When Barry Stole Thanksgiving: A Short Story

Missing from this picture: our turkey

It’s Thanksgiving 2007. Nothing special ever happens here. The family gathers, of course, but there’s a sense that it could easily be any other day of the week. We all know eachother too well, and it really shows on the holidays. It has become common knowledge around the circle that Uncle Jumbo will be drunk by 2. My cousin Rex will annoy everyone by practicing his new freestyle raps. (Usually, he writes raps about wraps, and other assorted things you can find in a deli. But what can you do? The dude loves his meats.) Aunt Sarah always attempts to knit the sleeves of her sweater while she’s wearing it. She always gives up halfway, making some strange fuzzy T-Shirt, but we always give her compliments for effort, and the fact that it’s almost impossible to knit something while it is being worn. There’s no surprises in this family, and perhaps this is why we’re all so civil. Aunt Sarah forgot her kit at home this year, so now she is wearing nothing but a retarded vest. At this point, this is the only new thing about Thanksgiving 2007. Soon to be one like the last and probably similar to the next.

This family also has a Thanksgiving tradition of heartbreak. This has been occurring for around 8 years now. We all sit around the glowing light of the television, and watch bewildered as the Detroit Lions lose every year. It wasn’t always like this. Thanksgiving used to be a jubulant day in which we would thank Barry Sanders, Scott Mithcell, Herman Moore, Johnnie Morton and the rest of the silver and blue clan. Since the turn of the century, the Lions have angered this family, with the exception of Uncle Jumbo, who would be passed out before the game even ends. Although the team has caused us all much sadness, we are still intensely watching the pregame show while the turkey cooks slowly in the Showtime Rotisserie Oven that Aunt Sarah gave us years ago, and is only used 2 days a year. (Although you can set it and forget it, my mom still never trusts appliance slogans. She claims them all to be “hogwash”, which always makes me wonder what hogwash is, and why it isn’t trustworthy.)

“This year is going to be different!” Grandma Mae confidently exclaims. “That Jon Kitna was sent a message from GOD. He will win this game for us, because the good lord says so!”

“Ma, if god existed, he wouldn’t be sending messages to a douchebag like him” Uncle Jumbo combats, already drunker than usual. I still wonder why his name is Jumbo. It might have something to do with the phantom grandpa we never met.

Now it’s gametime. We can all feel the electricity in the air. Hanson kicks the ball, and as it flies into the distance we all cheer like hell. We are so loud that we don’t hear the rapid footsteps behind us. After the return, we hear a clutter in the kitchen. I jump off the couch to see what is going on, and all I saw was a blur fly out the door. Someone had broken in, and the Showtime Oven is empty. I start cursing like hell, and rush out the door. I see a shorter black man jump into a Prius and speed away. I jump into Uncle Jumbos pick-up, blow into the breathalyzer and it roars like hell. I pounce out of the driveway, and the chase is on.

Although I am right on his tail, he does not seem aware or concerned at all. I follow him deeper into the boondocks, and he pulls slowly into the junkyard. I stay on the side of the road and watch from a short distance. A toothless man in a flannel suit approaches the car and motions that the driver should get out of the car. He staggers out against a dark grey sky, with our Thanksgiving Turkey in hand. Suddenly, a convoy of dirt covered trucks pull up behind me and I’m surrounded by an iron circle. My cover was blown. A man knocks on my window. Well, actually, he didn’t knock because his fist ended up breaking the window. It’s more of a punch. Either way, I get dragged out of the truck and thrown into the middle of the road. I’m surrounded by 3 men in hunting gear, yelling out incoherent obscenities. I can feel the occasional Grizz spit hit my arm. It’s over. It’s all over. They kick at my head, and it’s the most excruciating feeling that could ever be felt by a living thing. Or at least it is in my opinion. One of the guys picks up a stick off the ground, and lord only knows what he wants to do with it. Suddenly, I hear multiple screeching bangs. I close my eyes tighter than a couch in a hallway. I wait until my ears stop ringing and open my eyes. My assailants are lying lifeless on the ground next to me. I look up, and see a hand stick out of the tinted Prius. He signals me inside. I jump in, and we drive off into the bland landscape.

“You alright there, big guy? Those fucking honkeys doan know nuthin about drug dealin.”, the driver, and alleged turkey thief tells me while waving a gun in the air. I am too fuzzy to respond. My eyes try to focus, but I still can’t make out the face of the man, nor could I figure out why he killed those guys and why I didn’t even think twice to get in to the car. However, his voice sounds vaguely familiar. Like an old friend that you haven’t seen all summer. My eyes slowly focus on his face, and it all comes to me. There’s no way this could be happening. It’s fucking Barry! It has to be Barry. I was like a little kid being rescued from a fire…by Santa Calus.

