About a turkey

Guest post by Anton Pavlovich Chekov
Mig came home from somewhere yesterday. He had driven his daughter to a museum, that was it. He came home, let in the cat, which he carefully loaded and hung on the wall, and started reading.
His cousin loaned him the latest novel by what’shisface the High Fidelity guy when he was in the States for his father’s funeral. He started reading it this weekend and found it a good, crisp read. Also, reading a story about people who wanted to jump off a building had a positive effect on his mood.
He had a turkey breast to roast. He had also cooked chili con carne the day before. Actually, there was so much of that left that he wouldn’t have needed to roast the turkey except the turkey was set to expire in two days and he figured if he roast it then it would eventually get eaten, whereas if he didn’t roast it right away who knows? So he put it in the oven with some carrots and potatoes and read his book some more.
He basted the turkey a few times. He saw kids off to bed. His wife as well. Eventually the turkey was finished roasting and he put it onto the stove to cool before he carried it downstairs to the cold room in the cellar for the night.
The book, it’s called “A Long Way Down,” that’s it. By Nick Hornby.
Everytime Mig reads that name, it strikes him as though it ought to be Hornsby, although he can’t explain why.
He was about to the end of a chapter. He was about to get up and see if the turkey had cooled enough, when he heard the noises coming from the kitchen.
Immediately he knew what was happening.
It hadn’t happened since one Thanksgiving more than ten years ago.
The noises were like this:


It was the sound of a cat making the most of a small window of opportunity.
It was followed quickly by other sounds – profane sputtering, hurried footsteps across a polished maple floor, “shoo”ing noises, a door opening and closing quickly, then a minute of profane lamenting, then another minute of quiet thought.
Mig fired up the oven, to a higher temperature this time, to the maximum actually, and after carving off the begnawed end of the roast, slid the whole works back in.
It was boiling away within a couple minutes. He let it roast for a quarter of an hour. This, he thought, most definitely would sterilize everything.
But who would eat it but him?
But what if he didn’t tell anyone?
He couldn’t do that. Not even to his mother-in-law.
And even if he could, how could he serve it to her and to no one else without someone getting suspicious?
After it had cooled, he put it into the cellar. When the grey cat woke him at two in the morning to be let out, he cut off a bit of the chewed piece he had earlier removed and fed it to him, since the grey cat was innocent. It was very pleased. It ate it so fast it nearly gagged.
He left the rest of the gnawed piece on the counter and, with both cats outside and the ruined turkey in the cellar, went to bed.
In the morning, the red cat was somehow back in the house and the chewed piece was gone.
What a pig.
He told the story to his wife and she said to put a warning sign on the turkey so no one would eat it by accident.
Mig wished he hadn’t told her the part about her mother, as she didn’t find it very funny.

Little-known facts about the grouper


  • The grouper, of the family Serranidae, commonly weighs between 50-100 pounds, although they can reach 750 pounds.

  • The biggest one ever caught with a rod and reel weighed over 400 pounds. Imagine that.
  • You wouldn’t want to eat one that big, though, because the bigger ones can cause ciguatera poisoning, whatever that is.
  • Some marine biologists claim that groupers like coastal areas. That is what the groupers want them to think.
  • The grouper is an angrier fish than the casual observer would guess.
  • The grouper hates arcade games where variously-colored blocks fall unpredictably and constantly from the sky, piling up until the window clogs and the game is lost, because it reminds them too directly of their life.
  • In fact, if it had the time, the grouper could spend an entire day sitting on a park bench thinking about a single thing: how much it hates its life.
  • Despite this, the grouper appears to be a friendly fish, and can be fed by hand.
  • It requires a great effort of will on the part of the grouper not to eat the hand, which is a delicacy for the grouper.
  • The grouper is a popular food fish, used for many kinds of cooking.

Orphanage infestation starlet

Man: How was school today, honey?
Girl: Okay.
Man: That’s nice. Everything okay?
Newspaper: Two-headed baby massacre disco fire.
Girl: Bzzbzzbzz.
Newspaper: Deadzone meltoff oilslick.
Girl: Bzzbzzbzz.
Man: I’m sorry, honey. Could you repeat that? I’m having trouble listening lately.
Girl: That’s okay. I have a Latin test tomorrow, I said.
Man: So you’re going to school tomorrow? You feeling better?
Girl: A little bit. If you miss the test you just have to take a harder one later.
Man: Yeah. Totally.
Newspaper: Downturn collusion deficit.
Girl: Bzzbzzbzz.
Newspaper: Bulimia prolapse.
Train of thought: Since when is prolapse part of our normal vocabulary, and what does that say about us?
Girl: Bzzbzzbzz.
Man: I’m sorry. The bus?
Girl: I said, I will have to take the bus to the train station tomorrow, won’t I?
Man: I suppose so. I could try to get your sister up early so we could drive you, but we’d have to leave by when, 6.30 AM, right?
Girl: More or less.
Man: You feel okay enough to do that?
Girl: Sure.
Newspaper: Alligator body parts. Celebrity investigation.
Newspaper: Contamination plunge. Suspicious gadget discount.
Newspaper: Bedbug tragedy.
Newspaper: Daycare arrest.
Man: Ham sandwich okay for lunch tomorrow?
Girl: Sure.

