Once Upon a Turkey…

These days I don’t eat turkey anymore, a bit tricky on Thanksgiving. I’ve learned that most folks get confused by the concept of not eating meat when it comes to holidays that are in fact all about that. Sure, I know it’s supposed to be about being grateful and gathering together but let’s face it, it’s about the bird.

In honor of Turkey Day, I offer an excerpt from the book that launched my Other Worldly series in 2020, Alienable Rights, the only novel of the current five with a Thanksgiving scene. I drafted this particular chapter in 2017, but in the Alienable Rights timeframe it represents circa 2019, or one year before a presidential election. Lest anyone holds any nostalgia for those years after 2016 and prior to 2020. I do not, as it was a particularly difficult time in my life.

Hence, I am thankful I could write about an actual scene involving a turkey that really did take place in 2018 and write it with humor. I’m grateful I survived to still be writing to this day, even if turkey is no longer on the menu. The following is chapter 36 from Alienable Rights:

I awoke the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the dog’s nose quivering against mine. Surely the cat instigated this. I could practically hear Morris cajoling Bodie to wake me, thereby deflecting blame.

I was confronted with a large screwdriver—the tool as opposed to the cocktail—next to my bathroom sink. Mild apprehension ensued at possible subliminal messages, symbolic overtones or fact-based explanations.

Did this mean I was totally screwed when it came to cooking the turkey?

On a positive note, a morning with no bloody mangled mice was a morning so nice.

I emerged from the shower to hear my phone ping. The sound of Mom.

“Busy making pecan pies this morning!!! Sunny for a change but cool!!! (3 pies, 3 suns, 3 smiley face emoji)” Accompanying photos included Mom and Dad sporting cooking aprons. Dad’s had a golf theme; Mom’s was fancy footwear.

“Looking good! Lucas bringing home fresh turkey this afternoon. Sunny and cold here too, also windy. Love to you and Dad. (kissy face emoji)”

I turned on the TV to a rehash of the president pardoning the White House turkey and checked social media.

“Pardoning a turkey beats pardoning his lawyer under criminal indictment. “

“Turkeys better not be alien cuz he’ll try to reverse his pardon with executive order declaring White House will no longer pardon turkeys.”

I felt like I needed pardoning when Lucas arrived with a turkey wrapped in butcher paper. “Holy cow, how many pounds is that thing?”

“Killed just yesterday and we’re going to brine it,” he said, plopping the mass on the kitchen counter.

“We’re going to do what to it?”

“Soak it overnight in brine.”

“In what, the bathtub?” I doubted Morris would approve, because this creature was already dead.

Lucas went to the garage and returned with a large enamel cookpot he’d gotten months ago, fantasizing about making soup. “Use this and look up ‘brining’ online to see what we need,” he commanded before taking Bodie for a walk.

The pangs of guilt I felt over the turkey dying just yesterday were hypocritical but heartfelt. Morris was having pangs of his own that sounded like an alien in a sci-fi horror movie.

After removing the cat from the counter, I googled “brining turkeys.” Discombobulating steps and lengths of time necessary to properly prepare the turkey led me to call my sister. G might as well stand for gourmet-cooking gene.

“Help,” I said. “Lucas brought home what looks to be a fifty-pound turkey. At least it’s plucked. But he wants to brine it and I haven’t a clue or a keen desire.”

“Do you have coarse salt? Peppercorns? Chicken broth?”

“Yes.” And my broth had not exceeded its expiration date.

“How about citrus?”

Was my sister worried about scurvy too?

“Oranges and lemons,” I said, rifling through a refrigerator bin.

“Do you know how to grate zest without digging into the white part?”

“Uh, no. Would that be some sort of culinary crime I need pardoning for like the White House turkey?”

Lucas and Bodie returned while I was on the phone, brine concoction in progress, preventing his overlord’s oversight. “Did you get it done? Did you do it right?”

I waved him out of the kitchen, shushing him. “Lucas now wants to be the expert on brining after dumping the dead turkey on me and walking the dog. Beam me up, Scotty!” I said to my sister.

“You don’t know the power of the dark side!” intoned Lucas, exiting the kitchen.

Perhaps not, but I suspect the turkey did.

And it was Lucas who mixed Star Wars and Star Trek franchises this time—was that a pardonable gaffe? I traversed the carpet-worn path to the garage.

“Do you know how many pounds this turkey is, so we know how long to cook it? And will you please come lift it into the brining pot?”

I got out of the way of his spastic elbows as he preceded me into the house. “Don’t you have a bathroom scale that you never use?”

It’s a wonder he didn’t suffer the same fate as the turkey.

I retrieved the scale and scrounged up a 9-volt battery I kept in reserve for those times when a smoke detector beeps its annoying need for a new one—always at three in the morning.

Lucas placed the paper-clad turkey on the scale. Nothing.

He rearranged the turkey. No dice.

He removed the turkey, placed it on the counter and stepped on the scale. I hated him.

I have a rubber stamp that says, “Whenever I check my weight I always subtract five pounds. I don’t think boobs and brains this fabulous should count against me.”

Lucas tried again with the turkey. And what is the non-legal definition of insanity? Doing the same thing repeatedly in hopes of a different result?

How many engineers and lawyers did it take to weigh a turkey?

Morris was ready to pounce, what with a large raw bird splayed out on the floor. Not to mention Bodie under foot when activity took place in the kitchen.

“About thirty pounds,” said Lucas while hefting the turkey in an erratic arc, his elbows darting outward. The dog and cat and I scampered away.

I ran to the bathroom while Lucas wrangled the bird into the brine. I have another rubber stamp that says, “Never pass up an opportunity to pee.”

I returned to the turkey in the pot, legs sticking out six inches from the rim, resembling two bottles of chilling champagne.

Removing Morris from the counter, I snapped a picture and texted it to Mom and G with the caption, “Anyone up for a bit of the bubbly? (2 champagne bottle emoji)”

I commenced drinking champagne on Thanksgiving Day at three in the afternoon, which was five o’clock Texas time, so I was good.

I’d successfully cooked a bird of unknown weight I didn’t have to stuff or baste. I even made gravy sans giblets. The gravy made the stuffing more palatable because I chopped the celery and onion so the chunks were too big.

That morning we’d turned on the TV in time to see Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade floats with flying saucers and little green men costumes.

We could all be thankful the truth was sort of finally out there.

In the afternoon we watched football while eating turkey, because that’s what was on and that’s what you’re supposed to do. And also because a red orb was set to both land and take off on the 50-yard line during halftime in an NFL game.

“Who could possibly have set this up? Who’s piloting that thing? Did someone pay them, or did they pay to appear like the Department of Defense pays the NFL to promote the military?” I asked.

“The team owners are probably alien,” said Lucas.

Fans painted their faces day-glow green instead of their team colors, and then there was spectator commentary.

“I think a red orb gives advantage to a team with red uniforms!”

“That means a team with bright green on their uniforms has an unfair alien advantage!”

One team owner claimed the orb landing at halftime disrespectfully upstaged fighter jets screaming across the sky after the national anthem at the beginning of the game, so Lucas was wrong about him.

The president tweeted, “My crowds are so much bigger, tremendous crowds for me than for alien landings! HUMANS FIRST!”

I gave it days before he had a hat for sale at Whitehouse.gov. Just in time for cyber Monday shopping.

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