Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year. I love having so many of the people I care about gathered around sharing what we’re thankful for. I just absolutely love what the holiday represents. I don’t want to get into the history and the politics of the holiday, I only want to speak about the spirit of it. It’s very important to take the time to appreciate the things around you. With our busy lives we so often forget to take that time. Sometimes we take the people, and things, we love most for granted.
Also, the food frigging rocks. Succulent turkey (or tofurky) with that crisp buttery skin, steamed Brussel’s sprouts topped with butter, creamy mashed potatoes with thick gravy made from the giblets, cinnamon sweet potato casseroles with toasted marshmallow topping, ended with the tangy spice of pumpkin cheesecake… Bliss.
So, in the spirit of being grateful and sharing, I’m grateful to share this NC-17 short story with you – Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May your families and friends be healthy, happy, and grateful for you.
by Jaime Johnesee
Every year we would go to the Jacobsen’s farm and pick out a turkey. I hated the screaming of the bird when Mr. Jacobsen would grab it to lop its head off. Every damn time that turkey would scream and every year I would beg my dad not to take me back there. I didn’t like it, didn’t understand why we couldn’t just buy a frozen turkey from the grocery store. He didn’t listen, and so, year after year I had to participate in the slaughter of a poor, defenseless, admittedly tasty animal.
Although I shouldn’t say defenseless because this one time Jacobsen got his ass handed to him when a big thirty pound tom decided to fight for his life. The turkey broke his nose and punctured his right eye before a farm hand managed to pull the thing off him. I was rooting for that turkey. I’d like to think he went to his grave a hero. He was absolutely delicious as a sandwich, so I guess he had that going for him.
Dad died before Thanksgiving this year and, as I held the frozen Butterball in the aisle of our local grocery store for the first time ever, I found myself oddly missing that much-loathed trip. I put the store brand turkey back in its place on the frozen pyramid and walked out of the store. I’d go to Jacobsen’s and get the turkey myself. My wife and I would dedicate the dinner this year to Pop and we’d make sure all his favorites were on the table.
I waved goodbye to the cashier, my neighbor, and headed for my car.
“Looking for a turkey, mister?” The boy approached on my right and startled me. He couldn’t have been older than sixteen.
“Yeah, I’m going to Jacobsen’s right now, actually.”
“I can get you just as good a bird for cheaper. Won’t make you watch the end, neither. ”
That appealed to me greatly and I stopped and faced the kid. I’d never seen him around before.
“Which farm do you represent?”
“Oh, uh, Smythe’s.”
“Are the turkeys organic?”
“Are they what?”
“Organic. No antibiotics, hormones, fed a good diet, allowed to run free?”
“Sure thing, mister.”
“Lead the way, kid.”
We got into our cars – his a beat up, blue and gray 1977 Jeep Honcho. I followed him to Oak Street and grunted as I realized he was taking me out of town. I preferred to buy as local as possible so this wasn’t something I was comfortable with. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I wanted to get the turkey and get home quickly. I had a case of beer back home that wasn’t going to drink itself. Holidays were stressful times and the only times of the year I actually drank. Then again, family will do that to you.
The boy drove to the edge of the county and just when I was about to turn around and head back (any savings on the turkey would be offset with the amount of gas my SUV would guzzle), he pulled into a driveway that led through a dense patch of woods. I began to feel slightly uncomfortable about the whole thing. As my car slowly drove through the thicket lining either side of the tatterdemalion drive I felt sure that there was no way someone could possibly live there. The driveway looked like it had been overgrown for at least two years. I ignored my instinct to back up and head home, certain I was going to get a turkey, go home, hole up with my case, and drink the whole damn weekend away. Uncle Fred hitting on my wife was not going to bother me this year. It’d still bother her though, for sure.
