(uncle Sal Buttaci is wild about turkeys)
Literati! The Merry Thorn–oops–MARATHON begins. 24 known stories to post. Help me with the countdown, won’t you?
Our favorite flasher Sal Buttaci has never run a-fowl in our contests. Could this be the exception? Read on. This is Sal’s third and final entry into the contest that is going to win somebody $500 and bragging rights.
Peggy? Are you watching?
by Sal Buttaci
If anybody deserved a Nobel Peace Prize it was Ordell Amesbury. I knew him from the time he was a kid growing up on the next farm. He never had an unkind word to say about even the most deserving of harsh judgment and ridicule. Though timid as any introvert would be, he never backed down from speaking the truth. If he thought something politically incorrect that was morally correct, he said so in a calm tactful way so you knew where you stood with him at any given moment.
Orrie and I shared the same early-morning drudgery of waking from a warm bed, hurriedly dressing, and facing the chores of feeding the farm animals, gathering newly laid eggs, and shoving a bucket beneath the udders of cows aching to be milked. Begrudgingly, every step of the way, I dragged myself from one job to the next. Meanwhile, Orrie whistled while he worked. He talked to the chickens as though he were one of them. He thanked the hens for their eggs and told bovine jokes to Doreen, Lorene, and Floreen, his daddy’s three Holstein dairy cows which Orrie claimed were the most friendly.
At first I suspected he suffered the same malady as so many children who are lonely, not by circumstance but by choice, and I was quick to raise my dukes whenever a school mate called him names or laid a threatening hand on him. Lonely kids talk to imaginary friends in their dark closets. Orrie spoke to animals and confided in me that they responded.
“Is this a secret, Orrie?”
He laughed. “Go tell the world,” he said. “It ain’t no crime, is it?” But I kept my lips sealed to save him whatever derision unbelievers would heap on him.
That Orrie was different was an understatement. A human boy who somehow was gifted with talking, not simply to animals, but with them. So many times I was there when he’d say something kind to Lady, his golden retriever, and she would respond with one of those adorable sounds dogs make when they seem contented. The two of them conversing erected the hairs on my arms and sent, not shivers, but warm meanderings up and down my spine.
How was it done? Why was it he could break down the barrier between human and beast when I his closest friend could hardly find the proper words to greet his sister Leah whom I believe I loved from the first grade. At the sight of her my tongue grew numb and whatever words hunched up behind it fell away back down my throat.
“One day,” Orrie said, “I loosened my tongue to Animalspeek, talked in the lingo
of the winged and the pawed. I cooed and barked, meowed with kittens basking in the shade of Grandpa’s trees.”
I listened but understood nothing. If this were a confession, I was honored he chose me to reveal it. Honored, yet hardly knowing what to say.
“One day I let myself go into Animalspeek where my thoughts came sparking away. I found myself spitting out vowels and consonants nowhere near what humans speak.
It was as if I’d decided ‘No words today,’ only Animalspeek. The growls, the chirps, the engine purring of Mr. Cat, the panting tongue of Lady. I can’t explain it. Something in me said, ’I will string no letters into words, no words into human sentences, no people voice.’”
I sat there listening, comprehending nothing. It was as if Orrie had reached some higher plane. His words flowed like poetry. I was mesmerized. A young boy like Orrie back then, I saw it was plainly clear, as far as wisdom went, he was high up there like some comic-book hero who had torn down the invisible shield between human and beast.
“This is the road to peace,” he said, digging me deeper into the pits of confusion.
“What do you mean?”
“We need to understand that we are the beasts, Jesse. We’re the wild, untamed destroyers in this world God created.. The beast is us! I swear it’s not too late.”
Then he continued the story of that first day’s discovery.
“That morning in the yard, dogs and cats and birds and I gathered to Animalspeek the time of day,” he went on. “We didn’t gossip or complain. We didn’t curse life the way human grown-ups do. Instead, in animal language we rooted for the caterpillar crawling up the tall stem to the cup of an opened daisy.”
Days before Thanksgiving Day, Orrie worked his most impressive magic. Our little town of Murdock Willows –– and all the towns and cities in the surrounding counties! –– would feast on mashed potatoes, cranberries, green beans, and hot buns dunked in cinnamon sauce. The disgruntled, faced with an unsolved holiday mystery, ate in silence.
I wanted to know, so I asked him. “What the heck did you do, Orrie?”
“No way could I let it happen again, Jesse. Enough already! How could we celebrate another Thanksgiving when innocent turkeys have nothing to be thankful for?”
