The turkey had been defrosting in the refrigerator for two days, but at this rate it wasn’t ever going to be ready for the roaster or for my in-laws. It was Thanksgiving Eve and our turn to host the family dinner.
I thought I'd left the Butterball in good hands and set off to run errands. Jeff would meet me in Grimsby at three o’clock for some horseback riding with our nephews. We’d have dinner at their house and come home to prepare the turkey at ours. What could be simpler?
I arrived home first, some eight hours later, pulled into the garage and shut off the car, or so I thought I had. Still, I could hear a loud hissing sound, not like the sound of an engine really, but like the sound of water running through pipes. Must be the dishwasher, I thought. I got out of the car, carried my sleeping daughter to the door, and hoped for nothing else but a good night’s sleep before the Thanksgiving festivities the next day. It wasn’t meant to be.
I opened the garage door, the door that connects the garage to the laundry room, and there it was, treading water, bobbing and floating just above the sides of the white plastic sink in the laundry room while gallons of precious H2O poured out of the faucet and over the basin like the Niagara River over Niagara Falls: our soon-to-be Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
A stream of cold, clean tap water covered the ceramic tile flooring in a river as deep as the wall base molding and as wide as the walls would allow, making it no further than the first floor powder room, as far as I could tell.
I shut off the tap, took my daughter upstairs to bed, and thought about what I’d just seen. I rolled up my pant legs, walked back downstairs, and bravely headed into the deepest recesses of our home, the basement.
Imagine, if you can, a tropical rain forest in the basement of your house. There was water everywhere, and lots of it, pouring from the ceiling like rain, saturating every cardboard box in sight. It had seeped into the boxes of Christmas ornaments, tree skirts, tablecloths and napkins …into every file folder of lesson plans for Shakespeare, Austen, and Blake… … into every Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Twister game…and into every stack of old photos we owned. Every single box was a sopping mess of pulp.
Jeff soon appeared at the top of the basement stairs. He stood in disbelief, as did I, and then sheepishly grabbed the nearest mop.
“I did just as you said,” he told me as we attempted to reverse the flood. “I filled the tub with water, turned off the tap and left the room. When I came back to check on the turkey, the water had drained out of the laundry basin, so I turned on the faucet to let it fill up again and left, intending to return in a couple of minutes to turn it off before heading out to meet you at the stables. After that, I don’t know what happened. To get to the garage, I needed to walk through the laundry room, past the sink, and past the bird. For some reason, I didn’t notice the water shooting full blast out of the faucet and into the tub. But how could that be? How could that be?”
A question we will never have an answer to.
And so, the Butterball turkey had sat, and it sat, and it sat. For some eight long wet hours that featherless fowl sat all alone atop a laundry tub full of ice cold tap water, unable to sink or swim or call for help. Nonetheless, the next day, our Thanksgiving dinner for twelve continued as planned. Well, sort of.
All the furniture in the family room had been pulled into the middle, making conversations quite intimate, with everyone expected to take his turn stomping across the many towels absorbing the broth-soaked carpet. Other than that, the sun shone through every window, the laundry room floor sparkled, and the turkey was exceptionally moist.
Jokes abounded, as did valuable advice.
“Now dear,” Jeff’s mom whispered to me, gesturing to her cerebellum, “you just tuck this experience way back here. For when you need it.” A smile of forty-some years of marital experience flashed across her face. Who was I to argue with that much wisdom?
The insurance company and restoration contractors arrived Monday with industrial-sized fans and dehumidifiers that ran for five days straight on the main and lower floors of the house. By the time the drying out was done, my head felt like I'd been under the hair dryer at Betty's Hair Salon for the good part of a week. The contractor’s instructions were simple: tear out the family-room carpet, throw out every cardboard box in sight, invest in Rubbermaid…and never, ever, let your husband near the turkey again!
Note: For information on Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.*