Turkey House Publishing

vignettes

Our next-door neighbors died six months apart last year, and their daughter inherited their house. A few months ago, the daughter sold the house to some investors, who have renovated the house and thrown a For Sale sign in the front yard. Now our street is occupied by the cars of hopeful buyers creeping along and asking—Is this the one? Oh, there it is, with the sign!—and when they realize they've passed it, they pull into my driveway and shine their headlights through my curtains and blinds, and then they turn around for another look at the house.

The mature thing would be to internalize the offenses and accept the temporary inconveniences, so that's what I do. But that doesn't mean I don't daydream otherwise.

I imagine a young couple parking along the curb and getting out to gaze at the front of the house while waiting for the realtor to arrive for their tour. I imagine the wife with her hand rubbing her pregnant belly as she remembers the pictures from the online listing and envisions their family growing within this starter home. The husband will be frustrated, on the verge of defeat, praying to the universe and all the gods and anyone else who may be able to help that this house is the house, the one that will make his wife happy and stop her ordering him to every corner of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in search of the four walls worth twenty percent down and thirty years of sweat and curses and weekends lost on unfinished projects.

And I imagine our encounter will begin with me walking out to check my mailbox. I'll walk inexplicably hunched even though I'm in my mid thirties and in decent physical shape—and then I'll turn to head back toward my home and I'll see them and they'll wave and I'll return the gesture to be neighborly and they'll sigh collective relief that their first interaction with a potential neighbor has gone well.

“It seems peaceful and quiet around here,” the wife will say, a warm smile on her face.

“Oh, it is,” I'll say, my usually deep voice now a high-pitched screechy whisper. “Especially this house here.” I make eye contact with the wife. “Of course, it's easy to be quiet when ain't nobody lived in it for over ten years.”

“Why has it been vacant for so long?” the husband will ask.

“Haunted,” I'll answer. A feral cat will cry out from the back yard. The couple will look at each other. “Old man who lived here went crazy,” I'll say, “and he killed his wife with a paperclip and a baking sheet.”

“How did he manage that?” the wife will ask as she holds herself and slides her hands up and down between her elbows and her shoulders, as if a chill has blown in despite the summer heat.

“Honey,” I'll tell her,“you're better off not knowing.” We'll stand there in silence as their discomfort grows. “Sometimes at night, you can still hear the wife calling out to her husband, 'Can you at least use cooking spray, Jimmy?'”

I'll clear my throat and spit a huge disgusting loogie into the street. “That house sat there untouched for years until some know-it-all from Austin decided to pretty it up for a profit.” I'll chuckle, and they won't ask me to continue, but I'll know deep down they want me to. “But now, after a series of unexplained setbacks, they're selling the house at a loss.” I'll take a long look at the house. “A bit peculiar, don't you think?”

“Yeah,” the husband will say more to himself than to either of us.

“Maybe we should skip this house,” the wife will say. “I'm pretty sure the master closet was too small in the pictures.”

The husband will agree and they'll say it was nice talking to me and I'll wish them luck on their search and I'll cackle as I hobble back to the house. And later that night, when I'm watering the front yard, I'll drag my water hose into the yard of the haunted house next door and hook it up to the spigot and marvel at the quiet of the neighborhood.

#vignettes

The news called the winter storm historic. Texas hadn't seen anything like it in over thirty years. Power plants were forced offline, and millions of Texans were subject to rolling blackouts.

My wife and I were looking out our living room bay window, out at the snow-covered everything of the outside world.

“Do you know about the Waffle House Index?” I asked. My wife shook her head. “If you ever want to know how bad a storm is, see if your local Waffle House has shut down. If it has, you know things are bad.”

“Is that legit?”

“Governments keep an eye on it.”

“You're telling me that leaders determine states of emergency based on whether or not a Waffle House shuts down?”

I nodded.

“Do you think our Waffle House is open?” she asked.

I shrugged.

“I haven't seen any Amazon deliveries the last few days,” she said.

“Damn,” I said. “This storm really is historic.”

#vignettes

“Oil Prices Slip on Surprise Inventory Build”—that's what the headline says.

I don't know how this stuff works, and I don't care to know. I prefer to imagine someone who recently finished counting one by one the millions of barrels in reserve. This guy has had only eight hours of sleep over the last three days. And those few hours were had on the floor underneath his desk. He's gone three days without seeing his family. Three days without shaving. Three days without a shower. Thank goodness he keeps a spare toothbrush and spray-on deodorant in the top drawer of his desk.

But this man—this analyst—he's smiling as he reviews his report. Here it is, he tells himself, all my hard work. This is why I get paid the big bucks. All those hours, all that time spent accounting for every single barrel of oil in the whole wide world—all that work is here on the few pages that comprise this report.

Before the analyst can hit Send on his email, there's a knock on his door. The door creaks open to reveal Jeff, the top-of-his-class Ivy League intern.

“Excuse me, sir,” Jeff says. Jeff is looking at the floor, avoiding eye contact.

The analyst sighs and lifts his hands from his keyboard and mouse. He crosses his arms as he plops against the back of his chair. “What is it, Jeff?”

“Well,” Jeff says and then takes a deep breath, “there's some surprise inventory.”

The analyst's eyebrow raises. “Surprise inventory? Oil doesn't just magically appear, you know. It doesn't grow on trees.”

“Most of it's drilled in the desert,” Jeff says.

So he has been paying attention.

“We forgot that we stashed some barrels in New Jersey,” Jeff says.

“New Jersey? Why would we do that?”

“I didn't know where else to put them.”

The analyst sighs. “It can't be that much, right?”

“It's not a little.”

“How much are we talking?”

“I don't know, sir. You'll need to count them.”

The analyst stares at Jeff.

“The boss says you should cancel your dinner plans with your family,” Jeff tells the analyst. “Actually, you should clear your calendar for the next couple days.”

The analyst sighs again and looks to the ceiling.

“I'll book you a flight for New Jersey,” Jeff says. The analyst nods and leans forward and plops his elbows on the table and rests his head in his hands.

“Are you o—”

“Just book the flight,” the analyst barks at Jeff.

Yes, sir,” Jeff says and turns to leave.

“Not New Jersey,” Jeff hears as he's stepping into the hallway. “Not New Jersey again.”

#vignettes

We live near DFW airport, and in the spring, we frequent a bike trail that runs parallel to an airport landing path. In the early days of the pandemic, we might have sat for half an hour at a bench along the trail and have seen only a couple planes approach and descend for landing.

But last night...

Last night I counted nine such planes in less than ten minutes. I don't know if the sight was inspiring or concerning or a mixture of both and yet so much more. But, in one way or the other, it was exciting.

#vignettes

“1979” by Smashing Pumpkins always makes me nostalgic for moments that never happened. The song is playing while I'm on my phone and looking at a picture my wife took of our daughter and sent to me earlier in the day. Our daughter's hands, pressed against her cheeks, are covered in paint after an afternoon arts and crafts project.

As I admire the picture, I wish I could send it to my mother, with whom my daughter shares a name. I don't know if my daughter looks like my mother—I've always been bad at recognizing that sort of thing—but in that moment, I like to think I can see my mother in her.

And I like to think my mother would love the picture, just as I'm sure she would love to know my daughter is named after her. And also in that moment, I can't help feeling as if my mother is still with me. And I also feel as I'm taking care of the woman who once took care of me.

#vignettes