Making a Killing
by Chad Heltzel


Buck said if I would stay with him he would make a killing as long as it would pay to stay; said he would give me 30 cents apiece for all the buffaloes I would skin and peg out.
—John R. Cook, from The Border and the Buffalo

  1. Ile aux Aigrettes, off the coast of Mauritius,
  2. harbors endangered species of ebony; a pink pigeon
  3. lives here. It was once home to its own species
  4. of tortoise, now extinct. In its place,
  5. the Aldabra giant tortoise has been introduced
  6. to fill its niche. A dodo statue stands in the forest
  7. as a memorial to the island’s history of extinction.
  8. Upon its discovery, the dodo was classified
  9. as a type of swan, or vulture, or albatross. The island
  10. Ile aux Aigrettes means Island of Egrets. There are
  11. no native egrets here; only the cattle egret is found here,
  12. an accidental species blown by typhoons, lost
  13. on its course. The dodo was in fact
  14. a giant pigeon, and its closest living relative
  15. is the nicobar pigeon, named for its jade green gizzard stone,
  16. used to make jewelry. Elsewhere in Mauritius,
  17. fossils of dodos and other recently extinct animals
  18. were unearthed from the marshland of Mare aux Songes,
  19. where treasure seekers continue to hunt for pirates’
  20. unclaimed buried riches. The dodo bones found in the marsh
  21. are now on display at Oxford University.
  22. Other museums possess a head, a foot, a fragment.
  23. We have yet to process the effect of its loss. Consider
  24. the tambalacoque. Its age is impossible to determine
  25. as it bears no growth rings. The tree goes by many names:
  26. calvaria, dodo tree, Sideroxylon grandiflorum
  27. (once Calvaria major). Note: names change over time.
  28. As more species become known, we must find
  29. more names. If the species fits better elsewhere,
  30. it should be renamed. In the 1970s,
  31. scientists believed only thirteen specimens of tambalacoque
  32. had survived the centuries. A study concluded
  33. the trees’ hard seeds must have been broken
  34. by the gizzards of dodos: since the dodo had been extinct
  35. for over two hundred years, the trees could not
  36. germinate without passage through the birds.
  37. In fact, new trees have grown: saplings
  38. are difficult to identify, are often confused
  39. with other species. Botanists can germinate the seeds,
  40. force-feeding them to turkeys or tumbling them
  41. in gem polishers, turning them into jewels.
  42. One of the world’s most valuable stamps is from Mauritius.
  43. The watchmaker who engraved them mistakenly wrote
  44. “Post Office” instead of “Post Paid.” Only twenty-six
  45. are known to remain, and philatelists have paid
  46. $600,000 to $3.8 million, depending on quality. Today,
  47. Dodo is a brand of jewelry. Their ad features
  48. a panning shot of ocean-blue waters above
  49. coral reefs. Youth with money surf and drink wine
  50. in a sailboat. Charms are available in the shapes
  51. of seahorses, octopuses, starfish. Bestsellers include
  52. Summer Woman, More Love, Follow Your Dreams.
Packingtown Review – Vol.10, Spring 2018

Chad Heltzel's poems and reviews have previously appeared in Cream City Review, Faultline, Hamilton Stone Review, Fifth Wednesday, Konundrum Engine Literary Review, Sarmatian Review, and in Volume 5 of Packingtown Review. Chad currently lives in Chicago and teaches World Literature and College English at UIC College Prep High School.

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