Authors: Melanie Jackson
Death in a Turkey Town
Published by Brian Jackson at KDP
Version 1.2 – May, 2011
Copyright © 2010 by Melanie Jackson
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Cousin Althea and Dale Gordon were engaged. That just goes to show that God is always watching and willing to punish you for pranks and misdeeds. The fact that I have only myself to blame for this strange event is not comforting— but really! Who knew that two such self-absorbed people could actually meet on a blind date and then fall in love? And so quickly. I mean, in less than three weeks. The date had been a joke.
It is fair to say that I am romantically indecisive, however most people wouldn’t rush into marriage plans the way Althea and Dale are. At least, I don’t think they would. I’ll admit that my ex, the pustule David Cooper, had taught me caution and made me rather careful about making impulsive life plans. You would think Althea would have learned something from my misfortune, but no. She and Gordon were love-blind and acting wildly. Well, Gordon was love-blind. I think Althea had wedding madness.
Other than my cousin being a warthog about the wedding, which is hardly new behavior, the harvest season was progressing nicely. Things had gone from gold to red, the pumpkins which had escaped being made into jack-o-lanterns were turned into pies, and there were turkeys running wild all over town. The last thing was a new and unplanned ‘attraction’ and not to everyone’s liking. There had been an accident with a turkey truck that was bringing in a flock of turkeys—pretty bronze ones headed for Caesar’s turkey ranch on the far side of town that bred heirloom species. No one had been harmed when the truck slid off the road at the Hope Falls exit that rainy afternoon, but the wild turkeys, who were a shade less dim than their completely domestic counterparts, had seen their opportunity to escape and had taken it.
Jeffrey Little and I had been on turkey detail for two weeks now. Why rounding up stray turkeys fell to parking enforcement, I do not know. But then many strange things end up in our laps, like costumed public safety shows for children and tourists—same show for both— and organizing the Christmas choir. But ours is not to reason why, so we learned turkey tracking skills through trial and error and now kept dog crates with dishes of turkey mash in our electric carts as we made our rounds, and in between writing parking tickets, we coaxed wayward birds into the dog carriers and transported them out to Caesar Moreno’s farm. So far we had apprehended eleven birds. That left nineteen running loose. In theory. Though there is an ordinance against discharging firearms within the town limits, I had a strong suspicion that some of the recent ‘backfires’ had been from local hunters helping themselves to a free turkey dinner. And maybe from the postman who has been chased several times and threatened to start carrying some heat since his pepper spray didn’t seem to do anything except make him more attractive. At first we got some calls at the station about the noise, but people have gotten blasé.
Blue, my beloved Rottweiler, also rides with me on my rounds. Fortunately she loves turkeys—and I mean that in a philanthropic sense. You know—
and the greatest of these is love
. Not that she would turn down one that had been dressed, cooked and smothered in gravy, of course. She is a dog, not a saint. But she did not bark or chase the birds I was stalking, so I was sometimes able to coax the dumbest and hungriest birds into the carrier even with Blue there. Seven for me, four for Jeffrey. I think I was trying harder; Jeffrey wanted overtime pay for his efforts. Like Blue, I was doing it for philanthropic reasons.
And I had some help. Our local pumpkin thief, Jacky MacKay, now dissuaded from his criminal ways, was turning his attention to helping the lost birds. Jacky is what many local people call ‘simple’. What he may lack in powers of reasoning and speech has been compensated for in his ability to calm animals. Five of my turkeys had been lured into Jacky’s backyard by my young friend. Once somewhat confined, they were easier to herd—or whatever one does to turkeys. Jacky and I get on fine, in fact we are planning a joint pumpkin garden for next year. This harmony may be because, like Jacky, my brain often goes to places where public transit doesn’t run. Often I ‘know’ things that other people don’t, see things that other people don’t see. I call this gift of deduction Analytico because it sounds scientific. Basically, I put an idea on the scale in my brain and then weigh the probability, rejecting the unlikely in favor of other more reasonable possibilities. My paternal grandmother may have had this talent, too, only she had the dubious distinction of being thought a witch. My dad said she had ‘the sight’. I prefer to think that I am logically intuitive. There is nothing supernatural about what I do. It’s applied statistics, probability and memory.
It might have been better if my dad had gotten the gift of insight instead of me. It probably would have made him a better chief of police, or at least saved his job. Not that I don’t like the new chief, Randy Wallace. After a rocky start, we came to an understanding. He lets me sleuth unofficially and I tell him which football teams will win on the weekends. I suspect, but don’t know for sure, that he supplements his income with betting on the games.
Blue and I had just turned on Joy Street when I heard a voice—a shrieking, mind-ripping sound—calling to me from the house on the corner. I knew who it was and thought about trying to ignore her. But my cart only does four mph on the hill and she was likely to hunt me down on the rising slope, so I opted for dignity and stopped to see what Mitzi Gordon wanted.
Blue sighed heavily as I stopped and I wanted to as well. Mitzi Gordon had moved to town two weeks ago, supposedly to help her son plan his sudden wedding to my cousin (if you could call endless carping ‘helping’). She was a large part of why my cousin was being such a warthog to everyone else these days. Imagine getting engaged one week and having your future mother-in-law landed on you only days later and in a house only a block away. I had not believed that there was anything on the Earth or in Heaven above that could get me to feel sympathy for Lardhead Gordon—a nasty coworker who was incompetent and mean and hated my father and me—but Mitzi had changed my mind. It was genetic destiny, the sins of the father (well, mother) being visited on the children. Gordon probably couldn’t help being a thoughtless lardhead.
