The Turkey Avenger
Originally published in the Christmas Lites I Anthology
(I'm posting this today since the sequel is now available for sale HERE.)
By: EC Stilson
I’m a turkey and yes, I hate Thanksgiving. Why do people always ask me about the holidays? I hate them--shocking, I know. Maybe you think I’m just stupid, or being an ungrateful, ornery cluck, but you’re wrong. I’m known for my bravery and keen insight. I'm a gobbler that knows right from wrong. I was raised by wolves. Trained by one-eyed chickadee ninjas! Other birds call me the Turkey Avenger--well, they would, if I could avenge a turkey.
So, now you know my secret: I’m special and maybe that’s why Gypsy Ruth caught me for her ceremony. She’s been fattening me up for years, always getting ready. She’s done her job well too. I literally roll out of bed. I stand and my belly sits on the ground. I tried flying once last year, but my left wing got stuck in my feathery fat rolls.
This kind of obesity isn’t ordinary, just another thing to prove Gypsy Ruth is actually a witch. She’s mean and rigid like an old scarecrow. She has dreadlocks and shabby clothes. She has a broom--but never sweeps. She has a black cat--who gives bad luck! But the worst thing about my master, the absolute pain in my flabby butt, is that she plans on eating me today, on Thanksgiving.
Now do you see why some people hate the holidays? Stop being so judgmental! Has anyone ever tried killing you on a holiday? And don’t tell me you “know what I mean,” when you have no feather-brained idea.
The woman who owns me is plain nuts, like covered almonds WITHOUT the chocolate. She has shifty eyes and a cackle that makes Cerberus sound good. She’s ugly and stupid--compared to me anyway. She’s sinister and vile, bread without butter, and if I have to spend one more moment with her, I might turn into a hen and lay eggs!
This morning, she drove our covered wagon deep into the desert. The horses grew so tired. I heard them talking about pains in their legs. They weren’t the only uncomfortable ones. It was so bouncy, my fat rolls kept hitting me in the face and my beak almost punctured my bellybutton. But after we stopped, things were better. I dragged myself onto the dusty porch, and the hot sun made my breast feathers sparkle.
I looked over at old Ruthie. She pulled out supplies for a fire, put strange stars on the ground and even talked to herself, croaking like a human who smokes for a living.
“I lost him,” she said. “His heart is gone, but I’ll be bringing him back. I has me spell book, I do. I has it.”
She patted a large, fading book, then sat on a rock.
I studied our surroundings. Dunes stretched for miles, yet Ruth rested under the only tree within sight.
“You know, she plans on eating you tonight,” a slippery voice said.
The black cat, Sparta lounged into a sitting position. His tail licked the side of the pealing caravan.
“I’d like to see her try eating me,” I said valiantly, pretending to be an eagle, as my feet shook.
“Oh?” Sparta laughed. “And why’s that?”
“Because . . . some birds call me the Turkey Avenger.”
Sparta laughed in the sporadic way only cats do. “We’ll see. We shall see.”
“Even if I wasn’t the Turkey Avenger, I still have my wishbone.”
“Oh, don’t go into that again.”
“I will.” My eyes turned to slits. My snood swayed and my beak clenched. “Every turkey has a wishbone. Folks say you can use it for wishing, but the most powerful wish is the first one. I’d like to remind you, that I’ve never used my wish.”
“Always saving it for the right time?” Sparta cut in. “Listen, Turkey. I don’t care how long you’ve waited to use your wish. It just won’t happen. Wishbones aren’t real, unlike cats and nine lives. Now, THAT is real!
“But you,” the cat continued, “you need to come to terms with reality. This is your last night--accept it. By tomorrow morning, Ruth will make a wish with all your bones.”
My heart thumped so hard, my bright head feathers shivered. It couldn’t be my last night. I wasn’t done living. All I ever wanted was to avenge some poor schmuck of a turkey, meet a bird who’d be dumb enough to date me. I’d take her as my wife if she had nice legs. After all, there are two important things in marriage--legs and the ability to avenge.
“What about you, Sparta? How many lives do you have left?” I know he hates that question. He might not know, but I’ve been counting. I know he’s on his last life.
