Thanksgiving With Durst
Hey guys, it's November. Most excellent! When we all sit and give thanks while eating bird flesh. I guess we give thanks that we're not birds. I'll be honest, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday- food, family, and football. Three of the four F's. The big old family reunion which I look forward to, until five seconds after I hit the front porch, and then I remember why I left home. And they still make me sit at that stupid foldup cardboard kids' table. I can't believe it. Forty five years old- sitting at this wobbly piece of furniture, and I swear to God if that table isn't soaked down with milk at least once before the first football game ends, one of the adults will stumble over and do it. Ah, tradition.Thanksgiving is my mother's designated holiday which means she gets to make the turkey, and she must think she's cooking for the Eighth Tank division. Every year she goes to a mutant poultry farm in Delafield, and tracks down a genetically spliced turkey the size of a La-Z-Boy recliner, so it's turkey for weeks. Turkey till you trot. Turkey sandwiches, turkey salad, and after all else fails, my favorite, turkey carcass in hot water. Soup? No, Ma, it's skeleton juice. Break the bones, suck the marrow. Get out of here. I'm sorry you grew up during the Depression. We have food now. This is bones, gristle and grease. Get a grip girl. The park bums would take a pass. "No, no, thank you Mrs. Durst, I'll catch a squirrel." It's getting dark out, but we can't eat yet because one of my mother's sisters hasn't shown up with her "bizarre mystery dish". In our family, these get-togethers are a potluck deal, so everybody has to bring a different food. You know, taste treats like lime Jell-O with olive shreds in it. I have no need for monochromatic food. Lamb pudding. Thirteen bean salad. No, I wish I were making this up. I had no idea there were 13 types of edible beans. I had neither a desire to eat them all at one sitting. I certainly would not have chosen to be trapped in a houseful of 27 other people who had eaten 13 types of edible beans. "Crack a window, Billy. Well, break it then." Candle flames turning blue all over the house. My mother hushes me: "Methane is our friend." Well, the aunt hasn't shown yet, and people who haven't eaten since breakfast but have smelled roasting turkey for about six hours are getting frenzied like pirhanas in a raw meat aquarium. All of the nuts and chips and some of the throw pillows and smaller infants have disappeared. The remaining kids are tweaked into high crank. So the mood is not happy-rama all around, except in the kitchen, where my aunts and mom have gathered to gossip about family members not in attendance.Now, how do I explain this delicately? My aunts are large women. I'm not sure what happened. They used to be ordinary bipeds. Five years ago, you would not have mistaken them for anything but humanoids. But now they're huge, immense behemoth Wisconsin women; they have their own gravitational force. It's true. The entire spice rack is in a series of complex, continuous orbits around their bodies. And my mother's kitchen is tiny, so you got your dual action with them bouncing off each other like bumper cars in a Harvest Gold obstacle course. Copper jello molds ricocheting off of walls. Dancing and bouncing and ducking, all the while waving lit cigarettes, burning smoldering holes in each other's polyester pantsuits. Don't get me wrong. My family's enhanced tonnage is not gender specific. My uncles are big boys too. Butt crack the size of the Snake River Canyon. Butt crack with echo. By manipulating their back belts, you can actually control the reverb in certain rooms. Finally the missing aunt arrives and we are allowed to eat. Her food seems innocent enough at first -- a glass Pyrex dish covered in tinfoil. International symbol for normal food, I believe. But it's a food ruse. A culinary ambush. When the foil is lifted, this stench like burning brake linings shoots straight up and a noxious cloud starts to fill the top of the room. Soon the edges of the ceiling tiles start to curl. Three rooms away, grown men watching football go "the hell was that?" Children crying uncontrollably, "Daddy, I'm scared." And well should they be; the food is black. Food should not be black. Or plaid. But this is black. Not a rich ebony, not a dark chocolate, this is BLACK. It's absorbing all the light in the house. No one knows what it is -- animal, mineral, vegetable, petroleum by product. Just this ugly black greasy mass. It looks like it's still boiling, but it's nowhere near any apparent heat source. Round misshapen objects are floating to the surface. I think I see something that looks like a clawed appendage with a wing trying to flap free. Nobody's eating it. Somebody tries but the spoon breaks. My mom knows I'm her ace in the hole. "Billy, try some of Aunt Hoogolah's dupamouche." "Yeah, Ma, let me get a separate plate." The old separate plate trick. We lost more animals that way. The evening ends with two of the families locked in a mortal death clinch, the matriarchs with 100 mm menthols dangling from their mouths, bumping bellies on the front porch while their spouses are drunkenly trading wild blows on the sidewalk and the kids are throwing greasy poultry bones indiscriminately at the squirrels. Ah, the holidays.