Note: The title for this little piece is a variation of the classic "Dave Cooks The Turkey" by Stuart McLean.
Every year, our cousin gave us a turkey for Christmas Not just a turkey, but a big one- thirty pounds- fresh, never frozen. The highlight of our Christmas day was sitting down to dinner at a table that groaned under the weight of that turkey.
The preparation of the bird was left to the younger of my two sisters, the Martha Stewart wannabe. She would come back to the old house early on Christmas day, with all her trimmings, and the large mixing bowl filled with the cranberry/rice/something else stuffing she had carefully prepared the day before. One this fine Christmas day, she set out all her utensils, all her stuffing and herbs, everything she needed. She grunted and puffed as she strained to carry the bird from its storage place and put it on the kitchen table. Then she pulled back the brown butcher's paper and...
I suppose I should take this moment and should specify what I meant when I said she got the turkey from its "storage place". Storing the turkey always posed a little bit of a problem. You see, our cousin always gave us the bird a few days before Christmas, and we never had a fridge big enough to hold one that size. That was okay, usually, because we had an enclosed, uninsulated veranda attached to the house that was as cold as a fridge, as long as the December weather stayed Decemberish. That year, however, was the warmest December on record, with not a single day below freezing in the days leading up to Christmas, and some days that were really quite warm. We now return to the story, where younger of two sisters pulled back the brown butcher's paper that covered a bird that had not been refrigerated in three to four days and....
"Oh. My. God." she said. "I've got to get rid of this." And she began wrapping it up again before the smell could permeate the entire house. It was at this point Aunt M. walked in.
"What are you doing?" demanded Aunt M.
"This turkey has gone rancid," said sister 2. "We can't use it."
"What do you mean?" asked Aunt M.
I suppose I should take this opportunity to explain Aunt M's apparent lack of familiarity with the English language. The explanation for that is twofold. First, she had been born and raised in Canada, and had spoken English ever since she could speak. We knew this, as she was our mother's sister, and lived in the same house as us all our lives. She was one of five sisters my mother had. Most of the other sisters had gone and raised families of their own, so Aunt M. was aunt to a lot of people, though she had none of her own. As sometimes happened, she preferred some nieces and nephews over others. As also sometimes happens, familiarity breeds contempt, which is another way of saying she had favourites, and they weren't us. The most favourite of all her nieces and nephews just so happened to be the one who gave us the turkey. Which brings me to point two: my university education.
At university, we were taught that meaning is seated in the listener or reader, as opposed to in the speaker or writer. What someone says is not necessarily what someone else hears, and there is really no way around that problem, and right now we have a lovely illustration of exactly that problem. Sister two said: "This turkey has gone rancid," meaning : "This turkey, which was stupidly left outside for a warm December week, has done what any moron except us could easily have predicted it would do, and gone bad." but Aunt M heard: "I, your least favourite niece in the whole wide world, am accusing your most favourite niece in the whole wide world of giving us a rancid turkey." We may now continue with the story.
"What do you mean?" asked Aunt M. dangerously.
"I mean the turkey is rancid and we can't use it," said sister 2, who, lacking my university education, was not up on the finer points of deconstruction and reader centred theory.
"I've had enough of you people thinking you're better than everyone else," said Aunt M. ('You people' meant "us", her least favourite nieces and nephews.)
"What?" said sister 2, (I could break off and try and explain Sis's apparent inability to grasp the English language, but I think at this point it is self explanatory.)
"Do you think your cousin would deliberately give us a rancid turkey?" demanded Aunt M. "Do you?"
"I never said that," said Sister 2. "I didn't mean..."
"I know what you mean," said Aunt M. "And let me tell you: I've had enough of it. You can't go and throw out a gift from someone just because you don't like them. It's terrible. If you're too good to fix a turkey, then I'll do it myself!" With that Aunt M. shoved Sis 2 out of the way, and began unwrapping the turkey. Sis 2 went outside before she vomited again.
Outside, Sis 2's mind raced furiously. Who would Aunt M. listen to? The list was fairly short, but on it was Sis 1. She was the most favourite of Aunt M's least favourite nieces and nephews. Aunt M. listened to her. Sometimes. It was worth a shot. Sis 1 was up for the holidays from Texas, but she was currently walking her dogs, and had left about five minutes prior. She could be anywhere. Sis 2 raced off to find her.
Fortunately, her dogs were particularly incontinent that day, and Sis 1 had not gotten far.
"Sis 1, you've got to help us," panted Sis 2. "I need you stop Aunt M. from killing us all."
"What's the matter?" asked Sis 1.
Sis 2 explained. "You're the only one here she listens to," finished Sis 2.
Sis 1 snorted. "You just don't know how to talk to her." said Sis 1.
"Please," begged Sis 2. "She won't listen to me."
:"Fine," huffed Sis 1.
Within minutes the two were back home, choking on the smell of rancid turkey. "M!" said Sis 1. "You are not cooking that turkey!" She pulled the turkey out from under Aunt M's nose, and began carrying it out of the house to the garbage.
"Fine!" huffed Aunt M. And with that, she stormed off to her favourite chair in front of the TV to sulk.
As Sis 1 passed Sis 2 she said "See? You just have to know how to talk to her."
Sis 2 turned her eyes upward in the universal why me, O Lord gesture. A moment later Sis 1 was back inside. "There," said Sis 1. "Problem solved."
"Not quite," said Sis 1. "We still need something to eat."
"Oh," said Sis 2. She contemplated their options. There weren't any. She reached for her car keys. "C'mon," said Sis 1. "You're coming with me."
"Do you really need me?' asked Sis 2. "I mean..."
"Get in the car," growled Sis 1. Sis 2 followed her out the door.
And thus the two set off, on a fine Christmas morning to find A. an open store with B a turkey. Please, prayed Sis 2 silently, Please let us find one. And the Lord heard their prayers on that fine Christmas morning. He heard and He answered that prayer...with the words "Yeah. Good luck with that one."
To be continued.