Most of you who visit here know that I am an attorney – and a happy one, content in my work and honored to be part of one of the Great Professions.

But before I shook the dust out of my brain and decided to make something of myself, I fancied myself a writer – or at least thought I would write professionally one day.

During that phase of my wasted youth I wrote a series of terrible and really inappropriate children’s stories I called Grim Fairy Tales.  They were told by Brother Grim, an old man who owned and operated a convenience store. One night a bad storm forced brother Grim and a small group of children to spend the night in Brother Grim’s store.  The lights and phone were out, so Brother Grim entertained them with stories told in the dark, while the wind and rain howled and rattled the windows.

Hello, children. I am Brother Grim. Would you like to hear a story?

What follows is one of those stories.  I post it every November as we North Americans get closer to our Thanksgiving feast – which invariably features a big roasted turkey.

It is that time of year again.  My friends, I give you…

The Somber Turkey

Once upon a time, outside of the Kingdom of Woodland, east of Winters, in the Land of California, there lived a happy turkey farmer named Hannigan.  He loved raising turkeys, killing them, and selling them – in part or in whole – to clients all over California – where turkey eating was a big thing, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On Hannigan’s turkey farm lived a happy turkey named Norman.  Norman was the happiest and most contented turkey the world had ever known because he was the biggest turkey anyone had ever seen.  Farmer Hannigan often brought other humans to marvel at Norman’s size and physical beauty.

“That’s gonna be some big turkey,” the human visitors would always say.

“Yep,” Farmer Hannigan would always reply.

Farmer Hannigan was happy, which made Norman happy. Norman was proud of the fact that he was so big and fat with lots of white meat, whatever that was.

The other turkeys knew how Norman felt, because he was always bragging about himself.

“I’m gonna be some big turkey!” he would say.

The other turkeys got fed up with Norman’s bragging.  One day Leonardo decided to do something about it.

Leonardo was not an especially big or happy turkey. Not being big didn’t make Leonardo unhappy.  He could give a rat’s ass about how big he was.  He didn’t buy into that neo-fascist farmcentric value system.  Leonardo was a fiery-eyed revolutionary with a strong interest in pragmatic Marxism.


“You are one fine, big turkey,” Leonardo said to Norman one day.

“Yes, I am,” Norman preened.

“You know what they’re going to do to you because you’re so big?” Leonardo asked.

“Admire me,” Norman said, meaning it.

“Sure they are.  They’re going to admire how good you taste,” Leonardo said.

“I beg your pardon?” Norman asked.

“They’re going to eat you, buddy.  In a couple of months they’re going to catch you, kill you, cut off your head, pull out all of your feathers and your internal organs, cook you and eat you, and they’re going to pick you first because you’re so big.  Lots of white meat.”

“Oh, my god!” Norman said.  “They’re going to eat me!”

Norman realizing the truth.

“You mean you didn’t know?”


“Everyone else knows.  Why do you think that so many turkeys die while they’re drinking water?”

“Because they forget to breath?”

Leonardo laughed. “You believe that?  It’s a lie invented by the Man.  Have you ever forgotten to breath?”


“Of course not. You got to be really stupid to forget to breath.”

“But we are pretty stupid.”

“No we’re not.  That’s just a lie to keep us down, to ruin our self esteem so we will be easy to exploit and so we won’t cause any trouble.  I’ll tell you why some turkeys die drinking water. Depression.  They’re depressed.  Why else do you think those other “stupid” things happen?  Why do you think some turkeys kill themselves by opening their throats in the rain and drowning?  Why do you think hens sit on their eggs so hard they break the eggs?”

“Oh my god, they’re killing their babies,” Norman said, in horror.

“Right.  They know what’s in store and they can’t take it. Would you want someone to eat your babies?”

“No,” Norman said.  “What can I do?” he asked, whispering in abject terror.

“Maybe I can get you out of here,” Leonardo said.  “On the outside there is an underground network of birds and humans who can take you to a place where you will be free.”


“Of course!”

“Okay  I’ll see what I can do.”

Time went by.  Leonardo often spoke with Norman, teaching the bigger bird the truth about the world, teaching him hatred for the seemingly unbreakable power structure that doomed him and his race to be imprisoned, enslaved, slaughtered and devoured by killer apes.

“But remember,” Leonardo cautioned one night. “Not all humans are ravenous cannibals.  Some are good, and eat only plants and bugs.  These are the ones that help some of us get away.”

“How?” Leonardo asked in the star lit darkness.

“Every now and then there is a condition called Dark of the Moon, when there is no moon out and the darkness is as total as it can be.  During this time, a human jumps the fence and opens a big box. As many of us run in as we can.  We call it the Box of Freedom.”

“Just one box?”

“Yes, one box, but it is a big box, and it is better that some of us escape to keep the flames of hope burning.”

“I hope we both make it, brother,” Leonardo said.

“Me too, brother.  Me too.”

