The World’s Smallest Turkey Collection
THE WORLD’S SMALLEST TURKEY COLLECTION
Issue No. 1 – September 2013
Sitting at the table after supper was done and my stomach could breath again, I stared out the window, looking past my cousin Allen who called me Patrick with a mouth that was as dumb as a car without brakes. And listen here — his mouth really had been built with no brakes, a design flaw probably caused by his father’s small head.
Patrick, he’d say.
I thought there would come a day where I would have to kill him.
Patrick was not and had never been my name. My name is Allen just like his and I will always wonder what our parents were thinking. Both of us Allens knew my real name, everyone at the table knew it, the waiter knew it and so did my completely authentic birth certificate that had been looked over and signed off on by completely authentic doctors.
Outside the restaurant there was a tree. I watched it as Allen called me by this stranger’s name, pretending my ears had fallen off, wondering if I watched it long enough if it might come to me so I could climb it and escape. Maybe I’d see something new up there, or maybe up on the branches I would meet a man named Patrick who liked to climb trees. But somehow my ears grew back and I turned my attention to Allen. If you’re wondering, he was the original.
“What do you want?” I said.
The words fell like crumbs from my mouth.
“Patrick . . . Patrick, you wanna see my new pet?”
“Come on Patrick. Let me show it to you. It’s really great.”
My kid brother, sitting to my right, pulled at my sleeve. He wanted to see Allen’s pet.
“I guess you’re going to tell us you have a dog and he’s just asleep in your pocket?” I asked.
“No,” Allen said as he laughed. “It’s no dog. Look.”
He pulled out a fucking rock. A plain, gray rock that was the size of his palm. But this rock wore a blonde wig.
I admit — it was funny – but Allen thought it was just hilarious and great and put it there on the table and made our parents look. Two minutes passed and his plea for attention was really just slaughtered, but he and my kid brother both laughed longer than I thought they should have. The wig matched Allen’s own haircut and looking at the rock and then to him it was much too easy to see a resemblance.
Allen was across from me, in a white tee that had stains for each color of food on his plate and a mark of dirt above his eyebrow that always seemed to be there in the very same spot. This dirt was perpetual. Maybe it was a birthmark or maybe he rubbed the same amount of dirt in that spot every day for some reason. I never knew what Allen was going to do or what he was about. He lived a state over from my family and so I only saw him once every few months when my parents thought to punish me. Every time he came by I was certain he would get us killed or at least badly injured. When he left and I still had my eyes, sanity, or dignity I was in a good mood. This fool would try to get squirrels to smoke cigarettes or push trees over using just his own two arms. He would tell us stories that involved screaming, bloodied females and motorcycle riding madmen. It was hard to think we had the same blood, even though I never knew what that really meant.
His parents and my parents were eating slices of carrot cake and drinking coffee and cappuccinos. We were at the end of the table and every few minutes me and my mom made eye contact. She’d wink at me and I would wink right back. But she was a better winker than me. Over the years it became a game to us, to see who could wink bigger at the other. She somehow made it seem like half her face was winking sometimes. I swear her eye could almost reach her front teeth. Her and my kid brother were my favorite people at the table. My dad was alright too, but if there was a fire he’d be the last one I’d save. It’s just true.
Allen—with that dirt scar above his eyebrow and with breath that smelled like green apple candy canes, leaned forward to me and my kid brother.
“You know the turkey we just ate?”
“Delicious,” my kid brother said. He rubbed his stomach with his greasy hand for emphasis.
“They got a whole fucking farm of them out back,” Allen said. “I saw it on the drive here. A thousand turkeys at least.”
“Why?” My little brother asked, still rubbing his small stomach. His hand had forgotten to stop.
Allen looked to me. “Not the brightest kid is he?”
“Shut Up,” I said.
Allen smirked. “Where do you think the turkeys come from?” he asked.
My kid brother stopped rubbing his stomach and thought about Allen’s question. He took a piece of turkey and ate it, maybe for inspiration. For some reason we waited for his answer. “From somewhere where they have turkeys and chickens?” he said.
Allen shook his head and I chuckled.
“You need to pay more attention to life and . . . maybe read more,” I said to him.
“They keep them in the back so they can supply the customers who want to eat them,” Allen told him.
My little brother didn’t seem much interested in learning. He just petted back the pet rock’s blonde hair. He was young and his mind was built for cartoons and cereal.
Allen got a little closer to us and whispered, “Let’s go look at them.”
