Once upon a time I wrote a series of future fairytales all about the holidays. I am still hoping these stories will grow up and one day become picture books.
Today’s story is all about Thanksgiving future, of course, and if it’s too much to digest in one sitting, I’m hopeful you will come back later for seconds. Thank you so much, dear readers for following me on this journey of words.
The Gospel Of Gabi
Once upon a cloudy November, there was a girl named Gabi who was tortured by Thanksgiving. It wasn’t the mashed potato bucket races, the canned cranberry toss or even the tug of loaf that filled her with dread. She laughed at the messy, spirited field day fun that was Thanksgiving, but the final event, the high-stakes wishbone tournament, always made her want to turn tail feathers and run.
The citizens of the capital spent Thanksgiving working a half-day and then rushing to the giant Gravy Bowl Stadium dressed in the colors of their favorite political family. They enthusiastically cheered on the Thanksgiving Day events, which served as entertainment for the President and his cabinet’s epic afternoon feast. Mountains of mashed potatoes perched next to a rainbow of roasted vegetables, glazed meats and, of course, a finale of homemade pies.
Meanwhile, the wealthy politicians donned their family colors topped with the latest hairstyles, making their way to the stadium in limousines to participate in the Thanksgiving competition that culminated in the horrible wishbone tourney.
Each family had to provide one dried out wishbone, and one child under the age of fifteen to represent their family’s honor in the competition. The stakes were high as the winner of this illustrious event was crowned the Lord or Lady of the Leftovers, ruling over all the Presidential feast’s uneaten food.
These coveted remains were all anyone could talk about leading up to Thanksgiving. Fans lucky enough to don the Lord or Lady of Leftovers family colors were generously bestowed leftovers, including delicacies long-since unattainable at the supermarkets. The public adored the wishbone champion, guaranteeing the winning family lots of admiration throughout the following year.
The political families held on to their ancestors’ superstitions about enhancing their luck in the wishbone tourney. Some preferred to stick their bone back in the oven set at a secret temperature. Others believed a special glaze would seal their luck. Gabi’s family, the Johnstons, refused to break tradition with their forefathers’ belief that a sunny windowsill would lead to victory. Each cloudy day brought the family more dread.
Gabi was cursed to be an only child and thus expected to participate in all the grueling events of Thanksgiving, including the awful finale. Since the age of two, she’d been slinging cranberry with dad, hauling handfuls of mashed potatoes with mom, only to let them both down in the end. She’d never made it past the first round of the wicked wishbone tournament.
This embarrassment made her family the fools of the Royal Leftover Court. The Johnstons spent every Thanksgiving, and the year that followed, singing and dancing for their political supporters.
They perfected jokes, as laughter was their sole gateway to gaining leftovers. They paraded in costumes of colorful offbeat stripes to get a taste of the presidential casseroles. Corny jokes often rained on them kernels of corn. Still, they were barely getting scraps of leftovers and licks of pudding for each quip.
Gabi shivered remembering the pumpkin pie that slid down her father’s face last Thanksgiving, the only taste of pumpkin he’d had in nine years.
Gabi caught her mother stitching her purple and yellow motley attire the day before Thanksgiving. Gabi watched as she mended a tear in the knee cap. She remembered tearing it when she clumsily dropped a fork while juggling last fall. The peals of laughter were also accompanied by sweet potato peels. The Johnstons gathered them to bake that winter.
“Finish the Feng Shui, Gabi? Mother continued stitching, but her mind was always on how to reverse the family’s bad luck.
“Yes, Mom.” I thought about our nickname, the Johnston Jesters, a joke that irritated mother most.
“Wash the windows?”
“Sparkling clear, Mom.” Gabi found it hard to fake enthusiasm for the old ways of bringing luck, since so far these practices had brought the family nothing but embarrassment.
“Weed the garden beds, too?” she turned and mended her expression with a backstitch smile.
“Not yet,” Gabi forced her mouth to somersault before heading to the yard. She caught her father’s upside-down grin as he practiced cartwheels on the turf.
“Come tumble, honey,” He was positively giddy while on his head. “Ready to blow your big moment again?”