Then came the Dark of the Moon.  The turkeys were all quiet, making sure that there was no reason for Farmer Hannigan to investigate.

Suddenly the man with the box appeared.  He placed a big box on the ground and opened the side.

“This is it, brother!” Leonardo said, running.  Norman followed.

Leonardo made it into the box.  Norman didn’t get in before the man closed the box.

“Don’t worry, brother!” Leonardo cried from inside the box. “I’ll be waiting for you in paradise!”

But it didn’t happen.  The friendly human with the big box didn’t come back.  And Thanksgiving approached.  Leonardo was right – they came for Norman first.

Farmer Hannigan and his employees placed Norman in a big wooden crate built out of slats so that Norman could see and breathe.  Then Norman was carried to a truck, to an airport, into the belly of a jet, into another truck, and onto a large lawn next to a big white house.  Eventually, humans came to set up a lectern, chairs and cameras.  More humans came.  Some talked at the lectern in front of the crowd.

And then Norman’s cage was opened and gentle hands removed him from the crate.

“My god,” one human said.  “This had got to be the biggest turkey I’ve ever seen.”

“That’s why the President is getting it,” another human said, not trying to make a joke.

Norman was brought to the front of the crowd.  One human in a black suit made a short speech to another man, also standing in front of the crowd.  Humans in the audience took pictures with still and video cameras.

And then Norman did it.  He thrust out his neck and tried to bite the man who wasn’t giving the speech.  Norman knew that he just couldn’t go gently into that good night.

The man giving the speech reached out, grabbed Norman’s long neck and choked Norman.  Other humans helped stuff Norman back into the crate.

“That is one feisty bird,” the President quipped, and the reporters laughed.

In those days it was customary for the President to display generosity, and pardon the White House Thanksgiving turkey.  So Norman was taken to a farm in Virginia, where he lived for the rest of his natural days.

Leonardo was not so lucky. He ended up as dinner for the man with the big box, who was nothing more than a thief who just couldn’t get over how stupid those turkeys were and how they would be so quite and just waddle into the box, as if they wanted to be eaten.

Which was, from the thief’s point of view, always possible.  After all, turkeys are so stupid.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


7 Responses to “A Grim Fairy Tale: THE SOMBER TURKEY”

  1. Great story, has it been optioned by Disney yet?

    I first saw the whole Presidential Pardon mentioned on The West Wing and I was kinda hoping it had been made up by Skorkin in a demented coke delirium. If you are saying it then it must be true.

    So the man with the nuclear codes is bound by tradition to go through with a ceremony that pardons a bird every year? Just so you know the other world leaders make jokes about the whole turkey pardoning thing when America isn’t looking. Obviously they won’t say it too your face, what with all the weapons and stuff, but seriously A TURKEY. How did that happen? Was one of the presidents looking for a gig with ButterBall when they retired. Who started all this, its was President Johnson wasn’t it.


  2. One of the pitfalls of parenting is childrens’ constant quest for knowledge. “Why?” is their favourite word. Reading stories to your children is never a simple affair, thanks to that word. You have to keep stopping and explaining things.

    “Why was Goldilocks in the woods, Mummy? Did she run away from home? Why did she run away from home? Did she have an evil stepmother? Or was she a nooooorty girl?”

    “Why didn’t Jack’s mother cook the beans? I like beans. If I had beans, I’d make baked beans and then I would fart to keep warm. Doesn’t Jack like farts, Mummy?”

    “Why did the three little pigs boil the wolf? That’s animal cruelty. If I lived next door to the pigs, I would call the RSPCA. Why didn’t the RSPCA put the mean piggies in gaol?”

    This is why I won’t be reading your stories to my children, Paul. The mere thought of explaining “neo-fascist farmcentric value system” to a five year old leaves me in desperate need of a bex and a good lie down.


  3. Barnes – We laugh when it happens, too, primarily because those turkeys are bred to grow at a freakish and unnaturally fast pace. If they are allowed to live, they grow so large their bones break and their organs fail. It is a truly horrible, gruesome death. No turkey any American President has “pardoned” has ever survived more than a week or two before dying. But the facade is performed every damned year for the benefit of those among us who are so abysmally stupid as to actually experience emotional pleasure over the sham “pardon.”

    Cat – Wait until you read “Suzie and the Giant Sea Turtle.” There is stuff in there that no child – and most adults – should never be exposed to.


  4. Yes, it is to read this story and to be very concerned with you.


  5. “Leonardo was a fiery-eyed revolutionary with a strong interest in pragmatic Marxism.” Why did you have to kill my hero? Maybe he was just to idealistic? No, just too dumb, right? Thanks for this truly funny, funny holiday story.


  6. Write more juicy turkey stories and make the turkeys say “PRAAAAAAAAAAAH, WTF?” in the story. TURKEY! TURKEY my friend, Turkish boy is a good name for a turkey.


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