Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thinking about a Christmas list

Clem wasn’t exactly sure what Christmas was, but there seemed to be a lot of talk about it.  She saw commercials on television that encouraged humans to buy lots of things for their loved ones, so she knew it had something to do with presents.  Clem knew about presents.  She’d come to live with the yarn lady the day before her birthday and had greatly enjoyed the boxes the yarn lady’s presents had come in.  She especially liked the ones that had tissue paper in them, as it made the most delightful noises when she crinkled it. 

The boxes had contained pretty or useful things that people had given to the yarn lady.  She figured the stuff inside was the presents, and not the boxes, even though she personally had preferred the boxes.  She had just been a very little kitten then.  Now she was mostly grown up, and wanted presents as well as boxes.  Every once in a while Clem herself had received presents.  Someone the yarn lady corresponded with had sent her two marvelous mousies, and Peep’s mommy had brought her presents also.  One was a pink stuffed squid that clucked like a chicken when it was kicked or thrown.  Confusing but fun.

The yarn lady had told her daughter to make sure she made a Christmas list.  Clem figured out that this was where you wrote down all the things you might like to get as presents.  She thought it was a good idea, since if you were going to get presents they should be things you liked.  On the other hand, some of the gifts the yarn lady liked best from her birthday had just been things that her friends and family thought she would like.  The daughter (whom Tatum and Ursula called the noisy girl, even though she wasn’t all that noisy) had given her a cool little wooden bowl that the yarn lady used every day and smiled every time she looked at it.  So, maybe unexpected presents might be really good too. 

Anyhow, from what Clem could tell, whatever Christmas was, its main purpose was presents.  So, she’d been working on her own list for a while now.  She knew a bunch of things she’d like to have, but was trying to figure out how to communicate that to the yarn lady.  First she’d thought of writing as if she were one of the yarn lady’s friends in an email, but then figured out she wouldn’t be able to get into their email accounts to send the message, so that wouldn’t work.  And of course she couldn’t send it from her own email account, as the last thing Clem wanted was for the yarn lady to know that she could read, write and operate a computer.  That was against the Universal Cat Code of Secrecy, or UCCS for short. 

She was considering a number of other options, including a new email account that would be from, say, a cat toy reviewing group.  She thought that was probably the best idea.  Another one was a blog about cat toys, but she didn’t know how she’d get the yarn lady to look at that blog.  A third idea was a Facebook account from someone who could ask to be the yarn lady’s friend and then talk about cat toys all the time.  The problem with that one was that maybe the yarn lady wouldn’t want to be that person’s friend.  Who knows, maybe she’d do all three.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Passing along a message

On Monday, Kid was still unsure of how she felt about Lemuel’s moving to the zoo.  She was delighted that the turkeys were not going to be eaten, sad that he was gone and worried as to whether or not it was working out for them.  She hoped she’d get word sometime soon, but didn’t want to get her expectations up.  Maria didn’t come by that often, and Kid might not even notice she was there and not get the news.  She figured she’d ask Charlie (from the other side of the fence) and the chickens (providing they remembered any message they’d been given) and hope for the best.   

Kid decided that she’d spent so much time close to home recently that she’d do a circuit of the neighborhood today.  There were other animals she checked in with, although none were as good friends as Lemuel had been. There was a corgi down the street who was quite entertaining.  He capitalized on his Welsh heritage and spoke in a fake Welsh accent, at least when he remembered to do so.  When he got excited he’d forget and lapse into north Jersey Sopranos-style speech, which more accurately represented his recent heritage.  There were some raccoons across the street who he visited either very early or late in the day, since they were nocturnal.  They always had entertaining stories about who was throwing out what in their trash.  Some of the folks around here just hadn’t learned that trash cans needed to be in corrals and with tight-fitting lids.  The raccoons loved to tear open garbage bags, eat the edibles, steal anything shiny and/or interesting and leave a god-awful mess when they were done.  If she felt especially adventurous there was a pot-bellied pig named Hortense who lived on the cul-de-sac.  She wasn’t a great conversationalist, but Kid just loved the idea of someone keeping a pig around as company.  Hortense said that her human took her for walks on a leash, but Kid had never seen that.  She figured that Hortense was telling a whopper.  The neighbors would laugh anyone walking a pig out of the neighborhood, especially with the prices of those homes.

By the time she got home it was well after dark.  Since she knew Val wouldn’t be home until late, she hadn’t rushed at all.  Buddy was on the back deck, so Kid lounged on the edge of the driveway, figuring it would be much safer to get into the house via the garage than to try to tangle with Buddy.  Finally she saw Val’s headlights pull into the driveway and she got up and stretched leisurely.  When the garage door opened, Kid sauntered through and followed Val into the house.  

Emma was on her in a moment.  “Kid, you have GOT to come see this.  You won’t believe it in a thousand years.  Not in a million years.”  Kid looked interested and started to follow Emma, but then heard the sound of a cat food can being opened.  However interesting it was, it took second place to dinner.  She hopped up onto her special spot for food (a place where Buddy, Emma and Ziggy dared not set foot) and wolfed down the food Val gave her.  She’d covered a lot of ground today and was hungry.  After a second helping she jumped down and followed Emma, who was practically vibrating with excitement.  

