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like a flying saucer that smells really good
november 30, 2002
We had a great Thanksgiving. It was just us, Mary and me and our nine cats.
We started the bird about ten o'clock in the morning, planning on a three o'clock eating.
We're always a little leery about whether or not our annual turkey will be ready on time, which relates entirely to one Thanksgiving when we were living in Burlingame, California in the early eighties. Our apartment was one half of a red and white duplex built above a garage. The other half was occupied by a biker and his girlfriend. We would hear their violent arguments through the walls. (When we finally moved out, because we could afford a better apartment, we took most of our stuff to the new place, came back to the Burlingame apartment for the rest, saw that the driveway was filled with bikers, the screen of the window next to our front door cut open with a knife. If we had arrived a few minutes later, they would have high-stepped by then through the window, stolen what we had left for the second trip.)
Anyway, on that particular Thanksgiving in Burlingame, we put a normal-looking turkey in our oven, set the timer, went back to listening to the radio, reading our books in bed. (We didn't have a TV back then. Whenever we cooked something in the microwave, which we hadn't put in the tiny kitchen, but instead on a straight-backed chair in the living room, which we otherwise never used, we'd pull chairs up in front of the microwave's window, watch the food thaw, bubble, our only visual entertainment.)
We timed the rest of our preparations for the Thanksgiving meal to match the projected "done" time for the turkey. When that time dinged, we had our potatoes hot and soft in an aluminum pot, yellow butter swirled within, peas and pearl onions perfect in a heavy cream sauce, homemade bread finished, stiff golden top giving off a hollow sound when tapped, relish tray set with cold celery stalks, jumbo green olives stuffed with red pimento, and green onions (they should be scallions, a more mature form of the sprout, with a bulbous end, and less heat, but for some reason, scallions aren't sold in California).
Oven-mitted, I pulled the heavy pan with the turkey out, set it across two black burners.
Mary cut into one of the legs. Pink fluids flowed. Not done.
We put it back in for another half hour. Still not done. Raised the temperature, waited an hour. Not even close to done.
I stuck my hand in the oven. It was definitely hot. Another hour. Not done.
By now, our side dishes had been covered with plastic wrap, put in the refrigerator. We were starving. We raised the oven to the highest temperature it could reach, 550 degrees, left the turkey inside for another two hours, not so much to finish cooking it at this point, but to punish it.
It never really got done. We wound up eating mostly reheated side dishes, a few slices of white meat cautiously carved from the outer sides of both breasts.
But our turkey this past Thursday was perfect, and on time.
Afterwards, we lay in bed, watching TV, fell asleep. I woke up about six. Mary was still fast under, little kittens curled in sleep between us.
I turned the TV on low, watched Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives. Mary woke up halfway through a repeat of Eddie Izzard's Dressed To Kill HBO comedy special. After that, we switched to Todd Solondz's Happiness. Halfway through it, around eleven at night, I thought, you know, it would be real nice to have a turkey sandwich about now, on Grandma's Bread, a really wonderful white bread sold at Whole Foods (a loaf of which was on our kitchen counter), a few pimentoed jumbo olives rolling around on the plate like flamboyantly gay eyes. "Do you want a turkey sandwich?" "No, thanks." I went out to the kitchen, made it, slathering on the mayonnaise, shaking out salt and black pepper, brought it back to bed, offered Mary a bite, which she took, then, after watching her watch me eat, handed her half the sandwich. The kittens, awake by now, delicately sniffed the air, trying to figure out where that wonderful smell was coming from, touching little black noses to each other beneath my plate, which at that point I had wisely hovered in my left hand a foot above their heads, like a flying saucer that smells really good.
What we see when we look under our sheets.