A Thanksgiving in Tomahawk…

Happy Thanksgiving!



Wild Ones Tip #254

Wild Ones struggle harder with organized events than the button on your jeans after a Thanksgiving dinner.

LILAH

“It’s on fire!” Aunt Penny shouts, dancing from one foot to the other.

“Every. Damn. Year,” Benson mutters as he jogs inside to go help find the fire extinguisher.

He told me we should bring one. I should have listened. We always end up eating with the Nickels on Thanksgiving after the turkey has been destroyed. It’s become a family tradition.

“You put too much oil in again!” Aunt Penny yelps with panic, screeching when the flames shoot up.

“Water makes it worse!” I remind her, wisely keeping my damn distance.

“I put in less than last year!” Uncle Bill shouts. “Get away from it! I have to find the fire extinguisher!”

“We don’t have time for that!” Aunt Penny drones on. “We have to—”

Suddenly, a surprise spray from a fire extinguisher echoes around us, as Vick steps in with his usual knight-in-shining armor routine. I grin, because he always does this sort of thing with such a straight face. It reminds me of Benson.

“Vick!” Aunt Penny gasps like she’s surprised to see him.

“You can’t use water,” he tells her, pointing a finger in her direction.

She looks down all guiltily like she’s been properly chastened. “I know.”

“Ah-ha! Found it!” Uncle Bill shouts from inside. “Oh, never mind. This one’s empty. Must be the one we used at Christmas when the tree caught fire!”

“Vick’s here,” I call out.

“Damn it! I almost had it this time!” Uncle Bill gripes, though Vick has once again—

“Where’d he go?” Aunt Penny asks, whirling around.

“It’s Thanksgiving in Tomahawk. He’s got a lot of rounds to make, so we’ll only catch glimpses of him until later,” I remind her.

She nods, while we both move closer to inspect the really gross turkey.

“I’ll call Ivory and see if she’s got room for us at her table again,” Aunt Penny sighs.

Uncle Bill’s shrill scream has me stepping to the side, as he takes off running toward the lake, his ass on fire. I never know how he does these things.

Aunt Penny turns the hose on him quickly, spraying him down. “Water works on ass fires!” Aunt Penny crows.

Vick’s gonna be busy today. Sucks to be him.

***

Wild Ones Tip #337

Sharing isn’t always caring when Wild Ones are involved. Unless you like sharing your ass with an arrow. To each his own.

KRYSTA

“Why did you fucking bite me, you rabid son of a b—”

“Don’t go finishing that sentence, boy!” Pa cuts in, interrupting Porter before he breaks one of Dad’s cardinal rules.

“He bit me!” Porter tattles.

“You shot me in the ass with a fucking arrow!” Tate shouts.

I grin, because Tate is holding back tears, Porter is shaking out the pain in his hand, and I’ve got the caramel corn Momma made us all to myself. This is awesome. Snacks and a front row seat to my brothers’ pain.

Pa looks over to the arrow protruding from Tate’s ass, grimaces, and pats Tate on the shoulder. “That must suck,” he tells him before he goes to head back inside.

“Pa! Help me, Pa!” he calls behind him.

“Your brother put it there. He needs to be responsible for getting it out,” Pa tells him, grabbing a handful of my precious caramel corn as he goes.

I glare at his hand, wondering if I could get away with biting the hand that sometimes feeds me. The urge passes as he heads inside, and I resume grinning at my two idiot older brothers.

My younger brothers and my annoying sister sit down behind me, and I growl when a little hand tries to sneak into my bowl.

They pull back quickly. Wise young brats, those. They’re creepy and evil too, so you have to show them who’s alpha from time to time.

“Pa! Don’t let Porter do this! It’s only going to get—” Tate’s words end on a yelp, and the arrow is suddenly in the hand of Vick.

Where the hell did Vick come from? How’d he know we’d need a first aid kit?

