A Bad Month to be a Turkey

by Gabe Horowitz, age 10
A Bad Month to be a Turkey Gabe Horowitz is a juvenile animal rights activist. He's the author of such works as "Why Pancakes are Served with Syrup," "The Tale of Sir Beetle," and "Beyond the Closet Door." He wrote "A Bad Month to be a Turkey" in hopes of inspiring compassion and respect in others for all animals.

“It is generally accepted, not as a problem, but as a fact, that mankind is willing to harm others, who are less powerful than they are for their own selfish desires. Hans the Turkey learned this the hard way when November rolled around.”

It is generally accepted, not as a problem, but as a fact, that mankind is willing to harm others, who are less powerful than they are for their own selfish desires. Hans the Turkey learned this the hard way when November rolled around. Hans was the son of Peter, a very old turkey who spent nearly all of his time hidden from the farmer, napping, and Barbara, an old, but feisty turkey. 

He and his friends had been living on Fred Ballnaz’s farm for several months before Thanksgiving preparation began.

The fat man must really love animals. After all, he lets us live on his farm without doing any work, Hans thought one day.

Just like the other turkeys, Hans had been feeling festive and truly thankful that he lived on Farmer Ballnaz’s farm, without a care in the world. Then, through the open window, he heard Farmer Ballnaz’s wife, Vivian, having a conversation with her friend Ethel on the telephone. She was sitting in her kitchen, chatting merrilly. The window was open, because Vivian wanted to get some fresh air, so Hans heard every word she said.

“Yes, Ethel, I have very little work to do for Thanksgiving dinner now. The mashed potatoes are all ready, and the stuffing is too. I have prepared the gravy and the corn and cranberry sauce and I’m sure it will all taste wonderful!”

A pause.

“Yes, Ethel, of course we’ll have turkey!” 

Hans gasped. Had he heard wrong? Surely he would not be eaten. He would not. He could not. He was not food, food that would be served on a plate, food that would be eaten. He ate food. How could you eat food, yet also be food?

“Fred will kill the turkeys tomorrow, and he must kill all of them, because we are having so many guests.”

All of them. All of his friends. His sister. His brothers. His parents. Everyone. Everyone he cared about, served on a plate.

Hans needed to hear no more. He silently walked back to a sunny area on the farm where lots of turkeys were talking about how thankful they were that Farmer Ballnaz was so generous.

Hans decided not to spoil their happiness. He sank to the ground and buried his face in his feathers. He could save them, he knew, if only he worked hard enough.

And suddenly, he got a brilliant idea.

***

When Farmer Ballnaz sat down for dinner that evening, he was very hungry, and very tired. It had been a long, hard day. He had chopped wood, milked the cow, picked apples, plowed the field, fed and watered all of the animals, and shoveled manure. The next day would not be any easier. He would have to milk the cow, kill the turkeys, feed and water the animals, pick beans, shovel manure, and help Vivian cook. He sank into his chair.

Hans had his plan ready. He would pull out the farmer’s chair just before he sat on it. Farmer Ballnaz would wind up on the floor. Hans would then call out, “This man is a fool. A fool. A foolish fool,” in human language. While doing this, he would be recording a video of what was happening to the farmer. He would release it to social media, and by morning, Farmer Ballnaz would be ashamed to step out of his house. Hans was all ready. He had even stolen the farmer’s camera.

This is what actually happened: 

Hans took out the camera and, not knowing how to operate a camera, or how to take a video, took a picture. He dropped the camera, smashing the lens, and, not knowing that the camera was broken, that he had taken a picture and not a video, and that Farmer Ballnaz had already sat down, he pulled on the chair. Of course, a turkey is not strong enough to move a large chair with the weight of a human on it, so Hans was groaning and wheezing as he tried to pull the chair. As he did this, Hans tried to cry, “This man is a fool. A fool! A foolish fool!” But Hans had forgotten something very important while making his plan: He could not speak human language. So it sounded more like this: “Bok bok bok bok! Bok bok bok! Bok bok bok bok!”

Farmer Ballnaz looked down at Hans. Hans was large for a turkey, and Farmer Ballnaz was short and fat, but his eyes made Hans feel like he was steadily shrinking. 

