Here is a short story I recently wrote for a class of mine. Be warned, it is a bit dark. I hope you enjoy!
It was Thanksgiving Day, and I was yet to figure out what I was thankful for. Yet as I was preparing the dinner, I couldn’t help but consider what it might be. Momma had always been adamant about me choosing something I was thankful for, for ‘tradition’s sake’. Well, it was more like she was hoping I would say, ‘You Momma’, or ‘little Suzie’s love’ or something sappy and cutesy to fuel her idea of how perfect our family is. I used to tell her what I was really thankful for, things like the fall breeze or my friend’s cookies. Momma didn’t like it when I said things like that. In fact, she hated it.
A few years ago I discovered that if I could smile wide enough when I told her what I’m thankful for, she would believe me, and instead of taking me outside later that night for a quick lesson in being thankful, she would give me a pat on the head.
But she figured my act out last year when I repeated ‘your lovely cooking’ one time too many. That’s why I’m here now, preparing the meal like a good daughter. This would be my way of saying thank you this year. As long as I paired it with the perfect line, Momma shouldn’t need to take me outside this year.
So I began my meal. First I pulled out the ingredients, taking out all I need. The turkey of course is a given, then the cranberries and the stuffing, the potatoes and the seasoning. Next I brought out the bowls, mallet, and the carving knife. Momma told me that the meal must be perfectly tender for little Suzie because she hates anything that’s too tough. So she bought me a small slab of turkey meat and special potatoes for the casserole that I can beat impeccably, just for Suzie. Readying the mallet, I began preparing the meal to perfection.
God forbid if Suzie got anything less.
Maybe that’s what I can be thankful for this year. ‘My darling sister’ isn’t a line that I’ve used recently, mostly because I can barely bring myself to say it, but also because it’s hard for me to find a reason to say it. Suzie has never been, what’s the word, kind. Since the day she was born, she’s caused me nothing but pain. Yes, at first all I felt was the typical sort of newfound sibling rivalry, but it grew into more than that. Momma who used to love me more than anything, turned her gaze completely away from me and to the new little baby.
The meat began to ooze a light red juice with my next whack of the mallet.
It started with little things like arriving late to pick me up from school or not giving me a lunch. Then it warped into something much more, like forgetting to look for me during a game of hide and seek, or leaving me behind when she went out for weekend trips. And like the snap of my fingers, it felt like she had forgotten about me for good.
And it's not like this is my fault alone either. Suzie herself noticed our Momma’s admiration and made sure to use it to its full ability. I could remember one day in particular when Suzie was seven years old- far past the age of being the family’s ‘little darling baby girl’- when she wanted a bite of my sandwich. I promptly told her no because it was the first thing I’ve eaten all day, which only infuriated her more. So I left the room to get some peace and quiet outside. The quiet was soon interrupted.
“Hey Anna May, whatcha doin’,” Momma asked me, appearing from the back gate, the only exit from the yard. She wore her signature blue stained sweater and her jeans were riddled with new little burn holes. She had been smoking.
“Nothin Momma,” I replied, “just eating my sandwich.”
“Really Anna May? Cause Suzie tells me otherwise.”
The adrenaline I usually felt before Momma ‘teaches me’ shot through me, and I began to rise.
“What’d she say Momma?” I tried my best to move my thin brown hair away from my eyes to appear as innocent as possible.
“She’s been tellin’ me that you stole her sandwich,” her small eyes turn beady and dark and she quickly snatches my sandwich away, ripping it from my hands and tossing it to the ground a few feet away.
“What did I tell you about stealin’ other people’s food?” She raised her hand with practiced ease.
Suzie ate well that day. Momma bought her all the ice cream and chocolate bars she could ever ask for. Me, well I didn’t eat a single thing for days until Momma forgot about the incident.
Maybe I should think of something else to be thankful for. Perhaps if I find something easier to think up, the lie would be more believable.
I set down my tenderizing mallet, its shiny metal dulled by the juices of the meat, and I get to my next task at hand: preparing the cranberry sauce.