Porter takes the small box from him, as Vick rattles off a bunch of complicated instructions…

Another hand sneaks up to my caramel corn bowl, and I snap my teeth, sending my youngest brother sailing backwards. It’s so creepy when he glares. I better hurry and eat this stuff before they get mad. My posturing can only hold them off for so long.

Stuffing my face, I turn and find…Vick’s already gone. Every holiday, that man is like a ghost.

“Give us the caramel corn!” my younger brothers say in unison.

It’s the tone—the creepy tone—they use that has my spine stiffening. Carefully, I glance back, finding them training their arrows on me, holding their bows steady.

Swallowing thickly, I stand, idly wondering the strength those would have. Shoddy bows mean for shallow arrow wounds…

But Tate’s shallow wound still seemed hella painful.

My older brothers are terrible role models for these little creepers.

“I got it first,” is my only defense, clutching the bowl tighter.

“You can make your own. Momma says we’re too young to use the stove,” Ezra says, eyes narrowing.

That little asshole is really going to shoot me.

“But mine doesn’t taste like momma’s,” I argue. “Sophie’s sixteen! She can use the stove!”

“Sophie burns the caramel. Give us the bowl, and no one has to get hurt,” Taylor tells me, as Sophie smirks in my direction.

I take one step back. Then another.

“I’ll never surrender!” I shout before turning and racing away, hurriedly shoving more and more caramel corn in my mouth.

“Get her!”

“Vick! Come back! Where’d you go?!” I shout. “They’re going to kill me and eat my caramel corn!” I run as hard as I can down the road, weaving and bobbing to keep from giving them an easy target. “Save me!!!”

****

Wild Ones Tip #260

Watch out for squirrels, cougars, cows, and…basically all the wildlife. Shit happens every year.

KYLIE

I love the look on Liam’s face right now as Dad climbs into his disgustingly foul smelling turkey suit.

The Febreeze gets sprayed by one of my overgrown cousins, as the rest bitch and moan about the smell.

“I’ll have it cleaned after this year,” Dad assures them.

“You say that every year!”

“Why is your dad dressing up in a turkey suit?” Liam asks me, apparently unable to look away from the train wreck. “And bunny hopping?”

“For the last fucking time, turkeys don’t hop!” one of my cousins harps.

“Tradition,” I say with a shrug to my very worried looking boyfriend.

“Turkey!” Dad shouts, lifting the raw turkey into the air above his head. “It’s time to cook the fucking turkey! Someone check the oil!”

A long moooooo jars us all into a quiet, simmering panic.

“No! It can’t happen this year! I checked every bit of that damn fence!” Dad shouts, ripping the turkey head off his shoulders.

“Mooooooooooooo.”

I bolt out of my seat, because I know what’s happening.

“What’s happening?” Liam asks as he catches up.

“The cows think they get to celebrate Thanksgiving too. It’s the damnedest thing. Every year they escape the fence like Houdini’s cattle, and they end up in Chester’s favorite meadow.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Liam, the oblivious guy, says as he keeps stride with me, running through the front yard.

Dad takes off in his headless turkey suit, racing by us on my scooter, legs out to the side as he cries out in panic.

“You can’t drive that thing!” I shout.

“I just remembered that!” he calls back as he zigs and zags.

Dad shoots across the street full throttle, almost looking a little Dukes-of-Hazard-ish for a brief moment. I half expect a freeze-frame and some dry narrative to caption this moment.

Instead, the rest of us end up stumbling to a halt, as Krysta Nickel comes weaving and running top speed right by us, shoving caramel corn in her mouth as she goes. Her younger brothers are right behind her, popping off small arrows that even cupid would be ashamed of.

“Damn it! Get her!” Ezra shouts, racing after her with his short legs pumping with all they’ve got.

“The hell is going on today?” Liam asks in slight shock and awe, watching after them.

