Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Case of the Missing Thanksgiving Turkey

Here’s a fiction story ready for Thanksgiving Turkey titled, appropriately, “The Case of the Missing Turkey”.

It had been in her oven for sure until a half hour before serving. Then her turkey turned up missing. She did the only thing she could do under the circumstances. She stole her neighbor’s turkey.

Which action landed her in jail and other hilarity that is a tale to repeat each Thanksgiving holiday.

Pic of the Day

The Case of the Missing Thanksgiving Turkey

“Tell us the story about the time the Thanksgiving turkey disappeared right out of the oven Grandma!”

I waved my hand to shush my granddaughter, Mary May. Everyone then gathered around my Thanksgiving table had heard the story a thousand times. Except, of course, a handsome young fellow named Edward, who was Mary May’s guest this holiday.

“I’d love to hear that story Mrs. Bobbit,” the handsome young Edward said to encourage me and I figured I could let the turkey rest a few more minutes while I regaled the ensemble gathered around my table to thank God for the bounty of the harvest, America, family, whatever each was thankful for. I do dearly love to recount the story of the Thanksgiving when our turkey had been blissfully roasting in my oven then suddenly turned up missing, boom, yes, completely gone.

Well it was just the strangest thing.

It was 1977. My daughter, Mary May’s mother, Genevieve, Ginny for short, was ten years old. Her older brother, George jr., was twelve years old. My beloved husband, now departed, was very much alive and was very excited that year in that he was up for promotion and his boss, the bosses’ wife, and their two children, were our guests that Thanksgiving. Of course George didn’t want to get me all worked up over the pressure that normally accompanies preparing a Thanksgiving meal, much less one to be consumed by my husband’s boss. George’s promotion to manager of the accounting department at the hospital where George was then employed was so very important to our family. George and I had been planning on finally buying our own home and we needed this promotion to continue on to that American dream. But worked up I was, goodness. I was a right sharp cook and Thanksgiving dinner had always been my favorite meal to prepare for my family. As best as I could, I kept myself calm and purposeful, writing lists for food, to-do’s for the big meal, orders for my own children as to proper behavior, essentially covering all the bases to make that meal a most successful endeavor that would have George head of Bon Secours accounting department within the week following Thanksgiving day.

For all my organizational skills, how could I possibly have anticipated that my turkey, beautifully browned, stuffed with sausage and chestnut dressing, basted to a perfect sheen, would totally disappear from my oven with no explanation for same?

I know the turkey had been in the oven at around 3 pm that Thanksgiving afternoon because I’d informed all then eagerly awaiting the turkey that so teased their noses that the meal would be on the table in about a half an hour. I’d moved the sweet potatoes around within the oven cavity to insure their proper doneness and it was an effort with that big turkey in the way and I even had to pull out that extra dish of dressing to make room for a quick heating of the rolls. All the while that turkey was in that oven, I swore on my children’s lives to George right after it went missing, such was my distress.

“You’ve been smelling it roasting all morning, George,” I said, half-sobbing , half-cursing the gods who managed to steal my perfectly roasted Thanksgiving turkey right out of my oven within a half hour before I was ready to serve it at my Thanksgiving dinner.

“You got to know I’m not nuts. This entire house smells like roasting turkey! You saw me prepping the thing this morning, dear Lord! But it’s not here George! Look for yourself.”

George had alternately been trying to keep my voice down to a hysterical stage whisper lest his boss hear and debating me whether there had ever been a turkey in that oven.

“I do smell the baking turkey smell, Rhonda,” George acquiesced this point to me during the hushed kitchen debate. “But I really didn’t see you prepping the turkey this morning. Rhonda you were up at 5 am this morning beginning the preparation for this dinner! I mean please, Rhonda, I believe you. It’s just that I can’t get my mind around how an entire turkey can just disappear from someone’s oven. Not a single one of us heard a thing, Rhonda. We’ve got a house full of people here, Rhonda. Somebody would have seen something.”

Of course George was right. We had kids running around all over the place, a house full of adults walking all around, goodness I’d been in the kitchen at least once every twenty minutes. Somebody would have seen a turkey thief taking off with a 23 pound almost fully cooked turkey one would think.

