Congratulations to this year's Prize Turkey, Silas Bischoff !
TurkeyTime 2022 Prompts:
Shtories may be any genre, but must incorporate each of the following:
Location: A SHIP
Character: A GRANDPARENT
Object: A DINING TABLE
Read Silas's winning shtory—plus shtories by first runner-up Bill Diamond and second runner-up Morgana Kate Wilson—below!
A FEAST FOR SAINTS
By Silas Bischoff
I will uphold the tradition of Thanksgiving until I die, but I shall forever shudder with the utmost disgust in doing so. None but the staunchest of heart would I advise to read further, for the knowledge I am about to impart almost broke me where a hundred British muskets failed.
It is the year of our Lord 1780 and I am James Nathaniel Wilson, formerly Sergeant Wilson of the 26th Continental Regiment. I was born to Evelyn Wilson, a fisherman’s wife, who died in childbirth. My father was a God-fearing man who raised me in righteousness, honoring the devout traditions of the Plymouth Pilgrims, from whom we descend. Whaling in Nantucket, I amassed a modest fortune before joining General Washington’s patriotic cause, and today I am thankful for the freedom won in our fight. Would you believe that our very own John Hancock was just sworn in as the first Governor of Massachusetts? No longer are we the Royal Brute’s colony, and thanks were surely due to be given, had not that notion been so utterly tainted. As I sit here in my study, while my unwittingly complicit wife prepares the festive turkey dinner for me and our two beautiful girls, God bless them, I can not bear to hold it in any longer.
It began three days before May 19, when my actions would darken the sky over New England. My father had recently passed, and I combed through his legacies, sorting into different boxes what I intended to keep and what to donate to the parish. An ancient, dust-covered table in the attic caught my attention, for on it were crude carvings of shockingly pagan design. It baffled me that my father would tolerate such an idolatrous item under his roof. It was not until I saw the only symbols on it I could read that I understood. “To Evelyn” was inscribed on a corner in lavish lettering. A gnawing worry was already worming its way into my heart then, forbidding me to part with this haunting piece of furniture. I was tempted by the prospect of learning about my ancestry.
I spent that night at my late father’s house, and in my dreams I attended a most unholy feast. Wicked faces around that table dug into flesh that looked distressingly like human parts. From the far end, a seductively beautiful woman stared at me out of age-old eyes. Her allure at once felt sinful, for I could feel our kinship.
On the field of battle, your comrades might come to owe you a friendship that makes you entrust them with matters you would not even disclose to the Lord himself. Thus Henry Clark of the Salem Archives provided me with a ledger full of secret interrogation transcripts from the infamous witch trials. Instead of traces of my grandmother, however, I found ample material for my subsequent obsessive research on the purpose of the strange symbols on my heirloom table. And at 10 a.m. on Friday the 19th, in an inexplicable rapture, I slit the neck of a fattened goose over the tabletop, while reciting a heathen liturgy. The grain of the wood blurred before my eyes, conjuring up the image of a gathering in the gloom of a ship’s hull. It mesmerized me, drew me in, and I fell through the tabletop, finding myself on a dark, dismal, freezing lower deck.
The congregation into whose midst I stumbled gasped with what breath they had left in their starved, sickness-stricken bodies. But one eyed me with fearless suspicion, a dark-haired girl who immediately noticed the book I held in my hands.
“Hand it over, boy, if you ever wish to return home,” she demanded.
My consternation matched that of my unexpectant company, so I let go of the book without complaint.
Leafing through it, she murmured of a demon this ledger allowed her to summon to save these ill-fated settlers. It dawned on me that by sorcerous means I had wound up amidst my forefathers.
“Witch!” spat an elderly man, “heretic!”
“I will not be lectured on heresy,” she retorted, “by one who fancies himself a saint.”
A desperate youth crawled toward her, croaking: “But what of paradise?”
“If God is a shepherd,” she answered, “then paradise is his pasture, and I for one am no livestock to be herded.”
And I saw clearly that she spoke the truth. Rather than the Lord’s sheep, she was a wolf that prowled, a mistress of her own destiny. She was my grandmother. And then I saw her practice her craft, a hellspawn bride, dancing until the demon took hold of her.
“Eat!” an inhuman voice rang out from within her, “debauch yourselves!”
And the haggard body of the youth that had groveled before her burst open, an abundance of crops and fruit sprouting from his entrails.
“You shall have rich harvests,” the demon purred, “for as long as you give thanks to me each year, indulging in gluttony.”
