Jack D. Hunter's Blog

01 December 2007

Turkey à la Mode

I was watching my daughter Jill slicing up the remains of last week’s Thanksgiving turkey for duty as sandwich and soup fixings when, remembering my Uncle Nick, I broke into a laugh. He and turkey just naturally go together in my hilarious-memory box.

The men of my clan, from my own Pappy to Grampa Thompson, have all been quite skilled at turkey carving. But Uncle Nick, a pragmatic and independent fellow who rarely conformed to family stances and bents, was less than gifted in that venue.

Actually, we’d all look forward to those times when we’d gather at Aunt Ruth’s for Thanksgiving, since she and Uncle Nick personified congeniality and hospitality. The food was guaranteed to be plentiful and tasty, and their house was a great place to be when hunger was panging. Yet, for all this, an eerie quiet would come over the celebrants when, after we’d bowed our heads and he’d said the “requiem,” as he called it, Uncle Nick shifted into a crouch in his chair at the head of the table. We knew what was ahead, and the thought was sobering.

I remember one of those times with special clarity. It was in my high school years, but I can still see Uncle Nick, a round little man with a Yul Brynner hairdo and the determination of a house detective, preparing to assault the bird.

The holiday cheer and anticipation had subsided, to become instead a kind of ambient uneasiness. Uncle Nick had shot his cuffs, wiggled his fingers in the manner of a safecracker addressing a combination dial, and now held the fork in his left hand, the knife in his right. Aunt Ruth leaned forward to suggest anxiously, “Perhaps, dear, now that we’ve seen how pretty the bird is, we should carve in the kitchen and pass platters. . .”

Uncle Nick seemed not to hear, preoccupied as he was with the challenge before him. He eyed the great bird narrowly, as if he expected it suddenly to come at him with a knife of its own. The silence in the room was now almost palpable, broken only by the sound of coffee perking somewhere. Uncle Nick made the first move. The fork darted forward to pierce the golden flank, the knife flashed in a silvery arc, and there was a general commotion in which the water glasses tinkled, the candles flickered, the table trembled.

“Gotcha!” Uncle Nick snarled triumphantly amid a shower of parsley. “Now hold still, you pot-bellied canary—”

But the bird seemed to have a mind of its own. Somewhere in the melee, there was a rasping, the clattering of an errant blade, an oily sliding. And then the pièce de résistance left the platter to execute a kind of slow barrel-roll that ended in a crash-landing in the centerpiece floral display.

Even the coffee pot seemed to suspend its gasping in the dreadful stillness that followed.

We all sat, staring in disbelief at the grotesque salad Uncle Nick had created. Then, gathering himself and striving for nonchalance, he stood up, reached down the table, seized the bird, and flung it back onto the platter.

Wiggling his fingers again, his brown-button eyes defiant, Uncle Nick muttered to no one in particular: “No wonder they call a turkey a turkey. Cutting-wise, it’s a real turkey.”

Copyright © 2007 by Jack D. Hunter.  All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.