I bet he regrets missing Thanksgiving with us last year when he had that business thing he’d already scheduled. For whatever reason, he likes the chaos when it strikes.

I grab his hand, jerking him with me. We’ve got cattle to round up before Chester goes ape shit on our Thanksgiving dinner like he does every year.

“If we don’t hurry, Chester’s going to feed our Thanksgiving dinner to his dogs, and then we’ll have to crash the Wilder Thanksgiving dinner again. Trust me, you don’t want that—”

I pause, my eyes widening, when I see Vick hauling ass with four Border Collies rounding up the cattle.

“I’ll be damn. I think he managed to pull it off this year and save our Thanksgiving dinner,” I state with some admitted admiration.

Dad’s yells echo all around, as the scooter continues to drive him instead of the other way around.

“Should we go after him?” Liam asks with some genuine concern.

“Nah. It’ll run out of gas soon.” I cup my hands around my mouth and shout to Vick. “You did it! You finally did it!”

He tosses two thumbs up, actually smirking like he’s trying to be humble, but too damn proud to pull it off. A decade of lost Thanksgiving dinners to a red-hot pissed Chester Perkins finally comes to an end.

The meadow still looks mostly intact. “I’m not sure how he keeps it so green this late in the year. Maybe it’s voodoo magic or something,” I note to Liam, who is still watching Dad disappear over one of the hills.

“I really think we should probably help him out.”

“That’ll teach him to steal my scooter,” I argue as I turn and jog toward the pasture, where Vick is already breaking out his toolbox and fixing the gate that’s been kicked off the hinges.

“Vick’s the Thanksgiving hero of Tomahawk,” I stage-whisper to…myself, apparently.

Where the hell did Liam go?

My cousins and I hurry to help Vick get the gate fixed so he can move onto his next heroic adventure for the day. Just as Jason finally manages to get the final touches on, I glance over to thank Vick…but…he’s gone.

Like a ghost.

“This town is cloaked in Houdini magic, I tell ya,” I state to my cousins, who…all ignore me as they stare over at something.

I turn my head to find Liam, red-faced, wet, and struggling to hold most of my dad’s tremendous weight. Dad limps, and leans, and basically makes Liam carry him.

There are twigs, leaves, and cow pies smeared all over the two of them, and now that turkey suit stinks a whole lot worse.

“I’ve never felt more abandoned in all my life! The only one who came after me is the weak link?!” Dad asks like he can’t believe it.

“The…weak link…is still exhausting every damn muscle in his…body…to hold you…up,” Liam says through a lot of strain.

We all just cross our arms over our chests, staring at Dad like he’s an idiot.

“You know you can’t drive the scooter,” I point out. “On the bright side, Vick saved Thanksgiving this year!”

I fist-pump the air. Dad looks a little disappointed.

“He did?” he asks like he can’t believe it.

He’s the only one who looks forward to crashing the Wilder family Thanksgiving. I’m starting to think the cattle are less like Houdini, because I smell sabotage, given that look on his face. I’m not sure why I never considered that before.

A loud crash from the house has my heart hammering against my chest, and I dart off in that direction. I almost trip over my own feet when I reach the side door and hear the awful racket coming from inside. My eyes widen on the insane chaos that involves two squirrels and one stupid fucking Vincent coon hound.

A cry leaves my lips when I spot Cooter’s foot stuck in the turkey’s ass that’s getting dragged around the house, as Cooter continues barking like a deranged mutt who’s never seen squirrels before. I swear those squirrels are fucking laughing as they guide him over the table, sending the rest of the food scattering across the ground.

“It’s okay,” I tell myself calmly, even as my cousins bust in and start trying to chase the stupid damn animals. “There’s a spare turkey and a lot more food in the—”

Dad crashes into the small fridge…that tips, and I watch in horror as the food goes flying out, spilling everywhere, as the fridge continues to slowly fall.