Her yellow eyes were that of the devil, as she added: “And your descendants shall remember to give thanks for all eternity, fattening themselves each harvest moon, lest I devour their children whole, skin and bone and soul and all.”
I could not resist the unnatural urge to join the others in their gorging, hunching over the boy’s ruined corpse. From the corner of my eye I saw “Mayflower” written on a crate. After the feeding, while I was still in a dazed state of ghoulish revelry, the witch thanked me for fulfilling the destiny this book from Salem would enable her to plot for me over the coming 178 years.
At last, the lamentations of distraught townsfolk woke me from this madness, as I writhed on the attic’s familiar floorboards. I know now that this house lay at the center of the mysterious darkness that befell New England that day. Never did I find that abominable book again that I had carried across the boundaries of space and time.
SHIPPING OUT FOR THE LONG RIDE
By Bill Diamond
It was a rare clear night on Puget Sound. The stars shimmered especially bright in the crisp Fall air.
Jason wore his Space Corp uniform. In a few days, he would lift into space and board the interstellar warship taking him the immense distance to the battle zone. He sat next to his son on the deck of the family vacation home overlooking the water. He hugged the five year old to keep him warm, and smelled his hair to imprint the memory. Pointing to the dark sky, he said, “That’s where Daddy’s going, Moses.”
“That’s far away.”
Wistfully, “Yes, it is. But, you’ll always be able to look up and know I’m thinking of you. Remember, love crosses time and space.” Jason lingered to let the ephemeral moment stretch to the infinite. Then, “Let’s go in and have that great Thanksgiving dinner Mom and Grandma are cooking.”
His grandfather built the house. Jason and his siblings had helped his father expand it to accommodate vacations for the growing family. Today, it was crowded with the holiday warmth of family, and the melancholy of his sendoff goodbye.
The traditional dinner bounty stuffed their bodies and the bonhomie filled their souls.
When it wound down, Jason drew Moses close and said, “I grew up around this table. You will too.”
He took out his pocket knife and carved deep into the hard wood, “Daddy loves you.”
His wife, Alice, sniffled and put her fist to her mouth.
Moses saw tears in his Grandmother’s eyes, “Grandma is crying because you’re hurting her table.”
Jason smiled and whispered, “She’ll let it go just this once.” Then, tapping the fresh cut, “When you see this, think of me.”
He stood and hugged Alice. She said, “We barely had time together.”
“It’s given me boundless joy.”
Moses and the rest of the family joined in the embrace to physically transfer love and strength and hope.
When they broke, Jason said, “Time for Dad to put you to bed, Champ.”
Sitting on the bed, he kissed his son’s forehead.
“I don’t want you to go, Dad.”
“I don’t want to leave. But, Sol needs my skills. Even so, the only reason I’m going is I hope it will let you grow.”
He removed his knife from his pocket. “I want you to have this.” It seemed a tiny thing in exchange for a lifetime without a father.
Moses held his first knife with a look of awe.
“You’re old enough now. It was my father’s. It’s engraved with the family motto.”
Looking at the etched words, Moses asked, “What’s a motto?”
“It’s a saying that helps guide your life.” Jason tapped his son’s Spider-Man pajamas. “It’s like when Spidey says, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’”
Pointing at the words on the blade. “It says, ‘Do the best you can with what you have.’ It means no matter what happens, be positive and work hard.”
At the Spaceport, Jason joined the other young women and men as they shuttled into orbit.
Earth’s exploration of the Milky Way had gone smoothly. Until it hadn’t. The first encounter with another spacefaring species started with tentative attempts at communication and diplomacy. That collapsed into hostility with both sides blaming the other. Sol ships were designed for science, exploration and colonization, not warfare. The Arcons obliterated nascent Sol colonies and pushed the battle frontier toward Sol.
Now, Jason and his colleagues were rushing to stem the tide. They boarded the ship, Odysseus. Even traveling at near light speed, it would take years to reach the combat front. Before entering the suspended animation of cryosleep, he blew a kiss to the blue pearl of Earth.
The Odysseus started as a barracks. It enclosed, protected and nurtured it’s residents. In its isolation, it became a new world. The crew formed a substitute family. By warping space and collapsing time, it disconnected them from their previous lives, while binding the travelers together in a unique time dimension.
The war was fierce, deadly, and touch and go. The combatants battled across star systems. It dragged on for years.
When Jason approached despair, he fingered his small mementos from home and thought of Alice and Moses.
The war culminated in a stalemated siege of the Arcon’s home system. Sol prevailed through a tactical ruse, more than strength.
