Around twelve years ago, I was visiting New Orleans and stopped in Faulkner House Books (a wonderful bookstore located on a street called Pirate’s Alley—who could resist?), and while I was browsing, it started to rain. I mean, really rain. Sheets and sheets of water falling straight down out of the sky, pummeling the Quarter. I’d just made a purchase when the deluge started, and I stuck around to see if I could wait out the storm. For about half an hour I talked with the store’s owner, Joe DeSalvo, and he did what good booksellers do: he recommended and sold me books. By the time the skies cleared, I walked out with, I think, five books under my arm. One of them was a novel called Yellow Jack by Josh Russell.
I started Yellow Jack on the plane ride back to New York and finished it soon after. (It’s a stunningly good novel—I highly recommend it.) Jump forward twelve years, and a short story comes my way called “The King of the Animals,” by none other than Josh Russell. One of the many great things about reading: I felt like I was bumping into an old acquaintance.
“The King of the Animals” is one of the funniest and strangest stories I’ve ever read. It’s set in the present day, in a world that looks an awful lot like ours, and while there might be a character in it who’s far more familiar than you’d ever want him to be, I promise you he doesn’t get any actual screen time. He sets a lot of terrible things in motion, but this story isn’t about him; it’s about love, family, survival, and, as the author says in our Q&A, innocence. If you aren’t familiar with Josh Russell’s writing, settle in for the weird and charming ride that he’s about to deliver. We at One Story are honored to put this new work of his into the hands of our readers.