Thanksgiving in Nowhere
A Baker-rifle and a few bottles of vodka
“Kitty,” Janie called out. “Get the door. Jackson is here.”
I’d been debating the black strappy sandals versus the red wedge sneakers and hadn’t made my mind up, so the interruption annoyed me, and as I walked on bare feet through the house, I decided to mess a little with Jack. So, I locked the door with a snap instead of opening it.
“I’m not dating you,” I called out.
“Janie and Biff invited me,” he countered. “Open the door.”
My parents had indeed invited him, and also Rafael. They seemed to think that this had been a funny thing to do.
“Go away,” I snapped at the door and hence at Jack.
There was a long silence, and I wondered if he’d actually obeyed me.
That would be surprising.
“Kitty,” he crooned suddenly. “Open the door.”
There was a soft growl in his voice, and I sighed. That damned vibration got to me all the time.
“No,” I said sourly, but it was fake, and I hadn’t managed to sound sufficiently annoyed.
“Open the door, Kitty…”
Shiver down my spine.
“No,” I repeated.
“Then step to the side and press your buttocks against the wall.”
What? Press my what?
I hadn’t moved but whatever.
“Is that the truth, Kitty?”
“Because I’ve got my gun out and will shoot the lock in five seconds.”
I promptly opened the door to find Jackson outside, smiling widely.
“Gotcha,” he murmured. “As if I’d do a dumbass thing like that.”
Jack took a step forward and then he was suddenly not smiling so widely anymore, and the reason for this was that Grandpa Hunter had snuck up from the side, picked great-great-great Grandpa Moses’ Baker-rifle off the wall and pressed the pipe firmly into Jackson’s temple.
“Put your gun down and kneel, motherfucker,” he rasped out hoarsely.
Had Gramps lost his everloving mind?
“Hunter,” Jackson said calmly, trying to sound reasonable but he was mostly laughing.
This made Gramps cock the gun, and the laughter was wiped clean off Jack’s face.
“Kneel,” Gramps growled.
Jackson slowly kneeled and raised his hands.
“Crawl into the dining room,” Grandpa Hunter ordered, and when Jackson made an impatient sound, he got poked in the butt with the rifle.
It looked kind of ridiculous because Gramps had used the rifle to poke Jack’s cargo pants into the crevasse between his butt-cheeks and they had stuck there.
I decided laughing would be very, very bad at that particular point in time, and trailed Gramps who trailed a growling Jackson. That shift at Tiaso’s Silenus had begged me to take suddenly seemed like something I should have accepted.
“Hunter,” Janie said calmly, glanced down at Jack and raised a brow.
Jackson glanced up at Gramps.
“Yoo-hoo!” Grandma Hazel shouted from the door. “Ohh, pretty butt.”
She stretched a hand out as if she’d pat it. Or squeeze it. Or something else which would be equally embarrassing.
“Heh,” Grandpa Hunter said and lowered the rifle. “Just checking and I still have it.”
Jackson was on his feet in a flash, pulled the pants out of his ass, and towered over my grandfather who was grinning widely.
“Still have what?” Jack asled.
If one had recorded his voice one could have used it as an illustration of the word ominous, and it was quite evident Gramps might find his teeth somewhere in the vicinity of his esophagus within shortly, so I decided to intervene.
“Hey, Jackson,” I said.
I tried to add a croon to my voice, hoping that this would make him busy with other things than staring, towering and growling. The things he would get busy doing might mean I wouldn’t get any Thanksgiving dinner, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right?
“The alpha voice,” Gramps declared gleefully, and Jackson’s eyes went back to him. “I still have it. You crawled like a pussy.”
Calling Jackson Vik-Hansen a pussy was not in any way a good idea.
“You had a damned rifle aimed at my head, you old twit!” Jackson roared.
“Relax,” Gramps chuckled. “It isn’t loaded.”
This was true, and the rifle was also old.
As in; really old.
Back in the day, great-great-great Grandpa Moses had been traveling around some in Texas when he stumbled over dead bodies in a way that gave him a bruise on his knee. He hadn’t like tripping over corpses and made his complaints to the local werewolf alpha, who hadn’t heard about a fight going on. Or the siege. Or anything, apparently, but he’d been pissed beyond belief and had asked Moses to come with him to a place called San Jacinto to put a stop to shit.
They did, and great-great-great Grandpa Moses got the rifle as thanks for ripping some guy called Santa Claus, or Santa Maria, or something like that, to pieces.
“Great-great-great Grandpa Moses forgot the bullets at a brothel in San Antonio, so we’ve never used it,” Grandpa shared, shrugged and added, “It looks cool though.”
