I was talking with Waldrudge, which you just know is not his real name, but who am I to disturb chickens before they hatch? The name I give whenever the police call is not my real name either. You know how it is.
So I was talking with Waldrudge, and he was telling me that his sister and her husband and three children were coming for Thanksgiving. I thought what a joyous gathering that must be, so many family members in one place, with the delights of holiday cooking and all those memories of days gone by to talk about. Kill a bird with two stones, you know.
Waldrudge didn’t look as enthused as I would have expected. “My family is pretty odd,” he said.
I just scratched my head in propensity. “But you’re odd,” I said. “Seems like a good fit to me. I figured you’d all be cooking together for Thanksgiving. You know the old saying, plenty of cooks spill the broth.”
“Nobody cooks but me,” he said. “Not even my wife. Everybody else consumes. My brother-and-law really just wants to watch football. He sits in front of the TV yelling ‘You useless bastards!’ But he only likes teams that have mammals for mascots.”
“Like dragons,” I said.
“No,” Waldrudge said, “I don’t believe those are mammals.”
“They have milk,” I told him.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Cow dragons,” I said.
Two days after Thanksgiving I ran into Waldrudge. He looked relieved, if “relieved” is the right word. Sometimes “relieved” means “drunk” doesn’t it? That’s been my experience, although I don’t know how much it counts as experience when you don’t remember it.
“How was your time off?” I asked.
“I didn’t have time off,” he said. “I was with my family. I thought I told you that.”
“Lovely,” I said, wanting to seem capacious.
“Did I tell you my sister is a teacher?” he asked.
“Teach a man to fish and he’ll be gone on Sundays,” I said. “Does she teach fishing?”
“No, she doesn’t teach fishing. She teaches second grade. During Thanksgiving dinner she decided to share an assignment she gave her students. She had them write what they wished for, and she pulled out a stack of papers and started reading to us at the table. One kid wrote ‘I wish everyone had hair.’”
“Well, that would be a sheep in wolf’s clothing,” I said. “What about people who prefer to be bald?”
“Don’t ask me,” Waldrudge said frenetically. “I’m not in second grade. Speaking of kids, my three nephews suddenly decided they wanted to have a favorite color. The middle kid chose blue, but the oldest said he had picked blue the week before, and he told his brother he had to use another color. They argued for an hour about who got to use which color as his favorite, and in the end they made the youngest kid take pink, so he started crying.”
“It’s not a bad color on birds,” I said. “Although a bird of another color isn’t pink.”
Waldrudge added, “My sister was oblivious, sitting at the table talking to my wife about teaching second grade, and of course her husband was on the couch watching TV.”
“No surprise there,” I said. “You already hit that nail with your head. So he found a game he wanted to watch.”
“Yeah, the Georgia bulldogs were playing.”
“I prefer Georgia Tech, myself,” I said. “Does he like them”?
“No, no. Yellowjackets. Those are insects.”
“Oh well,” I said. “As the old saying goes, ignorance is blessed.”