Yankee Pot Roast


All That Was Left of My Novel after the Fire

Matthew Tobey

. . . no one more so than my twin sister Melinda Anne. We were always inseparable, but that summer was exceptional. That was the summer that we became obsessed with Eskimos after watching a program on television about the letter “E.”

Eskimos this and Eskimos that. We were unstoppable. Ask anyone. The world was our oyster and we used all four of our little hands to pry that sucker open, pluck the pearl, and slurp down the meat. Naturally we began building an igloo.

No one thought it could be done. After all, it was summer in Albuquerque and we only had a consumer-grade freezer at our disposal. But we couldn’t be deterred. We had bellies full of oyster guts and that pearl clutched within our twenty tiny digits. God himself couldn’t have crushed our spirit.

At first I thought Melinda Anne had only pretended to have drowned. Eventually, I fetched a sturdy twig from our stick-cellar so I could poke her and be certain . . .

. . . his name’s O’Callahan, eh? What is he? Jewish?” Dr. Silverman asked.

It was certainly a valid question, and now that he mentioned it, I hadn’t seen a Christmas tree anywhere in the house. Nonetheless, I decided to stay on the safe side and played dumb.

“How should I know? Do I look like the sergeant-at-arms of Toledo to you?” I asked.

“Come to think of it, you do.”

He’d called my bluff. Shit. How was I going to . . .

. . . and for the first time since Arbor Day, I truly felt alive.

“It’s like you’ve performed successful open-soul surgery on me, Carmelita,” I told her.

She smiled, saying more with the crinkles and ridges of her splendidly flawed face than I was capable of expressing with a hundred-dozen spoken words.

“I’ve been reborn, and you’re my spiritual obstetrician, my sweet, sweet Carmy. Your heart and loins delivered a healthy, bouncing baby me. Ten fingers, ten toes, Carmelita. Ten fingers, ten toes.”

And then I counted my fingers aloud for her as I washed her hair with the pitcher of warm ox milk that sat beside the tub.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”

I began counting my toes, but by the time I reached the second foot, I realized she’d died. I silently set the pitcher of ox milk down and left to fetch a twig from . . .

. . . Pat Sajack's marmalade . . .

. . . was Inspector Jameson. It was the first time I’d ever seen him, but I knew it was him in an instant. He had Lucian’s unmistakable chin.

“Inspector Jameson, I presume,” I presumed.

“You presume correctly. I applaud your chin-identification skills. My father was right about you. Of course he also said you’d never be caught, and he couldn’t have been more wrong about that,” Jameson chuckled heartily through a cloud of hookah smoke.

I thought briefly about braining him with his hookah and escaping though the drive-thru window while he flailed frantically, struggling to overcome the sudden blow to his head and rid his clothes and flesh of the red-hot hookah coals. Magical thoughts danced in my head, thoughts of retiring to the beaches of Saskatchewan and living off the spoils of my good-natured plundering. But in the distance, Melinda Anne and Carmelita called to me and the dancing stopped. I could run no more.

“I have to ask you one question though,” Jameson said with the twinkle of a thousand lightening bugs flittering to and fro in his curious eyes.

“For a puff of your hookah, my boy, you can ask me four,” I replied.

“Oh. Never mind then,” he said with a shrug. “Germs.”

Germs indeed, young Jameson. Germs indeed.