Jackson’s nostrils flared, and when he raised his upper lip, I noticed that he was pissed enough to have extended his fangs. Since I wanted Jack to eat turkey and not grandfather, I got ready to intervene again, but Janie beat me to it.
“Dinner is ready,” she said and steered Jack toward the table.
Her voice had only been a quiet murmur, but it resonated through the house as if she’d shouted. My brothers and father turned off the TV and ambled into the big dining room. Joel and Elsa appeared at the kitchen door, carrying bottles of beer and wine. Rafael was already at the table, lighting candles in the middle of the friggin’ afternoon.
“Excellent. I need a lot of protein now that I’m a bodybuilder.”
Everyone froze and stared at Grandpa Hunter. He was a gazillion years old. The goatee he’d started to grow a while back was still in its start-up phase, and his wrinkly forehead was topped off by long tufts of unruly gray hair. And he was scrawny.
“Bodybuilder,” Dad said slowly.
“Yup. The boys are at the gym every day, and I decided to join them.”
Gramps raised both his arms, flexed his nonexistent muscles which made the wrinkly skin wobble a little, and wiggled his brows.
“Ohh,” Grandma squealed. “I will start pumping iron too. Right after the weekend. Genie might want to join us when she’s feeling better. Perhaps Silenus can come too.”
Genie was just as old as the other geezers and had come down with an infection of some kind, so she was skinnier than ever. Silenus was so fat he’d likely get stuck in one of the machines.
“Okay,” Dad said and moved toward the head of the table.
That was wise of him because there really wasn’t anything else to say at that stage.
The table looked amazing, and I felt my mouth water, so I moved too.
As usual, Janie had cooked the turkey to perfection.
It was golden brown, crispy, and smelled like heaven. Janie’s grandmother had been the exiled queen of Turkey, and as such, she knew how to cook a bird. Her cousin’s nephew’s grandmother’s aunt’s beau had shown up one Thanksgiving dinner and later painted a picture of her when she put the bird on the table. The painter had made her white, though, and conveniently ignored the fact that she had become a lesbian late in life, so he had also put an old white dude in a suit next to her, but still.
Janie didn’t harbor any resentment for this adjustment of her past and often shared that Mr. Rockwell had merely painted it the way that time required, and it was still her Nana.
Or, at least her turkey.
The enormous bird at the center of our dining table looked just like the one in the painting, and it was surrounded by any side dish imaginable. I grinned when I saw two big bowls of cranberry sauce. Janie used her grandmother’s secret recipe, and if she’d let me, I would have leaned into a bowl and just inhaled it because it was that good.
“Hunter,” Janie said with a little bit of steel in her voice. “Put that gun down. I’ve spent hours on this meal, and I don’t want blood in it.”
“Don’t worry,” Grandpa said casually, and threw the gun in a big armchair to the side. “It isn’t –”
My great-great-great grandfather Moses might have frequented a brothel in San Antonio back in the day, but he had not forgotten the bullets there, it seemed.
“Oops,” Grandma Hazel whispered.
The bird had been blown to smithereens.
And it had been a big bird, so there were pieces of turkey all over the table.
And on the walls.
Joel had a piece stuck on his forehead but seemed too stunned to remove it.
“I can drive down to Costco,” Dad murmured into the silence. “I’m sure they’ll hav –”
Janie whimpered, and Dad stopped speaking. Slowly he raised a hand and caressed her cheek.
“Hunter killed my bird,” Janie whispered.
“Pretty sure it was already dead, honey,” Dad said in an attempt to joke, which was kind of him.
Then he unwisely reiterated his offer to get a *gasp* store-bought turkey.
“I will not have ding-darned Costco-chicken at my Thanksgiving table, Biff,” Janie snapped.
“Right,” Janie said and the way she sounded made everyone straighten. “Start scraping.”
We started scraping, and within a very short timeframe we had gathered up a big heap of turkey meat of various sizes. Janie poked the pile what might have been a turkey shape, or perhaps a Costco-chicken shape, something I wasn’t going to share with her.
Then we sat down and ate slightly charred bits of turkey with mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing, artichoke stuffing, cornbread stuffing, corn casserole, cornbread, sweet corn, cheddar baked corn, cheesy Brussel sprouts, bacon ranch Brussel sprouts, gingered green beans, cheesy green beans, and everything else Janie had prepared.
As usual, it tasted great, although there was a taste to it that I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t spicy as such, but there was a decided kick which was kind of odd. I didn’t want to ask because it might be something the bullets had brought back from that place in San Antonio, in which case Janie would freak out. I added more cranberry sauce to cover it up and noticed that the others did the same.
