by J. A. Buxton
I really must find that photo again
NEW PROMPT:Write a story where Thanksgiving is the setting, but the story isn’t just about the characters being thankful.
When I worked at a local bank as a computer programmer, we received a turkey for Thanksgiving. Not a live one that I would have enjoyed as a pet, but a naked dead bird. Well, that was the first year. After that, we got gift certificates so we could buy one at the grocery store. I had nothing to do with this decision, I swear.
This is a real story about that first year. When we left the bank on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, our boss handed each of us that dead bird on our way out. “Judith,” he asked condescendingly, “you do know how to cook this, don’t you?” For years, my reputation of being a world-class cook had evaded me. Each Christmas during our office potluck luncheon, I was only allowed to bring in prepackaged items. Okay, so I got our secretary drunk that first year on my homemade, three gurgle rum balls. She didn’t have to eat so many of them, and there were walls in the office to hold her up. Not my fault!
Getting back to that day before Thanksgiving, I said to my grinning boss, “I’m calling Mum for help.” With this answer, I lugged the cellophane wrapped dead bird out to my car and put it on the passenger seat. All the way home, I kept glancing over at the bird, hoping it would disappear. Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to that long distance call to Mum. She tends to either giggle or laugh uncontrollably when I call for cooking tips. I think I’m scarred for life from that year I first made my rum balls. When I called her to find out what the word dredge meant, there was dead air for about a minute, except I could hear laughing in the background. She finally stopped long enough to tell me it meant rolling the rum balls in sugar. Why couldn’t the recipe have simply said that?
The call to Mum about cooking the bird was not as bad as I thought it would be. She did give me perfect advice on cooking. It was something about a certain amount of time per pound. After telling me this, though, she recommended I wait for another year to learn about stuffing. “Judith, just go and buy a box of stuffing mix.”
Okay, there I was early on Thanksgiving morning, all set to cook the bird. After taking off the wrapping, I actually had to touch that cold clammy dead flesh. It felt horrible, so I put it in the sink and ran hot water over it to warm it up. I also was delighted to find an old pair of rubber gloves hiding underneath the kitchen sink and quickly put them on.
Mum had warned me to take the contents of a bag out of the turkey, and just in time I remembered to do this. Leaving the warm water running, I headed outside with whatever that was inside the bag and tossed it out by the road next to my driveway. Some animal must have come along during the night, for the next morning that stuff was gone.
Once I got back in my rarely used kitchen, I closed my eyes and lifted the warmed-up bird out of the sink and into a tin roasting pan. With the bird in the oven, I gave a huge sigh of relief. The hard part was over. During the day, the smell of cooking turkey had my cats wandering around the kitchen floor. Their noses twitched in anticipation for what they probably hoped was an unexpected treat. I do admit my little home smelled pretty good for once, and even my nose twitched now and then.
I had calculated the time to cook the bird using Mum’s exact timing rules. A certain amount of time per pound made sense. One thing she forgot to tell me was the pounds were for the turkey, not me. Back then I was a tad heavy, so 10 or so hours later, I pulled the bird out of the oven.
Proud of myself for cooking my first turkey, I grabbed my camera and took a couple pictures of this culinary triumph. One I showed my boss when I got to work the following Monday. I’ve often wondered if this was why we got gift certificates the next Thanksgiving.
The second photograph I sent to Mum who gleefully shared it with the rest of my New England family. When they sent me many photographs from Mum’s desk after her death in 2003, one photo was of my extremely dark-brown, slightly dry turkey.
After that first year, I always gave thanks for Swanson’s turkey TV dinners.
Microsoft Word count = 785
"The Writer's Cramp" daily entry for 11/26/09