Deborah scratched her feet on the gravel
and snapped her handbag shut with her beak. Three lines followed her toes in a
circle below her feathers. Carols drifted through the cold, December air from
the house in front of her. The living room lights spilled a watery, yellow glow
into the night. Two years would become three if she left now. She could blame
the lack of public transport on Christmas Day in a text message to her parents
and wish them Seasons Greetings before switching off her phone.
She edged closer to the house, leaving
the circles behind. Blaming the lack of transport was a feeble excuse when her
car was parked on the street. Lying with a lack of imagination would be added
to her list of failings.
Deborah poked her snood at the bell and
the carols stopped. Her fathers voice sang in a high-pitched squeak
behind a window. Her dawdling in the garden had created panic.
The door swung open. Her father flapped
his wings through a bright red Christmas jumper. His beard stretched to his
feet. He was getting old.
Welcome home, the dearest love of
my life after your mother, he squawked.
She stooped on the step and they nestled
Mind the handbag, she
squawked, stepping backwards.
Come in from the cold before your
feathers freeze, her father continued, advancing towards her.
Suppose so, she squawked.
Tinsel was hanging on the hallway walls
in alternating rows of red and gold. In the corner a Christmas tree threw a
green sheen over the carpet.
Deborah wrinkled her beak. Juices
were bubbling and popping in the kitchen.
Your mothers making roast
human for Christmas Dinner, her father squawked. Acorns, apples and
all the trimmings, just the way you like it.
Deborah ruffled her tail feathers to
disguise the sound of her stomach rumbling. Ive got an announcement
to make, she squawked.
Youve met a special turkey
at last. Your mother will be delighted, her father replied, his wattle
turning bright red.
Deborah shook her beak. Ive
decided to live consciously since Ive been gone.
Her father always pretended she was
squawking in riddles when she had declared news which he didnt want to
hear. When she had left home, he had told her that she ought to write puzzle
books for a living.
Deborah straightened herself to her full
height of fourteen inches. Ive become vegan, she
Her fathers wattle darkened to
purple. I thought that living away from home would make you think of
other turkeys instead of just yourself. Your mother will be most upset. All the
cooking will have gone to waste and shes been skinning the human for
Deborah waggled her snoot. I
suppose I could stick with apples, she replied.
Her father gave his
daughter-being-an-idiot dismissal with a fan wave of his feathers. Every
turkey has to eat human to keep healthy. You need the vitamins and the protein,
just like when you were little. He paused to inspect her feathers.
No wonder youre going bald. Forget that vegan nonsense and get some
volume back in your chest.
You can get your essentials from
other sources, Deborah insisted, sneaking a glance at her balding chest.
Grapes are the new wonder food to give the conscious turkey everything
swish of an apron announced the arrival of her mother in the hallway.
Dreams come true at Christmas. My chicks returned to the
roost, she squawked through a perfume of cooked fat.
Just for dinner, Deborah
replied. Her mothers head crown had also gone grey.
Your chicks got unexpected
news, her father squawked, his wattle glowing purple.
Were going to be grand
turkeys, her mother announced, her wings flaring.
Riddles have been replaced
by a nonsensical fad. Your chick doesnt eat human anymore, her
Our chick used to eat human
as a child, twice a day or shed have a tantrum. I had to make human
sandwiches for lunch and human pizzas for dinner, her mother
Not exactly, Deborah
replied. I liked my cereal snacks and my greens.
Only when I didnt have time
to get to the fresh human counter at the supermarket, her mother
Deborahs father scuffed his feet
on the carpet. Our chick should make an exception for Christmas. Your
mother has taken so much effort to prepare dinner and you can pretend
youre grateful for once.
Deborah felt the heat of blood washing
to her wattle. Im perfectly grateful. Ive just become
enlightened and youre not listening to me.
Her mother cooed and arced her feathers.
We always listen to our chick. A teeny weeny slice of fresh human leg,
and your father and I will turn the other way.
We respect you turning conscious,
or whatever you call that rubbish, her father squawked, his wings wrapped
around her mother. Tomorrow you can go back to eating acorns and we
wont know until next year, seeing how little you visit
Sarah straightened her snood.
Ill be back to my bad old ways if I cave in once. Eating human is
an addiction. We havent even discussed their contribution to global
warming, she squawked.
Youre back to your bad old
ways already. Walking out on us has taught you to be doubly selfish, her
father replied, his feathers flaring in a circle around his head.
I moved out for a reason. Clearly
Im not the only turkey whos keeping to her bad old ways. I had
better leave before we have a rerun, Deborah announced and swivelled to
face the door.
Dont go, her mother
squawked, caressing Deborahs snood with the tip of her beak. We
havent seen our chick for three years and Im so worried. Shes
living on her own and is letting herself go. Your fathers being
unreasonable as usual. You dont have to eat human if you dont want
to. An extra dose of eyeballs will shut him up.
I dont need shutting up.
Were talking about my chick too, her father squawked.
Deborah closed her eyes and remembered
the softness of her mothers beak from when she was hatched. Two
years, not three, she replied.
The beak detached itself from her
feathers. Ill make you a special starter from my cookbook. Human
can be rather dry at Christmas anyway.
