(As told to C. Stroup by Claudia Bollman)
This Tale of a Turkey took place at one of the many glamorous sites the US military assigns its families ~ Fukuoka, on The Isle of Kyushu. It’s simply a gorgeous place and the most southern Island of Japan. However, there are strict military rules and regulations associated with living on any base. This one is no exception. One of that base’s mandates was that all of its facilities “shut down” for all holidays. Christmas is no exception to the rule.
While the military doctors remain on call and the hospital emergency room remains open, the on-base (commissary) super-mart places a CLOSED sign on the door. And so it was that most of the base was on hiatus.
Fortunately, my husband was ‘off-duty,’ (so to speak) for this particular Christmas. We’d bought a hefty turkey a month earlier at the commissary knowing that buying in advance was a wise thing to do. This was our only grocery store and we learned that frequently it would run out of “specialty items.” Prudently, we’d buy our food products as soon as they became available. In most cases these supplies had been on a ship for at least 3 months before reaching our grocery store. The duration of their voyage was of little concern. Our home, our Island, was the trans-Pacific’s ship’s last port-of-call in this area of the world.
At that time, just like here in The States, turkeys could be purchased frozen. So, the day before our Christmas dinner, the bird was transferred from the freezer to atop the refrigerator. It’s fun to recall the turkey’s defrost address. It was: [email protected] we’d put a net over it.
There was good reason for the bird’s defrost location. We had a cat that had a penchant for human food. Oh, he’d eat his own and purrr…but his preference was definitely something from our plate. Kitty lurked around every corner, undetected, as the lady of the house began to prepare any meal. And for the Christmas meal with all its trimmings, well that just had Kitty’s curiosity peaked and her salivary glands out of control. The table was set for a total of 12 people. It would truly be a feast. Kitty instinctively knew this.
I awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Christmas morning and strolled into the kitchen to fetch Mr. Tom from atop the fridge. “Holy Cow, WOW, Oh no!” I was not believing what to my wondering eyes did appear. (And I can guarantee you these are not the words that came out of my mouth at 6:00 am.) The turkey was missing an entire drumstick ~ gone, not there, void. I began looking around on the floor, after searching the countertops and, of course, the top of and behind the fridge. I don’t know what I was thinking. I do know I was furious. I mean whoever heard of serving a bird with only one drumstick?! This most unfortunate turn of events meant the man of the house was not going to sleep in late. We were in full crisis mode.
I like to think I informed him rationally that he needed to go downtown, (that is probably not exactly what happened) and find me the biggest 2 apples he could. He of course wanted to start an interrogation of why this was necessary, but after a few words determined this was the time to do or die, so do he did. (Not die…do.) Since most of Japan does not celebrate Christmas, their markets were open; the cost of their fresh fruits was akin to gold prices. My husband was faced with coming home and dealing with me (knowing a torturous death would follow) if he didn’t buy the hunks of gold. So he figured to hock his kid’s future was better than to return to the cook without the apples in hand. Naturally, he opted to s’core’ two, so to speak.
Anticipating his return, I had carefully already carved out the leg areas on Big Bird shooting a less than kind glance at ‘The Cat’ about every chance I had. It was hovering above my workspace, looking innocent and, of course, purring. Icky damn cat.
The two large priceless apples were stuffed into the cavities I’d created…cavities that wouldn’t have been necessary had it not been for the feline’s folly. I must say, though, that the turkey turned out pretty swell and made for a beautiful presentation on the dining room table.
Our young soldiers could have cared less if the bird had 2 legs or 2 apples or 2 heads, for that matter. They were far from home and delighted to be included in anyone’s family to share this holiday.
(Lucky thing for both the soldiers and the ‘damn cat’ she didn’t serve it with a big old apple shoved down its throat. Bet she thought about it!)
From the December 2009 issue of The Cross Timbers Gazette