“Where did they go?”
“The night before the cleaver, I rounded them all up and led them far into the woods.”
“That’s great! So instead of feeding us they die of hunger.”
“We’ll think of something.”
“The turkeys and I. We get along just fine.”
23 to go!
Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer whose work has appeared widely. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. His poems, stories, articles, and letters have appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, Christian Science Monitor, Author‘s Info, A Word with You Press, and AustinBriggs.com.
Sal Buttaci is a former English instructor at a local community college and middle-school teacher in New Jersey, who retired in 2007 to commit himself to full-time writing.
His collection of flash fiction Flashing My Shorts is available in book, e-book, and audio book versions http://www.amazon.com/Flashing-My-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci/dp/0984259473
His latest collection of short-short fiction, 200 Shorts, is available in book and Kindle editions at
His horror flash “Ritual” is an e-book for only 99 cents at http://www.amazon.com/Ritual-Salvatore-Buttaci-ebook/dp/B00FI6JR46/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1384459022&sr=1-2&keywords=Ritual
He lives happily ever after with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.
37 thoughts on “Author Sal Buttaci announces winner of the Nobel Prize”
There is a sense of the misunderstood, independent but, every humble man of quiet with focused ethics and country goodness. Your story in my opinion is not slice up, over baked or under done Sal. The characters feel real and quite likeable as the story flows from beginning to optimistic ending which makes this an enjoyable read.
Thank you so much!
Oh man Sal, this is good. I see further your creative gift reaching to areas not usually sought. The idea of animalspeek is a horizon of explortation: YA, adult, whatever; limitless. Then to set the stage for turkey’s savoir–brilliant. Love the last line, “We get along just fine.”
Animalspeek was the language I wanted so much to learn when I was a kid in Brooklyn. Once some gang kids put some kittens in a canvass bag and smashed them against the concrete handball court in the park. I was too young and scared to do anything, but I firmly believed those kittens were speaking to me, pleading for help.
Handball courts remind me of my early high school years in Queens. Those who lost the set had to lean face into the wall with their asses hanging (and other targets) for the winning team to smash against the concrete with the hard rubber ball. I forget the title of this pastime but you probably don’t. What is it about animals that makes us more than we are when we care for them. They share the earth, they feed us and bring joy. They are the pinnacle compassions. Orrie, the the character, and the way you remember your friend is heart warming.
Of course it’s purely fiction. Somehow I wish I could suddenly, even now in my old age, acquire his gift of conversing with animals. I’d bet I’d learn a lot from them, grow a little closer to the peace this soul of mine craves daily. Orrie’s gift allows him to show compassion to all of God’s creatures because his heart has been transformed to see and hear and understand beyond the human condition. He can feel for the caterpillar, the cat on the windowpane waiting for her human friend, the dog rolled up in a ball of pain, the human lost in the dark. Oh how I wished I could share Orrie’s Animalspeek and in so doing see the road to Heaven just a little bit clearer.
Well, Dr. Sal Dolittle, now you can talk to the animals! What a fun story this is – talking to the animals and suffering the ridicule of nay-sayers and non-believers. I think it was Richard Bach that told us there’s no limit to what can be accomplished in one’s lifetime as long as we are NOT taught during childhood that some things are impossible. I get that same philosophy from this story. This is definitely one of my favorite from you and I will definitely print this out and share it with my grandkids.
That’s odd. My wife calls me “Do little.” If you ask her, she’ll say I talk to sloths.
This was a great story! Sal has a great imagination and know how to put it out there in words!!
Thanks, Lee. Words are all I’ve got.
What a delightful story from one of the great short story writers of our time.
Bro, your kindness makes me humble.
Sal, this is a sweet, wonderful, feel good story. I can see it made into a Thanksgiving Cartoon along the lines of Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin. “Eat More Veggies” could be its theme song. : ) I like this story!!!
Debi, when we lived in New Jersey we had two cats, Spiranza and Curaggiu (Hope and Courage), which we had to give away when we moved to WV. I still dream of them. I still hear them in the woods of Dream asking me why I abandoned them. How could I tell them my new landlord would not allow pets? Spiranza whose kittenhood was so traumatic it was hard to believe she’d dare trust anyone again. Curaggiu who leaped onto our bed when one of us was sick and never left, even to eat, until we were better again. Some say in Heaven we’ll find no animals and I was one of them who argued “No soul, no Heaven,” but in my older years I think differently now. I hope by then we will be gifted like Orrie and hold long conversations with those pets who loved us unconditionally.
