Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Here’s a little something I tossed together for your enjoyment!
Turkey Day Debacle
By John G. Hartness
I knew I was in trouble when I stepped into the grocery store. I looked over at Abby and said, in all sincerity “Remind what people eat on Thanksgiving again?”
“Well, turkey for starters” was the snotty reply from my shopping partner, a twenty-two year old newly turned vampire with a body to die for (if I wasn’t already dead) and an attitude to slit your wrists over.
“I remember the turkey, smartass. What else?”
“Jeez, Jimmy, how long have you been dead again? There’s stuffing, ham, cranberry juice, rice, gravy, biscuits, casseroles, desserts, Oh my God, the desserts! I’d almost forgotten the desserts!” She was leaning on the shopping cart writhing an a not-unpleasant way that was probably a lot more distracting to the live patrons of the store than it was to me.
“Stop that, you’re scaring the mortals.” I shouldered her aside and took the cart, heading towards the back of the store and the first mission – turkey.
“I was not!” Abby protested, but fell into step beside me. “Are you sure we can’t eat? Not even just a little pumpkin pie?”
“It’s not a good idea.” I remembered my first meal after turning, how everything tasted like sawdust and then upset my delicate digestive system for days. Even though our new place had multiple bathrooms, I didn’t wish that kind of suffering on anyone, dead or alive.
“What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’m already dead, after all!” So I told her, in extreme graphic detail, the worst that could happen. She turned even paler than normal, then shifted to a lovely shade of green before running into the restroom at the back of the store.
I parked the cart at the meat department and walked down the aisle looking at the different flavors of pre-cooked turkeys available for purchase. Cajun turkeys, smoked turkeys, spiced turkeys and Honeybaked Ham turkeys. The last one confused me a little. I wasn’t sure if it was a ham-flavored turkey, a turkey-flavored ham, or just a normal turkey-flavored turkey made by Honeybaked Ham people. Regardless I picked up the smallest turkey-style turkey that I could find. After all, only three of our six-person dinner party could actually eat food, so it’s not like Greg and I would be making a lot of turkey and O-Negative sandwiches.
By the time I’d picked up the cranberry sauce, Abby was back beside me, glaring at me every now and then for making her go barf. I was just pleased to share the misery. We picked out the rest of the supplies for our feast in relative silence, then I stopped dead in the middle of the dairy department.
“What now?” Abby asked, giving me a petulant look that she had perfected in her life as an adorable college coed. That life had come crashing to an end a few months ago at the hands of a visiting vampire, and now Abby was as (un)dead as I was. Her last confrontation with her maker didn’t turn out so well for the older vamp, so I kept the volatile young woman at arm’s length when she started tossing around nasty looks.
“Do you know if the stove works?”
“Yes. I checked it before we left tonight.”
“Do we have any pots and pans?”
“God, you’re really bad at this, aren’t you?”
“Cut me a little slack, Abby, I’ve been dead almost as long as I was alive, and I wasn’t exactly the most responsible person even when I was still human.” She must have seen something in my face, because she let that one slide. I’m not usually an angsty vampire, but sometimes, holidays in particular, it kinda sucks being dead and having abandoned most of the people that knew you when you were alive. That’s why this dinner was so important – there would be more people there than just me & Greg for the first time in a bunch of years. Sabrina Law, my almost-on-my-luckiest-day girlfriend and police detective with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Father Mike Maloney, our best childhood friend, were joining Greg, Abby and I for dinner. We’d invited Bobby, our blood vendor from the morgue, but he was spending time with his family, all of whom were alive and unlikely to look upon him as an appetizer.
Abby nodded silently and took over cart-pushing duties while I fretted over the last few things on the list. Did I want to make fresh cranberry sauce or canned? After a brief but heated debate with Abby, I settled on canned. There’s just something a little charming about the gelatinous mass of cranberry sauce jiggling on a plate, still sporting the indentions from the side of the can. We finished up the last remnants of the shopping and headed to the front of the store. It was pretty close to deserted, there not being many people loading up on canned goods and milk at four AM the night before Thanksgiving. But when you’re the living dead you have certain restrictions on your movement that humans don’t have, and you end up becoming familiar with all sorts of places at all sorts of atypical times.
