(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.