“Not funny, Dad,” Gabi refused to be jolly about their bad luck, although her Dad reminded her that it was a blessing to be the family of fools. After all, it meant they were free from the gluttony of Thanksgiving, and also free to make fun of every other political family on the block.
“You might want to tumble without the shades, Dad. Couldn’t they break?”
Dad just shook his head and finished a backflip. He loved his diamond-shaped shades with the pumpkin tint and rarely removed them. It was as if they had permanently positively blinded him.
Together they trimmed weeds in the back garden exchanging quips for this year’s court, in case they needed a last-minute laugh.
“Whose career is wilting?” Dad asked with a grin.
“Must be Arthur Milton.” We both giggled at this one as the Miltons were notorious bad gardeners.
“Here’s some more, sweetie,” and he tucked a script of his latest quips for Gabi to reference if she got into a jester jam.
Thanksgiving morning cracked the sky, yellow mingling over egg white clouds through Gabi’s spotless window. She put on purple pants, velvet and fitting before adding the yellow silky blouse, patterned with peacocks, the family crest. The most insolent citizens of the capital would wear their crest today, mostly as a way to brand themselves as jokesters. Gabi separated her hair into two braided buns and looped the yellow pearls her grandmother had given her around her neck.
The ride to the Gravy Bowl felt flat. Her father fidgeted with spoons for his latest balancing act, while her mother practiced sleight of hand with salt and pepper shakers. Neither of them noticed Gabi, as she looked out at a white sky stretched out like dough that didn’t rise.
The stadium was already packed when the Johnstons arrived. Political families posed for photographs on the brown feather carpet leading into the arena.
Gabi spotted the Presidential Box, the feast table stretching out to accommodate the entire cabinet. They always paused their feasting for the President to rise and blow the bone whistle that signaled the Thanksgiving Tournament was officially underway. The cabinet used this occasion to judge the fitness of all the political families scrambling to win individual events.
Gabi and her father managed to squeeze out a fourth place in the cranberry toss. Gabi loved the jiggly cylinder of compote and enjoyed flinging it at her father, watching him scramble to catch as much of the gooey sauce as possible.
The Milton family took first place in that event, having mastered the art of cradling the cylinder in a secret family grip that preserved both shape and integrity.
Gabi’s performance in the mashed potato bucket race was much lumpier. Her mother kept ringing out every drop of mashed potatoes from their sweaters, and their buns, but they couldn’t manage to fill the bucket fast enough. The relay left them in eighth place overall, but with tiny morsels of spuds stuck in their jewelry and matching braids.
The final family event was the tug of bread. The Johnstons were known for tugging a good loaf, especially considering the small size of their family.
“It’s because we’re upper crust,” my dad reminded us as we entered the arena, and he squeezed us all together in a warm embrace.
After three rounds of tugging bread, gritting our teeth as we watched the loaves tear in our favor, we landed in third place for the overall event.
But all of this was an opening act for the wishbone finale. The young participants of the top eight families were ushered into a waiting room in preparation for the big event. Gabi heard a familiar jingle in her backpack; her mother had tucked her floppy eared jester cap in the pocket with a note that said, just in case. Last year, the jokes were expected to start instantly.
Finding the cap, she also discovered her father’s diamond-shaped shades, with another note that read, something to change the tinge of your day. His precious glasses were gold-rimmed and delicate. Gabi lifted them to her eyes but was shocked by what she discovered. The glasses magnified the faces of the crowd, gaunt with slightly sunken eyes. Their smiles awkwardly crowding out the rest of their faces. She saw in comparison the costumes of the politicians, glittering around plump bodies, fattened turkeys on Thanksgiving display. The referee reached in to pull out the names of the first-round contestants.
“Milton and Johnston. You’re up!” It was the worst possible pull, as Robbie Milton won seven Thanksgiving tourneys in the past nine years.
Through her shades, Gabi could see a cloud of yam-colored laughter coming from the other contestants. Her glasses illuminated something else, though. An orange trail of inclination moving from Robbie’s fingertips to the side of the wishbone he most desired. And since the Johnstons hadn’t won a pull-off in over nine years, Gabi was given the first go at picking a side.
