In which Lulu Rubidoux returns with a brand new Skookum story

I started writing about the semi-fictional town of Skookum in 2010, and every once in a while a new Skookum story pops up in my head.  

So it was a few days ago, when I was struggling to stuff words into a new story about zombies, and was instead mowed down by a tale from my favorite town celebrating my second-favorite holiday (Hallowe'en is my favorite, but Thanksgiving is a close second).

I took a break from zombies, and wrote this down in one throw, and I'm loading it up on the blog as a gift to you, dear readers, from me and all the other semi-fictional people of Skookum, to celebrate Thanksgiving.  

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as Lulu and I enjoyed writing it.  

Please feel free to forward the link and share the story with friends and family. If you want to know more about Skookum and read more stories about Lulu and the other odd folk who live there, use the blog search box for the word "Skookum."  

Who knows?  Maybe, someday, reading stories about Skookum will replace football as a Thanksgiving holiday tradition.

--Aarene
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Lulu's Fully-Fledged Plan

Lulu Rubidoux had a lot to be thankful for. 

She counted her blessings one sunny April morning as she walked the four blocks down the street to the Word-a-Day Café to order her favorite hot dark cherry mocha, with extra whipped cream and pink sprinkles on top.
 
She had so many blessings to count: her health, a good job, her loving boyfriend Reg (she waved to him through the big plate glass window when she saw him standing with a stack of paperbacks under one arm and talking to a customer in the Book Nook and Fill Dirt Emporium), good friends, and a beautiful town.  

She was still pondering the prettiness of the day as she waited in line at the café when her eye caught on a sign posted on the bulletin board near the cash register. 

“WHY NOT RAISE FRESH FOOD FOR US THIS YEAR?” blazed the bright green poster sporting the colorful Skookum Food Bank logo at the bottom, and a phone number that people could call for more information. 

“What a wonderful idea!” Lulu thought as she stepped up closer to the register.  

She peered at the poster, illustrated with drawings of carrots, tomatoes, zucchinis and pumpkins. The bottom of the page showed a wish list of items the food bank especially wanted the town’s citizens to grow, mostly fruits and vegetables.  But the last item on the list caught Lulu’s eye.

“Turkeys?” she said aloud, just as she reached the barista behind the cash register. Sunshine had seen Lulu in the line, and had already prepped the order in a sturdy cardboard cup decorated with her signature smiley face and sun rays.

“Turkeys?” Sunshine replied quizzically. 

Lulu pointed at the Food Bank sign on the board.  “They want turkeys?”

“Sure,” said Sunshine.  “You know that grocery store discount meats are full of antibiotics and GMO’s and stuff, right? So, the Food Bank is asking people to raise organic produce and meat to distribute during the fall and winter months.  Most people will donate their extra zucchinis in August, but if we can get even a few people to raise a small flock of chickens or turkeys, it would make a huge difference for the Thanksgiving and Christmas gift baskets.

Lulu knew all about the holiday Food Bank gift baskets.  After all, a few years ago she had substituted for Reg on Christmas Eve and dressed up as Santa Claus to distribute the baskets.  A few hours of lugging canned soup and boxes of pasta had changed her life.  She was was still a bit leary of Christmas, despite her astonishing night wearing the red hat. 

But Thanksgiving, now. 

Thanksgiving was a much better holiday to celebrate, in Lulu’s opinion.  Food.  Family.  Friends.  And thankfulness.  And with the thought , came a plan. 

A “fully-fledged plan,” she told Reg later.

And big-hearted Lulu was never one to delay a fully-fledged plan, called up Zeke at the Feed 'n Seed as soon as she got back to her desk with the hot dark cherry mocha still half-finished in her hand. 

“Zeke,” said Lulu.  “I want a half-dozen turkey chicks.  Can I pick them up on Wednesday?”

“Sure thing, Lulu,” Zeke told her.  “I’ll have a new batch of heritage bronze turkeys in by then.  Beautiful birds, lovely on the table.  You want me to put together a whole package for you—food and a water container and some bedding?”

“Yes, please,” Lulu told him, and hung up.  She googled “raising turkeys” from the computer at her desk, and spent most of the afternoon cooing at the pictures of turkey poults (as she learned young turkeys are properly called) and planning her triumphant delivery of six fat home-raised turkeys to the Food Bank in November.

