Saturday, November 12, 2011

The one certainty in life

Late Saturday morning Lemuel sat in the sun trying to absorb some of its warmth.  He remembered from last fall how the weather was so unpredictable.  One day he'd be shivering and the next feel as though the sun was trying to bake him in his own juices. 

Bart was raking the ground beneath the roost.  Lemuel and the hens appreciated how clean Bart kept the coop and turkey run.  He stopped and leaned on his rake as he heard Anthony call his name. Lemuel saw Anthony accompanied by a gentleman in very odd garb, particularly for a farmyard.  The man was dressed almost entirely in black, including his button-down shirt.  The only thing that wasn't black was a small white square in his collar, right below his chin.  Lemuel’s thought was that this man certainly was not a farmer.  No one in his right mind would wander around livestock wearing highly polished black laced shoes. 

"Good morning, Father Michael," Bart called.  He grimaced inwardly.  The only reason he could think of for the priest to be making a visit was that the parish needed money, and Bart wasn’t fond of parting with money.

They exchanged greetings and commented on the weather, while Bart wished he’d just get to the point so he could get back to work.  He’d left the turkey run, and they stood just outside the fence.  “Dad, I was talking to Father Michael about a Thanksgiving dinner the church will be hosting for folks in the parish who have fallen on hard times and I had an idea.  You want to get rid of your turkey operation, and Father Michael needs turkeys to serve for dinner.  You could be done with it all at once and get a tax write-off for donating the turkeys.  What could be more efficient than that?”

Bart’s face broke into a grin.  “Father Michael, I think for once I can offer all the help you need.  I hope you can use all thirteen.  I have twelve hens and one tom turkey, and as you can see, they’re all plump and healthy.  So, when do you want them delivered?”

After further negotiation, Bart promised to deliver the thirteen turkeys, dressed for cooking on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.  Father Michael thanked Bart and Anthony profusely until Bart declared that he needed to get back to work if he was going to get to 5 o’clock Mass on time.  They all knew this was a polite fiction, as Bart rarely went to Mass on Saturday, and often didn’t even make it on Sunday.  Father Michael took the hint and left, walking carefully across the field. 

“Dad, you’re not going to keep one turkey for our Thanksgiving?”  Anthony was surprised, as his mother always cooked turkey, whether it was one of theirs or one from the supermarket.

“I am so everlasting tired of turkey, whether alive or on a plate that I think we’ll have lasagna this year.”  He shook his head and went back to raking the turkey run, thinking to himself that in eleven days he wouldn’t have this chore to do anymore.

Lemuel was the only one of the turkeys who had overheard this discussion and as he sat there thinking about his upcoming death, the sun didn’t seem very warm anymore.  He considered his fate.  Most turkeys didn’t die of old age, he realized that, but to know that in less than two weeks he would grace the table at a Thanksgiving dinner was a hard fact to face.  He tried to console himself by thinking that perhaps if the church didn’t hold this dinner those folks wouldn’t have a Thanksgiving turkey.  It wasn’t a consoling thought.  They’d just have, say, spaghetti and meatballs, or perhaps a nice dish of rice and beans.  No one would starve for the lack of his flock – it was a grand gesture, nothing more. 

Sighing, Lemuel got up and went to inform the hens of their date with death.  As he walked to the coop, he thought how different this was from last year.  It had been easy for him to hide out by himself for a few weeks, but there was no way the entire flock could hide under Val’s deck.  The hens were rarely quiet, and even if the noise didn’t give them away, the amount of turkey droppings from thirteen turkeys would create an odor that Val would certainly notice. 

Sheila was sunning in front of the coop while most of the others perched on the roost.  Oh, he didn’t want to have this conversation.  They’d all squawk and scream until he had a major headache.  Well, he’d tell Sheila and let her deal with them.  It’s not as though they included him in their lives except when they needed him, and he didn’t see any help he could offer with this problem.

In as few words as possible, Lemuel told Sheila of Bart’s plans.  As she sat there, stunned with the news he quietly left, taking himself to the farthest corner of the run, which happened to be behind the coop.  Hopefully the hens wouldn’t even notice him there.  He sat, thinking of his days at the farm where he was raised.  Happy times, when he and the other poults played tag and had contests as to who could find the most bugs.  And when he’d grown into a jake life had been even better.  He and his buddies had the run of the place.  They’d tease the jennies and play tricks on the hens, particularly the ones that were too large to effectively chase them down.  Sometimes the toms would put them in their place, but mostly they just laughed at the jakes’ high spirits, knowing that soon they’d be sold and moved to a new farm.  Lemuel hadn’t known that, and had thought that idyllic time would go on forever.  Ah, if only he were still a jake, back with his first flock.  Life held infinite possibilities then, unlike now, where there was just one certainty.  

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