Thursday, December 23, 2004

Below is my entry for the funniest true Christmas Story contest at work...would you believe that I did not win?!?

The Turkey that Never Was

When I was little, we had a German Shepard named Nicki. We had originally gotten him for a guard dog, but made one critical error in our selection process.

We had arrived at the breeders just before feeding time. All the puppies were crowded at the fence, licking the fingers my brother and sister and I stuck through the fence and wagging their tails furiously. The cacophony of barking and whining was music to our ears. However, as soon as the breeder’s assistant brought out the puppy chow, all but one abandoned us faster than a speeding bullet. Shortly all you could hear was the sound of metal bowls being scooted around the concrete sidewalk as the puppies fought each other over the food.

All but one. Nicki stayed behind to play with us, and so the three of us begged our parents to choose him. Needless to say his propensity for friendliness precluded him from ever being an adequate guard dog.

However, he did feel we owed him for that missed meal for the rest of his life.

For a while, we added milk and eggs to each of his meals so make them tastier. After all, as children we thought his food was pretty disgusting. We also fed him 12 cups of food a day. But then at his second year check-up, the vet was alarmed by how overweight he was and gave us a stern lecture about the problems German Shepherds have with their hips.

Poor Nicki was immediately put on a diet that did not include a-milk-and-eggs broth over his food and cut his intake from 12 cups to 4. Each morning and evening when we put out his food, he would quickly inhale the meager amount allotted to him and then scoot his bowl around the patio in the hopes we might take pity on him and give him more food.

All in all he was a well behaved, if a bit too friendly to strangers, dog. Until the Christmas I was 14.

My mother’s boss surprised her with a smoked turkey on December 23rd. We only had one refrigerator with a small freezer, so we did not know what to do with the turkey my stepfather had already purchased. Finally, it was his suggestion that we move the raw turkey outside, convincing my mother that it would be safe given that the temperature was hovering around freezing.

After he placed it on the center of our glass-topped, outdoor table, my stepfather spent quite a bit of time pushing the chairs closely against the table as a barrier to Nicki. When he was satisfied with the arrangement, he stood back and observed our dog for a bit. Nicki showed no real interest in the turkey, so my stepfather finally came back inside.

Over the next two days, he periodically checked on the turkey, but found no evidence that Nicki even knew it was there. Christmas Eve, he even crowed at dinner over his brilliant solution, once again pointing out that none of us thought as creatively as he often did.

The smoked turkey was a great treat and we were all stuffed after the Christmas meal. Nobody thought about the turkey outside because it had already been there two days. With all the containers for the leftovers, we still did not have enough room in the refrigerator and my parents were not in the mood to cook a turkey after preparing all the trimmings for our sumptuous meal.

The next morning, I saw Nickie lying in the corner of the yard when I put out his food, but thought nothing of it. At breakfast, my brother commented that we hadn’t yet heard Nicki scooting his bowl about, so my stepfather went to check on him after we were finished.

We were all surprised at the expletives that filled the morning air next (that was the one and only time my step-father ever cursed). We raced outside to see what was wrong and found him waving a bit of plastic about Nicki’s head.

Nicki was ignoring him, lying on his side in the sunshine.

When we grew closer, we saw our dog’s distended stomach. He looked nine months pregnant. Or perhaps more like a snake that had just had a rather large meal.

Somehow Nicki had gotten the turkey off the table without our even hearing a peep from him. He had eaten through the wrapper and consumed the turkey, plastic, gizzards, bones, and all…all but a scrap of plastic and the tiniest portion of the breastbone.

I suppose my stepfather was offended because he always took such care in picking out the turkeys at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Mom just laughed and said she was glad she didn’t have the cook the turkey. Nicki didn’t flicker a tail or bat an eyelash over the hoopla around him.

For the next 3 days, Nicki lay there in the sunshine, hardly moving. Each day his stomach went down a bit, sort of like a balloon being deflated, until he finally looked normal again.

It was another 4 days before we heard the familiar clang of his food bowl being scooted around the patio.

To this day, all we have to do to turn my stepfather’s ears a crimson shade is to suggest, while unpacking groceries, that we could put a few items on the table outside to save space in the refrigerator.

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