few days on July 28 (an earlier version of which was originally published in The Best Teen Writing of 2011). And my academic article, “Space Law, Shari’a, and the Legal Place of a Scientific Enterprise,” is forthcoming from Comparative Islamic Studies. Lastly, I’m starting my JD at Columbia Law School this August! (There goes my soul!)
Published on Sep 30, 2016
Special issue, "Where Thou Art." Featuring four amazing stories by Judith Day, Julia Mascioli, Gregory Lee Sullivan and Sarah Glady that tel...