Short Story – Water
What’s Thanksgiving without a little reading material to pass the time while you’re patiently waiting for food? I can’t think of a Thanksgiving where I haven’t sat down for a little bit and read something on the couch with the wonderful smell of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie filling up the house. This story came to me fairly recently and it is loosely based on true events. I will warn it is in many ways a horror, and it’s also rather disgusting. So, if you are faint of heart or have a weak stomach, perhaps consider reading this another day.
If you would rather read this in PDF format, you can download the copy here.
by Jason Ingolfsland
All Rights Reserved.
Charlotte had to get it right, and on her first trip out to the grocery store she spent an hour standing in front of the turkeys, trying to decide on the size and brand. She waffled over a 12 pound or a 16 pound stressing over how it looked, and if it would feed everyone. She had to get it right.
So she erred on the side of caution and chose the 16 pound.
Her in-laws and extended family were coming over for Thanksgiving and it was the first time she and her husband Eric hosted.
“You have to make sure to remember to take the turkey out of the freezer,” Charlotte’s mother said over her cell phone. She was driving home after picking up the turkey and called her mother to get advice for how to prepare it. After speaking to her mother, she planned to check Google to scour for recipes.
“You can’t trust the internet, Charlotte. Just use my recipe,” she said in a nagging tone.
“Okay, email it to me, then. I still want to check out other recipes. It’s no offense, Mom, really, but Eric’s parents are, well…”
“Just speaking my mind.”
“Well, I’m glad you won’t be at Thanksgiving this year, then.”
“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. Look, I’m just stressed out.”
“I know,” she said with a sigh. “You’re going to do great, Charlotte. You’re a bloody good cook and the best woman I know. Eric and his family are lucky to have you.”
“Thanks, Mom. Love you.”
“I love you too.” She paused. “And don’t forget to take it out of the freezer!”
Days passed since she put the turkey in the freezer, and Thanksgiving day approached faster than ever. The daily stress of work and family life tightened around her neck like a noose. Her day consisted of both getting the kids ready for school and driving to her architecture firm to design the skyscraper for the city’s new expansion. Her deadline was days before Thanksgiving and she cared more about focusing on that than thinking about cooking an enormous meal for her in-laws. It didn’t take long before both the meal and Thanksgiving drifted from her memory.
The night of the deadline she spent hours finalizing the blueprints for her boss, hoping she’d finish in time. All the lights in her office were off except her dim desk lamp that sat by her computer. Her typing and furious scribbling sounded louder under the heavy quiet. She hated working late hours, being away from her family, and especially hated grinding her teeth on a deadline. It wasn’t like her. Usually she planned ahead and made everything tick like clockwork.
Hours slipped through her hands like sand and the stress only mounted further. At 1:13 AM that morning, it dawned on her she might not meet the deadline. But that was unacceptable she reminded herself. She could only imagine the look of fury on her bosses face and the two words she refused to hear during the holidays – You’re fired!
Her pencil snapped. “Oh no,” she breathed. “The turkey.”
Interrupting her terrifying realization that she forgot to take the turkey out of the freezer, her cell phone rang. She ignored it, too deep in thought of what to do about it. She had to go home and remove it, but that would take at least an hour and she needed every second to complete her work project if she wanted a chance to meet the deadline. She couldn’t lose her job, but standing in shame in the sight of her in-laws made her face turn red hot.
Her phone kept ringing. She pulled it out to see who it was and found Eric’s smiling face on the screen.
She answered. “Eric!”
“Hey,” he said in a sleepy voice. “You coming home?”
“Listen to me, I’m so glad you’re awake. You have to take the turkey out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. Can you do that for me?”
“Uh, yeah. Sure. No problem.”
“Thank you so much, sweetie.”
“It’s so late. When are you getting home?”
“Soon. Soon. I promise.”
She pulled into her garage at 5:28 AM. Putting her coat on the rack, she released a lion like yawn and rubbed her bloodshot eyes. Her hair was in disarray and her makeup dried and cracked. Hobbling to bed, she reached the staircase and stopped dead in her tracks. She remembered the turkey.
Opening the fridge door, she looked for it, shoving all the food out of the way, and checking each shelf multiple times. A giant turkey shouldn’t be hard to find in a fridge, but she couldn’t find it. “No, no, no, nononono,” she muttered.
The cold, wintery breath of the freezer exhaled in her face, revealing the turkey remaining exactly where she put it. She frowned, feeling betrayed by her husband. She wanted to go up and start beating him over the head with her purse, but that anger subsided as quickly as it came. He probably wasn’t fully awake, she thought. He had a habit of talking in his sleep ever since they first got married.
She grabbed the turkey and put it on the top shelf of the fridge. I might still have time to let it thaw, she thought. Maybe after I wake up I’ll put it in warm water.
That afternoon she put on the coffee and sat at the kitchen table to read the newspaper in her robe.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” Eric said with a smile, dressed in sweatpants and a grungy shirt. He clearly hadn’t showered, shaved, or brushed his teeth, and Charlotte wasn’t amused by his cheerful demeanor.
