Cold Turkey: A Short Story

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Eddie stands fuming outside in the bitter cold while his son, wife, and in-laws sit at the dinner table surrounding a cold turkey.

How did such woeful events occur on Thanksgiving Day? Read on …

***

As his favorite football team seemed determined to get trounced on national television, Eddie decided he saw enough. He rose from his father-in-law’s recliner, made his way to the front hall, retrieved his coat, then backtracked through the living room and traveled through the kitchen while enjoying its delicious aromas. His six-year-old son colored at the little-used kitchen table and they exchanged wordless smiles before Eddie reached the back door.

As soon as Eddie stepped into the frigid November air, he reached into his left coat pocket.

Nothing.

He tried the right pocket.

Equally barren.

Charging back into the house, Eddie once again noticed the smell of cooking turkey while he rumbled past his son and through the kitchen.

He found his wife and in-laws waiting for him in the living room with the television turned off. They wore expressions of trepidation.

“Susan,” Eddie said to his wife of eleven years, “where are my cigarettes?”

“Eddie,” she began after a quick glance to her parents, “you’ve been promising for years. We talked it over, and we decided to take matters into our own hands.”

“You mean you stole my cigarettes?” Eddie asked in disbelief. “You took them right out of my coat pocket?”

Her eyes pleading, Susan said, “We knew you didn’t have a secret stash here; we figured this was our best chance to prove you don’t need them. If you can get through today, then you can get through the rest of the week, and then the month, and then maybe even the year …”

Eddie, bewildered, looked at his in-laws and questioned, “Donna, Marvin—you two were part of this?”

“We love you like our own flesh and blood, Eddie,” Marvin said with his palms up. “I know it was a dirty thing to do, but we did it because we care so much about you.”

Donna amended, “We want you around for a long time so you can raise that boy of ours. My father died from emphysema. He smoked his entire life, just like you’re doing. Do you want your son to go fatherless?”

Detecting her husband’s rage, Susan confessed, “This seemed like our best option—our only option.”

His eyes narrowed to slits. Eddie said nothing in response to his family. Instead, he spun on his heel and plowed through the house once more. Of course, to make his way to the back door, he had to enter the kitchen anew, and when he did so, the smell of succulent turkey filled his nostrils again and made his mouth water.

A petty, underhanded idea invaded Eddie’s mind. 

He stopped right in front of the oven. He turned his head ever so slightly and saw his son still engrossed with his coloring book, paying Eddie no attention at all. In one deft movement, Eddie did the unthinkable.

It would be hours before anyone noticed.

***

Now that you know why Eddie endures the freezing elements and his family sits staring at a half-cooked turkey, we shall conclude our misadventure. Can any good possibly come of such calamity? We shall see …

“Daddy?” Eddie’s son asks as he pokes his head out the door.

“Yeah?” Eddie replies. His face is flushed and his voice quivers both from anger and the icy temperature. But when he looks into his son’s eyes, his fury subsides. He thinks of the mess he’s made of their Thanksgiving.

“Daddy, aren’t you going to come sit with us? We’re all waiting for you at the table.”

Eddie figures Susan, Donna, and Marvin didn’t disclose Eddie’s transgression to the boy.

“Um, I don’t really think the turkey’s fit to eat this year,” Eddie says.

“Yeah, but aren’t we still supposed to join hands and give thanks?” his son asks. “Isn’t that what today’s all about? I mean, that’s what we’ve been doing since I was a little kid.”

Before taking a deep breath, Eddie’s recognizes that he’s the biggest turkey of all. 

“You’re right—you’re exactly right. Let’s go in and first I’ll give thanks for having the world’s wisest six-year-old, then I’ll apologize to your mom and grandparents, and then I’ll give thanks for their love and—hopefully—forgiveness.”

Eddie sees his son looking at him knowingly.

“You saw me do it, didn’t you?” Eddie asks.

Nodding, the boy returns, “I didn’t tell. I think they figured it out, though. Don’t worry, you and Mommy always tell me if you say you’re sorry, people will forgive you.”

With moist eyes, Eddie takes his son’s outstretched hand and says, “I’m sorry to you, too. Do you forgive me?”

“I forgive you, Daddy,” his son replies. Then, looking up at his father with a bright, semi-toothless smile, he asks, “Can we order a pizza?”