“Damn turkey!” bellowed Farmer Ballnaz. He took off his belt. Before Hans knew what was happening, the harsh leather of the belt was cutting through his feathers and stinging his skin.  Hans’s squawk of agony never left his body. He was too shocked. He knew that Farmer Ballnaz was going to kill him, but he had never been hurt like this. He limped out of the house and out to the field. It was already dark out, but some turkeys were still there. Turkeys who would not survive a holiday that was meant for giving thanks. 

Hans lay down and wept.

                                                                            ***

Farmer Ballnaz could not believe what had just happened. Never before in the farm’s 54 – year history had one of his turkeys gotten a whipping from him. His turkeys had never gone in his house, handled (or broken) his camera, or attempted to drag a chair. Could he have imagined this? No, that was not possible. He was not wearing his belt. If he had imagined whipping Hans, he would still be wearing it. Farmer Ballnaz could not manage to feel remorse, though. For when he was just a little boy, he had been taught that animals were inferior to humans, and therefore still believed it. Eating was what the turkeys were for, wasn’t it? It wasn’t his fault that animals were for eating. He should eat them. If he didn’t, he would be ignoring the fact that humans should eat animals. He should do whatever was necessary in order to acknowledge that animals are for eating. Even it meant spanking a turkey.

Vivian sat on a comfortable armchair, reading a book. She couldn’t concentrate on the book, though, not after what had just happened. She didn’t know how to think about what just happened. A turkey being spanked by her husband was a lot to think about. She was slightly less dazed than her husband was, but what she really thinking about was that her husband had cursed. He hardly ever said God’s name in vain, and him swearing about a turkey’s bad behavior was so unlike him. She couldn’t imagine how he was feeling now, but she decided that she could ask him later.

Maybe never.

Hans himself was in misery too deep to describe. I certainly hope that you never feel as miserable as Hans was at that moment, but being a living creature, you probably will. (Unless, of course, you’re a vegetable or mineral, in which case you will probably never feel Hans’s misery. Of course, if you actually are a vegetable or mineral, you probably aren’t reading this story right now, but that’s beyond the point.) Hans needed to save the turkeys from a terrible fate. He needed to save his friends from being murdered when they were supposed to give thanks. He needed to. He needed to. 

And suddenly, Hans got another great idea.

***

It looked as if someone had painted the world black, but Hans the turkey just kept going. He couldn’t stop now; he couldn’t get scared. The farmer was asleep. It sounded as if the whole world was asleep, and Hans was very sleepy himself, but he did not want to sleep forever, and that is what would happen if his plan did not work.

He approached Farmer Ballnaz’s house. After taking a spanking from the farmer, the house seemed larger and more intimidating, but Hans could not stop now. Not if he didn’t want to spend Thanksgiving on a silver platter.

Hans looked at a window. Well, he didn’t really look at the window. He looked through the window. Turkeys cannot see glass, so he didn’t know that there even was a window.

I’ll just run through the hole in the house, he thought.

Hans gave a mighty leap and propelled himself towards the window. He crashed through the window. Shards of glass attached themselves to his body. Hans felt agony wrapping itself around his body, like a python suffocating its prey. His blood poured all over the violet carpet. He tried not to faint. His pain was so strong that he almost forgot why he had leaped through the window in the first place. Then he remembered: He needed to save himself and his fellow turkeys. He needed to execute his plan. 

Hans crept silently across the hall, opening and closing doors. He stomped out of each room, however, bitterly disappointed.  At last, he came to a room that he walked into, grinning despite his pain. 

At last, I have found it, he thought. The fat man’s gun rack.

The gun rack of Fred Ballnaz had very few residents. In fact, his gun rack had only one gun on it. Hans stared at it, smiling madly. Once he had the gun, he would destroy it. Then no turkeys would be killed just for dinner ever again.

Hans grabbed the gun and raced through the hallway. He decided to jump through the window that he had broken last ti-

Bang.

A bullet darted right past Hans and hit one of his feathers, which fell onto the floor. The bullet kept going and eventually hit a leg on a large oaken chair. Terrified, Hans turned around to see who had shot. He was amazed to see Vivian, standing several feet behind him, holding a gun.

“Oh,” she said when she saw Hans. “I thought a burglar had gotten in. I guess not. I won’t need this, then.” She threw her gun to the floor. 

“I really shouldn’t tell Fred. I don’t want to worry him. Of course, he’ll notice when his gun is gone.”

Vivian approached Hans, grabbed the gun, and walked off to put the farmer’s gun back in the gun rack.

