When Turkeys Give Thanks
By Connie Barrett
I creep through the woods which border the concentration camp. I’ve done surveillance here several times, foregoing my usual sunset bedtime so that I might find a means of escape for the imprisoned turkeys. A few nights ago I succeeded, locating a hole in the wire fence which I’ve widened, a little each night, with my beak and claws.
The escape, unfortunately, must take place in full daylight because the human who’s imprisoned the turkeys herds them into a shed at night. I know, however, from my previous daytime surveillance, that he leaves the place at least once a day. I hear his bootsteps and draw back into the shadows. He gets into his car and drives away. There’s no telling how long he’ll be gone. I have to move fast.
I trot up to the fence. The caged turkeys flutter their wings and gabble at each other. I point to the hole in the fence.
“Come on, hurry up. This is the path to freedom.” I’m too modest to refer to myself as their liberator.
They look at me in bewilderment. “Freedom from what?” one asks.
“From your confinement, your prison. Come and fly with the free turkeys.”
“Fly?” They look at their wings as if they’ve never seen them before.
One, a little bolder than the rest, approaches the fence. “Why should we? Our living situation, which you’re so rude to refer to as a prison, is very comfortable. We get regular meals and warm shelter at night. What do you offer in exchange?”
“Sun-dappled paths in the woods, water from a sparkling stream, a delicious and varied diet of berries and seeds, a celestial roost in a treetop.”
“Hunger,” says the spokesturkey. “And rain. And wind whipping through our feathers.”
“Life,” I say.
“Do you think you’re talking to a bunch of corpses?”
That’s exactly why I’m risking my long neck. They’re not dead yet, but I remember last year at this time. One day turkeys strutted in their pen, and the next day they were gone, only a few sad feathers scattered in the dirt.
I try to convey the urgency of the situation. A few of them scratch anxious patterns into the dirt, but most of them appear unmoved.
“No one lives forever,” their leader says. “And what about you? We hear the guns go off in the woods. We’ve heard the human’s friends talk about killing you free turkeys.”
“I’ve always managed to escape death.”
“If I were meant to be free, I would have been born that way,” the turkey leader said. Others gobble in agreement.
A second turkey says, “It’s my karma to live this way.”
I hear a truck coming up the road. “If you change your mind, the hole’s right there.”
I escape to the cover of the woods. Once I’m safe, I slow down. Despondent, I kick at a pebble, then hear a delicate scurrying behind me.
One of the turkeys has followed me. His wattles shake with fear. “Are the others all really going to be killed?”
His feathers shiver. “Will the world always look this big to me?”
I look around, at the sloping mountains, the curve of sky. “I hope so.”