My Extreme Pleasure

A local community college had an open contest for writing. Clatsop Community College compiles writing projects from students and the public from all over the West Coast and produces a paperback book each spring.

Just for fun, I sent in a story and was pleased to be accepted to the publication. The debut of the book was held at the school with  writers reading their pieces.

This is the story that got published and read for Rain Magazine, 2016.

Smoked Turkey

Thanksgiving 1980 was approaching. Newly married and recently moved to an old farm house where we planning on living for many years to come, I felt it was a good time to invite friends and family for a celebration. I was particularly eager to impress my mother-in-law. Until now, any family get-togethers were held at her place in the city.  It was always dear mom-in-law who was the chief cook and order giver, she ruled the festivities.

I had a lot to live up to so I started weeks in advance by cleaning everything including secluded closets, cupboards and the back porch mudroom. Glassware was polished, pots and pans sparkled like new, finally it was time for the cooking to begin in earnest with two days of prep work.

A complicated brandy-drenched cranberry sauce was slow cooked before being stored in the back of the fridge. Dinner rolls made from scratch were baked and packaged. I did not dare run out of desserts, that faux pas could haunt me for years so I pre-made pumpkin, apple and berry pies. They were safely tucked in the cooler away from anyone who attempted a taste test before the celebration day.

Even Thanksgiving morning was choreographed to the minute. The guys went out for a short hunt at daybreak with a plan to be back at the house by 3p.m., the in-laws were expected by 3:30, everyone would have plenty of time to relax slightly before meal time promptly at 4. This timetable was suitable to keep small talk to a minimum, thus avoiding awkward conversations between city folks and country folks.

I had the oven going early with all four burners on the top of the stove cooking throughout the day with sauces, gravies and even a batch of fudge, just in case. Any lull in the cooking allowed for time to set the table and stock the beverages. The kitchen was humming with activity all day long, yet I had a gnawing feeling of dread that I was falling further behind as each hour passed.

Everything was just about cooked when I started to worry that there would not be enough food. Quickly, I started boiling spuds for mashed potatoes just in case the scalloped ones fell short.

The hunting crew showed up as planned at 3p.m. They were busy cleaning their guns and equipment in the mudroom while waiting for the in-laws to show up.

The feast was ready with the exception of the last item, the turkey. I had picked out a beast that was twice as big as any fowl I had ever seen. It was a glorious bird; lovingly basted every twenty minutes for the last seven hours with a flavorful sauce and it was within minutes of perfection. It was a good thing all the pies were made early, they would not have fit into the same oven as the monster turkey.

The clock showed 3:30, I made one last check on the table setting just mom-in-law and her entourage pulled into the driveway. I ducked into the bathroom to peek my appearance and smooth my hair.

That’s when I heard an explosion. I popped my head around the corner to see a fireball shoot out of the base of the oven. Why the old range decided this very minute to go out in a blaze of glory is beyond me, but the fireball lit up the kitchen and careened into the bedroom. A blue cloud of acrid smoke filled the kitchen and the entire house smelled like burnt wires.

I yanked open the oven door. There was the bird, I would say it was relatively intact, but it was rather hard to see for sure because the oven light was out. In fact, the whole house had lost power. The explosion took out the main circuit breaker. Without having time to assess any damage, all the in-laws were standing at the door.

Thinking that maybe things were not as bad as first thought, I dashed across the kitchen and opened the door with a flourish. Blue smoke wafted out the door causing the in-laws to stop in their tracks. I tried my best to play down the situation, desperately hoping that no one would notice anything wrong.

“Welcome!” I sang out as I grabbed mom-in-law’s hand and dragged her into the house. “The turkey is ready!” I think I may have been shouting by this time as I wanted to be heard over loud coughing coming from both the in-laws and the hunters.

I scurried to set up all the lanterns and candles around the dining room. I did admit that I had a little trouble with the oven as I directed my guests to sit down at the table. Mostly everyone was silent except for me chattering on as if fireballs are a common occurrence in my house. The rolls and desserts were about the only part of the feast that did not taste like the remnants of a nuclear disaster.

For some reason, the in-laws have declined any more invitations to dinner parties at my house.

 

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