Even for the middle of the night, the front of the store was sparsely manned. I only saw one cashier working, no bagboys, and one pudgy twenty-something assistant manager leaning on the Customer Service counter. He had his phone in his hands and sported the studious look of a man very intent on an epic Angry Birds session. I walked over to the cashier and started unloading the cart onto the conveyor belt. I looked over the items and glanced back at Abby.
“I don’t think Hershey bars were on the list.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. These are not the candy bars you are looking for.”
“I’m not looking for any candy bars, and yet here they are. And don’t try to Jedi mind trick me. You know you can’t eat those, right?” She pouted a little, and I heard a little hmph from the cashier.
I looked at her and caught her giving me the kind of look that female grad students give to clueless frat boys right before they launch into a lecture on feminism. I raised my hand to her before she could start and jerked a thumb back at Abby. “Lactose intolerant. If she eats milk chocolate she farts like a basset hound. It’s amazing. Last time she ate a bowl of ice cream she blow out three windows in the kitchen.”
Abby threw a can of peas at my head, but I heard them moving through the air and caught them before I got a concussion. I put the last of our groceries on the belt and asked for plastic bags, pulling out a wad of cash that my dinner entree had been carrying around. I mentioned that on this holiday I was particularly thankful for muggers with lots of cash and not too much crystal meth in their bloodstream. Meth does nasty things to vampire teeth, too, so I was glad the thug I’d had for dinner was pretty straight-edge.
I saw the cashier’s eyes go wide a second before I heard the shotgun go off, so I had just enough time to reach over the counter and knock her to the ground when the gun went off. I ducked between the aisles and reached into my boot for my Ruger LCP. Which I immediately remembered was sitting on my bedside table, because what could happen, it’s a ten-minute trip to the grocery store in the middle of the night. I’m sometimes not the sharpest fang in the jaw, okay?
“Are you packing?” I hissed back at Abby.
“No, I didn’t think I’d need a gun in the produce section. You?”
“No, I picked today to give up on my general pessimism towards the human race.”
“Yeah, right. Can you check on the cashier? I kinda knocked her down a little.”
“A little?” Came a third, and indignant, voice. “You shoved me into the middle of next week. You’re strong for a skinny little dork!” I looked around and saw the cashier’s head poking out of the end of the aisle.
“Thanks, I think.” I replied dryly. “You wanna get back under cover before or after you get shot?” Her head snapped back behind the conveyer belt, and I glanced back at Abby. “Keep her alive.” I whispered, then I stood up.
The sound of shell racking into the chamber of a twelve-gauge shotgun is unmistakable, and that’s the first thing I heard when I stood up. Much to my chagrin, the sound was much closer than I had expected. Therefore, so was the gun. I looked over about ten feet from the end of my aisle and there stood our robber du jour. He looked pretty comfortable with the shotgun, but didn’t look like he’d robbed many grocery stores. He looked more like he’d been out hunting for his Thanksgiving turkey the old-fashioned way and decided to knock over a Piggly Wiggly on the way home.
“Hey.” I said, holding my hands out where he could see I was unarmed.
“Hey.” He said back, pointing the shotgun at my head. I knew from recent experience that a well-placed load of buckshot could in fact kill a vampire, because it can blow a head clean off a body, thus counting for decapitation. So I didn’t want to do anything that would end up with me dead. Um, deader. Or really dead. You get the idea.
“Can I help you with something?” I started moving slowly towards him, trying to keep my body between his line of sight and where Abby was hiding, and hopefully coming up with a better plan than the one I was currently exercising.
“Get me the money from the cash register! And the safe!” He ended each sentence with a jab in my general direction of the shotgun. I made my way to the register and looked for a NO SALE button. No luck.
“How do I open this thing?” I whispered to the cashier, who was curled up behind my knees.
“You need a manager’s keys.” I looked around, but the fat manager kid was nowhere to be seen.
