Folkart by Keith Greiman
EDITOR'S NOTE: We asked Mercury readers to share their most disturbing, disastrous, and disgusting Thanksgiving memories for our "Worst Thanksgiving Ever" essay contest—and boy, did they deliver! Though close to 100 entries were received, there can be only one winner, and that's Santi Elijah Holley, who wins $200 for his horrifying memories. Also included are our top three runners-up! So loosen your belt, take a shot of Pepto-Bismol, and "enjoy" the worst... Thanksgivings... EVER.
TURKEY DAY (A THANKSGIVING MEMORY)
by Santi Elijah Holley
My old man approached the bird slowly and told me to get ready. The blade, longer than my forearm, trembled precariously in my hand. The old man took one step toward the bird, then another, but the turkey didn't move an inch. It only stared at the old man as though it were watching some strange and uninteresting performance. Then, suddenly aware of what was going on, the bird raised its head, puffed out its chest, and lifted its tail feathers like a battle flag.
"Get ready!" the old man shouted, but I couldn't tell if he was addressing the turkey or me.
He made a quick dive toward the bird, but it managed to jump clear of his grasp. The bird then began hopping from side to side, like a prizefighter, jabbing the air with its beak, while a terrible cackle emanated from somewhere deep within its throat.
"Damn it," he said. "Slippery son of a bitch."
The turkey, cackling and shaking its bright, bristling feathers, danced around my old man. As he crouched down low and raised his hands up to his chest, preparing to make another dive, the bird all at once lunged toward him and sank its beak into his thigh. The old man howled, then unleashed a long succession of unfamiliar but nonetheless harrowing words. He staggered backward and fell to the ground. The bird continued to pounce on him, stabbing him with its beak and emitting those awful, guttural noises.
"Get this thing off me," the old man shouted. "Goddamn it, boy, come slit this thing's throat, already!"
I'd already dropped the knife, however, and I was now screaming and crying and running around in circles, certain that after this beast had eaten my old man it would come for me.
Somehow the old man was able to crawl, while under assault, toward the blade on the ground. He was like some mortally wounded soldier, hoping to at least take his enemy out with him. He finally reached the knife, closed his fingers around the handle, and, with a wild and heroic cry, plunged the blade deep into the bird's breast. The bird threw its head back to the sky and screamed. He stabbed the turkey over and over, cursing like a madman, while bloody feathers drifted up into the air and slowly descended to the dirt.
When it was all over, my old man sat on the ground, gasping for air, with the blade still clutched in his fist. He was covered from head to toe in blood and feathers. The turkey—or, what remained of it—lay in a large heap at the old man's feet. I was still running around in circles, weeping uncontrollably for the vision of Hell I'd just been forced to witness.
This was the first year we had chicken for Thanksgiving.
OUR "WORST THANKSGIVING EVER" RUNNERS-UP!
TWO BOYFRIENDS, ONE MOM
by Stephanie Lane
Okay, so here it goes: When I was about 16 years old I had an early Thanksgiving dinner with a friend and her family, due to the fact that my mom was a drug-infected tweeker. After dinner my mom had left word that she was having a late turkey dinner at the house around 9 pm. (See? Tweeker!) So my friend and I went from her house in Northeast Portland to my house in Felony Flats. When we arrived, the front door was locked. So we went around back to try the sliding glass door.
What we saw next was probably the most disgusting, vile act we had ever witnessed.
There was my mother with her two (yes, two) boyfriends having a threesome in the kitchen, on the table, next to ALL THE FOOD!!!!!!!!!! (Even worse, I knew she would expect us to eat the leftovers!) After recovering from the shock, I tapped on the glass. My mother looked up, saw us standing there, and completely freaked out! She started screaming that I was spying on her and that I was trying to seduce her boyfriends. Whipping the sliding door open (still buck naked), she informed me she was "entertaining guests" and that I had to leave if we weren't going to join her little turkey orgy.
Needless to say, that was the month I moved out of her house for good.
THERE WASN'T A PLUNGER
by Zach Hull
I was excited, nervous, and determined to be on my best behavior. I was in high school, sharing a family Thanksgiving at my girlfriend's house.
Her extended family was there for the day—including Uncle Dwight, the favorite uncle. I had arrived early to help out, but since there wasn't much for me to do, Dwight took me out on the deck where he gave me a beer.
I wasn't much of a drinker in high school.
After our second beer it was time to go inside and sit down. I was buzzed. It was a traditional Thanksgiving—turkey, stuffing, cranberry jelly, Brussels sprouts, and homemade rolls. Everyone had a glass of wine and I had one too.
About half an hour into the meal I excused myself, went to the bathroom, shut the door, and took an enormous dump. Feeling better, I buttoned up and flushed. The dump didn't go down.
I looked around for the plunger that everyone keeps in their bathroom. No plunger. Maybe my girlfriend's mom put it away for the occasion. I thought about going back to the dining room and confessing. I also thought about just leaving it there. Instead, I took off my shirt.
I got down on the floor and put my hand into the bowl. I started to push on the dump, making my hand into a kind of inverted shovel, helping it down. I was making progress. I could see some bubbles coming up around the dump. It was gross, but I was getting there.