When victory was achieved, the Odysseus was, like Jason, an injured and battle-scarred survivor. It limped home. Jason welcomed the preserving embrace of the cryosleep.
On reaching Earth, Jason, now a war veteran in his mid-thirties, had a homecoming with descendants he had never met. It was a celebration that could only happen because of the space travel anomalies of cryosleep and time compression.
He was picked up by his grandson, Moses, Junior who was slightly older than Jason. On the awkward trip to the family vacation home, they worked to connect and overcome the contradictions of their different lives.
The first stop was the cemetery. Jason left flowers at the gravestones of his long dead wife, and Moses, who had passed four years earlier. His eyes moistened when he saw the family motto engraved on his son’s tombstone.
The family gathered for a dinner of thanksgiving. Jason said, “You saved the table.”
Moses, Jr replied, “Grandma Alice made us promise it would always be here.”
He sat next to his eight year old great-grandson, Moses III. The boy proudly showed him the heirloom knife his father had given him.
Jason fingered the worn table that spoke of all he had missed. But, also, all those he had helped exist.
Moses III lifted the table cloth and said, “Look at this.”
Jason’s words ‘Daddy loves you’ were still there. Carved next to them in time-aged letters were the words, “I love you, too, Dad. Thank you for your sacrifice. Moses.”
By Morgana Kate Watson
I don’t think he meant for the view for to be of a dartboard on a garage wall.
I stand on the bow of the half built ship. Okay, fine, it wasn’t a ship. It was a boat, yes, but a far cry from a ship. But my grandfather always called it “The Ship” when he wasn’t calling it “The damn giant paperweight”, so it was a ship as far as I was concerned. Anyone who challenged me on this could go stick themselves in a whiskey bottle.
Perhaps I should explain what I’m doing on a land-bound undersized water vessel.
About twenty years ago, after my grandmother died, my grandfather insisted on hosting Thanksgiving. My family was confused; he had never shown any interest in any kind of culinary endeavor. But the man’s wife had died several months earlier and my grownups figured he was lonely. He probably just wanted to make sure he was with his family on this holiday, they said. So they went along with it.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a plume of smoke flowing from the kitchen. “The damn thing burned.” He said, awfully nonchalantly. “I ordered Chinese.”
So the old man couldn’t cook after all and we would be eating General Tso’s for Thanksgiving. Once the grown ups were convinced that none of us were in imminent danger, they decided there were worse ways to spend Thanksgiving. After all, Grandpa didn’t even seem to mind that had just nearly burned the house down.
And then we saw it. In the dining room, where once had stood a worn down rickety table, was a beautiful oak piece of art. Everything clicked. Without Grandma, Grandpa had channeled his grief into woodworking. It didn’t matter that he has essentially cremated the turkey; he just wanted to have his family eat together at the table he had made. A creation borne from grief.
Woodworking breathed new life into Grandpa. Over the next couple of years, he made himself chairs to go with the table, two nightstands, and a vanity which ultimately went to my mom. But when the novelty of furniture wore off, Grandpa decided to go for his white whale. Like Captain Ahab, he became obsessed. A boat is not a table, after all.
As I got older, he would let me help him build the ship. As a kid, I would hold his tools for him. As a preteen, he let me hold the planks as he drilled or hammered. And as a teen, he actually taught me how to lay the planks and build with him.
The work wasn’t easy. Twice, he dismantled the structure to start again after finding mistakes he couldn’t fix. Still, the hours we spent working on the ship were some of the best I’ve had. Grandpa knew every bit of schoolyard gossip and never told me to get over my teenaged angst. Even after I went to college, I came home whenever I could to help him build.
So here I am, on the morning of another Thanksgiving on the half-built boat. We lost Grandpa last month. He broke his ankle while taking a walk and then everything just seemed to go downhill from there. No one has gone through the house yet, but I know that the boat will be one of the first things to be disposed of. We’re eating at Uncle Brian’s this year, but I couldn’t go before coming here and standing on this beautiful work of art that he never got to finish.
When he finished it, would it ever have been seaworthy? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the view of the dartboard was not what he had intended for the final product.
And then it hits me. And it was so obvious so – simple.
It was never about finishing the boat. Every time he found something “Wrong” with the boat, he was close to finishing it. He took it apart to start again so he could spend more time with me.
I start to choke up. This was so unbelievably on brand for him that I couldn’t believe that I didn’t think of it before.
The view was supposed to be of the dartboard. He never had any intention of letting it be anything else.