the smuggler’s bible

Turkey Tom

The porch lights dim on Halloween night and suddenly there is a great weight pressing firmly upon Turkey Tom’s chest. The wheel is turning, and attached to the wheel is a gear ratcheting tighter and tighter, drawing the calendar into itself, shortening it. The mistletoe is hanging already. It may never have come down at all.

“Tom,” he says, deep voice gusting with laughter, “go and prepare the way for me.”

So he does. Tom stands at the November gate. Pass here, it is implied, and you pass forever. There’s no way back, only through. And the wheel turns again.

Turkey Tom

Smile. Wave. Toss some candy from the parade float. Pretend there isn’t a gun to your head.

Turkey Tom looks at his reflection in the stubby little glass. It’s like peering into a well. A long, long way down, sure, but nothing compared to the distance he’s already come.

“There isn’t a gun, really,” he says. Nobody is listening, but he continues anyway. “It’s all finished. Why would he threaten me? What’s left to take?”

Dignity.

“Uh huh,” Turkey Tom says to his reflection. “Put that between yourself and the sleigh when it comes hurtling down the calendar at you.”

Turkey Tom

He finds a place at the end of the line. It’s dull and grey, but nobody asks any questions about another dingy bird who couldn’t hack it in the real word. He settles in, lets himself believe—for a while at least—that this is what he’s been looking for.

Then one night the snow blows in hard and heavy through a bitter fog. He lies petrified under his thin blanket and listens to booted feet tramping on his roof. A voice booms down the chimney.

“Come along, Tom. The time draws near, and I have need of my herald.”

Turkey Tom

Turkey Tom wears dark glasses and a hat with the brim pulled low. He also wears a mask, but everybody is wearing a mask so, ultimately, it’s not an integral part of his disguise.

The clerk at the window takes her time counting his change. He stuffs the bills into his pocket and jogs off toward the platform with his duffle under his wing. Later, as the bus pulls out of the depot and merges into traffic, he leans back in his seat and gobbles softly. Outside, it begins to snow.

Maybe this year, he thinks, nobody will come looking.