Emma led Kid into Val’s bedroom and under the bed.  What could be so interesting under a bed?  Emma crouched in front of a pile of papers, and pushed one towards Kid.  “Here – read this.”

Kid gave her a look.  “I forgot my reading glasses.  Why don’t you read it to me?”  This sounded like some elaborate joke on Emma’s part, and although she’d had an interesting day, Kid didn’t feel like being the butt of one of Emma’s jokes.  

“You don’t understand.  See all these papers?  Each and every one of them is an email about Lemuel.  I don’t know how he did this inside of two days, but he found animals with email accounts, or animals who knew animals with email accounts.”  Emma proceeded to read them to Kid, pushing each to the side as she finished it.

Subject: Lemuel and the rest of the turkeys

Hi.  I work at Popcorn Park Zoo, and Lemuel wanted me to pass along a message that he and the hens are doing fine.  They arrived yesterday, and although the hens were pretty miserable they’re fine now.  The little one (Tiffany, I think her name is) is fine and had a great time getting to the zoo.  They have a nice turkey run with two coops, a roost and plenty of room to run around (not that I’ve seen many turkeys running).  Lemuel says they will be fine down here.  The vet checked them and they’re healthy.  You can send messages to Lemuel through me if you like.  I know what it’s like to lose your best friend in the whole wide world, so if I can help you guys stay in touch, I’d be happy to send emails back and forth.

Morris the Cat
p.s. I’m not the original Morris, but I’m named after him and I’ve been told I am the spitting image of that famous face.
Subject: Lemuel the turkey

My name is Margie and I’m a calico cat who lives next to the zoo that Lemuel moved to.  I stopped by for a visit this morning and met him.  He’s a very polite turkey – quite nice.  He said to tell you that he and the hens are doing just fine in their new home.  The coop is even nicer than at his old home, although the run is a bit smaller.  He says it’s plenty big enough.  I’ve been living next to the zoo for a long time, and this is the first time any of the new animals asked me to send an email to their old home.  Most of the animals there are either really, really glad to have left a bad situation or very, very sad to have been taken away from their humans.  The humans at the zoo take good care of the residents and make sure they have plenty to eat, places to get out of the bad weather and vets to take care of them if they get sick.  Most of the animals say the zoo is a whole lot better than their old homes, but then most of them came from pretty bad homes.  Anyway, you can email me back if you want me to pass a message along to Lemuel.  I stop by there most mornings, as I have a few friends there.  Not the tigers, though.  They’re too snobby to pay attention to a little cat like me.  Well, bye for now.  


Subject: Lemuel

Hi.  I live with a dog named Samson (no jokes please) who went to Popcorn Park Zoo in Forked River today.  While he was there with our human he met a turkey named Lemuel who wanted an email sent saying that he’s okay.  Lemuel says to say that his new home is fine and they all made it down there safely and that he misses you a lot.  I sure hope this email address is right, because otherwise the person reading this is going to be very confused.  Well, if this isn’t the right cat, please just delete this email. Thank you.

Subject: Lemuel

I have a friend who has a friend who has a friend who went to a zoo today and met a turkey named Lemuel who just moved in to the zoo.  He wanted to get a message back to his friend at this email address saying that they are okay in their new home.  It’s nice there and there’s lots of food and water and everything is going to be all right.  

Emma stopped reading at this point.  “The rest of these emails are like the last one.  It seems that Lemuel asked any animal he saw to tell everyone our email address and to pass along a message to you that he’s okay in his new home.  I can read you the rest, but they don’t say anything different, even though there are at least ten more here.  I guess Lemuel really didn’t want you to worry about him.”

The smile on Kid’s face was lovely to see.  She wasn’t concerned now about Lemuel and if he’d get along well in his new home.  It would be a good place to live, and there would be other animals in his life to be his friends, and probably best of all, she and he could keep in touch, even if they couldn’t see each other anymore.  Life was good.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Trying to get a message to Kid

By Monday morning, the hens were feeling just fine.  One of the humans stopped by and removed the yellow tape, indicating they were open for visitors.  Lemuel had chatted briefly with Courtney and was happy to find that Tiffany was happy and warm and absolutely delighted with all the fun things that had happened in the last day or so.  Ah, he thought, to be young and adventurous again. When their feed arrived, they were happy to find it was exactly the same as Bart had been feeding them, so all was right with the world. 

Their first visitor was an orange tabby cat who introduced himself as Morris.  He proudly stated he had been named after the famous Morris of the cat food ads, but the claim flew right over the turkeys’ heads, as they were both too young to have heard of Morris, and had never even seen a television.  Morris explained that he was the designated orientation cat and explained the procedures of the zoo.  It was open pretty much every day, but some days were busier than others.  Mostly it was families who came to visit, but sometimes groups of children arrived.  The turkeys shouldn’t worry though, as visitors were not allowed into their run.  They could look, and if the turkeys were against the fencing, little fingers might reach through to try and pet the turkeys, even though there were signs that said not to touch the animals.  Pets were not allowed at the zoo, although sometimes people had what were called ‘service animals’, which were mostly dogs that helped blind humans get around.  The humans who worked at the zoo would come into their run to clean it and take care of them, and sometimes a very talkative human would come into their run to give a lecture about them.  That person might even pick up one of the turkeys, if said turkey cooperated.  As Morris explained, the zoo was an educational facility, and some groups came to learn about animals rather than just be entertained by them. 