She bet on her own bad luck and selected the side that Milton desired. Milton’s face dropped, but quickly recomposed. After all, it was Gabi, and everyone knew the Johnstons couldn’t pull the winning side of a wishbone.
“Contestants get your grips! On your mark, get set, let it rip,” and with that Gabi closed her eyes and tugged on the bone, not thinking, not looking, just pulling with all her might against whatever force was keeping her down.
“And the winner,” the referee looked stunned and had to spit out the last bit, “is Johnston.” A riotous applause was followed by a wave of laughter that simmered to bubbly murmurs as the audience began chewing the fat. How could Johnston go through? Good gravy, the Miltons are out!? Look how low they’ve sunk this year.
The second round, Gabi faced off against Petunia Thicket. Her face was permanently pinched, and her pecan eyes were slightly off centered. Gabi knew the Thickets were sharp and cunning. They were fine with not being first, but they would surely not be beaten by a Johnston.
“Gaudy glasses, Gabi,” Petunia spit out her gum the color of green beans which landed in the turf by Gabi’s feet. Then, Gabi saw the wishbone. Through her father’s shades, it had a yellow tinge. Gabi seized the side closest to her, ready to rip another bone apart.
“Contestants get your grips! On your mark, get set,” but Petunia didn’t follow rules, and before the ref could say, let it rip, she yanked on her side of the wishbone causing a premature break.
Gabi couldn’t bear to look at the bone shard remaining in her hand, but then the ref raised her other hand into the air, announcing, “and the winner is Johnston!” This time the crowd’s roar of applause superseded any laughter. Gabi viewed the thin limbs of the spectators scrambling to find purple and yellow cups, trash, anything that might let them switch their allegiance last minute and secure some of the leftovers from the Presidential feast.
“That’s not fair! Petunia was in the face of the ref. “Mine’s bigger!”
The ref covered the mic. “If you don’t want the entire Gravy Bowl booing your family name from now until eternity, I suggest you leave.”
Petunia put on a wobbly jello smile, waving with a closed hand as she backed away from the podium. Gabi could see pumpkin-colored steam follow her out of the arena.
The final round was always delayed by heavy advertising from all quadrants of the city. The crowd, crazy in anticipation of an upset, rattled empty pots and pans over the video feed.
The last families standing were Johnston and Baird, two families that rarely had the luck and skill to make it past the first round of the pull.
Gabi eyed Benny, the youngest of four sons of the Bairds. His presence in the wishbone pull-off revealed desperation. The Bairds were putting all their eggs in their youngest basket.
Gabi didn’t have the advantage of getting the first pick on this wishbone. Her recent wins meant a huge oven range was on her back. Gabi saw a trail, as Benny preferred her side of the bone, but instead, hesitated, gripping his side with a grin. Was he throwing the contest?
Benny’s smile was serene as the announcer took over. “Contestants get your grips! On your mark, get set, let it rip,” but Benny didn’t tug, he stood still. Gabi did, too. All the people of the capital were on the edge of their seats, watching screens, wanting to see a winner. And here were two eleven-year-old kids, holding a wobbly turkey bone, unwilling to pull the flimsy thing apart.
Gabi realized what they both really wanted to break, once and for all, was this ridiculous tradition from the past.
Gabi seized the mic from the ref. “We’re done breaking wishbones and fighting over scraps. Why are we playing with food instead of sharing it? Look around. Look at all this waste. Each Thanksgiving, it is all of us who are the fools.” She took out her jester cap, bells tinkling, and placed it on her head.
It was an unprecedented Thanksgiving that year. By decree of the Lord and Lady of Leftovers, all of the politicians of the capital, including the President and his cabinet, donned their jester caps and costumes and embarked on a quest to discover the fool within themselves. They spent the afternoon telling jokes, entertaining, and portioning leftovers into recyclable take-away packaging that was then personally handed out to each citizen attending the festivities.
Gabi’s speech became gospel. Thanksgiving was forever changed. No longer would it be a holiday of gluttony and glory, but a day of giving and sharing. A day when all citizens could be equals, as sovereign fools.
© 2022 | K.Hartless