Deborahs mother returned to the
kitchen, leaving her alone with her father.
Living room, he
Nothing changes, Deborah
squawked to herself and followed her father into the living room. A television
showing turkeys singing carols was muted in the corner. A solitary envelope had
been left unopened on top of the screen.
Her parents had received one more
Christmas card than her.
Her father perched on a stool covered in
golden tinsel next to the television. Ive got a present for you but
its not an apology, he squawked. He balanced the envelope on a
wingtip and nudged it across the carpet to her.
I was worried my presents for you
would be ruined in the snow, Deborah replied, shifting her handbag to one
Your mother would say we have
everything we wanted with you coming to dinner, he squawked, his wattle
pulsing bright pink. At least Im trying. Go ahead and open the
Deborah slit a hole in the envelope with
her beak and pulled out a rectangular white piece of a paper.
Her fathers three claws were inked
in the bottom right of the cheque.
I cant possibly
accept, she squawked, trying not to read the figure scrawled on the line
above his signature.
Since youve been gone,
weve been imagining you living in a shed with humans running outside like
wild animals. You need help to buy a proper place of a your
The figure on the cheque was more than
she could save in a lifetime. But there would be strings attached. You
should keep the money for yourself, she squawked and slid the paper
across the carpet to her father
Her father stopped the paper with his
foot. We wanted to see you safe before we go to the grand turkey in the
sky, he squawked and glanced at the ceiling.
Deborahs caruncles grew damp.
Youre not dying anytime soon. Buy a new kitchen for the house
Your mother doesnt need a
new kitchen when shes spent the year cooking meals for
I can still go if the
kitchens too small for three, Deborah squawked back.
Her mother bustled into the living room
balancing three plates on her wings. Starters for our extra special chick
and my fat husband, she squawked.
The parents and Deborah perched at a
table together. Two plates contained human fingers cut at the knuckle and were
garnished with a blackened eyeball. A third plate held only apple slices.
What a lovely surprise. Your
chicks old favourite before she lost her wattle, her father
He pecked at the fingertips while
Deborah wobbled her caruncles at the apple slices untouched on her
Your mother knows how to cook,
despite her faults, her father squawked, a bone hanging from his
Mind your manners, her
mother squawked and poked the bone with her beak.
On second thoughts, I might need
that money for a bachelor pad, her father replied and dropped a
gravy-streaked fingernail onto his plate.
My chick could visit us every
fortnight next year if she wanted. Ill even do your washing, her
mother squawked at Deborah.
I might be travelling in
January, Deborah replied, making a pile of her apple slices.
Anywhere exotic? Your mother might
be able to join you if its a one-way trip, her father squawked.
The North Pole for a meditation
retreat. We get an igloo each so we can admire the scenery in silence,
I didnt know the North Pole
was a holiday destination, her father squawked.
Me neither, Deborah replied
and pushed her plate away.
Her mother gathered the plates together.
Happy turkeys make hungry families, she squawked. Gathering the
plates on the rings, she left for the kitchen.
Your mother is putting on a brave
snood, her father squawked, his feathers drooping.
About what? Deborah asked,
her tail jerking upright.
Turkey works. Nothing to worry
about. Did you enjoy your apples? her father asked.
Never mind food, Deborah
squawked. She flapped her wings and rushed into the kitchen. Her mother was
paused over the oven, a human head steaming on a roasting tray surrounded by
You didnt tell me you were
ill, Deborah squawked.
Your fathers being dramatic.
Every turkey has tests when they get to a certain age, her mother replied
and tested the heads mouth with a fork. A stream of blood squirted out.
Your father likes his humans rare. Help me with the
Deborah plucked at a knife and peeled
the cheeks of the human head into thin strips of red flesh. She remembered her
fathers pronouncements that humans were essential for health and gave her
mother an extra slice.
Returning to the living room, she handed
the plates to her father and mother.
Heres to humans voting for
Christmas, her father squawked, taking his plate.
Heres to husbands who take
their wives for granted, her mother replied, flapping her wings at her
extra human slices.
I wont take you for granted
when we go to bed early, her father squawked with a rustle of his
Human has given you a change of
personality, her mother replied.
Deborahs wattle glowed bright red
as she pushed at her uneaten parsnips. Across the table, her parents touched
wings and rubbed each others snoods as they emptied their
Desert? Ive got Christmas
pudding made with fresh human blood, her mother squeaked.
I had better get going. Snow might
be coming, Deborah replied and straightened her wings.
The chance would be a fine thing
if your lies came true. Wed have nothing to do in the morning except have
a lie-in, her father squawked, his caruncles throbbing.
Her parents pecked each others
feathers as Deborah edged out of the house. She left the envelope with the
cheque on the television and paused on the street to contemplate her car,
untouched by snow. Her feathers drooped as she heard carol singing resume from
Monthly visits might be possible after
pretending that she had gone on the retreat.
At least she hadnt been told off
for lacking imagination, Deborah consoled herself. Reaching into her handbag,
she unwrapped the foil from a sandwich with her beak. Finest organic human was
an excellent consolation when topped with cranberry sauce.