Isadore Case lives in Lawrence, Kansas and works as a contract theology and philosophy teacher. Kill & Eat is his first published story.
Amoskeag: In Kill and Eat, famine strikes, and the three main characters Tony Pranz, John Franklin, and Tye Collins do what they can to make sure their family is fed. Tony, for example, automatically enters survival mode and kills Father Bradley. He then makes John promise not to tell anyone-otherwise he will kill him. He acts much like a savage in order to save himself. How did Tony get to that point in his life? Why does he see the world the way he does?
Izzy: I don’t think Tony’s much like a savage in the important sense that a savage, even in times of duress, still has a fear of and hope in the supernatural. Tony obviously doesn’t, and to him it’s an intolerable injustice that the claims of the transcendent should be preferred to the concrete food needs of his kids. I don’t know how Tony got to the point of making biology the supreme value. I’m a little ashamed to admit, though, that I have this crude image of Tony as having some connection to the mafia in his background, but I don’t remember if the image came from his name or his name came from that image.
Amoskeag: You story opens with a visual description of the priest. “He seemed a walking allegory of starvation”. What made you begin there and why?
Izzy: I think the stock-image most of us have of priests involves someone who’s a little overweight, so it just seemed like the most vivid way to show the effects of the famine would be to describe someone who started out more corpulent than the average member of the community.
Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?
Izzy: No, this is a story I wrote backward. The starting image was of a man feeding his kids with his flesh – the rest was trying to figure out a way to lead up to it.
Amoskeag: Each character has a different way of handling their situation. Some of their actions may seem inhumane or selfish, while others, such as Tye Collins, are completely selfless. Are any of your characters’ views of the world reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw? How they felt?
Izzy: Oh, well, isn’t the point that you can see yourself in all of them? I guess the ones I really feel furthest from are Tony and Tye – I have a hard time believing I’d have Tony’s guts or Tye’s courage.
Amoskeag: How did you construct the language of the piece? How did you come to hear and record the feelings of your characters?
Izzy: Tye doesn’t say a lot, so he was easy. Tony is the choleric, the steam-roller, so he doesn’t waste words except for his characteristic idiom, “I need you to…” Jolie was easy too, pretty stereotypical shrew. I think probably the hardest of all was Fr. Bradley since he’s got to take a firm and brutal stand about something he isn’t sure of himself. That took some work before I felt I’d got it across.
Amoskeag: Why does the setting matter in this piece?
Izzy: The setting was by far the hardest part – I needed a famine but I didn’t want to tackle a third-world scenario or a different language. Fortunately I’d been to a former mining town in Alaska when I was a kid that seemed to do the job since the community there had no legal structure, no firearms (I think), and a car could only get to or from the town when the river was frozen. So I made the town an island and widened the river enough to get some decent rapids and the rest fell into place.
Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the story that you worked so hard at to shape?
Izzy: You know since it’s my story I actually know how it ends so for me there’s all kinds of closure. I do feel bad, a bit, for people who never get to find out for sure whether the sacrifices in the story delayed death for just one meal or for longer. Delaying death one meal’s worth is significant in itself, of course, but I’m the only one to know who survived the famine, and how. The perks of authorship.
Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a writer?
Izzy: As far as I can tell more of the same. I like writing stories, I like sending them to the few friends I have who actually enjoy reading them, and then I like sending them out to see if anyone wants to publish them. I particularly like the challenge of trying to make something my wife will enjoy (she doesn’t have a lot of interest in literature) that can still measure up to the standards of serious journals. So it’s fun, I can’t see why I wouldn’t keep doing it.