“Well we’ve got to do something, Rhonda. I think the Shop-A-Rama is open. They were selling fully cooked turkeys this week, maybe they’ve got some left. I’m going to tell everyone the very strange story of the missing turkey and then me and Rob will run down and see if we can’t scarf up a cooked turkey, maybe a roast chicken from Shop-A-Rama’s rotisserie if we have to.”

I saw our first real house fade from my happy dreams. We’d invited George’s boss for Thanksgiving dinner and somehow lost the damn turkey. I wouldn’t promote someone in charge of my company’s finances that was so pathetic as to lose the turkey on Thanksgiving Day. And yet, the thing was gone. I begged George not to tell his boss about the missing turkey, that I maybe could get a turkey.

I kind of mumbled something to George about getting my mother to fry up a turkey in her deep fryer but that was not a good idea. First, my mother’s deep fryer wouldn’t even hold a small chicken. Second, my mother lived fifty miles away. By the time she fried up some kind of edible bird and I could somehow get a hold of it some two to three hours would pass at the least. No I had another plan.

I am a devout Catholic and attend mass at least once a week. My plan to steal my neighbor Mrs. Martin’s turkey came from a desperation that was bottomless. I made a sign of the cross and promised God I would make it up to Mrs. Martin somehow, some way.

Mrs. Martin told me the week before that her eldest son, his wife and their two adult children would be coming by for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Mrs. Martin was so filled with joy as the two prior Thanksgivings Mrs. Martin’s children left the poor woman alone. George and I always invited her to have Thanksgiving dinner with us but I always wondered how her own sons could leave her alone on such a special day.

“Johnny, he has such a busy job, you know,” Mrs. Martin told me, the joy of knowing her son would be at her home for Thanksgiving quite obvious by the shine in her ageing blue eyes. “His oldest son is bringing a ham but I don’t believe Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving without a turkey. So I’m going to bake a turkey and goodness I don’t see why we can’t have both a ham and a turkey on Thanksgiving day.”

It was my memory of this conversation that prompted me to my plan to steal Mrs. Martin’s turkey. They’d have a ham after all and this way I could save my pride and dignity with George’s boss. Mrs. Martin, she was just the sweetest woman. But she was getting very forgetful and what with being in her mid-80’s she tended to be just a bit senile. I took to checking in on her a couple of times a week and I often wondered why any of those two sons she always talked about never came to check on her. George and I lived next door to Mrs. Martin by then almost three years and we’d never seen either of her two boys or her grandchildren come to visit.

It would be like taking candy from a baby, or goodness, a turkey from an elderly somewhat senile woman. I knew the layout of Mrs. Martin’s home and if I could somehow fool her son into thinking I was in his mother’s kitchen for some valid purpose other than to steal the turkey from her oven, I figured I could pull it off. I was sure Mrs. Martin would be dismissed as forgetful, as perhaps never having baked a turkey or as having somehow misplaced it. If my own husband had his doubts about my mental capacity as regards my missing turkey, and I was in my mid-30’s at the time and had yet to show any signs of senility as of that date, then I was sure Mrs. Martin’s family would eat the ham and laugh over their missing turkey.

The next few hours are all a blur to me. Even with the passing of these many years I mostly remember my terror when the handcuffs were placed upon me, the shock on my husband’s bosses’ face, the fear in my children’s eyes and the disappointment in George’s voice as he asked me over and over why I did such a thing.

I managed to get through Mrs. Martin’s sun porch to her kitchen with no problem. I heard the sound of voices, the tinkle of glasses, the shifting of chairs from Mrs. Martin’s living room. Mrs. Martin’s house was older and the rooms were a bit of a maze. To get to her kitchen from the living room required a walk through the dining room then a walk down a short hallway before making a left into the kitchen. Mrs. Martin’s stove was right by that back door and I figured it would only take me about fifteen seconds to pull that turkey out of the oven and rush out the door. I already had potholders in my hands to pull off my stealthy and dirty deed.

Mrs. Martin’s scream made me drop the turkey and of course the hot grease splattered on my legs and I too screamed. I slid on a piece of stuffing and fell and I looked up and saw five old ladies looking down at me, all of them screaming, one on the telephone calling the police.

