Turkey Trouble

by Susanne Farmer

Email: Susanne.Farmer@hemscott.net

It was Christmas Eve, and Jill was dying to finish work. As she tapped her fingernails on the counter, the butcher came into the front of the shop, minus his overall.

"I'm just popping out for half an hour," he said. "If you can manage to sell that last turkey by the time I get back, you can go home early."

Her mood soared. "Brilliant! Thanks a lot." Hopefully she'd be finished in thirty minutes.

There was so much to be done at home. First, she had to finish wrapping the kids' presents. Then the house needed a pre-Christmas clean, and some of the neighbours were coming round this evening. In a moment of madness, she'd even promised them a buffet.

The fridge was so full, scotch eggs kept jumping out every time the kids went into it. There was no room in the freezer, either, otherwise she'd buy the turkey herself just to get away.

The bell over the door rang and a good-looking man walked in off the high street holding a piece of paper.

"Half a pound of streaky bacon, please."

Jill gave him a flirtatious smile as she weighed some out. "And would you like to try a nice fresh bird this Christmas?"

"No thanks, love. I'm only trusted with bacon. The wife even wrote that down for me, in case I got the wrong type."

The next customer was wearing a paper party hat and no jacket.

"I'll have half a kilo of chipolatas, please."

Jill bagged them up. "There you are. And have you got a big enough turkey at home?"

"No. He's in the pub."

The woman laughed like a screeching tyre as she put the chipolatas in her handbag. "I've just popped out because his bottom lip will be dragging the table if I forget the sausages. Merry Christmas!"

After a lull of five minutes, Jill decided to take action. The only thing she cared about selling right now was poultry, so the lonesome bird needed to be the star of the window display.

It was currently squatting on a white plastic tray to one side, an anaemic blob next to the red meat. She slid the trays of steak to one side and made a stand in the middle out of a hundred Paxo stuffing boxes.

On top of that she placed a silver platter from the back of the shop. She was about to lay the turkey in the centre, when a young woman came in.

"D'you know, I've been looking everywhere for a silver tray like that. Do you know where I can find one?"

Jill barely disguised her irritation. "I don't, I'm afraid. Come back in twenty minutes and ask the butcher."

She put down the turkey and studied the Christmas tree in the corner of the shop. It was smothered. Dozens of strands of thick tinsel encircled it like a helter-skelter ride.

It could stand to lose a few, so she picked some off and draped some blue and silver around the stuffing boxes. For the bird itself, she used the most luxuriant piece of red and lay it loosely around like a scarf.

An adjustment to the overhead spotlight lit up the turkey, now conspicuous as a celebrity in its elevated position. A career in window-dressing might be on the cards, at this rate.

In fact, why stop now? She pulled the line of coloured fairy lights from the bottom of the window and wound them around her centrepiece. Was that enough? She had only to sell the turkey, and she could go as soon as the butcher returned.

Her eyes were drawn to the top of the tree. There, wearing layers of silver-spangled net, was a large, unoccupied fairy.

One kebab stick up her skirt later, the fairy was impaled and suspended above the turkey, pointing at it with her wand. Brilliant. People were really starting to look.

A couple with a little girl walked up to the window and stood with their faces right up to the glass. They seemed to be having a discussion. Perhaps they weren't sure if the shop was open or not.

Jill stepped out into the cold. "It's a beautiful turkey, isn't it? Very fresh and an excellent flavour."

The little girl looked confused and her parents just nodded.

"Why don't you come inside and I'll weigh it for you. They're excellent value."

"No thanks," the father said. "We've got one already."

Jill couldn't hide her disappointment.

"It's my daughter," he continued. "She's in love with your fairy. She thinks it's a magical kind of turkey fairyland."

The little girl nodded and gazed dreamily at the fairy.

"But you've got a fairy already, haven't you, Munchkin?"

Jill went back in.

She was just thinking about banging her head on the counter, when the bell sounded over the door.

"Thank goodness you're open!" A woman in a thick camel overcoat rushed to the counter. "I need a turkey, please."

Yes! Jill resisted the urge to punch the air.

"Here we are, then." Full of Christmas cheer, she lifted the turkey onto the scales.

"I need a bigger one than that, actually."

No! Jill resisted the urge to punch the turkey.

"I'll have a look in the back," she said, taking the solitary fowl with her.

Once out of view, she dropped the turkey on the wooden chopping table, and ran to the fridge. There on the top shelf was an excess of ready-made sage and onion stuffing. Perfect.

She began packing as much into the bird as she possibly could. Finally, she smoothed down her knuckle marks and took it back to the counter.

"This one's much bigger." She put it on the scales. "See."

"Is that the largest you have?"

"Yes. This is a very popular size, this one."

The woman hesitated, looking briefly out of the window and back again at the turkey.

"You won't find a fresher, tastier bird than this."

"Okay, then." The woman got her purse out. "I'll take them both."



 ©2001 Susanne Farmer

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