We grew the turkey on the side of grandpa’s head that year. He wanted to sharpen the axe himself, said dad didn’t know what he was doing, that he’d lose half his face. We all had to hold the bird up in shifts (a 23 pounder!) as grandpa shot sparks into the misty morning air outside of the barn.
“Now, when you do this, there must be no hesitation. If I lose an ear, okay. I’m old. I don’t listen anyway.” We laughed until father took the axe from grandpa’s hand and helped lay the old man down in the damp straw. Silence. Even the cattle on the hill chewed more deliberately. A crow on a limb opened its beak as if to yell a greeting to the bird growing from grandpa (you could see its black tongue vibrating), but no sound came out. It was as if fairies had stuffed all of our ears with cotton to soak up the blood of our anticipation.
Twack and it came off clean. The children took it in their arms like ghouls at a beheading and ran off into the house.
“Looks like I’ll be around another year after all.” Grandpa smiled and rose from the barnyard floor. “But next year, I think you should grow the turkey. I’ll just make the stuffing. Your aunt always makes the stuffing.”
Inside, the children cut the twine that held our aunt’s stomach together and began to shovel in bread, sage, and onions. Not long now and the house would be full of familiar smells.