As I'm stirring two percent into my coffee, I see the wild turkeys outside my kitchen window. They pick their way carefully over the uneven ground, as if over thinning ice.
My ex-husband Sam would have gone for his shotgun. He never bothered with license or season—if he saw a buck or a turkey, he went ahead and harvested it. We're far enough outside of town no one noticed or cared. I still have venison in the freezer.
"Thanks for making coffee, babe," my latest stander says from behind me. Stander as in one-night stander. I wonder if he can remember my name. He's Jeremy. Or Jason. Something like that. I just think of them all as standers. I get him a mug. As I pour the coffee, he looks over my shoulder. "Wow! Are those turkeys? They're beautiful."
They're not beautiful. They're brown and ordinary, except for their white heads, as if someone tried to white out their thoughts and leave only their bodies.
Every Saturday I go to some local watering hole, looking for a stander. I'm a ways from town out here, so I look for a guy who is sober enough to drive a country road. I stay away from the ones in trucker hats with biceps built by hauling hay. I go for the city types in thin-soled shoes and thick-framed glasses. Or the hipsters with their beards and reedy vegan arms. I need someone I could take if I have to. Out here, no one can hear you scream.
The stander puts his arms around me from behind, kisses my neck. His beard smells of pot and itches my skin.
When Sam put his arms around me, they warmed me up and weighed me down. I could feel the strength in them, the work-toned muscles corded under his skin. He'd enfold me, a full head taller and twice my weight. "You're my good girl," he'd whisper in my ear, "Aren't you?"
"Yes," I'd say.
I used to imagine elaborate stories of the two of us. After a plane crash, surviving in the mountains. After an apocalypse, surviving in the forest. Sam would be the perfect partner in those stories. Hunting deer and turkeys for us, telling me which red and purple berries were edible. Keeping me warm at night. Fighting everyone and everything but me. Just us against the world, and me with nothing to do but what he told me.
The stander takes his coffee black.
"People think turkeys are stupid, but they're actually really smart," I say. That's why the attempt to white out their heads.
"Huh," he says. Some standers are stupid and some are smart. This one seems like a pretty smart one. He doesn't ask for my number or make any noises about wanting to see me again. He puts his coffee down with half a cup still in it.
"You need help finding your way back to town?"
"I've got my phone," he says.
Sam detested men who couldn't find anything, "even their asses," without GPS. They would be easy prey without their gadgets. Sam despised easy prey. I guess that's what I became out here with him. I tell myself I'm lucky he tired of me.
With one last hug, the stander leaves, his Sportage kicking up dust on the dirt driveway. The engine noise startles the turkeys into a flurry of wings, but they settle back quickly. They know he isn't a real threat.
I drink the rest of my coffee. The house is quiet. I start thinking the freezer's hum masks the stealthy crunch of boots sneaking up, a key rattling in the lock I changed.
The cold wave roils through me in the old way. To calm myself, I plan the next bar to hit. Maybe the Blue Moon Saloon downtown or the Ramada by the highway.
I have nothing against easy prey.
Title image "Roaming, Roaming" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2022.