(Ed: It’s taken nearly a week but I have finally managed to retrieve this off my phone. It was actually written last Thursday! Stoopid technology.)
As the family sat down at the table, they were all acutely aware that this was not going to be the usual thanks giving. Mom had soldiered on with her characteristic blind-determination but the sheer fact that gramma’s ashes were in a vase at the empty setting at the table were disquieting enough, especially given that the place was set with dinner service. This was on top of all the other weird ‘stuff’. If the mental alarm bells ringing actually sounded, the cacophony would deafen all seated round the table for a substantial, if indefinite length of time. Mom came in humming, looking with a confident smile around the subdued dinner table.
My, aren’t we all down-in-the-mouths this evening. And on a holiday too.
No one really knew how to answer this so didn’t bother. Mom didn’t see to notice. She bustled out brandishing oven gloves and raining praises down on the cinnamon in the pumpkin pie. No one spoke. No one dared exchange eye-contact. Everyone was clearly thinking the same thing. Finally one of the collective looked up.
This is ridiculous. Quite honestly ridiculous. We should say something.
This was met with stony silence. The idea of pointing out the abnormalities of the day seemed somehow unthinkable. Even the weird ritual with the fire and the blue powder and the ritualistic killing of the chicken, while uncomfortable were surely excusable deviations from for someone who had just lost a beloved parent.
At this moment mom swung in the door with a massive platter of turkey surrounded by roast potatoes, gingered carrots, honeyde parsnips, followed by mashed sweet potatoes, zucchini hollowed out to look like crocodiles, cranberry sauce and sausage wrapped in bacon crammed in next to moist, sage-infused balls of stuffing.
The smells traveled through the room, to the twitching nostrils of every doubtful guest, lulling from their unease.
The youngest looked up hopefully. Mom smiled.
No, I don’t think that would be appropriate today.
I’ll carve then. Pass your plates.
Dad stood to wield the knife over the juicy, crackling turkey. Mom continued to smile. She placed her had gently but firmly on his arm.
No. We have one more guest to come.
Dad sat back down. The family sagged. Hunger tugged at their bellies, like an unkind child pulls at a puppy. The smells were at once beguiling, and repulsive, the turkey seemingly developing an earthy undertone akin to suppurating flesh. Everyone sat in silence. Waiting.
Then came the dragging and scratching from the hall. No one moved. Again. Drag. Scratch. Mom beamed.
There she is. Late as always.
Mom walked to the door.
Mom opened the door.
Gramma drag-scratched through the door. She drag-scratched her way to the table. Mom pulled out the empty chair behind the urn. Gramma oozed her way down onto the seat. The family watched in silence as gramma skewered a potato on a finger free of flesh and popped it into her gapping maw. She grinned with satisfaction as the family watched the potato slide down their gramma’s gullet through the holes in her throat.
Happy thanks giving, children.