Lemuel laughed at this last remark.  Turkeys were not very entertaining.  They just did their turkey things.  They ate, scratched, walked around, roosted and had conversations among themselves.  Nothing entertaining about it.  He guessed humans wouldn’t spend much time watching them. 

Morris then asked what the turkeys’ story was.  He explained that everyone at the zoo had been abandoned, neglected or abused in some way.  He also said that there was a dog who was a certified therapy dog who would be around to see them tonight after the zoo closed to help them process their psychic trauma.  Lemuel laughed at that, and explained their situation.  There wasn’t an awful lot of trauma to it – mostly just relief at getting a new home.  Morris looked a little taken aback.  Most new zoo residents weren’t as chipper about their move to the zoo. 

Lemuel then asked if Morris had internet access, as he wanted to get a message to his best friend.  Morris said that he did, but that it was hit or miss, as he needed to be in the right place at the right time, namely he had to be inside when the humans locked up the office for the day, and that his duties often prevented that.  He puffed out his chest and announced that since he was one of the few animals there who was not caged, he had many responsibilities that kept him busy throughout the day and evening.  In fact, Morris announced, he often had trouble getting more than twelve hours sleep per day, and of course everyone knows cats usually sleep way more than that.  Lemuel had Morris memorize Emma’s email address and asked that whenever he next had access to the computer to please send an email to Emma so that his friends would know that the turkeys had arrived safely and were happy in their new home.  

After Morris left, but before the zoo opened the turkeys had a number of other visitors.  Some were humans who worked at the zoo; others were wild animals or birds who welcomed them to the neighborhood.  One was a cat who said she lived in the neighborhood, and said that she just liked to stop by from time to time and see if anyone interesting had moved into the zoo.  Lemuel had a long chat with this cat, a calico named Margie.  Again, he had her memorize the email address, and also asked her to pass it on to any of her friends who had internet access. 

Once the zoo opened a small stream of visitors started to come past their enclosure.  Most of them were return visitors that realized they were new to the zoo. Their comments, predictably, were about escaping being served as Thanksgiving dinner.  They didn’t know how right they were.  As Lemuel listened to them he wondered how the church dinner had gone over, since he and his flock had not been available to be the main course.  He smiled to himself as he thought, “Perhaps they had to eat lasagna like Bart and his family did.” 

Lemuel kept his eye out for any service animals, but it wasn’t until mid-afternoon that he saw one.  A young boy had a dog with him.  Lemuel rushed to the fence, hoping the boy would stay long enough so Lemuel could ask the dog to send an email to Emma.  In fact, the boy was so fascinated that a turkey was up at the fence gobbling away that he was ready to stay as long as the turkey kept talking.  “Hi, my name is Lemuel and we’re new here and I need to get a message back to my friends back in Millstone.  Do you know anyone who can send an email to them?” 

The dog, whose name was Samson, replied that one of the cats in his house had an email account, so Lemuel passed on the email address and a message to let Kid know they were fine and happy.  Lemuel also asked Samson to pass the information on to any other animals he saw, so that even if one message didn’t get through another might. 

By the time the zoo closed in the late afternoon, Lemuel had managed to talk to two other service dogs.  If nothing else, he’d learned today that service dogs aren’t just for blind people.  One dog detected oncoming seizures in his human, and the other worked with a young autistic human and helped him with all sorts of things.  Both had promised to try to get the message to someanimal with an email account. 

When the zoo closed, Lemuel realized that he could remember absolutely nothing about most of the humans that had visited the turkeys.  He’d been so focused on getting word back to Kid, he’d ignored them all.  Tomorrow, he thought, he’d try to be entertaining.  That was his job here at the zoo, and he’d take it seriously even if it meant doing some unturkeylike things, so long as they were entertaining. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Moving Day

The turkeys were up very early on Sunday morning.  They knew it was moving day, and were excited and in some cases a bit worried.  Lemuel was happy to be headed somewhere they would be safe, but concerned because he’d spent all his adult life here at Bart’s farm.  Tiffany was so excited she’d thrown up her breakfast.  Courtney decided that was just as well, as it was better than throwing up in the back of Bart’s truck.  Courtney’s worry was about the truck It was pretty good sized, but she was afraid someone might step on Tiffany if it bounced around the streets like it did driving on the farm. 

Lemuel had walked the perimeter of the run at sunup, saying good-bye to his home.  He looked wistfully towards Val’s property, hoping to see Kid one last time, but she was nowhere in sight.  He sighed and headed back to the coop.  Maria was just unlatching the gate into the run.  “Good morning, all.  I have some great news for you.  I was worried about you all traveling in the back of Dad’s pickup, even if he did put a tarp over the top, so I got a friend of mine to lend us his truck for the morning.  Now don’t laugh when you see it.  It used to be a promotional truck, but he got a real job, and it’s just been sitting around in his back yard.  He and his family are going to help with the move.  I think it’ll be better if Dad doesn’t go with us.  Is everyone ready?”