“We’ve got a little problem there,” I said to the man with the gun. “You see, it takes a manager’s keys to open the register, and I’m not a manager. In fact, I don’t even work here.” I chuckled a little, giving the whole thing my best we’ll laugh at this later vibe, but he didn’t laugh along with me.
He aimed the shotgun straight at me and gave me a cold look. “Then you better find a manager real fast, or I’m going to spread pieces of you all over the front of this store.” Bingo. As soon as he made eye contact, I locked gazes with him and started pouring mojo into him.
I looked at him confidently and said “You do not want to hurt anyone. Put the gun down and lie down on your stomach.”
He looked at me like I was crazy and replied “I don’t want to hurt anybody, but if I don’t get some money in the next thirty seconds, I’m going to shoot you in the face.” Crap. Either my mojo was on the fritz, or Greg’s latest theory was right – that mojo didn’t work when the subject was under a big load of adrenaline. Or he was one of the rare people my mojo just didn’t work on, like Sabrina. But the adrenaline thing made more sense.
I held up my hands and started toward him, slowly. “Okay, but the last place I saw the manager was over at Customer Service. He’s probably run halfway to Charleston by now, but if he dropped his keys, they’ll be back there.”
He waved the shotgun towards the counter. “Go get ‘em.”
I never took my eyes off him as I made my way to the counter, trying to keep the counter and Abby in my peripheral vision the whole time. It worked like most things in my life, which is to say not at all, because I tripped over a buggy and went ass over teakettle about eight feet from the Customer Service desk. I went down in a gangly tangle of spiky hair, black jeans and polished chrome, making enough noise to raise the dead. If I wasn’t already risen.
Abby, being the smarter of our duo, took the diversion as an opportunity and sprang up from her hiding spot in the checkout aisle and chucked a can of cranberry sauce at Shotgun Guy’s head. He turned back to her just in time to get a shot off before the can caught him right between the eyes and sent him reeling to the floor. Abby jumped for the sky and the shotgun blast passed harmlessly under her. Well, harmless to her. A bunch of magazines about Demi and Ashton’s divorce and the Dancing with the Stars finale got blown to shreds, and her box of Hershey bars was pretty well destroyed.
I untangled myself from the shopping cart and walked over to the prone robber. I kicked the shotgun away from him and searched him for any sign of another weapon. Seeing her was clear, I tied his hand behind his back with his own shoelaces and mojo’d the manager kid into thinking the cashier had taken him down with no help from anyone. Abby bespelled her into thinking the same thing, and then erased our transaction from the register. I blew the surveillance tapes to bits with the shotgun, loaded the groceries into the buggy, and headed towards the car.
“Abby, did we just steal our Thanksgiving dinner?” I asked as I put the last bag in the trunk.
“Well, you can look at it two ways. One, you were going to pay for it with stolen money in the first place. Or two, it was our just reward for a good deed. But yeah, if you wanna be honest about it, we did.”
“I think your moral compass points north less often than mine does.”
“Says the soulless undead creature of the night with the priest best friend and a cop girlfriend. You’re a CW show waiting to happen, so don’t give me any crap, pal.” I slid behind the wheel and drove us home in silence, deciding that sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor.
The next night about eight, after everyone laughed their way through the story of our shopping trip and Greg hacked the NFL network to get the game, we all settled in for dinner. Greg, Abby and I had glasses full of nice, thick blood, while Mike and Sabrina had plates loaded down with the grub we’d all spent much of the early evening preparing. It had been a good night, nobody new was dead, Sabrina had brought her cousin Stephen and his husband Alex to the party, and I stood to propose a toast.
“Tonight, I’m thankful for all of you. For old friends and new, you guys are the reason I get up every night to do what I do. You all make my world a better place, and I thank you for it.” A chorus of “hear, hear” and “you’re such a dork” rose from my friends, and I sat down to drink while they enjoyed dinner.
Sabrina suddenly grabbed her jaw and yelped. “Ow!” She spit something hard out into her plate, and Abby and I shared a look as a stray piece of birdshot plinked off of Sabrina’s plate. Then we all just looked at each other and laughed.