That evening, Lulu and Reg made space in the garage for the new project.  Reg constructed a box for the young birds, and hung a warming lamp over it, and the next day, Lulu posted a Facebook selfie holding a tiny box with holes cut in the top.

Over the following weeks, Lulu and Reg spent time each morning and evening taking care of the poults.  The little birds grew with bewildering speed, seeming to grow taller and fatter with each passing day, and twice as fast on weekends.  They learned to peck the feed in their little container, and they cheeped with delight when Lulu brought them treats in brown paper bags:  dandelion leaves, cherry tomatoes, and bread. 

In June, the poults moved to a little pen in the backyard, where they nibbled the lawn and basked in the sunshine of summer.  Lulu’s summer Facebook selfies always showed turkeys in the background, their feathers shining with metallic brilliance in the sun and their homely bald heads peering uncomprehendingly at the phone screen.

And still, they grew.  The smallest female poult had a close call with a marauder one night—Reg said it was an opossum, but Lulu saw suspicious scratches on the nose of her old tomcat.  One of the larger males nearly drowned when it fell into the koi pool behind the dahlias, but Lulu heard the ruckus of flapping wings and splashing water, and rescued the bird just in time. 

Each night, Lulu or Reg would lure the poults inside the garage by shaking the brown paper bag filled with treats.  Each morning, they lured them back outside to enjoy the beautiful days of summer.

Lulu and Reg tried not to get emotionally attached, but the birds were so funny.  Their ugly heads and ungainly bodies were designed for comedy.  Lulu’s Facebook page was filled with turkey pictures, and featured running commentary about their awkward antics.

The males started posturing in mid-July, puffing out their feathers and strutting, shouting enthusiastic “gobble-gobbles” at the female birds—and also at the jets passing overhead, the doorbell, and the neighbor’s lawnmower.  The females were more inquisitive, always searching for new sources of food, as well as new escape routes from the backyard.

In August, Lulu learned that turkeys love fruit.  She shared snacks with them at lunchtime, delighting in their blundering greed for bits of cherry, plum or peach, and especially apples. 

In September, all six turkeys learned to abandon their posturing or exploration projects immediately when Lulu opened a brown bag of slightly dented and dinged windfall apples that the neighbor kids scavenged from the neighborhood trees for her.  The video she posted on YouTube of their bungling parades around the yard behind the treat bag went viral among her Facebook friends.

In October, the birds were slowing down, and walked with a ponderous dignity that spoke of tremendous weight carried on narrow legs. 

And Lulu began to worry.

She wasn’t sure that her birds would make good dinners.  They were too funny, too absurd. The whole town had subscribed to the turkey YouTube channel.  Nobody would want to eat these turkeys.  Would they?

The first day of November, Lulu told Reg that he and their neighbor Edsel Rabin would have to “take care of” the birds.  

She just couldn’t face it.  In fact, Lulu said, she was thinking that perhaps she might become a vegetarian.  Or a vegan.  Or something. 

Reg and Lulu had both grown up in rural Idaho.  They had seen animals butchered on their parents’ farms, and as a young teen, Reg had helped with the harvest of the family pigs and chickens.  Lulu, they both recalled, had hid in the family treehouse for the entire duration of butchering season. 

 Lulu had never harvested anything more sentient than a tomato.  Now, she decided, was not the time to change that.

Reg didn’t mind. He assured Lulu that he and Edsel were capable of butchering six turkeys and packaging them up for delivery to the Food Bank.  He suggested that she should spend the day downtown, maybe hang out with Sunshine at the Word-a-Day Café as she sometimes did.

Lulu agreed to the plan.  But first, she declared, she would give the turkeys a glorious last supper. 

She hailed the neighborhood kids, and promised two dollars for every full grocery bag of windfall apples they brought before dark. 

That evening, Lulu had no fewer than fifteen brown grocery bags full of soft, sweet brown apples to share with her turkeys. 

She upended the bags on the floor of their garage pen, and left them to feast.

The following morning, Lulu avoided the garage.  She put on her favorite pink sequined jeans and pink hoodie, and headed downtown to the café.  Reg had promised to call her when it was all over.