Eddie laughs as they reenter the house and says, “Yep, and I’m buying. Just don’t get used to pizza on Thanksgiving. This is our last year of cold turkey.”


Copyright © 2008/2013/2020 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. This story first appeared in the November 2008 issue of News and Views For the Young at Heart.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

My Short Story, “Besieged,” Now Available At Podbean

I’m pleased to announce that “Besieged,” my short story, is now available for your enjoyment at Podbean. Simply click HERE to pay it a visit.

Careful with that spider you’re about to step on. You might just end the world.

“Crisis,” My Short Story, Now At Podbean

As her husband nears death in a hospital, Holly argues with her daughter about whether he is alone or not.

Enjoy my short story, “Crisis,” now at Podbean, by clicking HERE.

“Natural Law” Is Now Available At Podbean

If you could literally do anything and go anywhere, how would you choose to spend your time? Such is the question posed by “Natural Law,” which is now available for your listening enjoyment at Podbean. Click HERE to listen.

Stasis: A Short Story

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I’m standing in our dining room, looking out of the picture window. Honestly, that’s not true. It should be our dining room. It’s actually our kids’ toy room. 

I like to see what’s going on out there. Usually, the answer is “not much.” We live on a cul-de-sac, and now that it gets dark early and the cold is here, there’s rarely anything to see. But it’s either look out the window or watch Lizzie McGuire reruns with my eight-year-old—her nighttime show—so I opt for the empty street. 

Here comes some action. A walker is approaching from the other side of the cul-de-sac. It’s hard to tell who it is with all of the winter wear. I generally recognize everyone in our subdivision, but we sometimes have strangers pass through. I notice this person is eyeballing my “Biden-Harris 2020” yard sign. Maybe a fellow fan?

Maybe not!

The guy just tore my sign out and tossed it into the street!

“Brisa!” I yell as I head to the mudroom. 

“What?” Brisa calls back from the TV room.

I pull on my heavy coat while saying, “When your mom gets out of the shower, tell her I’m going on a walk.”

“But it’s too cold, Daddy,” Brisa says.

After putting on my stocking cap, I next slide into my tennis shoes. I’m not going to let some Trump supporter get away with this!

“I’ll be back in a minute,” I say while making my way to the front door. 

“What are you doing, Daddy?”

I ignore Brisa’s question as I shut the door behind me.

Our neighborhood is beautiful in that it’s a series of sidewalks weaving through yard after yard. The covenants don’t allow privacy fences, so everything is wide open. I just catch sight of the walker at the far end of the sidewalk leading into the next cul-de-sac. I see him turn left, which means he’s heading towards the elementary school.

It’s only eight o’clock, but it might as well be midnight. There isn’t a soul out here except for the walker and me. As I trot after him, I feel the frigid air bite into my lungs. We could be in for some very serious trouble if it’s already this cold in late October. Like 2020 hasn’t been bad enough already. Between Covid-19 and Donald Trump … But better days can’t be too far off now, right?

I enter the adjacent cul-de-sac and see the guy at the end of it, crossing the street. He takes the sidewalk between two houses that leads to a trail around a big field that the neighborhood school uses. On such a clear night, I don’t think I could lose him once he reaches the field, but I increase my pace nonetheless.

What will I do when I catch the guy?

I have no idea.

I think I’ll start with just telling him that I saw what he did and that I didn’t like it. 

I reach the edge of the field just as he’s made it almost halfway across. Our subdivision ends along the west side of the field, the side I’m entering. Houses line the entire length of it. A retirement community resides on the east side of the field, with the school on the south side. 

The cold grass crunches under my feet as I try to catch up. I’m pretty sure the guy has no idea he’s being followed. Was he just walking around messing with Biden signs? How sad is that?

Without warning, the man stops. I mean, he’s frozen in place—mid-stride. 

I mumble, “What the hell?” 

Then, I scream.

A beam of light shoots out from the sky and surrounds the guy. Within seconds, I see his feet leave the ground. 

Still screaming, I dive onto my belly. 

I watch as the man goes up higher and higher towards the starting point of the light. 

But there’s nothing there! What’s shining the light? There’s nothing there!

Other than my screaming, there isn’t a sound. The man doesn’t move—not a muscle. He still appears as if he’s about to take another step. 

And then …

He’s gone. 

He’s just gone. 

The light’s gone. 

Everything is quiet again. The whole thing probably took five seconds.

What the hell did I just see? 

