The Stupid 365 Project, Day 55: “Thanksgiving With All Those Dougs”

November 24th, 2010

Once upon a time . . .

. . . there was a cheerful, plump, adorable little turkey named Billy.

No.  No, there wasn’t.  I mean, maybe there was, but not in this story.

Deep breath.

Once upon a time, living behind a run-down farm in Massachusetts, there was a grumpy, unpleasant male-chauvinist turkey named Doug.

Well, he thought of himself as Doug, but Doug wasn’t his real name.  The truth is that no turkey knows his or her real name.  When a lady turkey lays eggs, she names her children by whispering a name over each of the eggs. That’s fine for Mom, she can rest content in the knowledge that she’s done her job, but the kids, so to speak, are still pretty much yolks and whites, and they’re a long way from their cognitive peaks.

So when they hatch, they don’t know their names.

Now, turkeys have deep-seated and richly deserved insecurities about being, well, dumb.  They are, after all, the only species ever to drown by looking up at the rain for too long.  And when a turkey doesn’t know something, he or she pretends to know it.  So this turkey pretended it knew its name and the name it pretended its name was, was Doug.

No other turkey called him Doug, of course.  All turkeys are secretly afraid they thought up a stupid name, so they keep their made-up names a secret all their lives.  In fact, turkeys go through life pretty much calling each other, “Hey! You,” and also answering to “Hey! You!”  If you doubt this, just memorize “Hey, You!” in turkey and go to a poultry farm and yell it out.  All the turkeys will look at you.  Honest.

And, as any turkey expert will tell you, they might as well call each other, “Hey! You!” because they all decide to call themselves Doug.  Hard as it may be to believe, only one name ever occurs to a turkey.  The result is that every turkey has the same secret name.

Got it?  It will cease to be important immediately, as the story leaps forward.

Doug (the Doug we’re talking about, not any of the other Dougs) was the king of the herd or flock or whatever a bunch of turkeys is called (they secretly think of themselves as “a cluster of Dougs”), and very used to throwing his weight around.  He was also nearsighted, with the result that he mistook most things for turkeys and, since he was only interested in female turkeys, he mistook most things for female turkeys, tried to have his way with them, and often succeeded.  He was especially close with Farmer Brown’s Airedale, Sporting Life, a relationship that Farmer Brown, a flinty, tradition-minded New Englander with a rich vein of Old-Testament morality, did not look upon with favor.

Let’s see.  Oh, yes, wait, I was right the first time, there was a cheerful, plump, adorable little turkey named Billy. (He thought of himself as “Doug,” but we’ll call him Billy. All the characters having the same name presents even the most skilled writer with certain sophisticated technical problems if the reader is to keep the characters straight.) All the young female turkeys tried to keep old Doug at wing’s length, but whenever Billy went by, they blushed becomingly beneath their feathers and called out in melting, tremulous voices, “Hey! You!” and all the other turkeys, including Doug, turned around, so nobody felt left out.

The warm weather was barely a memory by now, especially to a turkey, and many of the leaves had fallen from the trees, a sequence of events that fills turkeys everywhere with a vague, nameless uneasiness.  In the farmhouse, Farmer Brown’s two tousle-haired children, um, Bob and Norah, couldn’t understand why their father didn’t want them to go out and play any more with Billy, their favorite turkey.  “Whywhywhywhywhywhywhywhy?” they cried out, “we love Billy.”  But their father just glared at their mother and said, “You wouldn’t listen, would you?”

The next morning, Farmer Brown was up early, long before sunrise, wrapped in a heavy coat and carrying an axe.  As Bob and Norah slumbered innocently, Farmer Brown unlatched the gate of the turkey pen and went in, pushing his way through the torpid birds until he found Billy.  Quick as a wink, he swooped down and grabbed Billy by the feet, trying to move quietly.  But all the young female turkeys woke up and started yelling after Billy, “Hey! You!” Hey! You!” and the other turkeys woke up and said, “What?  What?”

The clamor pierced the night, and a light came on in Bobby and Norah’s room, and threw a pale beam in front of Farmer Brown and revealed Doug, who had escaped through the open gate, in the final stages of a lightning courtship with Sporting Life.  Farmer Brown stared at this violation of nature and said, “Gol-dang it,” and tossed Billy over his shoulder, grabbed Doug, and with a clean downward gesture over the chopping block, made a widow out of Sporting Life.

Billy lay dazed on his back, staring at the pool of blood already cooling on the dirt as the young female turkeys ran toward him.  But then there was a silver shimmering in the stars, like a pool of mercury rolling around, and a long-fingered pale Hand came down out of the darkness and pointed at Billy, and a calm. clear Voice said, “You are blessed, Doug.”  (Remember, Billy actually thinks his name is Doug.)  “Every Thanksgiving,” the Voice continued, “in expiation for the wholesale slaughter of turkeys, one turkey is granted Transformation, deliverance from turkeydom.” Since the Owner of the Voice was used to dealing with turkeys, it concluded, “And this year, that’s you.”

