Originally posted on The Short Story Showdown in response to Dec. 22nd’s theme, “Winter Celebrations.” I’ll be posting about that new endeavor tomorrow.
“That is the worst thing you could ask a mother and wife to do,” moaned the turkey. “Watching her child or her husband get turned into Christmas dinner! How frightful!”
The turkey’s husband shook his head.
“Now Agnes, it’ll be all right. If my memory serves, and I’m an old turkey now, I’ll admit, the farmer decided to have ham for Christmas dinner last year. Hopefully it was good.”
One of the cows in the next pen overheard the turkeys’ conversation. She told the sheep, who told the chickens, who eventually told the pigs in their wallow.
“Damned turkeys,” said the pig’s wife. “Always gloating over others. ‘Look at how the farmer’s kids make paper shrines to us,’ they say. ‘Poor us, always the victim at Thanksgiving.’ Everyone feels sorry for the turkeys, but who feels sorry for us?”
“Now, now,” said the pig. “You’re better than that. If we go, we will go with honor and pride.”
But the pig’s wife sniffed and snorked and was generally miserable. She knew that if any pig in the wallow was chosen for the big family dinner on Christmas Day, it would be her: she had packed on some pounds last summer with her latest round of anxiety attacks and was looking more pink and plump than ever.
Word traveled quickly around the farm that the pig’s wife would be saying goodbye to her fellow animals for the last time on Christmas Eve. There would be a little party in the cow pen and everyone was invited, no gifts necessary, but of course she wouldn’t mind a few extra dry crusts of bread or (she couldn’t be so hopeful as this) a fresh ear of corn.
Everyone arrived to the party forcing toothy smiles for the poor, doomed pig. “It’ll be quick,” they said, patting her swollen pink back. One of the heifers told her, “My cousin got the axe last year, didn’t even see it coming. It was over before she knew what was happening.”
This did not comfort the pig’s wife in the least. She fretted and fretted, and soon her frets turned to wails.
Suddenly, there was a commotion near the farmhouse. The farmer’s dogs bounded away from the house with fresh bones in their jaws.
“I can’t believe the grandparents are coming this year!” barked the first dog. “They always bring us treats. Lots and lots of treats. And soup bones. I love those soup bones.”
“And Aunt Miriam, she really knows how to get that spot behind my left ear,” said the second dog. “One little ham isn’t going to be enough with Aunt Miriam around.”
The first dog nodded and they slowed to a trot.
“Remember when we had this many people for Christmas a couple years back?” he said. “Master ended up slaughtering a turkey and a pig just to feed everyone.”
The dogs went on yammering past the cow pen to the barn where they slept. When they were gone, the farm animals simply stared at one another, too afraid of what insensitive thing they might say to speak. The pig’s wife looked less forlorn now that she might not be the only one butchered for Christmas dinner tomorrow.
The turkey’s wife began to wail that horrible wattling wail only turkeys can make.
“They’ll pick me, I’m sure,” she sobbed. “They only passed me over on Thanksgiving because my uncle had that terrible head cold!”
A cornish hen flailed her stubby wings and said, “If the turkeys aren’t safe from that old hog Aunt Miriam, how do we know they won’t come for us chickens, too?”
“Maybe they’ll have a Christmas smorgasboard!” cried one of the sheep. “A roasted lamb, a plucked chicken, a pig and a turkey, and a beef rump roast for good measure!”
The cows snorted in protest. One of the other hens fainted.
“Enough,” said the turkey. “Everyone needs to calm down. There is not going to be a Christmas smorgasboard.”
“How do you know?” said the pig. “None of us is safe!”
The crowd echoed him. “Beef rump roast!” moaned the heifers. “Calf liver soup!”
“There must be something we can do,” said the turkey.
“What do you propose, wattle-neck?” demanded the ram. “I’ve sat in my pen and watched the farmer do his duty year after year, one neck after another. We have never been safe, and we never will be. No amount of lip-wagging will change that.”
But the turkey had no genius proposal; he only had a tiny little turkey brain to help him, after all, so he shrugged and the animals wailed in despair.
Then, one of the cows spoke up.
“I know something we can do,” she said. She was the oldest of the heifers; a great brown beast with dull yellow horns and a smoker’s voice. “We get the farmer before the farmer can get us.”
The animals exchanged looks, and a tremor of suspended disbelief rippled through the crowd.
“Look,” said the heifer, “there’s a door on the back of the house that the farmer’s wife usually forgets to lock at night. The dogs are all out in the barn. We have everything to lose if we don’t act now. We will all die eventually at the farmer’s hand.”
The turkey saw his handle of the situation slipping away, so he climbed onto a hay bale and raised his huge wings high in the air. The animals turned to him, dumbstruck.
“Yes!” shouted the turkey. “The cow is right. We can no longer stand idly by while the humans butcher us! Our wives, our children, our mothers and fathers—all killed by the farmer for his own profit.”
“No more!” cried the hens.
“No more!” cried the pigs.
The animals gathered around the turkey and his hay bale. The heifer drew a rough map of the house with her hoof in the dirt, pointing out the back door. Then they made a plan.
The turkeys would stand on either side of the house, ready to sound the alarm should the dogs hear the commotion; the pigs, with their larger brains and natural cleverness, would open the door. Then the ram and the heifer, armed with their horns and their hooves, would charge in to take care of the problem once and for all.
As night fell, the animals filed out of the cow pen. They went around the barn to the back of the house. The turkey climbed onto a barrel next to the door, poised to gobble with all his might.
The pig and his wife examined the doorknob. After some finagling and standing atop one another, the pigs managed to turn the knob and the door creaked open.
It was dark inside the house. The heifer was too large to fit, so the ram was on his own. He squared his shoulders and passed through the doorway.
The animals waited and listened. Nothing happened at first; then they heard splintering wood, and the farmer’s wife cried out.
The dogs came barreling out of the barn, teeth bared. The rooster lunged at the first dog’s face in a flurry of feathers and pecked out his eyes. The other dog stopped in his tracks. He heard his master wail inside the house, but decided he valued his life more than his loyalty and ran back the way he had come.
When the dog was gone, the animals noticed the house was silent again. The pigs crept inside and found the ram panting over the farmer and his wife. One had been gouged by a curled horn, and the other, stomped to death.
Cries of victory spread through the mob. They carried the bodies from the house and paraded them around the pens. The birds began to peck at the flesh, and soon the farmer and his wife had turned into a buffet.
The next day, the rest of the farmer’s family arrived for Christmas dinner. When their car pulled up, the farm animals were waiting for them. The heifer gored Aunt Miriam through her rolls of fat, and they divided her up equally among themselves. The turkeys called for the breasts, while the pigs politely requested the thighs, and the chickens asked for the dark meat.
So it was that the animals were full and happy all Christmas day. Not once did they regret what they’d done.
Then, sometime after New Years, they ran out of grain in the barn. The hay in the yard had vanished, and the ears of corn were all gone.
Scratching for the last bits of oats in the dirt, the turkey turned to his wife.
“I thought that beef rump roast sounded quite good.”