I’ve got to get out of here!

I jump to my feet and start sprinting. Sidewalks be damned, I’m cutting between houses!

I cross the street and race through my neighbors’ yards. I’m looking up at the sky for any sign of the light, but all I see are the stars. It’s like nothing happened at all!

After bursting through yet another yard, I spill out onto my own street and run towards my driveway. I’m so close! 

I step on the Biden sign and start to slide, but I manage to regain my balance. 

Almost there!

My front door is just within reach when I freeze.

I can’t move; I can’t scream; I can’t do anything. 

God, no! 

Light—the light—it’s surrounding me!

I feel the ground let go of my foot and I float upwards. 

No! No! This can’t be happening!

I move my eyes downward and see the top of my daughter’s head far below.

She’s asking for me—calling out my name. 

Thank God, she isn’t looking up. 

Please, God, don’t let her look u—

______________________________________________________________________________

Copyright © 2020 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

Gunsmoke’s All-In: A Short Story

When my mother asked me to invite her friend’s son to my poker game, I didn’t think much of it. Sure, we like to keep our games closed, but she explained that this guy was new in town, a medical professional, single, and simply looking to make some acquaintances.

Since, like us, he’s in his early forties, I figured it didn’t hurt to include him. My friends would understand.

… If only I’d known.

My mother gave me his number, and, when I texted him, I purposefully had him arrive after everyone else. I wanted to explain the situation to my friends. For the most part, we’ve been playing poker together every other week for fifteen years. He would be the first novel face in our group in quite a while. Honestly, we were excited to have a new dynamic to the game.

Of course, we soon found out it was the wrong dynamic.

My wife took the kids to her parents’ house for the evening. This allowed us to drink, curse, insult each other, and otherwise try to act macho in ways only middle-aged men can manage. Of course, we had to fit all this debauchery in before ten o’clock at night because none of us could stay awake much later than that.

Our poker games were pretty low-stakes. Five dollars bought you in. Everyone got the same amount of chips. Second place won his money back; winner took the rest. We normally had a total of six guys who, like I said, have known each other for a long time.

As we all sat around the table waiting, Tomas, a fellow teacher, asked, “So what’s this guy’s name again?”

“I told you—I don’t know,” I replied.

Marcus, who’s in marketing, questioned, “But he’s a doctor?”

“Maybe,” I answered.

“Doctors have money,” Dewey said. Dewey’s a travel agent.

“What’s it matter with a five dollar buy-in?” Tomas laughed.

Karl added, “Nobody’s getting rich off these games.” Karl’s also a teacher.

I nodded and said, “And no side-hustles, okay, Dewey? I don’t know this guy and I don’t want any trouble.”

“A little trouble might be nice nowadays,” Jalen chuckled. Jalen’s the most financially successful among us—an orthopedic surgeon.

Jalen, by the way, probably sealed our fates with that comment because at that moment we heard my doorbell ring. The guys all looked at each other and tried to hide their nervousness. You could say we had become a bit set in our ways.

I opened the door and heard, “Heeere’s Johnny!”

As a twenty-year veteran teacher, it’s hard to shock me anymore. Let’s just say that the sight of this man … well, it surprised me.

It was obvious at first glance that he was taller than any of us, and broader, too. Though he wore a baggy Hawaiian shirt and frumpy cargo shorts, his exposed arms and legs showed sinewy musculature. He might have even been handsome, but large, mirrored sunglasses covered most of his face. A semi-transparent green visor partially concealed his wavy, dark hair.

“Hi, there,” I said. “Welcome. So, the name’s Johnny?”

“How ‘bout … nooo,” he droned while entering.

“Okay, yeah, come on in,” I muttered.

He made his way to the table, lifted up a hand, and said, “Greetings, Earthlings.”

“Uh, hey,” Karl replied. “Have a seat.”

“I’m Tomas.”

“Marcus.”

“Jalen.”

“Karl.”

I said, “You know me already.”

“Gunsmoke,” he revealed. He slowly started to grin, exposing huge, perfectly white teeth.

Jalen laughed, “A nickname. Got it. What’s your name for real, though?”

“Kiss my grits!” Gunsmoke exploded.

Everyone at the table jumped. Marcus even knocked over his beer.

“Damn, man!” Dewey cried.

As I ran to the kitchen, I heard this awful sound. It struck me as a cross between someone sobbing and a tiny dog howling. I realized it emanated from Gunsmoke.

