Cold Turkey: A Thanksgiving Tale. (By special Request)

August 18, 2010

Over dinner with friends tonight, I was asked to post this. So, here it is.

Well, this Thursday is the big day. Turkey day. I used to have the figures handy that told how many turkeys die to make Thanksgiving possible, but I’ve lost them.

It’s a lot.

Not so long ago, things were a lot simpler. A lot of the people I knew forswore their store-bought birds and got a live bird from a farmer.

Trouble is, too many of the folks who gave this “old-fashioned” method a try were young people from the ‘burbs. Their experience with “nature” was getting draft­ ed by their parents to help fight the war on crabgrass.

My neighbors at a little mobile home park in Georgia are a case in point.

The couple, let’s call them Tom and Tif­ fany, were both raised in one of those towns squeezed like putty at the seams where New York and New Jersey are glued together.

They grew up in some development named after the trees that had been cut down to build it.

Tom was a sleepy, even lethargic sort of guy. It was hard to tell if he was awake or sleepwalking.

Tiffany was, well, perky, given to hare­ brained ideas and sudden enthusiasms.

Tom was at the university, studying to be a biologist. Tiffany worked somewhere as a secretary.

The way it was told to me, one Thanks­ giving, Tiffany decided she would surprise Tom with a turkey.

She purchased a big hen from a farmer who swore on a stack of Greenpeace pam­ phlets that he had raised the thing from a poult and had never fed it anything he could not pronounce.

Back at home, Tiffany, raised on painless supermarket turkeys, could not bring her­ self to apply the firewood axe to the bird’s neck. The brief stay of execution ended, however, when Tiffany found Tom’s supply of chloroform.

She put the turkey to sleep.

Triumphant and little nauseated, Tiffany got the big hen plucked after a fashion, but the idea of trimming off the head and feet was beyond her sensibilities, not to men­ tion the idea of moving all the turkey’s in­ side stuff to the outside.

So, into the fridge went the nude bird, awaiting the arrival of Tom. Remember, the turkey was to be a surprise for Tom.

Tiffany’s unflappable husband came home in the late afternoon, tired, burdened by thick books and reeking of formalde­ hyde. Tiffany told him she had a surprise for him in the refrigerator.

Tom opened the door.

The little light came on.

The turkey woke up.

Naked. In pain.

And really, really ticked off.

With a hellish gobble, she exploded out from among the beansprouts and leftover chili, straight at Tom. The now-streamlined and furious bird dug its claws into Tom’s sweater and began pecking and biting him on the face and arms.

Tom, as intended, was surprised. And more lively than usual.

Still screaming, the turkey dropped Tom and charged into Tiffany, knocking her backward, breaking the glass front of her china cabinet.

The bird bashed the portable TV off its stand, knocked a life-size poster of Elvis the King from the walls before it flapped through the still-open trailer door. A strange, pale apparition in the fading light, the turkey fled gobbling fiercely into the depths of the trailer park.

The next day, Thanksgiving, I dined on a properly quiet and immobile turkey with my mother and brother. Tom and Tiffany went out for dinner at a local restaurant that featured a large and placid salad bar.

The attack turkey, I found out later, met its fate at the hands of a little old lady down the street who had never heard of “Mother Earth News,” but who knew a dinner on the run when she saw one.

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