And with a mystical gesture there’s absolutely no point in describing because you wouldn’t be able to do it anyway, the hand turned Billy into a pure white swan — and what’s more, a swan that spoke both English and French and was inclined toward the existentialist view of life, and Billy rose into the air on strong white wings and flew to Paris, where he bought a beret and learned to smoke cigarettes and trained his right eye to wander off to the side, and everyone called him Jean-Paul, and he never heard the word “Thanksgiving” again.

Back behind the farmhouse, for eight or nine days — which is how long it takes for half of a turkey’s brain cells to die and be replaced by new ones that don’t know anything — the other turkeys occasionally asked each other, “Whatever happened to Whatsisname and Whatsisname?” While, in Paris, Billy raised an eyebrow and lit a Gauloise.

The End.

Told you it was dumb.

17 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 55: “Thanksgiving With All Those Dougs””

  1. Hitch Says:

    Okay, Doug:

    In the time-honored tradition of turkeys on Turkey Day…you came through. Although I rather liked the Gauloise.


  2. Gary Says:

    Good. But sadly misguided.

    Billy didn’t end up in Paris. He actually ascended to the Heaviside Layer. Singing all the while “Memory.” In a voice that sounded exactly like Barbra Strident.

  3. Gary Says:

    Well, we were talking about turkeys, weren’t we?

  4. EverettK Says:

    Dumb, all right. Dumb like a fox.

    It gave me a good laugh, but I can see what you’re doing. You realized that there’s more money in childrens’ books than in adult novels. Most of the time I was reading this, I kept thinking, “This reads JUST like the best childrens’ books: interesting and exciting at the childrens’ level, but with an over-their-heads level of humor for the adults.” Just like the classic cartoons from the 1940s.

    You really should consider a second line of endeavors. All you have to do is find a suitable artist and a publisher, and you’re in business! Of course, you might have to be a little more… obscure? veiled? in some of your references so that they DO go over the childrens’ heads. But other than that, you’re good to go!


    (But I still enjoyed it! I’d place it in the top 25% of the 365 blogs so far.)

  5. Colleen Says:

    Awe, gosh, Tim, thank you. That was a fun way to start turkey day. I’m sure Billy Doug lived happily ever after in Paris, gorging himself on escargot. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Suzanna Says:

    Just think if Billy, aka Doug, had been Transformed into a female Airedale he and Sporting Life woulda had a happy ending. Oh well, livin’ in Paris as a beret-wearing-shifty-eyed-smoking-swan named Jean-Paul ain’t so bad though. At least he didn’t have to face the chopping block anymore.

    Gol-dang, I sure hope you don’t know anyone named Doug.

    Happy Gobble Day y’all.

  7. Robb Royer Says:

    Voila! an instant classic. Given the current state of turkeys in America (that nettlesome, heartwarming tradition of slaughtering them ceremonially once a year), existentialism among Dougs is a must! What other literary effort, be it tome or Bon Mot, makes that point? You, sir, have leapt into the breach. As far as my farm goes, I have no turkeys, except for the wild ones that run occasionally through, so my ignorance of them remains encyclopedic.

  8. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    I’ve just stopped laughing so I can write this. It’s a lovely story; how can anything that ends in Paris be dumb. I love the visual of a beret wearing, puffing swan (!?!) Why are so many Thanksgiving stories filled with redemption for turkeys? Ah, enough heavy thoughts, have a hearty, happy Thanksgiving all.

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Oh, no, no, no. You’re too kind. Please, please stop applauding. You’re embarrassing me. Just a little something I whipped up while I was waiting for a bus, since, like all serious artists, I like to maintain contact with the little people. No, please, really. Hey. Why’d you stop?

    I’m pleased you all haven’t sold your computers or decided on a life watching nothing but the silent films of Carl Theodor Dreyer. This was actually an experiment, in that I really did include many of my feelings as I wrote the story, including realizing, one sentence in, that this was NOT going to be a story about an adorable young turkey getting served on a platter to the children who loved him. As you can no doubt tell, pretty much everything is first draft except for three things I went back and changed: the mercury image about the Light, because I thought the Miracle needed some pewetry; the line about turkey eggs not having reached their cognitive peaks, which I took three slaps at over three days; and Billy raising one eyebrow, which I thought would divert critics from the general shortcomings of the story by giving them a whole new level of ineptitude to deal with, since swans don’t have eyebrows.

    I do have to admit that I laughed a bunch of times while I was writing it.

    Hi, Hitch — I like to think that on Thanksgiving Day we all owe the world a turkey, and this was my contribution.

    Good call, Gary — In the animated version (Oh, I forgot to mention that DreamWorks called this morning and bought the story) all the female turkeys will be voiced by Barbara Streisand. Johnny Depp is going to voice Billy, and for the Voice from Above, they’re attempting to resurrect Orson Welles. Boffo!