She picked up a dog crate that she’d put down when she had opened the gate.  “This is for Tiffany.  I want to make sure she gets there safely, and there is too much of a chance that she’ll get squished by an adult if she’d just with the rest of you.”  Courtney, who’d stuck her head out of the broody coop was glad to hear that.  One worry taken care of. 

Just then a big yellow and blue truck pulled through the gate from the front of the farm.  It slowly drove towards them, and when it stopped five people piled out – two adult humans and three human children.  Maria introduced them to the turkeys and explained that this would be their transportation.  The man got back into the truck and backed it up to the gate. 

Sheila called out to the hens, “Everyone on their best behavior.  No fighting or trying to escape.  If we don’t go to this new place we end up as turkey dinner, so cooperate!”  The hens settled down and formed an orderly queue at the gate.  Maria looked at her friends, who stood there with their mouths open.  It was as if the turkeys understood what was going on, but of course, they couldn’t. 

One by one, the turkeys were carefully picked up and handed into the truck, where an area had been fenced in for them with chicken wire.  Tiffany was placed carefully in the crate and carried into the truck.  As the last few turkeys waited to be carried in, Lemuel heard Kid calling his name.  He turned, and saw her standing under the truck.  He moved closer and said, “Oh, I hoped I’d see you before we left.  Isn’t this a nifty truck they have for us?  I feel like we’re in a circus or something.  I’m going to miss you, Kid, but I’ll tell every animal I see to send Emma an email and say how we’re doing.  You’ve been such a good friend to me.”

Kid smiled.  “You’re my best friend, you old tom turkey.  I’ll never forget you, and expect to hear from you as often as you can send word.  Now go to your new home – everyone else is on the truck.”  She smiled although her eyes were suspiciously wet. 

Lemuel allowed himself to be picked up and carried into the truck.  He was placed in the fenced area.  Adjustments were made to the fencing to allow the turkeys room to breathe easily, but not to move around and possibly get slammed into the chicken wire or side of the truck on a sharp turn.  Tiffany’s crate was tied to the floor so it would stay in place, and towels were secured on the insides to keep her from banging herself on the wire.  The top was left open so the humans could keep an eye on her.

The littlest human called from outside the truck, “Mama, there’s a cat under our truck, and I think she’s crying.  She looks really sad.  Come see if she’s okay.” 

Maria climbed out instead, and reassured her that the cat was okay.  “I think she’s a friend of the tom turkey.  I’ve seen them talking together before.  She probably just came to say good-bye.”  Leaning down Maria said, “Don’t worry, Kid.  We’ll take good care of your friend and all the turkeys. I’ll stop by and let you know how they’re doing next time I come up to visit.  You better move, though, because we’re going to be leaving soon, and I don’t think my new bosses at the Humane Society would like it if we ran over a cat on my first rescue mission.” 

Kid shot out from under the truck and into the turkey run, where she could watch them leave.  She called a last good-bye to Lemuel just as the back doors of the truck closed and watched as the truck drove away.  She walked around the run for a few minutes, thinking of her friend and hoping that the ride wouldn’t be too tough on the turkeys.  She was about to leave when she spied a beautiful long tail feather that had to have come from Lemuel, as none of the others had tail feathers anywhere near as dark.  She picked it up in her teeth and carefully carried it back home.  She considered where would be the best place to keep it safe from the others, who would treat it as a toy.  She decided that the entertainment center, just behind the television would be the best place.  None of the others went up there, and if Val found it, she’d think Lizzy put it there because it was so beautiful and she wouldn’t disturb it.  Kid settled down for a nap, not exactly sure how she felt about all this.  Happy, sad, lonely?  All of the above?

The ride to Popcorn Park Zoo took over an hour.  By the time they were halfway there, the turkeys were miserable.  Kiki was heard to say that she’d rather have been slaughtered for soup rather than endure the ride for another minute.  Doris just moaned.  Tiffany, on the other hand was having a ball.  She’d dug her claws into one of the towels that draped onto the floor of her crate and used her fuzzy little wings to balance herself.  The young human who was keeping an eye on her told his mother that she looked like she were on some sort of amusement park ride and having just as much fun as if she were on that ride. 

When they finally arrived, the turkeys were carefully carried into their new enclosure, with little Tiffany going in last of all.  One of the vets had arranged to come and look over the flock to assess their health as well as any possible risks they might pose to other animals or birds at the zoo.  The hens were too miserable to even notice that yet another person was handling them and checking them out.  Lemuel, who was feeling a bit better, thanked her for her concern, and bobbed his head to emphasize his point.  To his surprise the vet replied, “You’re welcome.”  The staff brought in clean water and sufficient food for everyone once they regained their appetite, and put Tiffany in a small brooder.  There was room in there for her and Courtney, and maybe one other adult hen, but it was toasty warm, so neither Tiffany nor Courtney complained. 