Brain evolution

On the radio this morning, something was said about a program to be broadcast later in the day, about alt sein (“being old”), only I understood Alzheim. The irony crushed me to the thickness of a peanut skin.

Cracking walnuts a few days ago, I had to think about the evolution of the brain. My theory is, we are descended from walnuts. It’s all there, the two sides, the lobes, the corpus callosum. Maybe not the lobes, I guess, but the folds, the folds.

Either that, or there is some natural mathematical explanation involving surface area and volume and maximization.

I have no time lately to practice cello. This makes lessons and orchestra rehearsals frustrating. Even when I do practice, I cannot get into the proper frame of mind. Last night I was doing okay for a while, but then Beta yelled that Gamma wanted me to come upstairs and dry her hair, and I sighed and went upstairs and she was in the tub crying because the water was too hot and I said why didn’t you put some cold water in and we ended up yelling at each other, in part I think because we are all so sick and tired at home, and in part because St. Nicholas brought chocolate yesterday and that’s about all we ate all day long.

Gamma and I are both the kiss-and-make-up types, though, so we were getting along again by bedtime.

I got her into bed and practiced a little more but didn’t make much progress on any of my orchestra pieces, which require more concentration than I am presently able to give.

There are two other things, however, which are saving me musically. One is a small Le Clerc piece, a cello duet, kindly sent to me by Guanaco. It is at a level of difficulty that enables me to concentrate on enjoying the music, and perhaps bowing, rather than getting all tangled up in intonation. It is fun to play, and another cellist at the music school and I may soon be playing it together, just for the hell of it.

This is significant, as it goes beyond what my original goal was in taking cello lessons. My original goal was, to increase my enjoyment of hearing music. To open the window a bit wider to the room where musicians sit around playing. I did not dream that I would ever be in the room playing with them.

I have achieved all my original goals and must set new ones I guess. My experience in the orchestra has also been a benefit – I can now hear the different parts of the music when an orchestra plays, and my appreciation of it has increased.

For the moment I am coasting while I formulate new goals. Struggling with hard music, and enjoying playing as an added, surprise bonus. Thanks, cello! Thanks, Guanaco!

The other thing is, Gamma and I have enrolled in a composition workshop at our music school. See, she said she’d only do it if I signed up with her. We are the second father-daughter team in the workshop, among other kids there.

We are working on a minimal music piece, I think. One idea, the teacher said, would be to come up with your own scale of several notes and noodle around with that for a while and see what you come up with. I tried it the other day.

Remember the dead fox? In German, it is spelled Fuchs. Subtract the U, which is no note in German notation, and you have the notes F, C, B (called H in German) and E flat (called Es in German). It is possible, without any knowledge of piano, to sit down at one, figure out which keys correspond to those notes, press down on the sustain pedal and noodle around such that it sounds pretty and melancholy. I find it a great comfort.

It is harder to get something nice-sounding by noodling about on the cello, at least for me, at least right now. Maybe that would be a good goal.

Gamma doesn’t want to compose a melancholy piece, though. She wants to do something happy about a badger, maybe. Or something else.

The voice at 5.00 AM

My kids do their homework and I realize I don’t know a single thing. There is no knowledge, only vague memories such as, things chemical involve electrons. Or, there was a literary style known as expressionism. Everything else is pure guesswork or less, pure making shit up.

Like: until you hit the ground, you can’t be sure whether you’re flying or falling.

Looking for a necktie this morning, it occurred to me that my father never abandoned me on the bridge at Multnomah Falls. As a young boy I had a phobia that I would be abandoned at a landmark of some sort, a park, or perhaps a bus depot.

My father was a bus driver, I saw the inside of a lot of bus depots; baggage rooms and driver rooms and dispatch offices.

It is, I suppose, a phase we go through, wanting to abandon our children, and I must have picked up on those vibes as a boy.

I was the first one into the office this morning. A phone was ringing somewhere with that mysterious potential native to unanswered ringing phones.

It was early in the morning when my mother called to tell me of my father’s death. Her voice was naked and quiet. I cried after I hung up. Then I sat on the edge of my bed and remembered how strong my father’s arms had seemed when he held me when I was little. He wore plaid pendleton wool shirts and smelled of wool and work and tobacco and lumber and diesel.

Even now, I still love wool and work and lumber and quiet, decent men, and the smell of tobacco and diesel.

Z was a little old lady I went to grade school with. I thought about her this morning, driving into work. She was blond and small for her age. She had curly hair and thick glasses and elderly parents. Elderly parents! And they gave her a name that started with Z!

Each year she was taken out of class for heart surgery. When we square danced, the teacher made me dance with her because I was the nicest boy. I also was assigned the task of helping her catch up with school work when she returned from hospital.

She died in the fourth grade. Nowadays, such a kid might have a better chance. Back then, maybe, the surgeons stood around after the ether put her out and thought, Jesus, what now. I imagine their tools looked like something out of your father’s toolbox, just sterile.

I don’t think about Z very often, but when I do it feels as if I’m always thinking about her. Like a theme in some very long composition that when you hear it, you think, this is what ties everything together.