    Thank you, Everett — My wife keeps saying I should write children’s books, but I don’t know. This was an enjoyable hour, but six months or a year of it . . . hmmmm. Anyway, my brother Pat owns the children’s book franchise in my family. But I’m glad you liked it and would rate it so high relative to such sublime blogs.

    Hi, Colleen — Actually, I’m sad to report that Billy entered a long phase of depression when, as he was seated in a trendy patisserie eating a heaping plate of fois gras, a companion told him where it came from. He began by sipping absinthe and now staggers the streets of Paris, beret askew, improvising blank verse and occasionally begging from tourists. Very, very sad. There are few happy endings in The City of Light.

    Sewzanner, Gol-dang it all, wouldn’t that have beat the band? Well, if I were a turkey and someone offered me to choose either getting humped regular by a big ole male Airedale or living in a fashionable garret in Paris with a large collection of berets and a carton of cigs, ‘twouldn’t take me no time to go fer Column B. I gave old Billy the best I could conjure up on the spur of the moment, and he’s stuck with it. If only no one had told him about foie gras.

    Robb!!! Happy Thanksgiving! I have rather leapt into the breech, what? And the “Voila!,” in acknowledgment of the story’s French happy ending (tragically temporary) plus the phrase, “An instant classic” put you right at the top of the list of people I like.

    Hey, Lil, glad you liked it. Billy was briefly one of the most memorable boulevardiers of Gay (not that way) Paree, until the Absinthe got him. I think most Thanksgiving stories offer redemption to turkeys because they’re written by turkeys. Who else would write a story about Thanksgiving?

  10. Phil Hanson Says:

    How very Zen of you, Tim; you’ve given me much to think about. But, damn it, man, my whole face is starting to ache and I can’t seem to stop laughing.

  11. Laren Bright Says:

    Wait. What? You’re saying that Billy-Doug was Jean Paul Belmondo or Jean Paul Sartre or maybe Maurice Chevalier. And this is where French people come from? Did the swan like the dog, too? Was the airedale sad? I’m so confused.

    Great story (but don’t send it to your agent).

  12. Gary Says:

    Orson Welles would be perfect for the Voice from Above! What was his famous line again? “Turkey, little turkey, will you not stay with me one more night?”

    Or was that Bing Crosby? I forget.

  13. Debbi Says:

    How awesome. You will be doing a Christmas story, too, I hope? The noir version of “Miracle on 34th Street” perhaps?

  14. Maria Yolanda Aguayo Says:

    My day ending, I found your story.With each sentence I could picture you laughing out loud. Chuckling to yourself thinking this one will get them going. I have good images to lay my weary head. I especially liked the the shimmering silver mercury hand reaching down from above and blessing the beheaded turkey in order to transform him to his next life. Hope you had a Good Thanksgiving, Tim. Enjoyed your story. Thank you.

  15. EverettK Says:

    Debbi said: You will be doing a Christmas story, too, I hope?

    Oh, sure Tim will be doing a Christmas story (it’s almost finished already). I’ll give you a sneak-peek: It’s Junior’s day to be with his daughter, but suddenly the two of them get dragged to the seedy estate of the corpulent Grinder Pinks, who wants his very own nativity scene on his front lawn for Christmas Eve. But not just ANY nativity scene, he wants the one from the local archdiocese. If the nativity scene isn’t setup on his front lawn by sundown, his daughter’s pinkies will be hamburger. Junior hot-foots it to the local Catholic Monstrosity only to find out that nativity has been “redecorated” by local graffiti artists and now looks more like a street scene from the red-light district.

    Mayhem ensues. I don’t want to reveal ALL of Tim’s surprises, so I’ll just stop with the final line of the story:

    “How do you like being a woman, Grinder?”

  16. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Phil thanks for laughing. I have to admit that I laughed myself. I especially liked the line about Doug being “in the final stages of a lightning courtship with Sporting Life.” I can say I like it because it really didn’t feel like I wrote it — it was there, and I just typed it. Anyway, thanks.

    YAAYYYY, LAREN!!!! I wasn’t sure anyone had paid attention to the line about Billy training his eye to wander — Jean Paul Sartre, indeed, with a touch of Belmondo. He might eventually have turned into a Chevalier-like figure (although Chevalier was a terrible man) if it hadn’t been for the Absinthe. Poor little bird. And the last thing the world needs is more blank verse.

    Gary, exactly — “Turkey, turkey,” etc., followed by “Pa-rump-a-pum-pum.” Bing and Orson recorded it on their only album together, Two Guys, Twelve Songs, and You. Now a classic.

    Hi, Debbi — That’s a great idea. I am almost certainly going to do a Christmas story, and “Miracle on 34th Street” is the perfect place to start. I could do a lot of damage to it.

  17. Post-Thanksgiving Web Regurgitation « Random and Sundry Things Says:

    […] this really cool story about a bunch of turkeys (or a cluster of turkeys, if you will) named Doug. (Because all turkeys are secretly named Doug. […]

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