I tossed Marcus a towel and then took my seat.

Gunsmoke stopped giggling, pointed at Marcus’ beer, and squeaked, “Did I do that?” He next started that awful laugh all over again.

“This is too weird,” Tomas said.

Dewey looked at me and asked, “Is this a prank or something?”

“You got some explaining to do,” Gunsmoke sang.

“Okay, um, let’s just get the game started,” I said. “So, uh, Gunsmoke, it’s a five dollar buy-in—”

He interrupted with a childish tone, saying, “You got it, dude!”

“Right,” I mumbled. “We’ll start with a dime and quarter blinds.”

“Alll-righty, then,” Gunsmoke barked.

Marcus complained, “Bonkers. Totally bonkers.”

I started dealing the cards.

“So, Gunsmoke …” Jalen began. “I understand you’re in the medical field? Me, too. What do you do?”

“Yes, that’s right, thank you for asking,” Gunsmoke responded.

He used such a pleasant voice, a voice we had not yet experienced until that moment, that it took us all aback.

“I serve as an intermediary between doctors and patients in the telemedicine industry. My primary focus concerns mental health, though I would like to expand my reach into the field of addiction as well, since the two sometimes go hand-in-hand.”

“Wow. That actually sounds really interesting,” Dewey said.

“Yes, thank you,” Gunsmoke answered. “It’s highly rewarding, fascinating work. Connecting patients with the appropriate caregiver is a fulfilling passion of mine.”

“Very cool,” I said. “Read to play?”

“Oh, you betcha, yeah,” Gunsmoke replied through his nose.

The charming, articulate version of the man dissipated. We all looked at each other, utterly confounded.

“Texas Hold ‘Em is the game,” I said. “You know how to play?”

Gunsmoke put his hands together as though they were cuffed, adopted a sultry, serious voice, and grumbled, “I know.”

“Oh, my God,” Tomas murmured.

“Here we go, then,” I said.

Gunsmoke sat to my left. He’d already tossed in the small blind. Karl was next and had thrown in the big blind. Tomas raised to fifty. Marcus matched. Jalen matched. I matched. Gunsmoke threw in enough to get to fifty, as did Karl.

Next came the flop.

Gunsmoke checked. Karl checked. Tomas tossed in seventy-five. Marcus folded. Jalen matched. I matched. Gunsmoke matched. Karl matched.

Finally, the river arrived.

Gunsmoke bet one twenty-five. Karl folded. Tomas raised to one-fifty. Jalen matched. I matched.

Gunsmoke pushed his chips while saying, “All-in.”

Tomas screamed, “You can’t be serious!”

After frowning behind his sunglasses, Gunsmoke shouted, “What’chu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”

“Um … Gunsmoke,” I said, “it’s the first round. You sure you want to go all-in? We’ve still got a few hours left …”

He replied with a big smile before saying, “How you doin’?”

“This is nuts,” Jalen chortled while shaking his head.

“Are you crazy or something?” Tomas asked.

I held up my hands and said, “C’mon, Tomas, don’t—”

“My mama says that crazy is as crazy does,” Gunsmoke slowly replied.

Marcus shrieked, “That’s not what mama says, you—”

Gunsmoke interjected with, “What we’ve got here … is failure … to communicate.”

Jalen asked, “What happened to that professional dude we were talking to?”

“If he dies … he dies,” Gunsmoke growled.

“I don’t even know what the hell that’s supposed to mean,” Dewey said.

I suggested, “Let’s just play, okay? Sound good, everyone? Tomas, you in?”

Tomas threw his cards down and hissed, “I’m out. This is ridiculous.”

“Okay,” I said. “Jalen?”

Jalen grinned while offering me a wink. He tossed down his cards. “Out. Up to you, my man.”

“Okay, I’ll stick around,” I said. “We’ll see if Gunsmoke knows what he’s doing.”

Gunsmoke bellowed, “I’m just getting warmed up!”

I pushed all of my chips in and said, “I call. What do you have?”

After laying down his cards, Gunsmoke said, “Three of a kind.”

A warm rush pulsed through my body when I saw his three twos.

I laid my cards down in a neat row. “Flush—diamonds.”

“Nice!” Tomas yelled.

Gunsmoke’s mouth dropped open as he moaned, “Ohhh, fuuudge …”

“Now that’s a first round,” Marcus added.