The mood was as great, and as we ate, everyone seemed to get happier. My head felt a little wobbly, and at the end of the meal, I leaned back and looked at my family and friends. They were all talking and smiling, and when Joel drizzled cranberry sauce all over Janie’s white tablecloth, she shrugged and kept smiling. For reasons unknown to me, I chuckled. Dad chuckled too, and then my brothers started giggling. Everyone was roaring with laughter when the front door was thrown wide open, and Pen walked in.
“I’m so, so, so sorry, Janie,” he shouted. “I had to fart on a group of women who were in hysterics about going through the change, and then my car broke down.”
“Aaaah!” Janie howled happily. “The change!”
“I know!” Grandma Hazel shrieked, raised her hands in the air, pumped them and cheered, “Strands of hair on your boobs!”
“Yes!” Dad confirmed gleefully.
“Pimples on your chin!” Janie shrieked.
“And your butt!”
By then I was not laughing anymore.
No one had told me that this awaited, and I was not entirely sure I wanted to know.
Jackson was laughing so hard his head had dropped into his plate, and when he straightened, he had a piece of potato on his nose. Elsa leaned on Joel and dried her eyes with the yellow leaf-patterned dinner napkins Janie had decided was autumnal. My brothers were staring at their elders, and Grandpa Hunter reached for the bottle of wine.
The situation had escalated into madness, and I had to do something. I didn’t know what but as soon as I’d figured it out, I’d bloody well do it.
Pen saved me from thinking too hard.
“Oh, great!” he called out. “Vodka-sauce. I love. My grandmother was Russian, and we had it all the time when I grew up.”
The laughter came to a screeching halt, and the room was suddenly eerily silent.
“Vodka-sauce?” Janie drawled, although it came out a little slurred.
“Well, yeah,” Pen said and pointed at the bowl of cranberry sauce.
All heads turned in the same direction.
“What?” Grandma Hazel said breezily.
“Hazel,” Dad murmured.
“It wasn’t –”
“I only added a teeny –”
“Oh, don’t be such party-poopers,” Grandma snapped. “We’re here, having a good time. That’s all that matters, isn’t it?”
Janie opened her mouth but closed it again.
“You’re right, damn it,” she murmured after a while, and asked, “What else did you put vodka on, Hazel?”
“Only the Brussel sprouts,” Grandma said. “And the corn.”
“And the beans,” Rafael said affably and put a forkful of said veggie in his mouth with a grin.
A quick survey of the table confirmed that there was vodka on almost everything.
“At least you didn’t pour it into the mashed potatoes,” Janie sighed. “I guess I should be grateful for that.”
“I’m grateful for the fact you didn’t kill me like I killed your bird,” Grandpa Hunter chimed in.
“I’m grateful for this sauce,” Pen said, removed his plate and put one of the cranberry-sauce bowls in front of him. “It’s amazing,” he added and slurped down another spoonful.
“I’m grateful Kitty even opened the door,” Jack snorted.
Everyone else shared things they were grateful for, which were mostly stupid shit that didn’t mean anything at all because we all knew Grandma Hazel had been right.
Being together around the table was what really mattered.
When everyone had shared their gratitude for finding matching socks and having a good hair day, we ate our vodka-laced, twice-killed and absolutely fantastic dinner. And then we cleaned the leftovers away, wiped the walls and windows, and did what every family in the small town of Nowhere did at that exact time.
We sank down on couches and chairs, opened the top buttons of our pants, and tried to fart as silently as possible.
“My mom would have loved this dinner,” Rafael said next to me.
He stretched with a soft groan, and I almost groaned too because arching his back made his tee come out of his pants and I caught a glimpse of his flat belly and –
“Why aren’t you with them?” I asked in a squeak.
“They’re in Ulan Bator.”
“What the heck is that?” Jack asked and leaned into my side.
Since he didn’t keep his hair tied back, it slid over my neck in a way that made me shiver.
I really needed to find myself a boring, regular dude. I’d text Al first thing in the morning, to see if he had a younger brother. Cousin. Whatever.
“Capital of Mongolia,” Rafael murmured.
“They’ve opened a bar there. Asked me to come and work with them.”
My eyes snapped to Rafael’s, and his face softened.
“When are you leaving?” Jack asked.
“The plan was that I’d join them by Christmas.”
It was good, wasn’t it? It would make my life so much easier if he went to Mongolia because I’d only have one arrogant fool to fend off then.
Except… Mongolia? That was pretty far away.
“Told them I’d stay here a while longer,” Rafael added with a smirk.
“Shit,” Jackson muttered. “Guess life will be complicated a while longer.”
“Absolutely,” Rafael agreed affably.
I could only agree.