Thanksgiving was always a holiday that my family looked forward to. I’m sure you have your own traditions when it comes to the occasion. Ours can be stretched back during the time of our forefathers. We are the Paterson family. When our ancestors arrived at the new world, the ground was hard making crops difficult to upkeep. The winters were long and unforgiving; they came in a family of 5, but the two youngest succumbed to sickness and died. But through it all, the family managed to prevail. And this served as a testimony that my family was determined to follow. And now it was that time.
My siblings and I assisted my mother with the preparations for the dinner. Normally father would be the one responsible for the meal preparations, but he sadly lost his mind one day and was bedridden. I never understood what happened. He was a big, burly man who was a master with his hands. But he started to become sick until he eventually forgot all of his bodily functions. Through it all, my Mom kept face, bizarrely not taking much notice of my father's ailments. My mother then illegitimately took charge of the festivities. We collected the pots and pans and gathered into the kitchen. My mom looked irritated at first but at the same time relieved to see us. We placed the pots and pans on the ground surrounding the table. From the circumstances, I could see why my Mom was annoyed.
Strapped to the table was a woman, the sedatives having long since subsided. My brother and I were appointed with “shopping” for this year’s main course. We stalked this woman at a gas station and then we played the whole “injured man” trick to gain her sympathy. We had her assist us with putting something in the car; when the time was right, my brother drugged her with chloroform. Now, she was fully conscious and was aware of what was to become of her.
“Please, let me go!” she screamed against her restraints.
She was tied down with chains that were ripping into her flesh. My Mom turned to my brother with a motioning gesture. He walked towards the woman and ripped her clothes off, exposing her nude body to me and my younger siblings. She was a plump woman. The meat on her already looked succulent. My younger siblings looked upon the bare woman with curiosity. Normally, this would be a great learning experience. If not for the morbidity of it.
She begged more for her life. About how she had a family back home that would be worried sick about her sudden disappearance. My Mom drowned her out with her orders to my brother to ready the brunt force. My brother was handed the rock, but he hesitated for a bit. My Mom relentlessly pushed him to finish the job. With one stroking motion, my brother lifted the rock high in the air and bashed the woman on her cranium. He struck her again and again until all we could hear was a gurgled voice.
I bent down by the wound to collect the blood and brain matter gushing from the woman’s head, and my brother and Mom worked together to chop the woman’s body into pieces. It took several grueling hours to chop up the body, but they both managed to fill all the pots with the flesh of the woman. My Mom and I then did the task of cleaning the kitchen and simmering the meat for the night. While cleaning, I asked my Mom about our tradition.
“Son, this is an important staple of our family heritage.”
“Yeah, but why do we still do it? Our ancestors only resorted to this because they had no other options.”
My Mom looked at me disapprovingly. I have told her continuously whenever Thanksgiving would be on the horizon that we should not indulge in murdering people, but every time I tried to reason with her, she was clearly not interested in my objections.
“You know your older brother used to say the same things as you did when he was your age?”
I shook my head.
“It took me a few years, but I thoroughly instilled the importance of this tradition.” She wrapped her arm around my shoulders in a false sense of understanding. “And soon you will learn it as well.”
I tried to sleep that night, but the image of the woman naked and screaming for mercy never left me. I tossed and turned in my bed not wanting to disrupt my other siblings. We all shared a single bedroom while my parents resided in a room adjacent to ours. Quiet as a mouse, I crawled out of my bed and cautiously opened the door.
I stopped in my tracks when I heard a low droning coming from my parents' room. From the masculine, pained voice, I could tell that it was my poor father still suffering from his excruciating ailments. I had no idea what should've been done to help him. He came from a long line of family who were sternly against going to the hospital for medicine or appointments. Even if it resulted in members of his bloodline having shorter life expectancies. Mom always said to us that we could expect our Dad to be absent for next year's Thanksgiving. It was hard for me to explain to my younger siblings the exact words behind what our mother would say since she never used the word "die" or "death" around us. Whenever we acquired a meal, she would present the ocassion as a series of games.
The floors creaked slowly underneath my feet as I entered the kitchen. I walked towards the cupboard to retrieve a glass for some water. I nearly dropped the full cup on the ground when someone spoke out to me in the darkness.
“You’re still up too?”
I narrowed my eyes. I could barely make out the silhouetted figure before me, but the voice was recognizable all the same. It was my brother. My brother sat noiselessly on the table that the woman was on earlier in the day. He clasped his head in his hands. From there, we had a common understanding. We were both disturbed as to what had transpired that day.
“What are we supposed to do?” I asked him.
My brother shook his head. “How well do you know our Mom?”