I’m sure it happens much faster, but when you’re watching days of hard work go down the toilet, it seems to take forever, while you remain frozen in place.

“Oopsy,” Dad says around a smile that doesn’t look contrite in the least bit. “Guess I’ll call Greta and see if she has room for another family.”

Liam’s eyes widen as Dad casually walks off, no longer seeming to struggle with the limp that’s gone missing.

“Damn Vincents!” I shout as I lift my fist to the air. “There will be hell to pay if that damn cougar eats my boots again because of this!”

***

Wild Ones Tip #625

Our backup plans need backup plans.

NILA

“Don’t you dare, you filthy whore! Don’t you dare!” I hear Ma shouting.

Idly, I wonder if she’s talking to my new sister-to-be. Seems a little rude, if I’m being honest.

When I manage to get through the sticky front door, I hiss out a breath of surprise, because the scent of smoke nearly knocks me down. My eyes widen when I spot Piper on the couch, her eyes wide and somewhat dazed, while her hair sticks straight up like the bride of Frankenstein or some shit.

Her face is smudged with soot, her clothes are charred, and her feet are inside some weird chicken feet slippers or something.

I’m only five minutes late…

Kai leaps over the couch, nearly crashing into me, as he barges by me on the way out the door.

“I’ll corner her this way! You meet me around the side,” he’s shouting.

“It was just a cake. A cake can’t do that,” Piper is saying as she rocks back and forth. “It’s not natural. And that raccoon came out of nowhere. How was I to know it could knock the dials around on the oven? I don’t even know how to use the oven all that well yet.”

“Raccoon? Did you hurt a raccoon?” I ask in panic.

“No. The raccoon ruined the cake,” she tells me so helplessly, tears in her eyes as her lip trembles. “I worked so hard on it. I swear I’m telling the truth.”

I’m officially confused, and I have no idea who broke my sister-to-be.

“Kai! What’s wrong with your girlfriend? She’s not making sense!” I call out as I dart outside, to find…Ma and Kai cornering Cougar, who has the roasted turkey dangling from her mouth as she growls and backs up.

“Give us the turkey, and no one has to get hurt,” Ma tells her.

Cougar, I swear, shakes her head, and growls a little more fiercely.

“I really don’t want to eat at the Vincent’s table,” Kai tells Cougar like that wild animal gives a damn.

“Vincents got knocked out by a turkey fire,” Ma states dismissively.

“Again?” Kai asks in disbelief, as though now is the time for this conversation. “I definitely don’t want to eat at the Malone’s table. That fucking turkey suit stinks up the whole house every time they come over for—”

“Cooter got ahold of their dinner. They planned on eating with us,” Ma inserts, eyes trained on Cougar like she’s waiting for her opening.

“Fuck’s sake, I’m definitely not eating with the Nickels,” Kai tells Cougar. “Give us the turkey!”

With zero warning, Cougar bolts, and Kai leaps after her at the same time Mom dives for her. They end up crashing into each other, while Cougar runs off into the woods with our main course.

A scream from inside the house has me darting back in, just as a fire extinguisher sprays and fogs up half the house. I cough on the smog, barely managing to see Vick through the thickest part of it.

Piper whirls around, eyes wide. “The raccoon came back and set a dish towel on fire when it turned on the stove! I swear I’m not making this up!”

“Damn it, Vick! Where were you? Cougar got the turkey this year because you weren’t here to stop her!” Ma gripes as she comes in, fanning the extinguisher dust stuff.

Vick sighs harshly. “I’m a little behind schedule,” he states in a dry tone. “Call Ivory and see if she made enough extra.”

Idly, I notice the dials are missing from the stove, and something furry brushes against my arm. I turn in time to see Tomahawk’s number one ranked villain, as Bandit jumps off the table next to me, racing away with the silver stove dials in tow.

“There it was! That was the raccoon! See?! I’m not making it up!” Piper goes on, her excitement very confusing, considering how wrecked the place is because she clearly doesn’t know anything about cooking or wild animals.

