Social Studies Journal: The Sunday Before Thanksgiving

by Reid McGrath, SUNY Cortland, November 25, 2008

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The fluid, melodious music of the organ resounded off the Church walls while the priest and his entourage walked toward the rear of the building. I was awake by now. I had just participated in the communal intake of flesh and blood and my sugar level had spiked. The Mass was almost over and I became optimistic about getting back to the house to carry on with the monotony of Sunday.

I saw my friend, Kevin, a few strides down the aisle, almost ready to splash Holy Water on his forehead before breaking the threshold of the door. I saw my chance and slipped past my younger brother and sister, advancing my position out of the pew and into the aisle. Mom scolded me for not genuflecting. She was behind me a few body lengths, and clearly wanted me to settle down, but I was out of there. Like the guy in The Shawshank Redemption, when he crawls through the long sewage pipe to the freedom of the river, that was like me maneuvering through the musty smell of the archaic church, and out into the freedom of the parking lot. I eventually made it outside and talked with Kevin for a small while about the hot mothers we were admiring throughout the service.

Mom interrupted the conversation and stated that we had to get back. She said, “Dad’s waiting for breakfast, and I have to go to the supermarket.” I reluctantly followed her and told Kevin that I would call him later.

After leaving the Church Mom brought us to the bakery and I got a blueberry cobbler. We then had to go pick up my oldest-younger sister, Hannah, at her friend’s house, where she had slept over. I was hungry and wanted to get the Jesus flesh taste out of my mouth so I started picking and pulling, breaking off pieces of my cobbler, hastily downing it before Mom could see. We were cruising over a bumpy road and my tee shirt, as well as the backseat of the car, became littered with the powdered sugar that rested atop the tasty treat. We picked up Hannah and then Mom made her rounds at the local grocery store. I pushed the cart that held my youngest sister, Carly. We zoomed to and fro, in and out of the aisles. Carly was laughing hysterically and begged, “Faster Reidy, faster.” I eventually crashed the cart into a stack of Yodels and Ring Dings and decided to retreat quietly back to Mom.

When we got home, I brought four grocery bags in on one hand, a new record. One bag even had milk and orange juice in it. Mom got mad when Hannah went to let the dog out. Dad was out back, by the turkey pen, and I was excited to go see what he had been up to all morning, but Mom refused. She said I had to sit down and write my journal entry on Thanksgiving for Social Studies class, for this class. I complained and she sent me to my room. I couldn’t think of anything to write.

I remembered discussing how the Indians, oops, Native Americans, helped the Pilgrims settle on Plymouth Rock. And how, Squanto, their guide, taught them to place a fish underneath a corn seed, which fertilized the ground and produced a plentiful crop. We discussed how the Pilgrims showed the Native Americans a feast they had never before witnessed.

I’m skeptical; we also learned about the Columbian Exchange, and I’m pretty sure pumpkins, squash, and corn were all rare, if not nonexistent on the European continent: So how could the Pilgrims show the Indians a feast when they had never even seen or tasted the food before? I also find it ironic that the Native Americans would join in on such a celebration. After all, didn’t we, Europeans, destroy their population with disease and plague? I tossed my journal to the side and schemed up a plan to escape from the house.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were getting the woodstove ready for winter, my Dad laid a ladder against the side of the roof so he could climb up and clean out the chimney. I had helped him. We took a long chain, dropped it down the metal piping, and swung it round and round. This created a spiral whip-like motion that knocked all the old creosote down and into the fire place. The ladder still lay against the roof so it was easy to escape from the captivity of my room. I just opened the window, crawled out onto the black shingles, and descended to the lawn below.

The day was unusually calm. The red wing blackbirds sat idly on the apple tree, but they weren’t “warbling,” as Mom likes to say. I could hear the turkeys squawking away in the back yard. I wanted to bring some feathers in to show the class, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, but I had yet to pluck one. Dad said to “just go grab a hold of the plume and yank her out.” I always had tried but when I would slip my hand in the cage the birds would always pluck at it. It doesn’t hurt that bad, but instinctually, I just pull away, and until now I haven’t been able to steal one of their beautiful quills.

Thanksgiving was quickly approaching and it made me think back to a family dinner where turkey was the entrée. I thought to myself, “Did those turkeys have feathers? No, they didn’t.” as I walked, moseying toward the backyard. The air was still, as if our planet had been depleted of oxygen and wind, like in outer space. I passed Mom’s tomato garden with all of the abandoned green tomatoes that had no chance of survival or of being eaten; the bushes were curling and beginning the early stages of decomposition. I thought how Mom was going to make me bring them back to the compost pretty soon.

I rounded the corner and my father immediately came into view. He was standing near a white five gallon bucket. It’s the same bucket he submerges in the pool, the one that we stick our heads underneath and can breathe underwater like real life scuba-divers. The bucket was flipped over and a hole had been cut on the top, which was really the bottom. I could see a small red and brown knob sticking out of the hole. My Dad grabbed hold of it. I saw the blade of his hunting knife pop open, but then his back turned, obscuring my view. Interested, I walked closer. The bucket was jiggling. From afar I could see red splotches on the top of the bucket; nothing was protruding from the hole anymore. Dad stood there pushing the bucket down lightly with his boot. I continued walking, nearer and nearer. I saw Dad’s hunting knife which was now faintly red. He hadn’t spotted me yet. As I got closer the green grass became littered with what seemed like red stain; as if red raindrops had fallen on our lawn in one distinct point, circularly surrounding my Dad and the whitish red bucket. “Woah guy,” he said to me, startled. He sat on the bucket and said, “What’s up? You’re mother let you out of the house?”

“Yea, she said I could come down to get a turkey feather for my class project,” I said, selling my lie.

I looked over to the turkey pen; my Dad’s eyes followed my own. The pen was empty. I looked back at his face; our eyes met and he said, “So…you need a feather for your class project?”

“Yep,” I said.

My Dad hesitantly rose from his sitting position on the bucket, it wasn’t jiggling anymore. He stared into my eyes one last time, and then lifted the bucket. A headless, bloody, turkey body flopped to the ground. “What the heck Dad!” I said, jumping back a few feet.

“That’s dinner on Thursday Reidy! I created this neat device with the bucket, so when I decapitate the bird it can’t scurry around and crash into things. It bruises the meat when they do that. You said you needed a feather for class… it won’t bite you now,” he said, portraying the insensitivity of a long time hunter and trapper.

I was dumbfounded. My father was now chuckling. Horrified, I looked at the red bird. I calmed myself and began to imagine the greatest show and tell in the history of show and tells. I needed my props. I smiled to my father, and I picked my plumes.

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