The call came much earlier than she expected.  “Honey,” her boyfriend said, “I think you should come home.”

Puzzled, she headed back to the house.

Reg and Edsel were in the garage.  Before them, a jumble of turkeys were heaped, still and unmoving.  But there was no sign of blood on any of them.

Reg tried to explain. 

“We came out here this morning to get the knives ready and this is how we found them.  I guess they’re dead?”  He sounded unsure.  But Lulu had never, ever, seen a stack of turkeys look less alive. 

“What should we do?  If the birds were sick, we can’t give the meat to the Food Bank.  It might make people sick.”

Lulu looked at the ugly birds who had so brightened her summer days, and sighed.

“Well,” she said, “you’re right, of course.  We can’t eat them. But it seems like such a waste to just throw them away.”

Edsel had a suggestion.  “We could pluck them,” he said.  “The feathers are pretty, and maybe people would want to make Thanksgiving decorations out of feathers?”

Lulu and Reg agreed that this was the best solution, and so the three of them spent the day carefully plucking the enormous birds, and setting the bodies carefully aside for burial in Edsel’s garden the following day.

That night, Lulu’s sleep was disturbed by dreams of turkeys returned to life, pecking and gobble-gobbling at the back door for apples. 

She was hardly well-rested, then, when she emerged from the house the following morning to see…her turkeys.

Naked.

And alive.

And standing, a bit unsteadily, at the back door, and pecking half-heartedly at a mostly empty grocery bag of mushy brown apples.

Lulu stared at the turkeys. 

And then she stared at the grocery bag. 

And then she thought, “Apples?”

Lulu yanked the paper bag away from the birds, and looked inside.  The sweet smell of apples was overlaid with another odor from her childhood:  the smell of the apple moonshine Reg’s grandpa had fermented in the old family dairy barn. 

Lulu dropped the bag, and the turkey’s heads followed the motion blearily. 

Their scabby-looking heads could scarcely be more ugly, she had thought before, but now, the ugly heads were atop even uglier, bald turkey bodies. 

She sagged against the back door, and laughed.

She was still laughing fifteen minutes later when Reg came out to find her, a cup of coffee in each hand. 

He saw Lulu, laughing.  And then he saw the fat, bald, birds, wobbling ungracefully across the yard towards him. 

She watched him boggle for a moment, and she then whooped with the ridiculousness of the situation.  Together, she and Reg slumped on the porch stairs, coffee forgotten, laughing until tears ran down their faces at the absurd poultry careening nakedly around the backyard.

Finally, Lulu was able to speak. 

“Drunk,” she gasped, waving a hand at the apple bag.  “The apples I gave them were rotting, fermented, and they ate them anyway, and got drunk. 

“They weren’t dead,” she wheezed through spasms of laughter, “they were dead drunk!”

The laughing weakened their knees, until even breathing became difficult.  But after a few moments of quiet, the hilarity would overcome them again, and they would start giggling again. 

A few hours later, Edsel Rabin knocked respectfully at the front door of the house, ready to take the turkeys away in his big brown wheelbarrow. 

He was surprised and somewhat alarmed to find Reg tearing up a blanket in the living room, and Lulu assembling something with a sewing machine set precariously on the breakfast bar. 

“Clothing,” Lulu informed him, “for the birds.”

He quirked an eyebrow at her, wondering if the loss of the turkeys had tipped her mind too far, and she, still weak in the belly from extensive morning laughter, motioned him to follow her through the house to the back door. 

There, Edsel saw six turkeys, decidedly not dead.  In fact, definitely alive and tottering unsteadily around the dry stems of the flower garden. 

Two of the turkeys were plucked naked, flesh goosebumped from the chill autumn air.

The other four were covered in little red and gold and blue turkey-sized blankets, secured with straps and velcro.  

Edsel shook his head and turned curiously to peer at Lulu, who threw back her head and laughed once again, long and loud.

“Don’t you understand what we had to do?” she asked the bewildered Edsel.  “They’ll be too cold without their feathers now.  So we’re following the old tradition.”

Edsel shook his head, still not catching on.

“You know,” she said.  “The old Thanksgiving tradition, handed down for generations:

“Turkey dressing!”


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