A Crappy Turkey 

The things I let my friends talk me into

I'm starting to think I need a "handler," because if I had a handler I would not have come home with an 8-foot inflatable turkey the other day. And a faulty one at that. But Daniel is the closest thing I have to a handler in my life (he's a professional bitch-sitter, after all) and he was useless in this regard. When it comes to the morning-after discount blow-fest of picked-over holiday left-behinds -- and Halloween, regardless of its public pussy-fication lately, is a holiday in my book -- Daniel is even quicker at the pickings than me. For instance, by the time I met him for coffee the morning after Halloween, he had already scored the last half-off fog machine at Target.

"You already have a fog machine," I griped. "Gimme."

"A person needs two," he insisted. "They emit puffs in intervals, you know, so you need to set them on opposing cycles to have continuous fog."

Continuous fog, he says, is really important. He learned it the night before when his haunted-house installation was in full operation. Daniel played the bludgeoned maniac chained in the dungeon wall, and in his opinion the effect was heavily diminished between belchings from the fog machine, during which people could clearly see he had run out of fake blood.

"Let's go," he chided me. "I need more fake blood for next year."

We probably hit about 50 trashy department stores that day, and all of them looking like Dracula's backed-up toilet. How I ended up with an 8-foot inflatable turkey, I'm still trying to figure out. It's not even a Halloween thing, it's a Thanksgiving thing -- it's wearing pilgrim attire, for chrissakes -- but the store people slipped it in with all the other half-off stuff and I plucked it up amid the frenzy like a fool. "Looky," I said to Daniel, "a big turkey! I should get this, huh?" and Daniel, being the bad handler that he is, said, "If you don't, I will," and that sealed it for me, because Daniel got the last half-off fog machine and I'll be damned if he was gonna get the last 8-foot turkey, too.

But after the fog cleared and I got home and got the thing out of the box, I realized it's not even a nice turkey, it's a mean-ass looking turkey, standing upright with a snarling mouth, big bug eyes and a pilgrim's hat. This turkey is obviously modeled after the evil turkey the pilgrims recruited to lure all the other innocent turkeys to the chopping block. But it was still kinda colorful, and at half price I wouldn't have minded having a huge militant Pilgrim turkey in my yard to commemorate the upcoming Thanksgiving, so I plugged it in and -- goddam -- it wouldn't work. It just sort of inflated halfway and sat there on my lawn like a big flaccid penis in a turkey suit.

"What do you expect?" Lary grumbled. I'd called him to come fix it because Lary is the guy I call to come fix things. He can fix anything, even when he's blotto on Wild Turkey. In fact, bourbon seems to be the fuel that feeds his genius. In the decrepit concrete compound he calls a home, he recently built a bathroom modeled after the one in Saddam Hussein's castle, and he did it all in a complete booze-induced fog. He does not even remember tearing out his kitchen to accommodate the Jacuzzi, but I tell you, it's a nice Jacuzzi.

"I'm not fixing your crappy turkey," he said. I ignored him, refocused, and was actually able to trace the problem to a hole in the turkey's ass area, which I tried sticky-taping shut, but sticky tape -- as I learned a few minutes later -- is amazingly ineffectual in a rainstorm. So I sat on my stoop clutching a pair of scissors and fumed. I hate Thanksgiving. I really do. It's just an excuse for people to pig out and drink themselves into a fog. When I was a kid, my mother's Thanksgiving turkey customarily came out so dry you could pack it in a saddle for a cross-country wagon train. I swear you could bite through a bone and not even know it. Talk about a crappy turkey.

Plus, my parents often invited the rest of their hooch-addled friends to come and cloud the place with their second-hand smoke. I can still hear their disembodied laughter through the continuous fog of carcinogens. In the years since my parents died, I've made sure to be busy working most Thanksgivings so as not to endure this hyper-family holiday while practically having no family of my own.

But lately I've come to realize I'd be happy to take my mother's dried-out buzzard any day of the week if only she was here to offer it. That is the truth. Fog or no fog, I wish I could hear that laughter again. But I can't and I don't get too torn up about it. You are never really without family, anyway. Just clear the fog and they are there. They might not be perfect, but they are there. That is why, to this day, you will see a half-flaccid turkey still squatting in my front yard, because even a crappy turkey is better than no turkey at all.

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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