I shook my head. “Nah, we can’t, we’re about to leave.”
He leaned back and called out to his mom. “Can me and Patrick go outside?” he asked. He turned towards the window and pointed at my tree. “Just over there. Just to look around.”
“Sure, but stay in view.” Then she looked down at the dishes and said, “Don’t any of you want some of this carrot cake?”
I shook my head and threw my napkin into my plate.
“That shit is gross,” Allen said.
His mom gave him that terrific mom look but she didn’t correct him.
“Let’s go,” he said to us.
“Nah. No thanks,” I said.
“I wanna go,” my kid brother said. “Don’t forget to take your pet, Allen. Does he eat anything?” He got up out of his seat and about three pounds of broccoli fell off his lap.
“Stay here with me,” I said to him, but I knew he wouldn’t and I couldn’t leave that cute, dumb kid alone with my ugly, wiseass cousin. My little brother would probably end up getting beat up by a gang of turkeys as Allen laughed on.
I got up and followed them.
We walked from the dining room and stumbled out the front door of the restaurant and headed toward the back. The sun was bright and the breeze was pleasant as it sometimes is when you emerge from eating a good meal in a dark room. There was a cute girl right outside and she had a purple streak in her hair and I wondered about her and when she had put that streak in her hair. I thought about us getting married for a second too. You can do anything with your mind. We walked past her and went behind the restaurant, near my tree and looked inside to our parents.
“I just want to give my mom a gay wave to show her that we’re where we said we’d be,” Allen said to us. He waved to our parents. My mom winked at me, and I winked back. My kid brother saw us and tried to wink too but he was bad at it. He was jealous about our game.
We backed away from the window and walked a little ways to the side, towards a fenced enclosure that had just six turkeys inside.
“That’s it?” I said.
“I’m telling you, there looked there was a ton more on the drive past.”
My kid brother laughed. “It’s like the world’s smallest turkey collection,” he said. “Can I pet one Allen?” I wasn’t sure if he was asking me or my cousin.
“Go right ahead,” Allen said as he dragged him towards the fence.
“No,” I said.
“Let him pet one, you sissy bitch.”
“He can’t pet one of those. They aren’t dogs, these are wild turkeys. They might bite or attack him.” And I held him back, away from the fence.
“You’re a jerk, Patrick,” my kid brother turned around to say to me. He knew I hated that name.
Allen laughed. He picked up a pebble and hurled it at one of the birds. He hit a bird and it didn’t seem to notice. The birds had ugly faces but their plump bodies and plentiful feathers were handsome. It was eerie how they walked back and forth. They were alive like us. Just different.
“What are you guys doing out here? Messing with the dinners?”
We all turned around to see our waiter lighting up a cigarette.
“Give me one of those,” Allen said.
The waiter gave him a look. I wasn’t sure if he was going to give him a cig or not. “Where’s your parents?” he asked.
“Inside, man. They ain’t coming out here. They’re still eating their cake.”
“How do they usually tip? Are they cheap?”
“They’re good tippers, just give me a smoke.”
The waiter took out another cigarette and Allen put it between his lips and the waiter threw him a lighter and Allen lit that cigarette pretty good, like he’d done it many times before. “That’s nice,” he said on his first drag.
My kid brother looked to our cousin and to the waiter, said, “Give me one. Our parents tip good too.”
I looked to the waiter, who looked back to me and I slapped my kid brother in the back of his head.
The waiter laughed and threw him a cigarette anyway. “That’s all you get though. I ain’t giving you a lighter. Let this be like show and tell for you.”
My little brother seemed satisfied enough with his unlit cigarette, and studied it and lifted it to his nose.
“I knew it was all bullshit inside,” Allen said to the waiter. “You’re fake man, you’re like me and I’m like you. You’re an actor, putting on a show for a paycheck. I like that, I respect it. I’ll probably have to do the same shit soon enough.”
For an easy minute it was quiet as they smoked and my kid brother put the cigarette in his pocket and went back to looking at the turkeys. Good choice. He rubbed his stomach as he watched them.
Then Allen threw half a cigarette in the turkey pen.
“Who kills those fucking turkeys man? Is it you?” he asked.
“Nope, it ain’t really ever me.”
“Who does it then? What does this guy look like? I want to know what kind of man he is.”
“Usually, I have Manny do it.”
“Do you think . . . we can watch him kill one of these things?”
The waiter pulled on his cigarette and the smoke he exhaled headed over towards the turkey pen.