“You forgot to take the turkey out of the fridge,” she said.
“What? I thought you had turkey duty? I strictly remember you saying you wanted to be in charge of the turkey. No exceptions.”
“Yeah, but I forgot, and worked late last night. So I couldn’t. I asked you to do it over the phone, remember?”
“We talked on the phone last night?”
She pressed her fingers against her temples and massaged them. She could feel a headache coming on. “Yeah.”
He shrugged. “Huh. I don’t remember. I’m sorry. But hey, it’ll be fine. Thanksgiving isn’t until tomorrow.”
“Yeah, but you need to give it time to thaw. If I don’t get this right, I honestly don’t know how I’m going to face your parents. They’ll hate me forever.”
“Okay, you’re being a little melodramatic. My parents won’t hate you. And you’re going to do great. Besides, I’ll be your sous-chef. You tell me what to do and I’ll help out.” He came over and firmly massaged her shoulders.
She breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Okay. Thanks.”
The morning of Thanksgiving she took the turkey out of the fridge. The rags she placed under it were soaked in blood. Grimacing, she put the turkey on the counter, grabbed a bowl, and put all the dirty rags inside. She washed her hands and cleaned up the rest of the mess inside the fridge, disinfecting and wiping down the surface with a paper towel. Turning on the faucet, she placed the rags under the water and twisted. The blood poured out of the rags and swirled down the drain.
She washed her hands again before preparing the turkey.
By the time her in-laws and extended family arrived, everything went smoothly. The potatoes were mashed. The sweet potatoes were cooked. The pies baked. To save time, she steamed the veggies in the microwave and bought rolls at the store. Eric followed through on his word, wearing and apron and everything, helping her with the preparation, and getting the fruit salad and stuffing ready. A warmth rose inside her belly. She felt proud to be with him, working together for a common goal.
To her surprise, her in-laws, Frank and Vicki, were in good spirits, smiling and joking, and giving her all sorts of compliments on the look and smell of the food, a rarity in the ten years that she and Eric had been married. She blushed at the compliments and tried to keep a steady head. The food has yet to be served, she told herself. The day isn’t over yet.
But everything was going so well, she couldn’t imagine it ending any other way than full bellies, roaring laughter, and a nice glass of red wine to book end the evening.
An orange and brown table runner with a cornucopia design went down the middle of the long, oak table as a royal carpet for the giant feast. A wide and delicious display of food populated the middle while hungry eyes waited to dig in. First the adults sat down, and not long after, Charlotte’s two wild, screaming children, Damon and Cynthia, fresh off the battlefield of their new video game, joined them. The only thing missing was the glorious, glistening turkey. Charlotte was in the kitchen putting on the finish touches while her children with fork and knife in hand slammed their fists on the table and chanted, “We want food! We want food!”
Eric hastily shushed them.
Bringing the massive turkey over to the table, Charlotte felt a sudden fear that she might trip and the whole turkey would go flying into the air and land on her mother-in-laws head. The silly image made her chuckle, but she held back laughing too loudly. To her relief, she didn’t trip or cause an accident, and instead, placed the turkey down in the middle of the table and said joyfully, “Dinner is served!”
A quick and insincere prayer was said by Frank, and the moment he finished, Eric carved the turkey while food was passed around the table.
“What would everyone like to drink?” Charlotte asked.
“Water,” Frank said.
“Water,” Vicki said
“Water here, too,” Eric said.
“Water, please,” both Damon and Cynthia said.
She grabbed each of their glasses one at a time, went to the fridge, and poured a glass from the Brita filter tank they kept at the bottom. One by one, she brought it to them. First, Frank, then Vicki, and so on, before they all had glasses of water.
She poured her own. When it became full, she noticed it had froth on the top. That’s strange, she thought. But she didn’t think much of it at first, placing the glass on the counter next to the fridge. She stopped a second, trying to register the oddity, and looked back into the fridge to inspect the Brita tank further. She leaned in and squinted her eyes.
The water inside the tank had a translucent, light red color. That can’t be right, she thought. She turned to look at her glass and saw it, too, had a translucent light red color. It shouldn’t be red. Why is it red? She turned back to the Brita filter and pulled it halfway out of the fridge. The top lid was also covered in red liquid.
Her eyes grew wide and her stomach felt like it had been put into a meat grinder. Her breaths dramatically increased. Placing her hand on her breast, she took a deep, full breath and calmed her nerves.
She slowly opened the Brita lid as if a monster might grab her by the throat and choke her. The fear was too rich and thick to truly comprehend what had happened. Looking inside, aghast, she bit her lip and grimaced. The white reservoir, usually clear as day, was filled with blood, oozing down into the tank.
Quickly putting the Brita filter back into the fridge, hiding it away like a dead body, she twisted around, shut the door and leaned her back against it. Her chest heaved rapidly as she thought through what she should do.
In a panic, she went back to the dinner table in the next room, stopped, stood, and trembled. She didn’t do anything but watch. She watched her happy family, filled with laughter and conversation, wash down their slabs of turkey with bloody water.