“She’s trying to steal my turkey!” Mrs. Martin shouted to the first police officer to arrive at the scene. I spent the few minutes I had begging Mrs. Martin to forgive me but it seemed that Mrs. Martin didn’t know who the hell I was. I managed to get George’s attention by screaming his name from Mrs. Martin’s sun porch but any exit from same was blocked by little old ladies with blue hair. I thought I’d died and went to some sort of retirement home filled with elderly shock troops armed with canes and knitting needles to prevent escape from the justice they sought.

The police officer snapped the handcuffs on my turkey stealing self, ignoring my husband’s pleas for some slack on this Thanksgiving holiday but the blue-haired ladies were all sobbing and screaming with fear and rage, Mrs. Martin was denying she ever saw me before and my explanation that I lived right next door was unheard by a police officer himself missing a home-cooked turkey dinner no doubt and at odds with a holiday turkey thief such as myself.

I wasn’t actually thrown in jail but the interruption of my trip to the police station and the subsequent protocol of dealing with turkey thieves did require my husband to speak softly with his boss, sending him and his family home without a bite of turkey one but George did fry up a quick couple of steaks and served them along with the other Thanksgiving food frou-frou. George was full of apologies and a promise of a very sane explanation to come about all of this. George assured his boss that I was innocent.

“And it would turn out,” I said, folding the dish towel in my lap with a studied concentration and giving my granddaughter’s handsome young suitor a steady gaze, “that I was innocent.”

“It turned out that the turkey Grandmom was stealing was really her own turkey!” my granddaughter Mary May shouted, always unable to keep a secret. I carefully showed Mary May the palm of my hand to shush her. I quietly stood up for a nicely browned and stuffed turkey awaited serving as surely its juices were secure after sitting for so long as I told my story of the missing Thanksgiving turkey.

“Mrs. Martin had somehow got into my kitchen that Thanksgiving day and it was she who stole my turkey. Mrs. Martin, you will remember, was a bit senile but who knows? Perhaps she forgot to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving in her forgetfulness and actively engaged in turkey theft to serve her guests. Or maybe she got confused, thought my kitchen was her kitchen and, of course, thought the turkey in my oven was hers. Although that requires some explanation as to how my turkey got into HER oven but whatever the case, all ended well.”

I noted Edward’s bemused smile and hey, it always was amusing in the telling and re-telling.

“I knew it was my turkey because after I got home from the police station, there, at my door, was Mrs. Martin. She had a big tray of turkey and all the trimmings. She’d heard I had to leave suddenly and she wanted to give me and my family some food as she figured we maybe didn’t have a Thanksgiving meal.”

I explained to Edward that I couldn’t have made it up if I tried. I didn’t even try to hash it out with Mrs. Martin. I accepted her gracious gift and we all did, in fact, sit down and eat Mrs. Martin’s thoughtfully provided Thanksgiving leftovers. I took one bite of the stuffing and knew it was mine.

“I always put sausage in my stuffing and I don’t use just any sausage. I purchase a special sausage made upstate that has a pleasant combination of caraway seed and sage, a somewhat odd combination of sausage ingredients but perfect to accompany a nice roasted turkey. My chestnuts sealed the deal. While chestnuts aren’t all that unusual in turkey stuffing, combined with my unusual sausage I was convinced that Mrs. Martin had stolen my turkey.”

The sadder thing of this somewhat funny memory was it would turn out that Mrs. Martin’s sons would not, or could not, attend Thanksgiving dinner at her home so she invited a few of her elderly friends from her favorite Bingo parlor. In fact, I learned later that Mrs. Martin had no sons at all, she had no children in fact. At some point Mrs. Martin must have told the Bingo ladies that I was her neighbor but like I explained to the handsome Edward, to this day I don’t know when Mrs. Martin entered a senile moment from when she was just a plain old turkey thief.

But I must be honest. My attempt to take Mrs. Martin’s turkey was pure thievery and nothing less for I did not know, please understand, that the turkey I was stealing was the one I’d roasted and stuffed just that morning.

George managed to make well with his boss over the turkey incident and all had a good laugh over that strange Thanksgiving. George did get a promotion and we did manage to buy our first home.

I gave my beloved George a passing memory, thanking God for my years with him and hoping he was having a nice turkey in heaven. Maybe Mrs. Martin, who passed away the year after she’d stolen my turkey, was sharing a turkey with George up there with the angels.

I was sure Mrs. Martin was in heaven. After all, it was I who was the turkey thief. She was just a forgetful and lonely old lady.
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