Who [?] – is /the _ Smartest^ of the . Animals+,!

Nicholas Calabrese


There are people alive today who still pray to Pol Pot: Living people alive today believe in and also pray to Pol Pot. Pol Pot is alive and well and people are praying to him, even though he has been deceased for quite some time. People place their faith in Pol Pot, because they pray to him, and their prayers come true. Despot Pol Pot is one to whom people pray. Prayers are prayed to Pol Pot, and some are answered. It is to Pol Pot they pray, because he is alive, and he is doing well, despite despot Pol Pot’s demise (which is distantly past). They pray for health. They pray for good luck. Their prayers are answered.


She said that when she was little, they only ate fish on Fridays during Lent and that it was very special to her. Her mother told her it was good for her, that fish provided good health. Salmon was the rarest and therefore her favorite. She promised herself that when she grew older and got money, she would cook fish at least once each month. Maybe more.


My mother once received mail from one of my middle school teachers which informed her that I had been sleeping during class.

I wasn’t allowed inside my mother’s bedroom. Beneath her bed were books, magazines, dirty socks, and lint, and a translucent red die. How you played was that you threw it down and guessed the number. I hid the die beneath my bed. I never played when mom was home or awake. I dreamed about it in class and in the evening during dinner.

And at night I played.


She says that there’s a dead deer on the road and that it must be ice because it’s melting. Once she said that she fills my chest with deli meats and milk and all sorts of spoilable things and that they will be safe to eat long after the expiration dates stamped at packing. I don’t believe her; I think the dead deer is wax, because wax melts, and it cannot die, and dead deer too are incapable of dying.


How the machine works is that inside there’s what’s known as an RNG, or a random number generator. This program has been tested in independent laboratories to determine that the random numbers are sufficiently random. If the machine outputs statistical regularities incompatible with our declared probability distribution, it’s sent back and we start all over again.


Mother, I know you sometimes read these. If you’re reading, please stop.

Mother’s Day is approaching. I’ve saved up my extra money. I’m taking her to Samuel’s Crab Shack for seafood. I’m going to buy her the salmon. It’s going to be a surprise.



That empty water bottles are filled with urine, and that the urine is mine, she doesn’t like. Because of the pee and because I was afraid to use the bathroom alone in the night.


What I do is create materials for the machine. I write little pamphlets for people to read so they can play the machines in the grocery stores and gas stations. The materials I create are educational. We target them based on region. Someone wrote a guide, which I read, which taught me how to write targeted pamphlets based on region. I am certain, based on my knowledge of targeted regional pamphleteering, that the author of my guide himself had been issued a guide on writing regionally targeted guides. As for the educational background of the author of the guide on writing targeted guides, I am less certain.

The money isn’t great. We have fish once or maybe twice each year. Usually just before Easter.


Pasting and cutting are two of the things that I do when the thing that I’m doing is writing pamphlets. I cut out each sentence and I move it around. I move it above or below. I find where it fits best. Sometimes I am surprised. The location seems random, but from the pamphlet emerges a new and educational meaning. This week is Wisconsin. I wish the readers luck. I wish them good health.


Some nights I play the machine until the gas station closes. Sometimes I fall asleep at work.


I once took a compulsory IQ test. I’d been feeling for some time that everyone I encountered was less intelligent than me. I felt that my intelligence drove a wedge between myself and my fellow man. As I took the matrix battery, the answers came to me quickly and easily. I was afraid that if the number at the end were too high, I’d obsess over it. Near the end I decided I’d leave the last few questions blank. When I received my results, the number was slightly above average, within the test’s margin of error. I thanked Pol Pot for the grace and good sense to leave the last few questions blank so I’d never know.


“Empty your bladder” was one of the things that she’d say.


I pray to Pol Pot that the food spoils inside me. He hears my prayer, and the bread goes bad beneath my ribs. Perhaps my heart was ice all along. Perhaps I’m not a wax figure. Perhaps I can melt after all. Perhaps I’m capable of death.


Did you know that deer die with a statistical regularity approximately equal to the mu value of our mid-tier payout machines?


On the morning of Mother’s Day, I walk to the gas station to withdraw the cash from the ATM. I see that on one of the machines rests a pamphlet. I read it and it’s educational. Perhaps I wrote it.

I decide to play once or twice, then I play until it’s almost dinner. I’ve gone over budget. But the payout on the machine is good, and based on the machine’s mu value I’m coming up on a payout soon.

I pray for good luck.



Nicholas Calabrese obtained a degree in computer science from Penn State University in 2022. While there he was the recipient of a Lehman Award in fiction, which he displays prominently on the fridge at his Pittsburgh residence. He wishes all readers health and good luck.