“B-B-B-Barry?” I quietly and gleefully inquire.

“Yeah, man, thats the name my fuckin moms gave me! It’s good to know your cracker ass can talk. I almost had to smoke you too.”, he exclaims before letting out a gut-busting laugh.

“Barry Sanders? You’re Barry fucking Sanders??!?!?”, I am clearly still shocked.

“That’s what I said! Don’t be getting weird on me here.”, he puts the gun to my head.

“But why the fuck did you steal my family’s turkey?”

“Shut the fuck up!”

We pull into a broken down motel off the highway. My heart pounds as I walk out of the car. What is he going to do to me? Why the fuck did Barry Sanders steal my turkey? Why is he in my hometown, staying at this motel? What happened to my shirt? Barry interrupts my thoughts by shouting at me to carry the turkey inside. The door creaks loudly when he opens it, and the lights of the room are already on, spotlighting a haze of smoke. The motel is completely trashed. The lamp is missing its shade, the beds are gone, with the frames in splinters on the floor, and a large man sits at the table, weaning a bottle of whiskey.

“Did everything go as planned?” the man asks.

“I got the stuff, coach. However I had to waste a few fools in the process.” Barry reports back.

“Looks like you brought a friend. What happened to his shirt?” The snaps back.

I walk closer to the man to introduce myself, but then I am struck to realize that he is actually Wayne Fontes. He was the coach of the Lions during their golden years, and reached a good share of criticism in his time.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” Wayne inquires. My eyes dart in different directions. Barry snatches the turkey out of my hands and throws it on the table. He grabs a dirty knife, and cuts a giant slit into the huge slab of meat. Barry nods to Wayne, who immediately shoves his hand into the turkey and pulls out a bag of cocaine.”It looks like Thanksgiving is back again!” Wayne exclaims cheerfully.

“Shit man, you know I never disappoint. You know me baby!” Barry shouts back as he does a couple of jukes. I sit on the floor as Barry and Wayne tend to breaking up the powder. They look extremely satisfied. Barry goes for the first line, and immediately jolts up from the chair and starts juking and spinning like mad. Wayne gets antsy and does his line, but it appears to have no effect on him, and he remains seated and visibly tired. In fact, it looks as if he hadn’t slept in years.

“Happy Thanksgiving, sucka.” Barry warmly yet coldly exclaims to me as he passes the dish down to me. I have dabbled in cocaine before, but fear that it makes me too talkative. The stuff invades my nostrils, and all of a sudden, I can feel a wave of energy rush through me. I am big, I am true, and I am fucking invincible.

I start my rant, “Man, you guys have no idea how happy yous made me when I was a kid. I remember Thanksgiving 97 when you were playing the Bears. You guys had a short lead at the half, and it appeared that it would be a close game. All of a sudden, you Barry, come out of the fucking woodwork and start running like mad. 56-20 if I remember correctly.” Barry gets visibly excited and starts mimicking more jukes and spins as Wayne laughs his ass off and does another line. “Could be more, could be less. Either way, that shit was phenomenal!”

“Yeah, I remember that shit…” Wayne reminisces.

“Nigga, you weren’t even coaching us then!” Barry snaps back, laughing.

“Oh yeah…” Wayne is now clearly dumbstruck. We all share a laugh and do more coke. Fun is had by all. It occurs to me that I am really hungry, so I start going at the turkey.”Woah man, you don’t want to be messing with that turkey”, Wayne warns me.

“Let the fool figure it out for himself” Barry says with a smile. As I scarf down the dry and cold meat, I starting feeling a wave of sleepiness, combined with the uppyness of the snow. The room starts spinning as life happens all around me. Barry turns on the alarm clock radio and him and Wayne start dancing, while ripping out pages in the bible. Barry tries doing some covert manuvers with his gun, but Wayne snatches it and starts dancing with it. How could it be that 2 of my childhood idols would be in a motel room with me, spun out of their minds? There were so many questions I wanted to ask, but the only thing I am able to mutter out was “ey, berrie, why did ya retire man thats shits was soul fuckin layme”. I don’t get an answer before the whole world turns black.

I awake on a bed of broken wood. Barry and Wayne are gone, and they took the TV with them. There is a note on the door that read simply “See you next year, kid”. I don’t know if they will ever come back. I don’t know why Barry retired or why Wayne always made the team choke in the playoffs. I don’t know why Barry stole my turkey, or why he killed a bunch of hillbillys. All that I know is that I will never forget about the time when Barry stole Thanksgiving…just like the old times…

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!