I have always wanted to be like Dr. Doolittle. How many of us kids have that same wish? Loved this story Sal!!!!!
I know I did and often still do wish I had Orrie’s gift!
Another wonderful story Sal! You offer readers so much more than mere words…you offer gormet food for the soul and imagination.
Thanks, Anna. I believe all stories have basements where deeper more meaningful lessons live, and for those who will venture down those stairs much can be learned. What is learned about the darkness can only lead to light.
Sal, i’m rooting for that caterpillar that crawls up the stem, The bag of cats in the park…the ones that did escape and are basking in the shade of grandpas tree. I’m rooting for your life stories that are timeless and your classic characters that are our teachers. Not sure I could walk the Turkeys into the woods…but in the end I’m glad someone did. Love this!
Maybe we need to simply throw our hands up in surrender and gather in all of God’s creation and love it with all our hearts. Animals lack intellect but more than make up for it with the ability to forgive and forget. Can human beings say the same?
Yes! My mother use to tell me I liked animals more than people. I brought every animal home that I found. Ducks, rabbits, garden snakes, broken birds for me to mend. I visit every shelter before i choose my pet. The one cat we have now was injured and we were told she may not make it. I WANTED HER.
I knew she’d be fine. Two days later she(the cat) told me to come and get her. I told everyone to jump in the car we were picking up our family cat.They thought I was crazy. The shelter was an hour away. When we got there. They told us she had made a full recovery and there were others that wanted her. When she saw us she came alive. I can’t tell you what she said to me..publically…but I think you would know. They released her to our care.She has been the best little cat, i ever had. We still have great conversations. Thank you for this story again. It was comforting.
Listen carefully to what she purrs to you. Sometimes I think angels reside inside them and wear these cats and dogs the way kings wear ermine.
My goodness Sal. You have such an extraordinary beautiful way with words. In this one sentence you have made my heart beat faster as my soul resonates, and my precious soul kitty sits next to me as I write.
All that God has created is worthy of our admiration, even the inanimate mountain stones, the unthinking snowfall, all that we disregard in our walk through life.
Not me…I talk to them all and get fantastic stories. Its how you get let into the fairy kingdom. The biggest grapevine – trees!!! Have had wonderful conversations with them…oh the stories they tell. I’m impressed Mr. Sal – another side to you that is quite delightful. And inspirational.
I love this. Right off the voice is authentic. This could make a sweet “childrens” book, besides of course an adults book, as a reminder about the animals who share their earth with us. I will definitely be checking out more of your work. Orrie is a hero!
I both like and envy Orrie. I’d welcome the gift of talking with animals, but first I have to master the ability to talk to humans.
If only the President could do Animalspeek. He could have delivered the pardon and we would have seen the joy on those turkeys’ faces!
The Republicans insist the President doesn’t know how to talk turkey, but I think that lingo lack is shared by all D.C. congress folks.
This is such a smooth piece of writing. I’m intrigued, but not overwhelmed by the magic. It’s the… I don’t know… everydayness of it. I love that kind of writing. The other technical stuff goes without saying. I’m glad you had time to submit three entries, Sal. You rock my stripeysocks.
I understand Orrie for I too have been able to talk with the animals and hear them speak. Great insight here Sal. Great from beginning to I don’t want it to end ending. Begs for more on how Orrie and the turkeys survived. Reminds me of the movie “Free Birds” which was great fun to watch on how to stop turkeys from being the main course at the first Thanksgiving. Love this one.
Diane, would you impart your talking-to-animals gift to me? I tried many times to carry on a catversation with my ocicat Curaggiu, but when I’d meow the fur on her back rose like falling-up streaks of dark rain and she’d hightail it away from me. Did I meow something wrong? Did I inadvertently purr invectives, some catty expletives, offensive animalspeek? Long gone to pet paradise, Curaggiu visits me in dreams, but she speaks a rather good English that even in the roaring gray forests I can make out every word.
Your meow has the wrong accent. Stick with English!!!! Besides (and I’m sorry for your loss) in the dreamtime – many things can be discussed quite well – amazing they know how to speak the language. It is all within the context of the sound. The word says it all – meeee… owwwww!
Maybe it has something to do with the lead weight Sal tied to her tail by giving her a name like Curaggiu.
A fun imaginative story and I love the great turkey exodus.
Thanks, Jo. Now if only we can figure out how to make all the turkey politicians in Washington, DC go away!