My girlfriend's sister screamed, "Oh My God!" when she walked into the bathroom. I hadn't locked the door. The family heard her and came, more or less in unison, rushing in as well.
I wanted to yank my hand out of the toilet, but it was full of shit, so I didn't. Instead I knelt there, embracing the toilet bowl, with my shirt hanging on the back of the door, my back to the family.
The silence lasted for a long, long time.
THE SLIPPERY TURKEY
by Sam Obey
I was spending Thanksgiving at my ex-girlfriend's parents' house. And since they're all Catholic Japanese, being a non-Asian, liberal Jew didn't bode well for me. Also, since much of her extended family would be there, this was probably the only chance I'd get to make a good impression. I thought it'd be nice to have a fellow American at the table to help take the attention off of me, so I asked her parents to allow a friend of mine to come. They did, but only under the condition that he be extremely well behaved. I assured them this would be the case.
So my friend shows up from the airport and joins us. He quietly informs me that the plane ride left him queasy, but assures me the worst is over. I imagine him projectile vomiting on the turkey, and shiver.
Dinner commences and we are asked to get the turkey. We go to the kitchen, and my friend lifts the bird, admiring its beauty. We proceed to the table but stop for a second in the threshold of the kitchen. I look out at the faces of the family; gazes fixed firmly on the bird, the centerpiece of this dinner, the main fucking event (one lady actually clapped). For a second there was a kind of surreal harmony, time froze, and I felt like dinner would be a success—like the awesomeness of the turkey would prevail and keep us from embarrassing ourselves.
It might have, but my friend accidentally dropped the turkey... on a baby.
The drippings showered the infant and the lap of her mother, who had been cradling her, and the turkey itself kind of bounced off the baby's head. At the time I thought the scene would've made YouTube history.
A shitstorm ensued. I stood there, dumbfounded, looking around. Everyone was freaking out in their own special way and my friend looked like he was finally going to puke. Strangely, the baby was just lying there on the table—all covered in turkey bits, laughing. Luckily the juices were only warm and not scalding, so I guess to her it was a pretty pleasant experience. The turkey lay on the ground where it had fallen, forgotten.
Things were so bad I decided to make like the baby and laugh—which got me slapped by the baby-mama, and landed us out on the street, drinking. At the end of it all my friend finally puked.
But much like the Thanksgiving legend itself—which apparently ends with the pilgrims and the Native Americans getting along—this story too has a happy ending. In a miraculous display of forgiveness, the girl's parents invited us to dinner a few days later, admitted that the ordeal was an accident, and I felt a nice sense of closure.
I also never saw these people again.
Charlotte Gray has written nearly a dozen books on Canadian history. She's covered everything from the Massey Murder to the Klondike Gold Rush. Her most recent book, The Promise of Canada, weaves together nine portraits of Canadians who have influenced the course of the country.
Below, Charlotte Gray answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
Gray is a juror for the 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize.
1. Kate Pullinger asks, "Do you pay attention to the opinions of your family — parents, spouse, siblings, children, etc. — when it comes to your writing, both in terms of what you write about, but also how you write?"
I pay close attention to my husband's comments because he comes at issues from a different angle. When one of my subjects buys a house, I want to know what it looks like but he immediately asks, "What did it cost?"
2. Lorna Crozier asks, "If you weren't sitting at your desk writing, what would you be doing instead?"
Trying to suppress a guilty feeling that I should be sitting at my desk.
3. William Deverell asks, "Ever wanted to throttle an interviewer? Tell me about it."
I was once doing a radio interview with a journalism student who had carefully prepared a list of questions. He would read out one, then ignore me as I spoke: his eyes would wander around the studio until he realised that I'd finished speaking. Then he would read out the next one, ignore me again, and his eyes.... pause... next question... eye wander... pause... next question... This was an interview about my first book and I was too eager to please to lean over and strangle him. But I will if I ever meet him in a studio again.
4. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "Other than writing, what other art form (i.e. plays, movies, music, visual art) do you wish you possessed or had a better grasp of?"
Ballet. Love those pliés.
5. Pasha Malla asks, "Which would be preferable: a life of relative contentment and comfort, and having your books die alongside you, or being miserable and destitute, and having your books read long after you are dead?"
I live in the moment. What's the future ever done for me?
6. Peter Robinson asks, "What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the writing process?"
My most favourite part is creation of the first draft, when the shimmering dream of the extraordinary book that you are writing hovers over your head. My least favourite part is creation of the first draft, when the shimmering dream looks more and more like a mirage.
7. Andrew Pyper asks, "Do you ever worry that the whole practice of writing and reading, while enjoyable and perhaps gratifying, simply doesn't matter very much?"
If I could solve climate change, Mideast conflict, the decline of western economies, human rights abuses or any other items in my existential angst catalogue, I would. But I can't. So I sign petitions, give money and keep writing.
8. Sharon Butala asks, "What is the main question that you wish somebody would ask you, although nobody ever has?"
"Was it a good idea to move to Canada?"