“You’re not going to stick around, right?” Dewey asked Gunsmoke. “You’ll be leaving now?”

“This is unbelievable,” Karl uttered.

Jalen caught my eye. I looked at him. He glanced at Gunsmoke’s cards. I followed his sightline.

Damn it.

Yes, Gunsmoke had three twos. But he also had two sevens. Three twos and two sevens—a full house. Which beat a flush, by the way.

Karl shook his head at me, silently begging me to keep my mouth shut.

Jalen smiled with a shrug.

“Guess what, Gunsmoke,” I said.

He wouldn’t make eye contact when he replied, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”

“You actually won.”

Gunsmoke lifted his head and faced me.

“You’ve got a full house there—twos and sevens,” I informed.

“That beats a flush,” Jalen clarified.

Dewey squawked, “Damn it. You could’ve gotten him out of here.”

“That’s a little rude, Dew,” Tomas chided.

“Thank you,” Gunsmoke said. “Your generosity does not go unnoticed. It’s the epitome of fair play.”

“No worries,” I replied.

Karl looked at me while saying, “Guess you’re just hanging loose tonight, huh?”

Gunsmoke quickly crooned, “Thaaat’s what she said.”


Copyright © 2020 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

Click the image to view the author’s latest book at Amazon.com.

Drive By: A Short Story

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I stand by the window, looking out, watching my daughter play in the front yard.

My heart fills with dread.

They should be here any minute.

Should being the operative word.

Will they come?

Why should they?

I’m amazed how everyone seems to know everyone—everyone but me. How do they all know each other? Our kids are in third grade. When I was a kid, if my classmates didn’t live in the neighborhood, my parents didn’t know their parents at all.

I seem to be the only one upholding that tradition. How would I even begin to meet the other kids’ parents? PTO? Sports?

I honestly have no idea.

I don’t want my daughter to pay for my ignorance. She’s going to be the outcast. The weirdo. The kid with the dad who’s clueless about throwing birthday parties under ordinary circumstances. But during a pandemic? Hopeless.

When the mom emailed, my instinct said not to trust her.

She wanted to organize a birthday parade for my daughter. She said my daughter’s teacher asked her to do it, which is also how she got my email address. She said she’d be happy to lend a hand—I just needed to make sure my daughter hung out in the front yard at a certain time. She included her phone number and asked me to call.

I did.

It wasn’t bad, but it was awful.

Against my better judgement, I agreed to it. I asked if I could assist, and—to my relief—she said not to worry about a thing.

Why?

She doesn’t know me. I’m not even sure she knows my daughter. She owes me nothing—no favors, no kindness, no mercy. Yet, she supposedly got in touch with all the kids’ families and set up a parade.

But what if she didn’t? What if she changed her mind? What if she got busy with her actual friends or her real commitments?

I’m expected to trust her without knowing her.

Maybe I should have just thrown a party. Screw it. Get the bouncy house. Hire the clown. Order pizza. Invite the entire third grade to our backyard. Pandemic be damned.

No.

I couldn’t bring myself to do that. It would have been hard when things were normal—but I would have done it. I keep telling myself I would have bitten the bullet and hosted a party.

But now? I can’t bring myself to take that risk. No matter how unlikely, I can’t jeopardize my daughter’s health.

The neighborhood thinks I’m a freak for taking this so seriously. My daughter will likely be ostracized for the rest of her school years because of me. She’ll be the kid with the nutty dad. The house nobody wants to come visit. She won’t be invited places because no one will want to deal with me.

What they must think—all those normal parents. I can’t even organize a birthday parade on my own.

What’s wrong with me?

I watch my daughter.

She’s the only bright spot in my life. The only thing I got right. I’m doing the best I can, but I’m not equipped for parenthood. It doesn’t come naturally. I never expected to be doing it alone.

I watch her.

My heart is full of joy, fear, confusion, love, anxiety, and happiness all at once.

Tears zigzag down my face.

For the longest time, nothing happens but the hitch of my chest.

And then I hear it—a blaring of horns. I see my daughter begin to jump up and down, waving her arms. Cars and minivans appear. Most have balloons attached. Some even have her name written on the sides, wishing her a happy birthday.

She looks at me through the window, gestures for me to come outside, and then goes back to jumping for joy.

I wipe off the tears, walk to the front door, and reach for the knob.


Copyright © 2020 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

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