It all started on Thanksgiving day, eight years ago. My parents had never before seen a wild turkey on their property and since their house is located in a suburban country club- wild turkeys are no ordinary sight. I had come home for Thanksgiving dinner and I remember eating cheese and drinking white wine before the main meal began. My father and I, along with other family and friends sat in the living room conversing while my mother and a hired cook slaved away in the kitchen. There was frivolity and talk about the new President that was about to replace President Clinton. I was mortified by the fact that most of my father’s friends, including my father were excited about George Bush taking office. Right when my father said, “Mr. Bush is going to bring this great American country the change it needs,” there was a scream in the kitchen followed by my mother yelling- “Tilden, come here…come here!!!’ My father said excuse me and I followed him into the kitchen. “What is it Fran,” he said to my mother walking at a frantic pace. My mother stood shaking above the turkey that had just come out of the oven. She pointed out the window and said “what is it?” We both looked, horrified by what we saw. I immediately knew what it was. “Holly shit,” my father said- “It’s a wild turkey.”
After throwing numerous rocks at the turkey to get it to go away- my family and company all sat down at the dinning room table and enjoyed a memorable Thanksgiving meal. We all ate and drank too much and the main conversation revolved around George Bush and where the fuck the wild turkey came from. I spent the night that evening, because I was to drunk to drive. I was awoken early by my father screaming, “go, scat, get the fuck out of here.” When I looked out my bedroom window I saw my father in his bathrobe and slippers throwing rocks at a large pack of turkeys. They were all over the place. In the trees, all around the pool and walking through my mothers flower garden. They made a terrible guffawing noise as my father scared them away with his brute force. That morning at breakfast we ate left over turkey and drank black coffee. My father did not say a word but simply stared out the window waiting for the turkeys to return.
My father worked hard for his wealth and his country club home. Years spent working day in and day out as a Podiatrist who was always embarrassed about what he did for a living- had paid off. Now he owned a golf cart, a live-in maid, two Mercedes and a large quiet house in the hills. Everything on my parents property was manicured and attended to on a daily basis by a slew of gardeners. When the wild turkeys began to invade my fathers home all of the security, comfort and beauty that my father had worked so hard to build was slowly being torn away. The turkeys would leave shit droppings all around the house that my father would step on every time he went outside. He became paranoid about contracting the avian flu virus and other bird disease. As the weeks passed the turkeys multiplied and one time, many weeks later when I was home, I could not believe what I saw. There were turkeys everywhere. They were on the roof, the driveway, in the trees…one was even sitting on a raft that drifted in my parents pool. My father was loosing his mind. There was nothing that the Country Club Residents Board was willing to do to help him and he was forbidden by law to buy a gun and shoot the wild turkey’s. So he waited.
Years passed and the turkeys multiplied. My father refused to celebrate Thanksgiving and he gave up eating turkey. His hair turned gray and he became a more vindictive and bitter man. After years and years of waking up every morning and throwing stones at wild turkeys and cursing God- he managed to burn a hole in his colon, which required major surgery and a colostomy bag to fix. My mother and I would try to talk my father into accepting change and being at peace with nature. “Fuck nature,” he would say- “I want my house back.” He did everything he could to commit various acts of genocide against the turkeys but nothing worked. They kept multiplying like the virus that my father feared. Year later when he finally realized that he was defenseless against the wild turkeys he received permission from the state to hire hunters to remove the turkeys from his property.
There was a period of a year that my parents home looked like a strange war zone. It was a rather surreal sight because along with the manicured lawns, flowers, stones, fountains and beautiful oak trees there was a horrendous amount of turkey shit and feathers along with numerous turkey cages that decorated the entire property. There were turkey cages on the roof, the lawn, in the hills, on the deck, by the pool- everywhere. And in these cages were screaming turkeys that had wondered aimlessly into the cage and had to sit in captivity and wait for the hunters to come and slaughter them. This went on for months. It got so bad that I refused to go home. I could not condone the brutal tactics that my father was using to get rid of the turkeys, however- after months of trapping them in cages- the wild turkeys did not come around so much.
It’s been a year since the assault on the wild turkeys began. As the turkeys diminished in numbers my fathers mood began to get better. He started to eat turkey again and going to Temple (he quit going to Temple for a while because he believed that if there was a God he did not want to believe in one that was allowing what was happening to him- to happen). Then, less than a month ago I received notice that my father wanted to host a Thanksgiving dinner at his home. I was surprised by this but excited that my father had come out of his misery enough to see the light. It had been eight years since my whole family has been together for Thanksgiving dinner but I have one latent fear. The past months I have been home to my parents home a few times and seen the cages with turkeys in them. I met the hunters one day and asked them what they do with the turkeys after they remove them from the cage. They told me this was the best time of year to hunt wild turkeys because they were able to sell them to markets for Thanksgiving dinner. “People eat these?” I said in disgust. “Sure,” the hunter replied- “they are the best kind. Free range, wild and organic.”
In a few hours I am leaving for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents home. I have bought organic red wine and pumpkin pie for the occasion. All week I have been trying to ask my father where he is buying the turkey that we are going to eat on Thanksgiving night. He responds ambiguously to me and does not give any direct reply. I have talked to my mother about it as well but she says, “your father is in charge of the turkey this year……. just come hungry.” This morning I emailed my father and said, “please, just tell me where you are getting the turkey from!” He replied an hour ago and said, “son, I do not want to say where I am getting the turkey from. Just come hungry and trust me that it will be not only good but good for you. I will only say one more thing on this issue and then the discussion is closed. Period. This years Thanksgiving dinner is my sweet revenge.”