Their enclosure was ringed with yellow tape, letting visitors know that these were new zoo residents and not to be disturbed.  Finally the humans all left and it was just Lemuel and the rest of the flock.  He carefully explored their run.  It was definitely smaller than the one at Bart’s but they were a smaller flock than they had once been, so there was plenty of room.  The large coop was well built and had a roost attached to one side.  The brooder was a few yards behind the main coop.  Lemuel checked out the soil and discovered it was much sandier than at Bart’s farm, and in places it was covered with pine needles.  Overall it had a lovely smell.  He went over to check on the hens, who told him to leave them the heck alone and let them die in peace.  Lemuel chuckled.  They’d feel better soon, and then they could all begin their new lives.

Image courtesy of

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Correction to my last email

Subject: Correction to my last email

I was pretty sure that the turkeys weren’t moving to the Bronx Zoo, but Ziggy kept bugging me to send the email, so I did.  Here’s the right information, which I was able to find out once Kid came in for dinner.  I would have sent this email sooner, but I needed to wait for Val to go out again. 

The turkeys are moving to a place called Popcorn Park Zoo.  It’s a sanctuary for animals that aren’t pets, but it’s really a zoo because people can go there to visit the animals.  They aren’t going to sell anything.  I think it was Buddy who messed up that bit of information.  When he heard popcorn and zoo in the same sentence he figured they must have been given the popcorn concession.  What a doofus – everyone knows turkeys can’t make change.

They’re moving on Sunday, and presumably not in a Sunny Delight truck.  Actually, Bart is driving them down in his pick-up with a tarp over the bed to keep them safe.  I just hope it doesn’t fly off.  Kid had Lemuel memorize my email address, so hopefully if he runs into some other animal with an email account (how likely is that?) we’ll get some news on him.  We might hear something through Bart’s daughter too, but that’s not that likely unless Maria talks about them in front of the chickens or Charlie. 

Now that this is straightened up, I’m heading off for a nap, although I may box Buddy’s ears if he gets near me tonight for screwing up Kid’s message. 



Selling Popcorn at the Bronx Zoo

Lemuel had been anxiously awaiting his morning visit from Kid.  He hoped that she didn’t skip a day because then he might leave without ever getting to say good-bye to her.  She’d been a better friend to him than the rest of the turkeys, and it would be terrible for her if she came by and all the turkeys were gone.  She’d worry terribly, and he couldn’t count on the chickens to get the story right.  So when he saw her jump down from the top of the fence in the hedgerow he called to her excitedly.

She ran over and he told her all about the new home they’d be going to.  It would be a turkey sanctuary – a place where turkeys were never slaughtered for the table, and there would be good food and the company of other animals.  Even if they were in different enclosures, well he had wings.  He could fly out and visit.  He probably wouldn’t do it that often, as he didn’t want to get a reputation as a trouble-maker, but the zoo probably closed at some point in the afternoon or evening, and he could do his visiting then or in the early mornings. 

Kid was beside herself with happiness.  The only thing that had made the holiday less than perfect was worries about the fate of the turkeys.  He’d miss Lemuel terribly, but it was more important that he had a safe place to live than for Kid to be able to see him.  As they talked more about what life might be like there, Kid had an idea.  It was possible that the zoo would have computers in the office, and maybe there were some cats there who were internet savvy, or maybe even a dog, although most dogs didn’t have the dexterity required to use a computer.  She had Lemuel memorize Emma’s email address, and he promised that he’d ask around to the other residents of the zoo, or even animal visitors and try to get at least one message to Emma about their new home.  

Kid stayed until she saw Bart heading from the house towards the barn.  She wanted to spend as much time with her friend as she could before he left, but knew better than to let Bart see her.  She called good-bye and good luck to Lemuel as she went back to her own yard.  She raced to the house, but Val was at work so she couldn’t get inside, and Buddy was guarding the deck.  She told him the good news and asked if he could get Ziggy or Bella’s attention so that Emma could spread the news to the others who’d been worried about the turkeys.  Grudgingly he said he’d pass it on, but that she’d better not come up on his deck.  Kid rolled her eyes and headed off to the neighbor’s shed where she could have a nice nap on their outdoor cushions. 

It was a while before Buddy saw Ziggy at the window, but he finally passed along the news and asked him to tell Emma to send out an email to the other cats.  Emma shook her head a bit in confusion when she got the message but promised to send out the email. 

Subject: New home for the turkeys!!!

Hi!  I just got some fourth hand information about the turkeys and Kid wanted me to pass it along.  I’m not sure if this is quite accurate, since Lemuel told Kid, who told Buddy, who told Ziggy who told me what I’m about to write. 

Lemuel and the hens are going to the Bronx Zoo to live, and they’re going to sell popcorn there.  Bart’s daughter is buying the zoo so that the turkeys will have a place to live.   They’re sending a Sunny Delight truck to take them up there, sometime soon I think. 

That doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me, but Ziggy was positive that was what Buddy had told him.  Once Val gets home tonight and Kid comes in for dinner I’ll check this out and send a correction if necessary.  The one thing Ziggy was very insistent on was to send this email right away, so I’m sending it.  Now tell me, how are turkeys going to sell popcorn?  Eat popcorn, that I could believe, but not sell it.  Imagine getting butter on those turkey feathers.  What a mess!



Before Val got home, responses began arriving.


SUBJECT: Re: New home for the turkeys!!!

Hi, Runa here.  Well that’s good news, I think.  When I was in my professional days, there were folks who sold popcorn and other snacks at the big dog shows in which I was competing.  They were humans, but popcorn and zoos/animal shows often go together.  I’ve always wanted to go to the Bronx Zoo – those turkeys really are lucky.  We had a really quiet Thanksgiving here.  Benji and her grown kittens were really disappointed not to get any turkey, but hey, they have a place to live and people who feed them.  Don’t need more than that.


SUBJECT: Re: New home for the turkeys!!!

Wow, that sounds really cool, I think.  What is a zoo?  What’s popcorn?  And what’s Sunny Delight?

I just wish the yarn lady would come home.  It’s been sooooo lonely here, even though Peep’s Mommy did come by and play with me for a long time yesterday.  That was really nice.  Peep’s Mommy said the yarn lady would be home sometime tonight.  I’m waiting with all of my yarn balls (or at least as many as I could find).  If she doesn’t play with me when she gets home I’m gonna start throwing them at her. 


Rudy had read the email from Emma while the Mommy and the Daddy had gone to take care of Grey.  She didn’t bother answering because she was pretty sure that the message was screwed up.  She knew about things like zoos, because she watched a lot of television, especially in the winter.  No one can buy the Bronx Zoo.  Even Donald Trump couldn’t buy it.  Zoos weren’t owned by a person.  And beyond that, zoos have exotic animals, not domestic ones.  Well, big zoos don’t have farm animals.  Little zoos might, just like big and little circuses.  Big circuses had lions and tigers and bears (oh my!).  Little circuses had dancing dogs and maybe one elephant or an elderly bear.  Whatever.  Rudy figured another email would come in some time tonight with the correct information.  It would be nice though if the turkeys had found a safe place to live.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Celestial Turkey saves the day

Maria awoke on Friday morning at her parents’ house in Millstone.  She’d stayed over after Thanksgiving dinner just because she didn’t feel like driving home after all that food.  Her mother had outdone herself, but in a totally non-traditional way for Thanksgiving.  No turkey (at the insistence of Bart, her father), no pumpkin or apple pies, no sweet potatoes and thank God, no creamed onions.  When Maria was growing up one of her cousins had told her that creamed onions were really eyeballs, and that had grossed Maria out so much that she was never able to eat them again.  She hadn’t liked them much before that, but after, not a chance.  Yummm, have another helping of creamed eyeballs. 

When she went down to pour herself a cup of coffee her father was just coming in from feeding the turkeys and chickens.  “Darn turkeys.  I thought I’d be done with them by today.  I had it all set up, well, your brother set it up with Father Michael.  It would have been perfect.  He’d get turkeys; I’d get a receipt for a donation to a church for thirteen adult turkeys.  But no, they weren’t FDA approved turkeys, so here they still are.  Darn gobble-gobblers.  And now they’ve got a poult.  No more poults I decided in July.  Enough of the baby turkeys.  If I want more turkeys, I’ll buy jennies – just as many as I need for a couple months.  No tom turkeys.”  He kept muttering about them half to himself. 

Maria asked her father what he intended to do with the flock, since he couldn’t donate them and he was seriously sick of eating turkey.  Bart shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.  He didn’t quite know what to do.  He didn’t want to slaughter them just to get rid of them.  His thrifty upbringing revolted at such waste, but he just was so done with turkey raising and eating.  “Oh, I don’t know.  I’ll ask all my friends if they’d like a turkey for Christmas I guess, and that should take care of most of them, except that darn poult.  I almost wish she’d died of a chill.”

Maria frowned at that.  He’d said it before, and she liked it even less now.  It was one thing to kill animals raised for food; it was quite something different to let them die of neglect.  It was worse than shooting fish in a barrel, which was cruel and a waste of good fish.  “Dad, I have an idea.  Just hear me out and don’t say no until I say you can talk.  Okay?” 

Since Bart tended to interrupt his children when he felt he knew better than they on any given issue, this was a necessary request.  He agreed grudgingly, and Maria began her pitch.

“Do you remember us talking about my getting a new job?  Well, I’ve found one, and I start next Wednesday.  It’s at a place called Popcorn Park Zoo, down in Ocean County.  It’s part of the Humane Society, kind of a place for animals that aren’t pets and aren’t really adoptable.  They have some retired circus animals and a whole section of farm animals that people couldn’t keep any more.  Most of the farm animals are ones that folks with little yards had bought and then realized that it’s not practical to keep a cow in a development with fifty by seventy-five foot lots, or some other such silliness.  I happen to know that they would take the turkeys because I asked them.  You can even get a tax write-off for donating them.  Now, normally they charge a fee per animal for accepting them, but since I’ll be working for them they will waive the ‘per animal’ fee and just charge a flat fee, which is quite reasonable.”  She named the figure, and Bart had to admit to himself that it was a lot less than he would have expected, that is if he wanted to donate the turkeys to a zoo. 

