“I’ve got it all set up for you, if you really want to do it.”
“It’s not so much a matter of want as need,” Wes said. “This is something I need to do. I should do it.”
Sheryl shrugged. “Over there. I’ve got one in a little pen, and Warren sharpened the hatchet. He said to remind you to just hit the turkey, not yourself.”
Wes made a little smile. “So kind of him.”
“He was kidding around. But it is good advice.”
They reached the small pen, and Wes stared at the big turkey his cousin and her husband had set aside for him. Sheryl kicked at the pen to make the turkey move back a little. She opened the door and ushered Wes inside.
“Here.” Sheryl reached over the top of the pen and handed Wes the hatchet. To his eyes, it was more of a teenaged ax, and it was heavy.
“You’ll need it. Turkeys have thick necks.”
Wes looked away from his weapon and saw that he had the turkey’s full attention.
“Best way to do it,” Sheryl said, “is to knock him to the ground, kneel on him so he stays in place, and then swing the ax hard – I mean hard – down on his neck. And remember what Warren said about not hitting yourself.
Wes considered the instructions and eventually gave a little nod. “Okay. That sounds good.” He watched the turkey for a little while, considering which angle would be best to pounce from. The turkey was no longer interested in Wes and was looking at the world outside the pen.
“So tell me again why you have to kill a turkey for Thanksgiving.”
“This is the main part of the traditional meal,” he said. “It’s only right that I participate fully in harvesting the bird. Unlike most people, I have a cousin who farms and who keeps a few turkeys, so I can do this.”
“Mm-hmm. Is the turkey all you’re going to have on the table?”
Wes turned away from the turkey to face his cousin. “Of course not. Mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, dressing, vegetables. All the usual foods.”
“You didn’t help with planting or harvesting our wheat. Wheat makes bread makes dressing.”
“You haven’t put any time in on the garden, where we grow potatoes and peas and carrots and such.”
“Our neighbors in the next section have a pumpkin patch. Did you work there so you can harvest your own pumpkin for some pie?”
He sighed. “Of course not. But a turkey is a living, breathing creature. I feel like I owe it the decency of facing it and taking its life myself.”
Sheryl shook her head. “Wes, there’s nothing decent about killing. It’s just a necessity. Like changing the oil in your car. You don’t do that yourself, do you?”
“No. It’s quicker to have the guys at Looby Lube do it.” He paused. “Not as messy, either.”
“If you think changing oil is messy, go ahead and kill that turkey. Then you’ll see a real mess.”
Wes turned back to the turkey, which was walking around as best it could in the confined space. It didn’t help that an entire human was taking up valuable real estate, but the turkey didn’t seem to mind much. Wes regarded the hatchet for a long moment.
Sheryl opened the gate and quickly shut it behind Wes after he was out. She took the hatchet and leaned it against the pen.
“Those instructions I gave you for killing the turkey?”
“That’s not how it’s done. That’s the hard and cruel way. I’d have come in and grabbed the hatchet out of your hands if you had actually gone for it. Now, if you want to spend some time here, you can watch me kill the turkey and get it ready for you. Or, you can just take the one I did last week that’s in the freezer, ready to use, and Happy Thanksgiving from Warren and me.”
Wes studied the ground. “That sounds good. Thank you.”
Sheryl put a friendly arm around his shoulders and guided him to the house. “Cousin, there are country mice and there are city mice, and you come from the city mouse side of the family, where food comes from the supermarket.”
“I really thought I’d be able to do it. I thought I could kill that turkey.”
She shook her head. “When city people kill, they shoot each other over parking spots. Stick to what you know.”