I was confused by his words, but I decided to cooperate with him. I nodded my head, but this only elicited a shallow sigh from my brother. He got up from his chair, motioning me to accompany him outside to the porch. We both became robbers. We slid out of the house in dreadful silence, and we sat down on the bench. My brother rubbed his eyes a couple of times as a means of coming to terms with what he was about to share with me.
“Remember when Dad got sick?” he asked.
“Yes, and Mom took over after that.”
My brother agreed wordlessly. “But did she ever tell you how he got sick?”
Without another word, my brother slipped me a small bottle. I looked at him with utmost inquiry. My brother continued to speak, not noticing that I was still grossly confused.
“My Dad once told me that he was considering ending this whole tradition.” He stopped for dramatic effect. “When he told Mom about his wishes, she started to slip him these.”
From there, I slowly gained the realization that she was heavily drugging my father until he couldn’t even as much as form a comprehensible sentence or have a rational thought. He gradually melted down into a docile state, which gave my Mom free rein to do whatever she saw fit. While she loved to claim that what we did was necessary for remembrance of our ancestors, it was now clear to me that she was truly only interested in killing for killing’s sake.
“I discovered the drugs earlier this month” my brother explained, “when I confronted Mom on it, she started to heavily drug me until I was susceptible to listening to her demands without question.”
We looked at each other wordlessly. Thoughts spiraled uncontrollably about what the next course of action should be. We walked back into the kitchen, noticing the simmering meat on the stove. From there, an idea sprung into my mind. When my brother left for the bedroom, I added a special ingredient to the meat. I found it underneath the kitchen sink. After thoroughly soaking the meat in the concoction, I sprinted back to my bedroom.
The next day, my siblings and I sat around the table with my Mom. She had a stern look on her face. It almost made me wary that she heard me and my brother walking around, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. Mom stretched out her hands and bowed. We did the same and we said grace over the meal. The meat was brought out along with mashed potatoes, ham, and stuffing. The blood and brain matter gave the stuffing its moist texture. The main course was sprinkled with salt and pepper and was tender enough for a knife to slice through it.
My brother and I cut some pieces of the meat and distributed it to each of our siblings. Lastly, we served our Mom. My younger siblings were about to dig into their meals, but my brother and I stopped them the moment their forks penetrated the meat.
“What is the meaning of this?” Mom asked.
“Oh, just that when you and I were preparing the meat yesterday, I decided to put in a secret ingredient.”
My brother interjected. “Uh, yeah, we wanted Mom to try it out first.”
My Mom looked at us suspiciously for a couple minutes. She shrugged her shoulders and slowly bent her fork down to pick up the first chunk of meat. She dragged it to her mouth and rolled it around with her tongue. She sucked on the meat momentarily before chewing and swallowing it.
"Oh, there is one more thing that we need to ask you, Mom," I said.
Mrs. Paterson raised an eyebrow inquisitively. "Yes? What is it?"
I narrowed my eyes at her. "Did you drug our Dad?"
My Mom's eyes bulged out in bewilderment. "Son! Don't make some sort of accusation that is baseless!"
Before she said anything more, I withdrew the bottle from yesterday and allowed her the time to look it over. Sweat beat down from her forehead. The ruse was realized: the secret that my Mom had kept under lock and key was exposed. The bottle in her son's hand was the damning evidence. Mrs. Paterson's heart beat fastly like an ethereal drum making her feel more distressed. She clasped at her chest from the pain.
I looked at the panic in my mother's eyes from her full realization that something was horribly wrong. Her stomach was souring from the meat she had consumed. I had nothing but the most utmost hatred for her; but I couldn't bring myself to fully like what became of her. I knelt to her with a half smile. "So? How does the meat taste, Mom?"
“It tastes…bitter.” She replied. The poison was now working its sinister magic in her bloodstream.
She dropped her fork on the floor. She clutched at her throat. She was in excruciating pain. Vomit began projecting from her mouth in volumes. She clawed herself up from her seat and fell on the floor, convulsing and frothing at the mouth. Her eyes became bloodshot from her ruptured veins. She held her hand out to me and my brother only to watch in horror as we collected our remaining siblings and dashed out of the kitchen.
Not too long after my Mom expired, my brother and I decided to completely cleanse us from our sins by setting the house ablaze. My brother admitted to his involvement with other disappearances the previous Thanksgivings and was sentenced to 9 years in prison. As for myself and my siblings, we found ourselves in different foster homes because of the lack of care from our extended family. It’s hard to blame them because of how their deeply kept secret was exposed to the open.
At the very least, we had been deprived of eating human flesh. Just today, we were served pork sausages. Our foster parents had mentioned obtaining their meat from a neighboring farm. I could've sworn that I've heard reports of people going missing there.
Written by AustinDR