My sister-to-be needs a lot of work.

“Hey! Where did Vick go?” Ma snaps. “I’m not finished griping at him yet,” she says as she checks under the couch cushion…as though Vick may be hiding there.

I head out just as Hunter pulls up, riding a skateboard behind the mule he’s hitched to, and I make a slicing gesture over my throat. “Cougar got the turkey and Kai’s girlfriend tried blowing up the house,” I tell him.

“It was the raccoon!” Piper shouts from inside. “I swear!”

“I told Ma not to let her help cook,” Hunter says with a heavy sigh.

I head to my Jeep, planning to drive over and see if the Nickels have room for us, and spot…my bestie running down the street in front of me.

“The bowl’s empty! Why are you still chasing me?!” she shouts over her shoulder, as her younger brothers fire off small-ish arrows.

I scratch my head, eyeing the scene. Their family is weird.

“Revenge shall be ours!” the youngest shouts as he pops off another puny arrow that stabs the ground nowhere near her. “Just as soon as we learn how to aim!”

Thanksgiving in Tomahawk gets more hectic every year.

***

Wild Ones Tip #543

We’re a lot of maintenance. Good luck with that.

VICK

After surviving a Wild Ones Thanksgiving dinner and the day in Tomahawk, I’m looking forward to Ivory’s cooking and a quiet evening.

I made it five minutes longer than I usually do at a Wild Ones dinner, and I was only there ten minutes.

“What the hell is all this?” Sawyer, my sister’s kid, asks as he comes to look in.

“The remnants of my day and poor life choices,” I answer as I hand him the turkey suit.

“Why do you have a disgusting turkey suit that smells like…what is that smell?”

“Something I don’t want to have to smell next year. Toss it to the side to be cleaned,” I tell him, handing him the four empty fire-extinguishers.

Next comes the four uniforms I just about ruined from today’s activities, and one pair of shoes that will never be the same again.

Then I hand him the other covered plate of food and the rubber chicken.

“Careful, that chew toy has been in Cooter’s mouth three times today, so you’ll need to wash your hands.”

“Who the hell is Cooter?” he asks me.

“Just one of the many devil animals I had to wrangle today,” I tell him dismissively as I remove the toolbox and air horns.

I dump out a box of bows and arrows, along with some knives, some paintball guns, and BB guns…among other things I confiscated to keep things from escalating at the dinner that will surely become the apocalypse by the end of the night.

It really has been a long day.

“Is that blood?” he asks me as he eyes one of the uniforms.

“Had to pull an arrow out of an ass,” I answer as I shut the door, pick up my own plate, and head inside.

He trails me, mouth running like he never knows how to shut up. I thought he’d grow out of it once he was an adult. Apparently, that’s not the case.

“You had dinner with the Wild Ones and didn’t invite me?”

“I made a short appearance. Dinner is in my hand. And you’re not officially a Wild One until you have more than one in your corner.”

“I am a Wild One! It’s why I moved back. I’m already reclaiming my family’s corner, and—”

“The only way you can rebuild that corner is if someone else takes over my post more permanently. No way can I deal with five families instead of four. The answer is no,” I tell him.

I hate the evil grin he has on his face.

“We’ll see about that, Uncle Vick. All’s I need is a woman. Happy Thanksgiving.”

He turns and walks back toward the kitchen, where I smell something cooking, while I groan and collapse to a chair.

“Momma told me to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a cop because law school seemed too hard,” I grumble, aching as I pull two of the stove dials out of my back pocket.

I managed to find them after Bandit dropped part of his haul.

The smell of smoke and the sound of a fire extinguisher has me massaging my temples, just before the smoke alarms start wailing.

“Sorry! Sorry!” Sawyer calls out. “It was an accident!”

Happy fucking Thanksgiving in Tomahawk. Christmas is really going to suck.

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