“So, Dad, you could get rid of your flock and still get your tax write-off.  The Zoo would get turkeys, and they don’t have any right now.  They like to keep a variety of the farm animals around for kids who visit who have never been to a working farm.  They said we could bring down the turkeys on Sunday if we wanted to.  I could help you load up the turkeys and we’d take them down there, pay the fee and you’d become an ex-turkey farmer.  Isn’t that a good solution?”

Bart considered the idea.  It wasn’t a bad idea, but he did kind of think it was a waste of turkeys.  They’d just live until they died of old age, which isn’t very old for a domestic turkey.  No one would benefit from their meat, or even their feathers (not that anyone had ever asked him for any turkey feathers).  Maria knew how his mind worked and said, “Dad, they wouldn’t be wasted, they’d just have a different purpose.  They would teach and entertain the kids who come to the zoo.  The volunteers really know a lot about the animals, and the ones in the farm animal section talk not only about the different species, but about how they need to be raised on a real farm and not just in someone’s tract house back yard.  They have a bunch of chickens there that someone tried to raise in their condo if you can believe it.  Kept the chicks in the garage, and then put them in a pen on the patio.  The neighbors complained to the condo association and voila, Popcorn Park has a batch of chickens!  It’s a good idea, Dad, come on….”

Maria got her coffee and sat down, figuring to give him time to think.  Pressuring him might just lead him to say no just from obstinance.  She flipped on the television and watched the news, which included a fluff piece on the president’s pardon of two turkeys, saving them from becoming Thanksgiving dinner.  Those turkeys would go to Mount Vernon to live out their lives.  She didn’t point the story out to her father, as he was not a fan of the current president.  She could have pointed out that this tradition had been established by a president whose views he did share, but thought in this case silence was golden.

It wasn’t until after she’d finished her coffee and got dressed for the day that her father approached her again.  “I’ll make you a deal.  Well, if no one calls and asks for a turkey by tomorrow afternoon, we can take the turkeys down on Sunday.  I’m not gonna call all my friends and ask them to take them, because I’d already done that.  But if anyone calls out of the blue, I’ll give ‘em a turkey.  Is that acceptable, Miss Maria?” 

Maria blushed a bit.  He only called her that name when she was being bossy (in his opinion).  “Yes, Dad, it is quite acceptable.”  She hugged him and gathered up her things.  On the way to her car she detoured by the turkey run and stuck her head in the broody coop.  She quickly explained to Tiffany and Courtney what the plan was.  In two days, if all went as planned, the turkeys would be moved to a zoo where they would not be picked off one by one to become dinners.  There would be people to impress with their lovely feathers and plenty of feed – all in all a sanctuary for turkeys.  They’d have a turkey run, just like here, and no worries at all.

As soon as Maria left, Courtney zoomed off to tell the other hens.  The Celestial Turkey had answered their plea – they were saved!  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday and this year a lot of folk, human and animal alike had a lot to be thankful for.  Kid was so happy that Lemuel and his flock were alive to enjoy the day.  It was the first day all week that there had been no rain, and Kid raced over to visit Lemuel as soon as she saw Bart head by the house.  Kid practically danced across the field to the turkey run, yodeling Lemuel’s name.  “Happy Thanksgiving, friend.  I am so glad we can say that to each other today!”  She leaned against the fence and Lemuel put his head close and nuzzled Kid with his beak.  “Oh, your wattle is tickly.  Please extend my greetings to the hens and Tiffany.  I can’t stay, because Val has to leave for work soon, and I want to wish her a happy holiday before she goes.  I’ll try to come back later.”  Kid raced back across the field.  Lemuel looked at her as she ran and thought how lucky he was to have a friend like her. 

The hens were thankful for life – their own and Tiffany’s.  This morning Maria had fed them, and she’d given the hens a mix of their own feed and the poult feed, which was a special treat for them.  The poult feed had an extra special taste to it all its own that reminded them of when they had been very young.  Comfort food for turkeys.  As she put the poult feed in front of Tiffany she whispered to her, “I’m trying to work something out, Tiff.  Don’t worry about a thing.”  Tiffany was clueless, but her mother, Courtney was not.  Maria was on their side, things would work out.  As Tiffany blissful ate her food in the warm broody house, Courtney went over to the main coop to tell the other hens what Maria had said.  After she shared her news, Lydia led the hens in a group thank-you to the Celestial Turkey for her assistance. 

Rudy, Peep and LT were enjoying a quiet Thanksgiving at home.  The Mommy was cooking for the Daddy, one of his brothers and their friend, Mike.  Peep dearly loved to eat turkey, and she wasn’t going to let any thoughts of Lemuel and his flock get in the way of that enjoyment.  She knew for a fact that the Mommy had bought the turkey from the grocery store.  She’d checked out the wrapper while it was defrosting, and it was a Butterball Turkey from North Carolina, and not one with whom she had mutual acquaintances.  The Daddy had set up the table earlier this morning, and the turkey was in the oven.  There were all sorts of other delicious smells from things cooking on the stove.  She was sorry that the yarn lady wouldn’t be here today, but she knew that Mommy would give her lots of snacks throughout the day. 

