By Louis J. Fagan
Using his fingers, Will peeled the golden skin from the turkey—all of the skin, not just a little. Then, he tossed it in the lidless garbage pail he’d strategically placed next to him.
Leave the skin on it. Leave it on, Carrie wanted to scream as she watched the desecration. She wanted to scream: I worked so hard to cook that 22-pound bird to perfection. I was up at 5 a.m. sticking my hand inside the cold cavern of that carcass, pulling out foul body parts and dealing with my mother, still in her bathrobe and standing so close I could taste her breath.
Instead of screaming, though, Carrie gulped from the bottle of microbrew beer that her dad had brought down from Vermont and prayed no one else was witnessing the atrocity unfolding at the counter. What was the beer called? She looked at the label: A Brew Made in Heaven. Dad’s new favorite beer. She hadn’t decided if she liked it yet or not. Cutesy, unique name. Smooth and subtle. Slightly bitter, though, too. Will distracted her inner monologue, as he always managed to do somehow. He fired up the electric knife like he was about to buck up wood with his chainsaw.
She’d seen how he held that Husqvarna this past summer, methodically, manly, endlessly buzzing away at the maple in their backyard. A thunderstorm had toppled the tree down and he had been out there raring to go even before the rain and wind had fully subsided. Upon his return to the house after an afternoon of showmanship, he’d shown her where the teeth of the chainsaw had brushed the tip of his workboot, the leather slashed open to expose the steel toe. Got careless, Carrie, he’d said and grinned.
Now the same man was ripping into the breast of the Thanksgiving bird much in the same reckless, misguided, amused fashion that he’d gloriously cut his revered firewood. Dumping the olives in the cut glass, she glanced at Will the Man, Will the Merciless. Arrogant, so arrogant, and so boyish at the same time. He knew everything. Amazing how he knew everything about sawing wood and saving money on heating oil, so much money, yet couldn’t start a fire in the woodstove to save his life. He flung open the windows in the dead of January when the house filled with smoke, pretended his eyes didn’t burn, his throat wasn’t constricting. And forget about the dust and dry heat. Humidifier? Who needs a humidifier?
Will forked meat to the platter. The slices of turkey were inconsistent. Pieces as thick as a John Grisham paperback lay strewn about the platter. The chunks rested uneasily there with shreds, literally shreds, of the tender meat—Carrie had made damn sure it wasn’t dry, made damn sure it would be tender. Up went the pile of meat, and no olives were left to pour into the cut glass. No brown sugar left to sprinkle on the acorn squash. No marshmallows needed whipping into the sweet potatoes. The mashed potatoes were lump-less. Everything was set. The family was moving toward the dining room table and just in time.
Will lifted the electric knife and in one swipe began to carve the turkey legs. He cut the meat awkwardly from the bone, the knife vibrating this way and that against the unnatural act. Carrie shuddered and her stomach lurched. Why hadn’t she seen this coming? They’d never hosted Thanksgiving before and he sure as hell wouldn’t have prepared for the occasion by jumping on youtube—or asking her father, heaven forbid—for a little turkey carving guidance. Why, when she’d stood at the altar those few summers ago, hadn’t she seen a man who would carve turkey legs instead of pulling them gently from the tender, moist bird—yes, tender, yes moist, very moist—and setting them each on the edges of the serving platter? Who carves the drumsticks of the Thanksgiving turkey? Who does that?
And what choice did she have but to let the damage continue? He was hungover. He’d overdone it with the martinis. Oh, hell, she was hungover too. She’d polished off the bottle of chardonnay by herself last night. No one was to blame either of them in that matter—out-of-town, overnight guests always required self-induced sedation. The point was, both hungover, if she mentioned the drumstick massacre here, now, Will would sulk. He would equate carving the turkey with his sense of manhood and she’d just as well tell everyone at the table he had a little dick (which, really, he didn’t) as to comment on his inability to carve a Thanksgiving Day turkey. To him, the insult would be one in the same. An argument would ensue. Looks from her mother, from the cousins in from Albany, would ensue. A heaping dish of awkward, quiet concern for Carrie and Will’s relatively new (and very unhinged?) marriage would be served up with all the rest of the food she’d prepared for hours. Dinner would be disastrous.
However, the mound of turkey debris amassed on the platter begged her: Say something. Anything. Rectify what he’s done. Even if ever so slightly. Screw disastrous dinner. Lord knows you’ve lived through plenty before this. It cried to her from its skinless, mangled Thanksgiving Day glory: He needs his balls busted, if only just this once, for the onslaught.
Teetering on the brink of Thanksgiving warfare, she swigged the remainder of her Brew Made in Heaven (a shot of courage?), threw the empty in the recyclables (a diversion?), grabbed the dish of olives (nothing left to do).
Will silenced the electric knife, set it down, and, with hands on his hips, triumphantly eyed the platter of carnage. He proceeded to fish out (with his fingers) the two turkey leg bones buried beneath the meat, and then he dropped the bones in the garbage.
Looking to Carrie, he grinned. Heroically.
The moment had come. Carrie steeled herself. Repercussions be damned. Her powerful will was about to crush the Powerful Will, bringing him down with a tongue sharper than the electric knife used to commit the heinous crime against her turkey. Yes, her turkey.
Ready, Carrie? Will said, still grinning.
The question is are you, Will? Carrie said, the release of just her opening remarks adrenalizing her for whatever may follow. The high was indescribable. Satisfactorily, she plucked a black olive from the dish in her hand and pushed it in her mouth. She chewed, deliberately, and swallowed.
Will cocked his head.
While Carrie watched the grin dissolve from his face, a wave of chatter and laughter rose in the dining room. A chorus of overlapping words and shared mirth invaded the kitchen, and quite suddenly, fully involuntarily, Carrie flinched.
Her imminent glory fled. Her powerful will faltered.
She stood helpless (baffled? thwarted? doomed? not enlightened, please, not enlightened!) because…because. Damn it to hell. The joyful ruckus—completely uninvited in the kitchen—had inexplicably conjured within her that reckless, misguided, albeit amused sort of love she had for the complete idiot who stood grinless before her.
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Louis J. Fagan is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY. He is currently at work on a novel based loosely on his short story, “Slit,” which was published in Weber–The Contemporary West. Further publications can be found in typehouse, Five on the Fifth, Red Eft Review, and Intrinsick.