He turned away and started licking his butt then--he does that when he’s upset. Seems he’s always upset.
Would I really die? If there’s one thing that can ruin the holidays, it’s death. I thought of my wishbone and my one wish. Time passed and we remained quiet as Gypsy Ruth read for hours.
Soon, the sun crashed at the end of the Earth. Darkness conquered the sky and the witch built a fire. The ground practically gasped as she moved, her presence so evil the flames didn’t even distort her shadow.
“He was being born first,” she chanted. “Born on Thanksgiving. Being taken by death . . . Before his time. Now, he MUST come forth. We shall reunite for all time and we shall rule the world!”
Her eyes found mine. I stood straight, although my stomach still dusted the porch. I knew then why she’d saved me for so many years. She wanted to eat me, celebrate after her son came back from the dead. She wanted my wishbone!
She turned to the tree in that moment. Her hands clawed at the ground. Hardened earth filled her nails. Her teeth barred like a ravenous dog and I wondered how crazy one person could be. When her arms rested deep inside the hole, Ruth’s vile laughter ripped through the air. She held a box over her head and screamed, “He shall be coming forth!”
Chills went through my gizzard. I cringed at the site because she’s the ugliest woman alive.
See, this is exactly why I hate Thanksgiving. It’s never a normal, happy day. Someone either gets lost in the forest, gets stuffed, or forgets the gravy!
The sky cracked as Ruth chanted more. “Reunite . . . Reunite . . . We will eat turkey tonight!”
Seriously? Does her life revolve around my juicy white meat? I tried joking, but when I looked at Sparta, my fear boiled to the surface.
I gaped at Ruth as she came closer. She suddenly grabbed me around the waist and clutched me at her side. I tried moving, but she was more powerful than Edesia! With her free hand, she pulled a hair from the box. I gobbled and struggled to no avail.
We moved closer to the fire, its heat toasting my feathers. This was it--the moment I would die.
Ruth held the hair up into the air. “Tonight, my son will live . . . And you,” she turned to me, “will die.”
She chanted again. “Reunite. Reunite.” Then with one last “reunite,” she threw the hair toward the fire.
By how she clutched me, I knew I was next, knew it was my turn!
My death hovered in the wind like a stupid marionette. I don’t know why I did it. Maybe it was for turkeys everywhere. But before anything else happened, as that hair descended into the raging fire, I made a wish. That was the moment I used my wishbone.
“On the wishbone!” I screamed, “Somehow save my life!”
The hair hit the fire. Sparks flew everywhere. The light became so blinding I looked away as Ruth fell motionless, dropping me in the action. I rolled closer to the caravan, then turned, gawking behind me.
A shimmering head took shape in the fire. It twisted and turned until a neck appeared hooking it to a body. The face seemed kind, stronger than time as it rose above the flames and became a translucent being, stepping from the fire. He walked to Ruth and then me. “Oh, dear one,” he said. “You are . . . the Turkey Avenger.”
“I am?” I asked.
“Oh, yes.” He grinned. “For you have saved a turkey.”
He drifted to Ruth, shook her and she shuddered as if waking from a slumber. She smiled, casting off the years of evil and heartache. “I’ve been missing you.” She hugged him, although her arms seemed to float through him.
“And I you,” he said. “Come, Mother. We are reunited. Come. The turkey has made this possible.”
They walked, laughing and joking for a long time. The woman no longer hobbled or crept along. The farther she walked the more youthful and joyous she appeared.
I stayed lying on my side until they were far from sight. “So what should we do? Leave the woman’s body here?” Sparta asked.
“What? What do you mean?” I turned to where he’d motioned and indeed he was right, the woman’s body lay still with death.
“You wouldn’t plan on going without me?” I asked.
“And leave the Turkey Avenger? No way. It’s not everyday I see someone avenge a turkey, even if it was themself. This might be my last life, and I refuse to live it alone.”
I said one last “goodbye” to Ruth and then practically rolled toward the caravan. This was a Thanksgiving to remember.
The horses argued about the best places to visit, Sparta licked his butt, and a female vulture circled above in the moon-lit sky. As I struggled getting into the caravan, I couldn’t help thinking one last thing, “That vulture sure has nice legs.”