“No one is ordering a turkey right now. You’d have to wait around and your parents are already on dessert. But, yeah, I’d let you young guys watch if the timing was good.”
He had this tattoo of a woman on his forearm. A black and white portrait. You’d assume it was his mother. She had a nice smile. He didn’t take after her or inherit that smile though.
“Can’t you just kill one for us, man?” Allen said. “You could kill one now and save it for later. It’ll still be fresh. People are gonna order turkey tonight again.”
“He’s not gonna kill one for our amusement,” I said and shook my head.
“I wouldn’t kill one for your amusement, but I would kill one for your education, to teach you something . . . Why not? They’re going anyway.” He looked us over. “I think curiosity is a good thing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to see something like that. That’s really good that you boys want to see this.”
Allen saw his chance. “You’re right sir. In a huge way you’d be like a teacher, showing us an important part of life . . . death too, I guess. I think it would be good for us.”
The waiter really thought about what Allen said. His mother smiled at me and I wished it was my mom instead and that she was winking at me.
“Manny,” the waiter shouted. He was staring at the turkey pen just like my little brother was.
We waited. I was about to protest and Allen saw that I was going to say something and I knew the shit I would hear if I ruined this for him.
When Manny came out I was surprised to see he was a short, skinny man with two matching moles on both sides of his face. In my head, he was husky and very angry and had thick blue veins glowing out of his neck.
“What is it?” Manny said to the waiter.
“We got a turkey order.” The waiter nodded to Allen.
Manny nodded and walked to the pen and opened the latch.
“Wait, Manny. Slow it down…I’m leading a fucking class expedition here. I’m teaching these kids something, man, I really am. I want to walk them through the process of all this shit we do.”
Manny slowed down like he was a tool in the waiter’s pocketknife and said, “Teaching the kids? That’s good. I like that idea …Does that make me the teacher’s pet?”
The waiter shook his head. “Why would that make you the teacher’s pet? You’re more like a student, doing what he’s told to do.”
Manny nodded. He was hurt by this. I felt bad for him and I felt bad that in my head he was so big and angry but here in life, he was small and sad.
“Pick a turkey,” the waiter said to Allen.
Allen moved my kid brother to the side to get a nice picture. I wasn’t sure what he was looking for but it took him a long minute to find the turkey he wanted to watch die.
“Right there.” He pointed to a turkey pecking at the grass. Every ten seconds a ghost called his name and that turkey would look up.
“Manny, get that one turkey. Make sure it’s the one the kids want.” He slowly nodded to Allen like there was a song playing in his head.
I went back over to the window and saw our parents drinking their after dinner drinks and none of them paid me any attention. I thought about going back inside and sitting at the table. But really, there was some curiosity about watching that turkey get slaughtered. I kind of wanted to see it and I felt wrong but not as wrong as I thought I should. I walked back over to the pen and watched skinny Manny go up to the turkeys. They backed away and shouted at him. Manny was good though, he was quick and he took Allen’s turkey by the neck and cradled it in his arms. Allen and my kid brother watched on. This was a movie to them. I guess it was to me as well.
“Alright, let’s go kids,” said the waiter.
“Where?” I asked. I thought this would be quick and that he would just twist the bird’s neck there in the pen in front of his friends.
He pointed towards my tree and right near it was a small shack. I hadn’t noticed this shack before. It wasn’t bigger than nine feet or wider by twenty.
We walked. Manny first with the struggling bird, who really did have some handsome feathers, Allen second, my kid brother and I third, and the waiter behind us. We passed the restaurant window again and I didn’t want to look in just in case I made eye contact with them.
“Think of this as the school bus ride before the field trip,” our waiter said. He really had this notion he was our chaperone on a class trip.
Allen heard him and did the universal sign for getting a trucker to honk their horn. But this was no class trip and there were no truckers around.
We went into the shack that had cooking supplies and cans and shelves of bags of food bulk. There were a few different sinks and a few cutting tables. The place was filthy. As soon as you entered you noticed all the stray feathers. There were feathers everywhere. I felt like I was inside a pillow. Feathers flew around, others stuck to the wall and bloody ones on the floor. Shoeprints had walked over them and cemented them in.
Manny was getting angry at the bird who was trying to run away but Manny had a great grip on him and the bird was stuck there inside those skinny arms.
“Alright, put him on the table,” our waiter said.
“I hope I picked the right bird,” Allen said. I didn’t know what that meant but he said it and he was thinking about something.