That day Mitzi was angry because A) my cousin had failed to return any of her dozen phone calls about the flowers she (Mitzi) had chosen for the wedding, B) Lardhead had failed to return any of her two dozen phone calls about said flowers—Dale Gordon is a terrible coward and only bullies the weak, which neither Mitzi nor Althea were and C) there was a turkey in her backyard and it was messing up the silk flowers she had spray painted gold and left out to dry (for the wedding—which was happening Christmas Eve and with poinsettias, not gold silk roses, and at the Episcopal Church rather than the Methodist one Mitzi liked—and this was okay with me because though I had history with the Episcopalians there had been a change in clergy and the new priest would not remember my brief but colorful attendance as a child).
I assured Mitzi that I A) could take away the turkey right that minute, B) would certainly tell Dale to call her—as soon as he was back from whatever vital law enforcement mission he was on (Dale mans the dispatch desk and only has missions to the break room but I saw no need to mention this) and C) that I would certainly tell Althea all about the gold silk roses when she got home from work. I might even enjoy that part. Althea had not only invited my slut cousin who slept with my ex, she made me sit through three readings of the draft of her wedding poem she had composed to read on HER day when she had a captive audience. She actually rhymed
. The best verse went:
Later by the falls we kissed
You stepped outside the car
Then closed your handcuffs on my wrist
And said "You’re mine, I must insist."
And perhaps I was also just a little bit miffed that my assigned job in the wedding, as near as I could tell, was to follow the Althea and Dale circus and scrape up any doo-doo left by the elephants—I mean the wedding party (like Mitzi). Or, better yet, to see if the elephant was having digestive problems and to take her away before anything embarrassing happened. This thankless job is called Maid of Honor. At least we were short on time and Althea wouldn’t be able to special order me any particularly hideous dresses she had been eyeballing in the magazines. I had to go with what the bridal shop had in my size. Which turned out to be a simple red sheath originally intended for a twelve year old flower girl who lost her job when her wedding was canceled.
The sparkling turkey had apparently had enough of Mitzi’s skin-ripping voice and was finished trampling the remains of the foxglove by the fence and happily got into the carrier when I opened the door and tossed some grain inside. I was glad that he wasn’t a heavy tom because I might have had trouble loading him into the cart. Since I was nearly off the clock anyway, I headed back to the station to drop off my official vehicle and pick up my car. Usually I ride a bike with a special side car for Blue, but since pulling turkey duty I had been bringing the car instead. It meant riding with the windows down because Blue gets carsick sometimes, but I dressed warmly for work and didn’t mind the fresh air. Turkeys kind of smell.
Caesar’s Turkey Ranch was a fantastic place to visit in spring, summer and fall, if you didn’t think too much about how all those fluffy white and old fashioned black turkeys roaming the green hills all summer were going to end up on the holiday dinner table in just a few more weeks or days (some got a short stay of execution until Christmas).
You might be astonished to learn that turkeys can be surprisingly friendly. The domestic ones are also terribly stupid which is why they would approach me even with Blue in tow, not that Blue doesn’t know her manners. I met a few of the old timers at the fence and obligingly scratched their chests and under their wings while they gobbled at me. Their population was down from my last visit when I had ordered my Thanksgiving bird and I suffered a pang of guilt.
Around us the wind whispered coldly and I noticed that all of the trees were bare. If I were a turkey, I would already be in my warm barn and not standing around in the cold waiting for visitors. But, as I said, they aren’t real bright.
I was the only caller that afternoon because people tended to order early and only return on the week before Thanksgiving, after the necessary bloody deeds were done. A word to the wise, a Caesar turkey costs more than anything you’ll get at the market, but it is worlds more flavorful and therefore very popular locally and with the few visitors who have discovered them while touring our town. The birds are raised on a firm vegetarian diet, certified organic and after the first few weeks living in a barn until they are too large for hawks to pick off (actually it’s a high-tech brooding facility that looks like a barn) they are allowed to roam the hills for the next six months while they develop their flavor. Caesar’s doesn’t have a website and won’t take phone orders, so if you want a turkey then you have to come in and select one. Not that they make you go out and hunt down your own turkey—too much guilt involved for most people— but you fill out a form stating weight and whether you want a tom or a hen, black or white and then make a down payment. You come back the week before Thanksgiving or Christmas and pick up your plucked and boxed bird which is tied up with a big red ribbon. The Morningside Inn gets a surprising amount of business from tourists who come for their Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys and make a small holiday of it.
It’s understandable why the exotic birds cost more, but the common white birds still run about seven dollars a pound and that made me gulp when I saw the total for my order. But Mr. Jackman was cooking dinner for me and I wanted him to have fun while doing it. I was also wanting to impress Alex. It was our first Thanksgiving together and he was braving his family’s wrath by leaving the Silicon Valley the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to come and spend the holiday with me—and my almost divorced parents, Mr. Jackman and Mrs. Graves (two friends from my writers group, The Lit Wits) and Alex’s maiden aunt, Mary Elizabeth (a Mary Kay saleswoman and from the enemy camp since my mom’s sister sells Avon. Mom’s sister, my Aunt Dorothy and her daughter, the un-beloved Althea, and Dale and his mom would be having their own Thanksgiving, so I didn’t have didn’t have to worry about cosmetic wars breaking out in my living room). Of course, Alex’s family, especially his sister—who could give warthog lessons to Althea—would never forgive me, but happily I had no plans to ever see them again. If Alex and I ever did get married, we were eloping to Las Vegas.