Hans could not believe what had just happened. He had been horribly injured by destroying a glass window by jumping through it. He had a feather blasted off by a gun. He had almost been shot. He had been spanked with a belt. And why? Just so that he would be eaten on Thanksgiving day.

Depressed, Hans slunked back to the field and wept.

                                                                           ***

Hans awoke that morning before the last star had vanished and looked around. He had spent the night sleeping in the field while the other turkeys slept in a chicken coop that chickens had not lived in for years.

Just like they always had.

Always. Could anything always happen? He had always been treated kindly by Farmer Ballnaz, before Thanksgiving preparation began.

Always. His plans had always failed, but before they had failed, he had always thought that they wouldn’t.

Hans formed an idea in his mind that wasn’t too extravagant, but might, just might, work.

Hans dashed to the chicken (turkey) coop and awoke Peter from a deep sleep.

“Oh, father, I need something heavy, but not too heavy, not too big, and not noticeable.”

“Why, son, why?”

Hans did not want to tell his father that he was saving himself and everyone else from murder.

“I’ll tell you as soon as I can. First, I need a heavy thing.”

Peter flicked a ball of straw that had been in the chicken coop for no apparent reason since the farm had been owned by Farmer Ballnaz. Hans grabbed it and ran towards the house. This time he ran quickly, fearlessly, lest he be frightened away by the memories of pain and terror.

Hans jumped through the hole in the window, too quickly to consider what he was doing and be scared away.

He silently crept into Farmer Ballnaz’s bedroom and quietly pulled open the farmer’s dresser drawer and found where the shirts were kept. He put the straw ball in the right sleeve of one of the shirts. He then ran to the kitchen and hid in one of the cabinets, hardly daring to breathe.

Soon enough, Farmer Ballnaz came downstairs and poured a drink of whiskey. He poured more than he intended to, due to the weight on his sleeve, but he didn’t notice. He then turned on the TV to the sports channel and began to watch a soccer game. Whenever an athlete got close to scoring a goal, he would stare at the TV, seeming oblivious to anything else, Hans noticed. When one athlete grew very close to scoring, Hans crept out of the cabinet and, very silently, poured over the cup, spilling whiskey everywhere. The fat farmer did not notice until the goal had been scored. After that happened, he did notice, and without even cleaning up the alcohol, he poured more whiskey. But again, due to the fact that there was extra weight on his sleeve, he poured more than he intended to. 

And so it went. By the third glass or so, Farmer Ballnaz looked a bit odd.

By the fifth glass or so, Vivian came downstairs.

By the  seventh glass or so, Vivian noticed that Farmer Ballnaz looked a bit odd.

“Dear, I think you’re having a bit too much whiskey,’’ said Vivian.

“I guess… ” murmured Farmer Ballnaz. 

“I think you better go back to bed until you’re sober,” said Vivian.

“I guess… ” murmured Farmer Ballnaz.

As Farmer Ballnaz dragged himself to bed, Vivian left to shop for marinades.

Marinades that the turkeys would have been cooked with.

Marinades that they would have been cooked with if it wasn’t for Hans.

                                                                      ***

When Hans returned to the chicken (turkey) coop, he considered that he would not have gotten Farmer Ballnaz drunk if his father had not helped him. He had not received help from anyone in his failed attempts to save the turkeys. Maybe getting help once in a while was a good thing. As soon as he got back to the chicken (turkey) coop, He made an announcement. 

“Friends, turkeys, coop mates, lend me your ears.”

“Say what?” said one of the turkeys. Hans ignored him.

“We are not safe on this comfortable farm. Farmer Ballnaz has a desire to kill us for food.          We must flee.”

The turkeys squaked and flailed in surprise.

“He’s batty!” cried one.

“He’s wild!” cried another.

“He’s out of his mind!” cried a third.

“He is not!” cried Peter. “My son knows perfectly well what he’s talking about. Explain it to them, Hans.”

And Hans did. As he discussed what had he had heard through the window, the turkeys began to tremble with fear. When they heard of how Hans had been spanked with a belt, the little ones began to cry. And when they heard of the gun rack, the turkeys needed no more convincing.

“Let’s go!” cried one of the turkeys.

And so they left the horrible farm.

As Hans watched the farm seem smaller and smaller, he smiled. Maybe November was a bad month to be a turkey, but they had survived.

The end


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