“Hey Allen, do you think I can I hold your pet?” my little brother said. I thought of before when he had rubbed his stomach.
Allen didn’t say anything, but handed the rock over to him. My kid brother rubbed the rock, petting it like it was a real pet.
“So class,” the waiter said. “This is the storage room, as you look around you’ll notice we keep a large supply of food around. Over on the left wall we—”
“Get on with the bird, teacher,” Allen said.
“You want detention kid?” This guy would never be a teacher so I guess it was fun for him to roleplay. I was embarrassed for him though. He was an idiot.
My ears started to hurt, the turkey wailed away and the walls gave him an echo. A sad, pained echo.
“This here,” the waiter pointed to the table, “is where our feathered friends go to bed. And here we have their blankets and pillows.” He picked up a few different butcher knives and held them to our faces.
“Put him to bed,” Allen said. “It’s getting too late for him.”
The waiter nodded and took the bird from short Manny and laid the jerking bird onto the table. With one hand he held the bird by his head and with the other, his legs. Manny picked his knife and was just about to lean his arm back and bring it forward when Allen said, “Wait.”
I looked to my kid brother who was still petting the rock. My parents really ought to buy this kid a dog.
“What?” said the waiter.
“Let me do it,” said Allen. “Let me kill him.”
The waiter looked at him for a moment, still holding the bird down as it clucked away.
“Manny, give the kid the knife. I better get tipped good kid. Or what’s the point of teaching you anything.”
Manny did as he was told.
“Now kid, you have to chop at his neck in one strong motion. You’re going to hit that knife into his neck but not right in the middle, closer to his head.”
“And if you hit my hand, I will kill you. I swear to God. Manny won’t let you leave and I’ll do you like this bird here.”
Allen practiced his knifing motion. “I ain’t gonna hit you, stop being a pussy,” he said.
Allen stood in front of the squealing bird with a knife as long as his arm and stared at its neck.
“Patrick, look at me, I’m killing a bird. I’m gonna kill it, Patrick.” he started to chuckle. And then he brought down the knife.
I kept my eye on the bird the whole time.
“Goddamn it, kid!” said the waiter.
I thought Allen had hit the waiter’s hand but if you looked at the bird, you saw he was still alive, just that his neck had a line going through it and blood poured from it. The bird screamed and the walls joined him.
“You didn’t hit the fucker hard enough,” the waiter said. “You’re torturing it. Do it again!”
Allen got nervous and swung the knife at the bird’s neck again. And then he brought the knife down again and again. He brought it down about eight more times and our waiter was telling him to stop but Allen would not. The bird’s neck was definitely not attached to its body any longer. Anybody could’ve told Allen that.
“Manny, take the knife from this fucking lunatic.”
Like always, Manny did what he was told and grabbed Allen’s arm and took the knife from him.
We all let ourselves breathe again.
“What the fuck was that kid?”
“I wanted to make sure I killed it,” Allen said.
The waiter shook his head. “I think you had it dead on the second time.”
“I wanted to make sure.”
Manny took the dead bird and threw him in the sink. He started to rip its feathers out.
My kid brother watched all this, still petting that stupid wig wearing rock.
“Last time I ever let a kid kill a bird for me,” said the waiter.
We all walked outside again, in different order this time. It smelled so much better on the outside. I noticed Allen was holding a feather in his hand. He saw me looking and said, “Souvenir.” Then I noticed he had another stain on his shirt. This one was red. We passed the window and our parents were still sitting down. I thought I made eye contact with my mom but I don’t know if she winked at me since the sun glare was strong. Just in case, I winked back.
As we walked past the turkey pen, which now had only five turkeys, I remembered that Allen called me Patrick right before he killed the bird. The damn turkey went out of this world thinking my name was Patrick. I shook my head and turned towards my tree. I thought, one of these days that tree will come to me and when it does it’ll probably think my name is Patrick too. Maybe I will turn out to be that stranger Patrick who likes to climb trees and won’t want to see what else is new out there. Anything could happen. I was still young.
When we sat back at the table with our parents, my kid brother turned to me and said, “Allen killed Tommy, Allen.”
“What?” I said.
“I had a name for all of the turkeys. It was the world’s smallest turkey collection, I had to name them.”
“When we get back home, you can tell me all their names,” I said. And I pet his head like he had pet the rock.
Across the table Allen shook his head.
“What?” I asked him.
“I still don’t know if I picked the right one.”
I had no idea what he meant. But with Allen it probably didn’t mean anything.