Copyright 2018 Andrea Renee Cox. All rights reserved.
a short story
by Andrea Renee Cox
Smoke billowed from the open oven and filled the matchbox, galley-style kitchen. With a growl, Sarah swept a cookie sheet swiftly through the air around the raging fire alarm. She’d already turned off the appliance, but she couldn’t find her broom to nudge the battery out of the alarm. If she didn’t get it shut up soon—
Bang! Bang! Bang!
She jumped, dropping the cookie sheet with a clatter. Her poor attempt at a grand jeté didn’t produce anything close to the splits she’d seen the ballerina do in that ballet she’d seen last month, but it did get her over the pan and into the living room. When she flung open the door, she stumbled backward.
Her landlord, Bryson Douglas the Second, barged past her, fury knitting his brows. He grabbed a kitchen chair from her miniscule dining room, dragged it over to the kitchen, kicked the pan out of the way, and plopped the chair directly beneath the screaming alarm.
Why didn’t I think of that?! Sarah stood dumbfounded and rooted to the carpet, watching wide-eyed as her handsome-in-a-rugged-way landlord hopped onto the chair and quickly popped the battery out of the device. He stepped down, carried the chair with him to the living room, and set it down. He roughly pressed the battery into Sarah’s palm. “If you don’t know how to cook, order takeout.”
He stepped into the hall and nearly closed the door, but Sarah grabbed hold of it and pulled as hard as she could against his iron grip.
“I know how to cook, I’ll have you know.”
He angled a skeptical look over his shoulder and nodded toward the kitchen.
She peeked over to see the still-billowing smoke.
“Are you sure?”
Her cheeks heated, certainly turning a horrid shade of crimson, as she faced him again. “I’ve never made the Thanksgiving turkey before, and apparently fourteen hours was too long. That cookbook’s going into the Dumpster.”
Something about his features shifted, but she couldn’t be sure of what. He was such a tough read! The full six months she’d lived here, he’d been nothing but a conundrum to her, grunting his way through fixing the leaky faucet, whistling while he mended the sliding glass door that led to the balcony—if one could call two square feet such a glorified name—and even chattering away at himself while attending to her broken showerhead. Yet, when they happened to cross paths in arriving home from work—or whatever it was he’d been doing, since the apartment building was his work—or checking their mailboxes downstairs, he hardly said a word… unless he talked her head off about the latest hockey trades.
Why hadn’t she ever told him she couldn’t stand sports?
“You can get turkey delivered from up the street. They make a mean one, you know.”
With that, he left.
She stared after him for a full minute after he disappeared down the stairs. Then she slammed the door just to irritate him. That man had no idea what she was facing today! Takeout turkey was not on the menu if she were to please her stepmother, who’d always done the Thanksgiving Day meal before this year. But no. Sarah had insisted on Thanksgiving being at her new apartment this year. It was just her dad, stepmother, and brother. Surely she could get a turkey baked and dressing made, and she’d even remember the stubby-thing-free cranberry sauce that her brother and stepmother favored.
What had she been thinking?
She was no culinary genius like that Bobby Flay she’d watched for years on the cooking network. “I bet he’s never completely ruined—or even partially ruined—Thanksgiving before.” Facing her kitchen once more, she dropped her face into her upward swinging palm.
The battery smacked her forehead.
She looked at the beastly thing, rubbing her forehead with her other hand, and then hurled the traitorous thing across the room. It clattered about before finding some spot someplace to rest quietly.
What was she going to do about Thanksgiving?
She checked the clock. Her family would be here in a half hour, maybe less. Could she salvage anything?
Yanking the turkey from the oven with mitts, she decided she would try her best to make this still be the best—okay, best might be stretching things a bit too far—Thanksgiving she could manage. She thumped the turkey’s pan hard on the fake-granite countertop, then flicked the oven back on and shut the door. She’d have to cook the dressing and hope they didn’t notice there was no turkey to go with it.
Like that was going to work.
After rushing the burned turkey out to the Dumpster and cooking her heart out for the next twenty-five minutes, she heard footsteps on the stairs, so she opened the front door and smiled as she waited for her family to reach the top of the steps.
“Honestly, George, why couldn’t she move into a place with an elevator?”
Already her stepmother was grumbling. Once she realized there was no turkey, she’d do a lot more than that.
Sarah barely kept her smile in place, and as her family rounded the rail at the top of the staircase, they wavered in her blurring vision. She gave hugs all around and invited everyone in. Her brother, Steven, was last, and he winked at her to show his support.
“It’s called a walk-up for a reason, Brenda.”
As she shut the door, Sarah winked back at her brother to thank him for sticking up for her. She took the casserole dish from him and led the way to the dining area.
Before she could explain about the turkey, a knock came at the door. It didn’t drown out her stepmother’s complaints about the size of the table or balcony or why the glass door was open in these temperatures—the woman slid it closed and locked it for good measure, but Sarah knew exactly the smoke-filled reason the door had been open.
Sarah set the dish on the kitchen counter beside the empty turkey pan, just-right dressing, and several side dishes before answering the door. Her mouth fell agape.
Bryson stood on her welcome mat holding a large covered dish that looked suspiciously like it might just conceal a turkey that must look a lot better than her charred one. “Might you have room for a couple more?” He angled to the side to show an older version of himself standing just behind him. “Dad and I talked over your plight and decided we’d be neighborly and share our turkey, since Mom’s no longer here to eat her share.” He leaned a bit closer to whisper the next part. “The leftovers last me through May, so you’d be doing me a huge favor.”
“It was really Bryson’s idea.” This from her landlord’s dad. “Heart of gold, this one.” He patted his son on the back.
Heart of gold, indeed. As she took the turkey and motioned them into the living room, her own heart flipped over. Maybe there was more to this guy than the earlier conundrum had hinted at. If this turkey tasted as good as it smelled—and she had no doubt once she saw the perfectly caramelized skin of the cooked bird—her Thanksgiving disaster was over.
And she’d owe her landlord a dinner out at his favorite restaurant for saving her hide from her stepmother’s claws. Goodness, she'd even take him to a hockey game, if he liked, despite her aversion to anything to do with sports.
That was one favor Sarah would happily make good on.
God Almighty: You grant me such fun stories to jot down. Thank You!
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?
What is your favorite dish for the holiday?
What sorts of disasters have you come through okay?
November's reading challenge: Family Ties.