They say art imitates life. I beg to differ. In my experience, life imitates art. Let me explain.
Several Thanksgivings ago my driveway was filled to capacity, reminding me of the large house-party I’d created. Ahh, Thanksgiving, with its frantic Wednesday night last minute touches: rolling out homemade pie crust, peeling twenty-five pounds of potatoes and hand-crushing graham crackers for the cheese cake (why didn’t I just shut up that Inner Cheapskate who insisted I crush them myself and save money?) My wobbly knees begged for a coffee break but I needed to get beds changed and the toilet cleaned out.
The doorbell rang with more company from Indiana. As the relatives hauled in pillows, blankets and comforters and toted suitcases upstairs, I heard the jovial back and forth talk about their trip and how long it took to get out of town. Someone always seemed to have a school activity or a bazaar to attend but somehow, all made it before midnight.
I surveyed the kitchen. Pies in place, potatoes submerged underwater to sleep until the next day, green bean casserole perched on the refrigerator shelf while the sweet potatoes swam in their own orange sauce. Even the silverware shone, ready to be displayed at our long dining room table. Martha, not to say my mother would be proud. I probably should have suggested Gourmet magazine do a spread on me.
I sat down with a cup of tea and sighed at my handiwork. All was well.
Well, maybe not.
It dawned on me I hadn’t seen the turkey for a while. Where was the star of this annual culinary family pilgrimage? Oh yes, I remembered I had decided to defrost the bird in the garage. The bird had perched on top of my freezer for two days, not knowing its final fate in my kitchen gas chamber. That year our November garage temperatures equaled the inside of my refrigerator so I was well within the defrosting guidelines of the National Turkey Institute’s annual public service messages.
Hauling my weary body up off of the couch; I went to check the turkey’s status. As I opened the door from the garage to the kitchen, I glanced at the top of the chest freezer. The top was devoid of any carcass, frozen or unfrozen.
“Wait a minute; I know I put it there.” I scoured the entire garage to see if somehow it had rolled off the freezer and slid into a corner. Out from the wall I pulled bikes, Christmas decorations and water ski equipment. No large plastic wrapped bird anywhere.
“Maybe a deer ran off with it,” I told my husband, pointing to the woods behind our house. He informed me deer don’t like turkey.
“Okay, joke’s over, who stole the turkey,” I demanded as I raced through the house, contacting all the small family groups. All I got were blank looks and pitying glances that said I’d finally cracked under the years of cooking this rather large annual dinner. I ran to the basement to “vet out” my more mischievous son who was deep into playing pool. No answer.
As I made the rounds, my voice continued to raise its decibels and pitch, not a pretty sound for someone who prides themselves in creating a genteel atmosphere and making guests feel at home. I didn’t care; all I wanted was to find the culprit who decided to play a practical joke at midnight. Everyone in my family knows I usually lose my sense of humor about 11:30 on Thanksgiving Eve.
Some of the smaller children formed a search party to find the bird. After about ten minutes, I realized that the garage door had been open all evening. Slipping outside I spied a large white blob at the corner of our lot. I ran to the spot and blinked back the tears of an enraged cook.
There sat our voluptuous turkey, savaged from a second death and full of teeth bites. A nagging thought kept hammering my brain inside of my head. This reminded me of something. Oh yeah, the movie, The Christmas Story. It’s the Bumpus’ dogs back from the dead! Life imitating art. My bird, full of ugly, evil red flesh wounds. The Christmas Carol Cratchits with their dreams of a Christmas goose couldn’t have been more disappointed that me as I stared dumbfound at the demise of tomorrow’s dinner.
Pulling out a flashlight, I examined it. Could I save it? Maybe with a little bit of hydrogen peroxide and some deft surgery, no one would know the dogs had sampled it first. I was the only one who had discovered the carnage. How many germs could a couple of dogs have? I’d seen my own children get licked by our dear mutt, transferring more germs than a few little bite marks ever would. And anyway, doesn’t cooking kill germs?
I smuggled the turkey back into the garage and wrapped a towel over the specimen. “You’re not going to serve that are you?” I jerked up my head to seem my husband staring at me. Busted. With an achy heart, I slid the dog’s souvenir into our garbage can.
The next day we dined on chicken breasts, mechanically pressed turkey roll and canned Franco- American gravy. I looked at the sad pile of meat. No shiny brown turkey skin, no drippings to make that once-a-year gravy and no wishbone. I excused myself from the table.
“Where are you going?” asked my son. “Out for Chinese food,” I answered.