It rained on Thanksgiving. A cold, driving rain that turned everything dark by three o’clock. Uncle Jim said it didn’t much matter to him, he’d planned on sitting on the couch and watching the game either way. He wasn’t lying, neither, he stayed put even after we ate when I offered to help Mom clean things up in the kitchen, where things were warm and the air thick with turkey and pie.
Thing was, Aunt Janine was blabbing so much it was hard to do much of anything with my ears working overtime. So I tried to watch the game, but the Cowboys were losing their butts to the Packers. I got to my feet for the twentieth time and looked outside, down the street. Mom caught my eye and gave me a look, nodded for me to meet her in the hallway.
I stepped over Uncle Jim, who reached for my leg. Ever since I was six he was always pretending we were fighting. I laughed, got the hallway where Mom was gnawing on her finger. I knew all this company was driving her crazy, especially Aunt Janine, who Mom always said was drove her to drink.
“You still thinking about what we talked about?”
I took a breath. “Yeah, maybe. I thought about maybe taking a plate to him.”
Mom nodded. “I knew you was. You know, he probably won’t come to the door, though. You know how he is.”
“Yeah.” I really didn’t know squat about how he was.
“Hey sweetie, I’m sorry about your daddy, okay?”
Mom did some more work to her finger, her eyes darting up and down the hallway. “Tell you what, I’ll fix him a plate. He doesn’t answer you just leave it on the stoop for the dogs to eat, hear?”
My heart clanged into gear. I’d been thinking about it, but with mom serving up some turkey, gravy, enough mashed potatoes to feed a horse, it meant I had to lace up my boots and go do it.
Uncle Jim peeked in, asked me where I was going. “Over to Tick’s place, bring him a plate.”
“You know he’s half-cocked, right?”
I shrugged. “Probably hungry all the same.”
“Okay, suit yourself. Go out there in that mess. We’re going to watch this butt whooping.”
He thought that was funny. Mom shook her head and wrapped up the food. Aunt Janine was going on about how she’d read on Facebook about how so-and-so had gone and cheated on someone else, only she was smiling when she said it was a shame so it was hard to believe she cared. Mom shoved a plate in my hands and the look on her face said she’d rather face the freezing rain with me rather than sit in here and listened to another word of Aunt Janine.
“Hurry back, ‘kay?”
I nodded, then set out the door. It was cold and the rain felt like sand on my face. I ducked my head down and got down the street, hunched over to keep the warm plate from getting too wet.
Tick had a lamp on inside that shack of a house he lived in at the end of the street, the smoke billowing from the tiny chimney. I knocked a couple times and held my breath. Uncle Jim was always saying he’d shoot anyone that came around. Said when he was little the old man pulled a twelve gauge on him. I didn’t much blame the old man if he did. I was just hoping he’d smell my mom’s turkey and think twice about blowing me away.
“Who is it?”
“It’s um, it’s Joshua. I brought you some turkey.”
I heard his feet hit the floor. Soon all the locks were sliding and clicking and after a minute the door flung open a crack. The old man was a sight, his nose like a beak, red and splotchy and he had a lump on his jaw the size of golf ball. A wave of warmth hit me head on. The man walked away, door open, limping to the counter where he found a pair of glasses and fixed them on the perch of his nose. I only stood there, that plate starting to bend.
“Why are you bringing me food?”
“Well, tell you the truth, my family is getting on my last nerve. I was suppose to go with my dad today, but now he’s not coming. Mom’s about to blow up and let everyone know how she really feels and when she does it’s not going to be pretty, I can tell you that much. So if you’re going to shoot me, go right ahead.”
“Always did like Sarah’s cooking.” The old man stared me down. His eyes fell to the plate in my hand. “Family huh? I gave up on them a long time ago. Might be hope for you after all,” he said, taking the plate.” “Come on in.”
And with that first step, I became the first person in a generation to enter my grandpa’s house.
*In Response to Writers’ Digest Prompt – Thankful For That