I pulled up into a yard that was just as overgrown and choked with weeds as the driveway. The house sat derelict and broken. The windows were boarded up and the porch roof had collapsed. Nobody lived here, nobody could – the second story had collapsed into the first. I stopped the car and threw it into reverse, but I was too late. Another truck blocked me in. It was the twin of the one in front of me. Fuck, I thought to myself. They were going to rob me, or worse. I’d seen Deliverance I knew what crazy guys did to sane ones. I felt no urge to squeal like a pig. I locked my doors. It was stupid and pointless as I was basically in a windowed box. If they wanted in they’d get there.
A man climbed out of the Honcho behind me and came to my window.
“You looking for a turkey, son?” He was old, at least seventy, and I relaxed a little.
“Why you looking so nervous, boy?”
“Well, sir, I’m blocked in at a house I don’t know by two people I don’t know. It’s a mite uncomfortable.”
“Aw, yous just a poor baby, ain’t ya?” He chuckled.
“Sir?” I was certain the squeal-like-a-pig moment had arrived and I screamed at myself not to cry.
“What sorta turkey you want, son?”
“Twenty-pounder would be nice.”
“Oh, yeah, bird like that’d be real nice for sure. Bet it’d cook up nice, buttery, and crispy on the outside, moist and juicy in the center.”
“That’s what I’m hoping for. My family just loves Thanksgiving.”
“What decent family don’t?” He gave me a mean sort of squint and I nodded my agreement. I took a quick look at the boy who had lured me here and saw him get out of his Jeep. He went around to the back, took out a tarp, an axe, and a bag of apples. It reminded me of some crazy Wile E. Coyote trap and I just stared, transfixed as he began setting out the tarp. A small TV tray came out next and on it the boy assembled a myriad of odd tools.
“What are those for?” My voice came out much smaller and squealier than I had expected.
“For guttin’ the turkey. You can’t take a turkey home with the innards left inside. Why, that’d ruin the meat.” A small bead of drool appeared at the corner of his mouth.
What the hell had I gotten myself into? I was starting to feel slightly panicked when the boy grabbed a cage from the back of the old man’s Honcho and set it on the tarp. There was a turkey inside. I almost sighed with relief.
“He be ready soon. You gon’ watch him end that bird’s life, right?”
“He told me I wouldn’t have to.”
“If you’re to be takin’ a soul’s life then you ought to look ’em in the eyes while you do. Dontcha think?” He looked at me hard and I felt like I was sitting in my old family home getting chastised by my father. My horrible, evil, rotten father. Suddenly, I hated this man. I despised his very being.
“Stupid fuckin’ turkeys,” I mumbled.
I was never able to face the truth behind what really went on at the Jacobsen farm with my dad. That’s why he created me. I was there to step in for him at those moments.
When the old man stuck his face closer to mine in an effort to hear me better I grabbed the pen from my shirt pocket and thrust it up through his jaw. He started trying to scream, but the blood pooling in his mouth made screaming near impossible. This wasn’t my first time wielding a pen. I prefer close kills. It’s something Daddy taught me. Well, drilled into me, really. All those neighborhood pets he got me started on. Yes, sir, every Thanksgiving we went out and found us a turkey. As much as we liked the Jacobsen’s family, the meat we got off them was getting too stringy. The homeless that showed up to work their ranch tended to be way to lean to make good turkeys. This year was different. This year there’d be two.
Oh, I couldn’t have taken the two together, but I have a good chance with the boy now that the old man is gone. I opened the door of my car and stepped out, moving closer to the boy with every step. He had his hands wrapped around the turkey’s neck and didn’t even see me pick the axe up. I swung it overhead and let gravity do my job for me, it slid into his skull and he doubled over, releasing the turkey in the process.
The bird looked at me and said, “Hey, thanks, man” before running off into the woods.
“Happy Thanksgiving, bird,” I called as I went to load my turkeys into my car. The family would be eating good tonight. We had so much to be thankful for this year.
Visit my interview with Jaime Johnesee to learn more about her and her “Bob the Zombie” series:
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