The art of preparing cranberry sauce is one that requires little work, in fact all you really need for the whole thing is some frozen berries and a sauce pan. Once you put a bit of flavoring in ‘em, all you have to do is watch until they start to burst. Simple and quick, the perfect recipe because they require the minimum amount of effort. Just like my father who put the minimum effort in me.
My father had never really cared much about me. Since I was born, all he ever seemed excited to do was hang out at my gran’s house which was just down the street. He was the ultimate momma’s boy. He was always there, especially cause in his head it excused him from having to be a father. I saw so little of him when I was young that ‘my father’ was all I could even describe him by. Even my earliest memories contained little trace of him.
He was more of a ghost than a father.
It didn’t get any better when Suzie was born either. In fact, about a year after she was born, gran died which put father into a year-long funk. He drank almost everyday, barely showered and would only eat a steady diet of cheeseburgers and cupcake sprinkles. Strangely enough, it was the most I had ever seen of him. Hell, he protected me from Momma’s ‘educational opportunities’ a couple times. I was ecstatic.
But he got over it. He cleaned himself, went to the gym, stopped drinking, and he even ate a vegetable or two. Momma was proud of him. But I saw the truth behind it. Father would disappear on work trips that came out of the blue. He would buy presents for people, but he wouldn’t tell us what it was or who it was for. He would come home a few hours late smellin’ like perfume. Momma was just happy that he was home and was helping care for Suzie. She was proud that Suzie fixed their relationship.
Momma couldn’t see that Suzie ruined it.
A few months after he emerged from his funk, I confronted him. I was only ten years old at this time but when I approached him I felt like I had all the power in the world backing me up.
“Father?” I asked, my hands forming fists by my side so I could appear forceful.
“Yes darling?” he looked up for him task, a short letter that was handwritten in his curvy scrawl.
“You gotta stop.”
“Stop what honey?”
“You know what.”
He rose from his seat at the table and grew to his full height, quickly dwarfing me.
“Did you tell Momma about this?”
He laughed and shook his head at my words. “If only you’d come to me first, this would’ve turned out a lot better for you honey,” he sat back down, and continued to work on his letter.
That night Momma spoke to me in the backyard. She taught me why it was bad to spread lies about things I had no business talking about.
Father never really talked much to me after that. In fact, all he really seemed to care about was bringing little Suzie toys, as it pleased Momma.
The cranberries in the saucepan burst, spraying a bit of dark red juice onto my face. I took the sauce of the heat and mixed it a bit before I stuck them into the refrigerator to cool down.
Maybe talking about Father wasn’t the best route to take. Maybe I should just stick with thanking Momma. That was what I was planning to do last year when I told her I was thankful for her cooking. Little did I know she actually store-bought the meal that year, causing her to assign me to cook this year’s meal.
But what could I thank her for? As I put the turkey into the oven and begin preparing the stuffing, I considered this.
When I was younger, she was all a girl could ask for. She would play with me, cook for me, and she even took me wherever I wanted. But now the only one getting that sort of treatment is Suzie. I understood when I was younger that babies needed a lot more care than older children. But what Momma couldn’t get her head around was that older children still needed care.
Older children still need food to eat, they still have places to go. Older children still need a hug once in a while. They still need hope for when they’re scared.
Now the only support I get is her voice, as she screams at me to act on her every whim. Or her rough hands when she educates me.
Has Suzie ever met that side of Momma?
I still remember the first day that little Suzie came home.
It was a warm summer’s day and Momma had just come back from the hospital which was a two hour drive from our neighborhood. Her and Father had been staying at the hospital for the past three days, enjoying the love of their new baby. They had forgotten me at home as I was taking a nap when they left.
I told Momma such when she first walked through the door.
“Momma, where have you been?” I asked her.
“At the hospital. Where else would I have gone?” her voice seemed sharp, almost angry with my question.
“Oh. Sorry Momma,” I said. I remember peering at the small bundle in her hands and asking if that was the baby.