Rudy and LT were sunning in the back yard.  It wasn’t very warm, but it was the first sun they’d seen in days and they were determined to enjoy it.  Rudy whispered to LT, “Do you see the wild turkeys?  They’re just inside the woods. I bet they’re still worrying that someone’s gonna chase them down and quick throw them in the oven.”  She and LT laughed, but she called out to them, “Hey guys, Happy Thanksgiving.  You’ve survived.  It’s too late for someone to cook you up this year.”  She saw one tom nod his head and the turkeys worked their way down the edge of the property towards Snoogum’s house.  LT decided he’d hang outside until everyone had come and gone and then go in for turkey.  He’d seen the size bird Daddy had bought, and knew there would be plenty of leftovers.  Rudy, on the other hand, preferred to be hand fed, so she’d go in as soon as guests arrived and pose prettily in hopes of tidbits. 

Ziggy and Bella were snuggled under the table in their beds.  Val had to go to work today, which made Ziggy a bit sad, although she worked each and every Thursday.  It was a holiday; shouldn’t she be able to stay home?  She was on the phone with her brother right now, talking about just that.  “John, most of the folks in the group home don’t have any family left close by, and so some people have to work on the holidays.  I’d rather it be me, because then I know we can all have a fun day and a tasty dinner.  At least I know I can cook up a storm.  I just hope they made the pies yesterday.  I’ve been off since Monday, and if they didn’t bake the pies there are going to be a few disappointed people.”  Ziggy thought about what she’d said, and decided that the folks from the group home needed his mommy more than he did today.  They’d snuggled in bed this morning until she had to get up, and he knew that when she got home they’d play and snuggle again.  It was right to share such an excellent mommy with others.  Emma was on the back of the couch, also listening to the conversation.  She’d miss Val today, but knew that she’d come home when her shift was over and they’d be together. That was what was important.  Bella just snored. 

Buddy was hanging on the back porch, regretting that there would be no holiday leftovers for him since Val would be eating at work.  On the other hand, she’d probably feel bad not having any leftovers to give them, and at least provide extra squishy food, and maybe something special from the fridge.  He loved Val.  She was the one who’d seen him hiding in the compost when he was nearly starved and brought him back to health.  There was no one better in the world than her, and he thanked the Great Cat that she’d invited him to come live with her. 

Tatum and Ursula were enjoying a visit from the English Lady.  She took care of them any time all the humans went on vacation, and every year at Thanksgiving they went away to see the yarn lady’s sister in New Hamster.  It was no big deal.  Food arrived on time, and often in greater quantities than the noisy girl provided.  She was convinced they were overweight, and so had been shorting their rations for a while now.  That made for cranky cats.  Ursula knew the English Lady and loved her.  She was the one who had taken care of her when she barely had her eyes open.  She’d fed her from a bottle and let her sleep in the bed with her, all snuggled up under her chin.  If it hadn’t been for the English Lady, she probably would have starved to death, and she never would have come to live with the yarn lady and now the noisy girl and Tatum’s beloved Daddy.  Ursula twined around the English Lady’s legs and tried to communicate all the love she had for her and the thanks for taking care of her when she was a wee one. 

Tatum watched from the stairs.  He knew the English Lady, but she just wasn’t his beloved Daddy, or even the noisy girl.  He missed them a lot when they went away, but when he thought about it in the grand scheme of his life, it was just a blip.  He’d lived at the shelter for almost all of his kittenhood until his beloved Daddy had brought him home to live.  It had been scary at first to live without a cage around him, but when he realized that he could go anywhere in the house and that he was surrounded by people he knew and loved rather than new faces poking themselves into his cage every day he’d decided that he’d come to the perfect home.  It was good to be Tatum, he thought to himself. 

Clementine was afraid she’d die of loneliness.  The yarn lady had left two days ago, saying that she’d be gone for days and days and days, but that the English Lady would come over and feed her and spend some time with her so she wouldn’t get too lonely.  She’d left some lights on for her, and the radio was on low, so that there would at least be some voices.  The yarn lady called every night and talked to her through the answering machine.  It was good to hear her voice, but she didn’t want the yarn lady’s voice, she wanted her to come home right this very minute.  It wasn’t fair.  What kind of thankful holiday was this if you couldn’t spend it with the one person in the world that meant the most to you?  As she sat on the red blankie the yarn lady had made for her, she heard the sliding door open, and the English Lady’s voice call her name.  Clem stretched and jumped down on the floor, walking to greet her.  The English lady picked Clem up and cuddled her close.  “Oh, dear heart.  I truly know what it’s like to not have your family and loved ones with you for the holiday.  It can be so lonely and sad, but there’s always someone else there to love you if you let them.”  She held Clem and sang a little song to her while Clem purred along, although she didn’t know the words.  They sat on the sofa together for a while, cat and human, each thankful for the others presence.