The Night the Turkey Died
by Martina Robles Gallegos

Three silly siblings looked forward to Thanksgiving dinner.
The cook was their little sister, the one who could barely reach the      cupboards.
The older brother mostly rested, as he was battling cancer.
The other one works most holidays: holy cow! Yes. He works at a ranch.
The older one was a gardener turned preacher, but now his Bible
seems to have forgotten him.
Both brothers love to cook, but the younger one could be a chef.
But this birdie was all mine, and nobody was going to touch it.
The entire kitchen was off limits till mealtime. I work better alone.
I cook and clean and clean and clean, so by the time I’m finished
cooking, all the dishes are clean and out of sight.
I had the turkey cooking instructions on a piece of paper on the fridge,
and I kept reading and repeating them to make sure I got them right.
I always prep the day and night before, to make things easier the next      day.
On Thanksgiving Day, into the oven flies the bird, heavy little stinker!
I’d preheated the oven as per the instructions. I turned the temp down
after forty-five minutes.
I then reached for my new baster, but the bastard had disappeared.
Used teaspoons of broth to moisten my angry beast.
When it came time to turn the turkey over, nephew told me it was already
right side up. What good did reading the instructions do? I gave the bird
the stink eye and left it alone. Oops! Got my years mixed up!
When working brother gig home, he picked up the turkey tray
and poured some broth into a small container. Now I could give the bird
a well-deserved bath. After this, I’m going to need one, too.
Both brothers suddenly disappeared. I looked after the bird, for hours,
very long hours. I checked and poked and stuck the thermometer, in the      bird.
I needed a break and sat down to watch the tv, no fun. I went to take a
bath instead. Must’ve taken a bit too long because when I opened the      door,
I could smell something burning, but it smelled kind of meaty.
Doorbell rang, and I wobbled down the stairs as quick as I could walk.
The siblings were back, hungry. They noticed the funny not so funny      smell.
The younger one took the turkey out of the oven and onto the kitchen
table. “I think you over cooked it,” he said. I think it burned, “said I.”
I’m not going to blame myself.
The older brother came to carve the turkey. He confirmed the bird was      burned.
We scraped off the charcoal and ate what we could, but we mostly ate      dessert.
We didn’t sacrifice this turkey; we, er, I killed it!

Photo by Deborah Hudson.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When the incident of the burned turkey happened, I felt badly, but not for the turkey. I felt I’d disappointed my brothers and probably left them hungry. Fortunately for the siblings but not for the turkey, the incident became the joke of my family, and every year since then, every time we mention Thanksgiving or turkey, we burst out laughing. I no longer feel badly about it. Last time I prepared and cooked the turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner, it came out just right but still upside down, but nobody starved, and for that I’m thankful.

Author Photo

Martina Robles Gallegos was born and raised in Mexico and came to the United States at 14. She got a Master’s degree from Grand Canyon University after a near fatal hemorrhagic stroke. Her work has appeared in the Altadena Anthology: Poetry Review 2015, 2017, 2018, Hometown Pasadena, Spirit Fire Review, Poetry Super Highway, Vocal media, Silver Birch Press, Central Coast Poetry Shows, Basta! and, more recently, in the award-winning anthology, When the Virus Came Calling: COVID-19 Strikes America  (Golden Foothills Press, editor, Thelma T. Reyna).