“Course it is. And she’s not ‘the baby’. Her name’s Suzanna.”
“Oh,” I replied right as my stomach let out a roar of hunger for not having eaten for three days.
“What’s your stomach doin’ that for? We feed you plenty, don’t we?” She asked me, seeming annoyed with my presence.
“I haven’t eaten Momma.”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head like she was scorning me for being so stupid. Seeing this reaction, I began to cry, both from my hunger and the fact that I haven’t seen my dear Momma for three days.
“Oh, it’s alright baby,” she tapped my head as her tone turned caring. “Sorry I left you here, that won’t ever happen again. Just cause we got a new baby, doesn’t meant that I wouldn’t stop lovin’ my old one.”
Just then, the baby began to cry so Momma got up and bounced the baby in her arms as she sung a quiet lullaby. It was the song she used to sing to me every day before bed, the one thing that was sure to calm me down. So I reached out to her to give her to give her a hug but right as I did so, Father called from the kitchen for help. Momma quickly ran off to help him, bringing the baby with her. I fell onto my knees as the space my arms were about to wrap around became empty.
She never sung that song to me again.
With the stuffing now ready and the oven beeping, I began to bring the food to the table. Soon my spread brought color to the table with the orange and white of the sweet potato casserole, the dark red cranberry sauce, and the golden brown of the turkey. With everyone’s plates seat before me, I carved up the turkey to everyone’s preference. Suzie got the tenderized bit I beat to perfection. Father got the thighs as he always considered himself the one who supported the household. Momma got the wings as she was the one who cradled us. For her, I carved gently around the bone and stacked the meat perfectly. She hated when she tasted bone. For me, I gave myself the breast as it supported the heart. I find the wishbone there which I split alone, before anyone came.
I know that’s not how it works, but I needed help. And it worked because now I know what I was thankful for.
Dinner was now ready.
I take my seat at one end of the table and call my family over. Thumping footsteps sound around the house, slowly coming over to see the meal I’ve prepared. From the corner of my eye, I notice crisp fall leaves floating in from an open door that must have been carelessly left open by someone. They take their final rest on the wooden floor, casting scarlet shadows in the darkness.
Suzie is the first to arrive, followed by Father and Momma. They take their seats around me and sigh deeply at the delicious spread. Momma’s glazed over eyes examines the feast I have so dutifully prepared, basking in my efforts.
“What are you thankful for?” she seems to ask.
“I’m thankful for my family.”
The morning air had a certain crispness to it as Mr. Jarson went out to get his morning paper. It was two days after Thanksgiving so that was to be expected, as the town was entering winter. Still, something seemed off that morning.
“Did you get the paper honey?” Mrs. Jarson shouted from inside the house where she drunk her coffee.
“Oh course,” Mr. Jarson said as he stepped back inside. Already his hands seemed to thaw out from the frosty chill that was outside.
Walking over to the small kitchen table the couple shared, Mr. Jarson removed the paper from the thin plastic bag it was in and placed it onto the table. Taking another sip of her coffee, Mrs. Jarson flattened the paper and began to read out the headline article, as her husband threw away the plastic.
“Thanksgiving Triple Murder Committed by Local Girl,” she read from the paper. A shudder ran down her spine as her husband reappeared with a concerned look on his face.
“Local police were called to the Miller home this past Thursday, when calls about strange noises were reported.” Mrs. Jarson took a short breath before she continued. “The bodies of local preschool teacher Bonnie Miller and plumber Gavin Miller were found at the scene, along with their seven year old daughter Suzanna. The bodies appeared to be heavily mutilated and beaten with what appeared to be a metal mallet. The were found assembled around a dinner table with plates of their own entrails set before them.”
Mrs. Jarson paused for a second, looking up at her husband with a look of horror on her face. “The Miller’s live down the street from us,” she mumbled. Mr. Jarson put his hand on her shoulder, and drew her in for a small hug.
“Lived,” he replied.
Here is the link to like or read it on Wattpad: