Flash Fiction: Mrs. Wilhelm’s Thanksgiving Gift

Mrs. Wilhelm's Thanksgiving Gift

The sun warmed Jon’s shoulders as he strolled through the frozen town to Mrs. Wilhelm’s home. Never before had he considered the difference a little sun could make. The wind whipping through his shack the previous night bit every inch of his skin, fulfilling its promise to keep him awake. It sure was different than he was used to. Still, moving to a colder climate had always been his dream. He figured nothing was worse than being raised on a desert ranch only to lay track in the middle of August. Not a thing.

That past summer, he’d finally saved enough money to move and landed in the north where he bought himself a little plot. The dilapidated shack he’d once intended to shore up and improve had become his permanent residence. The farm required too much refining and hoeing to find time to fix what was only partially broke.

Warm breath tickled his fingertips as he blew into his cupped hands. Better than the desert? Yeah, it was better. The frost and snow might numb his toes, but at least he couldn’t feel them.

He shyly tipped his hat at the oncoming passersby.

Aggie, covered in a warm shawl, giggled into her friend’s ear, then smiled at him, a gleam in her eye. “Why, Jon, aren’t you cold? You got nothin’ round your neck or coverin’ your arms.”

“It’s a mite chilly, I guess.”

His eyes followed the girl as she passed. Since their first meeting, he’d hoped to court her. Mrs. Wilhelm and her friends’ willingness to provide him with some additional winter work provided a means—if he could manage it all. Today, the women wanted their Thanksgiving turkeys slaughtered. Each slaughter promised a dollar, and if the women wanted their turkeys plucked and dressed, he’d get another dollar and a half per bird. It meant a long day’s work, but Aggie was worth it.

Entering Mrs. Wilhelm’s yard, Jon blew into his cupped hands again and rubbed at his arms. Perhaps he’d use one of those dollars and buy a coat. He’d never needed one in the desert, but he didn’t live there now. Mrs. Wilhelm swung her door wide, and Jon picked up his feet.

“Jon, those birds are drivin’ me crazy. Opal got herself a tom, and he’s been puffed and struttin’ all night.”
“I’ll hang him first for you, Mrs. Wilhelm. Don’t you worry.”

She patted him hard on the back. “I knew you would. They’s out back. I got one o’ those nice metal barrels out there on the fire heatin’ the water now.”

Jon grinned as he met the widow’s eyes. “How d’you manage that?”

She scowled at him. “I might be old, but that don’t make me useless. I can still haul water and build a fire.”

Jon’s eyes widened as he stared at the barrel of water that was surrounded by plenty of burning wood. “Yes ma’am, you can.” A small path was left for him to use when the time came to dunk the turkeys.

“Well, I’ll let you to it. I know you wanna earn that money, so you can court that pretty Miss Aggie.” She leaned in toward him “You gettin’ close?”

“You haven’t told no one, have you?”

“No,” she scoffed. “I can keep a secret.”

Jon sighed in relief. “I got a ways to go, but every bit helps.”

Once alone, Jon strung the ten turkeys on the wooden frame he’d built the day before. Kneeling down, he thanked God for giving the women turkeys and him work, then asked God for strength to finish the task. That done, he drew his knife.

The turkeys hung with their wings outstretched, not even the tom making noise. The eerie silence from the turkeys sent shivers up Jon’s spine. They never made noise after being strung. He took the tom’s head in his hand and tried to avoid looking at the single eye staring back. “It’ll only hurt a minute.”

The knife pushed raggedly through the neck, and Jon threw the head into the pig’s pen. As he worked the knife quickly through the other nine, the tips of his fingers warmed. Stepping away from the birds, he checked the water, which wasn’t quite boiling and went to wash at the pump.

“I heard you was here.”

A giggle sounded and Jon turned round, feeling a flush of warmth cross his neck—not the kind of warmth he wanted either. “A-Aggie.”

“Jon. Ma sent me to wait for our turkey.”

He nodded. “I just started. I can dunk it first if you tell me which one it is.”

“The one with the light tawny feathers.” She pointed.

“Might take some time.” He stepped to the barrel of water and added a few more pieces of wood. “Water takes a while to boil in the cold.”

She sat in a chair on the back porch and smiled, causing his heart to beat wildly in his chest.

“That’s okay,” she said, “gives us time to chat.”

Jon had spoken to Aggie one other time—a short conversation several months ago. He’d stumbled over his words then, and his tongue felt just as thick now. “You wanna talk while I slaughter turkeys?”

“Looks like the slaughterin’s done.” Her infectious laugh would‘ve brought a smile to his face had he not been so weak-kneed.

“Do you have plans for Thanksgiving?” He asked, then dropped his head and shook it. Had he really asked that?

“I’m here to pick up a turkey, remember?”

“Yeah. I just meant… Do you have o-other family comin’ or is it just you, your ma and pa?”

“Just us.”

“Well, that turkey’ll be plenty big for ya’ll.”

“That’ll make my pa happy. He loves turkey. I think he’d eat it all year-round if he could.”

The water started spitting from the barrel and Jon hurried to the turkeys. Holding the feet of the light-tawny bird with one hand and dunking it in the barrel, he brushed at the condensed steam gathering on his forehead with the other. With the scalding done, he walked back toward Aggie.

“Ma wants it plucked and dressed too.”

“All right.”

Standing at a table, Jon pulled at the feathers as quick as he could, but there wasn’t much fast about plucking a turkey.

“You goin’ to the Christmas Ball?”

Aggie’s voice floated to his ears, and he turned, gazing at her a little longer than intended. His hand missed the turkey and grabbed at a pile of already plucked feathers.

She giggled. “Well, are you?”

He shrugged as he looked down at his work. “I hadn’t thought much on it.”

“I have, and I’ve turned down four boys.”

His head twisted in her direction again. “How come?”

“They’s not the one I wanna go with.” She dropped her head, a bright pink coloring the bridge of her nose.

He brushed the feathers onto the ground and examined the turkey. “I’ll have this dressed in a few.”

“Then what will you do?”

The question hung in the air as he drew his knife.

Aggie swayed back and forth, clutching at the sides of her dress. “Pa says I make real good pies. I plan on makin’ one for the ball. What’s your favorite pie, Jon?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess I like pumpkin pretty good.”

“Me too.”

Jon shook his hands and pushed the turkey mess away. Turning toward the pump, he almost forgot to take the bird with him. Luckily, he remembered while Aggie’s head was turned. The water ran cold over the plucked bird and his fingers, none of which helped quiet his pounding heart. The Christmas Ball? Did she want him to ask her?

Mrs. Wilhelm clamored down the stairs of the back porch and hurried over to him—a determined look on her face. “Ask her!”

Any warmth in his neck and face drained away. “What?”

“My house is gettin’ cold with that open window. Ask her already.”

Jon scrunched his face together as muddled thoughts ran through his head. Open window? Then he understood. “I don’t have enough money yet.”

“Money,” she grumbled. “You ain’t askin’ her to marry you, just to go to the dance.”

He studied the old woman’s face, unsure she was right. “I can’t do that, Mrs. Wilhelm. I-I…”

“O’ course you can! March up there and say, ‘Miss Aggie, will you accompany me to the Christmas Ball?’ She’ll say yes, and you hand her the turkey.”

He furrowed his brows.

“Go on. There’s brown paper for the bird on the table. Wrap it up good.”

Stumbling toward the porch, his muscles tightened over stiffened joints, and he tripped on a clump of dead field grass. The turkey jumbled into the air with him running to catch it, his clumsy feet barely underneath him. The bird landed in his arms and against his chest. He eyed the ground, all semblance of dignity now gone.

Wrapping the turkey in the brown paper, he handed it to Aggie.

“Thank you.” The smile at the corners of her eyes dropped as she turned to leave.

“A-Aggie?”

She stopped.

“W-would you like to go to the ball with me?” His hands tangled together as his foot dug into the frozen dirt. All his dreams hinged on her answer, and the wait dragged on forever.

Jumping toward him, she kissed his cheek. “Yes!”

“Yes? Really, yes?”

She nodded at him, a big smile across her face as she waved goodbye.

Running back to the turkeys, Jon grinned at Mrs. Wilhelm, who added more wood to the fire. He swung the dead tom into the barrel. “Give me all the work you got, Mrs. Wilhelm. I’m goin’ to the ball!”

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Meet the Author: Gordon Buttars as he tells us about himself

Meet the Author: Gordon ButtarsThe Farmer

My name is Gordon Buttars and I live in Rexburg Idaho with my wife, our daughter, and two young grandsons. I grew up on a farm in Burley, Idaho, and graduated from Burley High School in 1973. After attending one year at Ricks College and a serving in the Colorado Denver Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I settled into what I thought was a life of farming. Two years after returning from my mission I married my wife, Bonnie and eleven months later our first son was born. Farming wasn’t easy, but I loved it. Then a bad crop put an end to my dream job. At the same time our daughter was born, my father died, and I had to find a new career.

Computer Programmer

After getting some vocational training in computer programming, I got a job in Rexburg and have been here since 1983. While engaged in my second career, we had two more children, one of which lived only 26 hours. As things go, after eighteen years I was laid off and at 46 no one wanted to take a chance on me.

Job Loss

The next few years were desperate, but by the grace of God we made it through. I had hopes of opening a bookstore here in Rexburg, but one obstacle after another got in my way and it never happened. Then about 15 years ago, I developed a neurological disorder that severely limited my abilities. Here again, the Good Lord has seen us through.

Gordon Buttars the Author:

Six years ago I decided to try my hand at writing after watching my son write a 50,000 word novel for the National Novel Writers Month challenge, I decided to try my hand at writing and after several revisions and having a professional proofreader/editor go through it, I am wrapping up my historical novel series and hope to find someone willing to publish it.

Flyboy:

Flyboy is a twelve-volume historical novel of one man’s journey through life, interwoven into the times in which he lived. It is a tale of love and life, tragedy and war. Sheffield “Curly” Brason always seems to be in the right place as he relies on his faith in God to get him through, whether it was his family or his career as a naval officer and aviator. The events and occasions throughout his life prepare him and lead him to eventually find the gospel and join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and put him on a path of faithful service for the remainder of his life.

Volume One

Geannie is a look back at Sheffield “Curly” Brason’s early life between 1898 and 1926. He grows up in Roanoke, Virginia, next door to Geannie, the love of his life, who was born on the same day. Growing up, they are playmates, buddies, and best friends. Then one day, he discovers that she is a young woman and they become sweethearts ever after.

Both Curly and Geannie grow up in religious homes, which establishes a pattern of living for the rest of their lives. More than anything else, Curly wants to fly and become a pilot. To accomplish his goal, he follows in the footsteps of his grandfather and uncle and attends the United States Naval Academy. After he graduates and receives his commission in the United States Navy and Geannie graduates from Hollins College with a teaching certificate, they are married on their twenty-third birthdays.

Rather than begin their lives together, Curly departs on a nine-month round-the-world-cruise with his ship. Even after he returns, Geannie remains in Roanoke where she teaches school while he is stationed 250 miles away in Norfolk, Virginia.

After two years of sea duty, Curly is accepted into flight school and they move to Pensacola, Florida, where they learn to live together and start a family and where their daughter, Sandy, is born. Once he receives his wings, the real adventure began when they moved clear across the country to San Diego, California, where he is assigned to a squadron stationed at North Island Naval Air Station.

As Curly and Geannie settled into living in Southern California, they explore their new surroundings, including a trip to Ensenada, Mexico. Together they face the challenges put before them and grow. It is while living in Mexico that they establish life-long friendships with Shorty and Wilma Sharp, Freddy and Susan McGowan, who Curly flew with, and particularly Ramona North and Harvey Morrison. Ramona, especially, becomes an integral part of their lives.

Volume one culminates with a harrowing experience that Geannie has to go through and how she comes to forgive the perpetrator.

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Book Review: The Sins of Jubal Cooper

At eight years of age, Will Henry lives during the depression era with his family in a sharecropper’s home located on the outskirts of a small Georgia town. Even the town’s children gossip. But a childhood prank soon shows Will the truth about the goings-on in this southern state.

Mary Lingerfelt

Mary Lingerfelt, the author of several inspirational and Christain-based stories, brings the South during the Great Depression to life in The Sins of Jubal Cooper.  Readers will delve into the life of an eight-year-old so cold he and the other boys rock hobos for coal. This book draws you in from the start and keeps your attention until the end.

About The Sins of Jubal Cooper:

Eight-year-old Will Henry lives in a rickety sharecropper’s shack with his family, and when it gets cold, he and the boys take matters into their own hands by rocking hobos on the train. Hobos don’t like bein’ rocked and retaliate by throwing coal—enough to keep a house warm for a week. This time, however, not everything goes as planned, and Will ends up sentenced to work off his debt to society at Judge Jubal Cooper’s house, The Hill.

Rumors run rampant through this small Georgia town, and Will soon finds himself a victim of the rumor-mill among the youth, just as Judge Cooper is a subject of the rumor-mill among the adults. The difference soon becomes evident though, as Will learns the truth about Jubal Cooper.

This coming of age story deals with the Ku Klux Klan and how the hardships of growing up during the Great Depression affected children.

My thoughts:

Though a work of fiction, this story shows what life in the South during the Great Depression resembled. Lingerfelt captures the voice of an eight-year-old boy perfectly. Readers will enjoy the Southern dialect and speech patterns hidden within each sentence. Unlike some books, it isn’t overdone; it is done well.

The first chapter immediately caught my attention, making reading two books at a time more difficult. I couldn’t put The Sins of Jubal Cooper down! This book deals with hard subjects but does so in a way that is appropriate for most readers. When Will finds himself having to make a difficult decision, some violence occurs, but the author handles the situation with a touch that allows the reader to immerse themselves into the story without experiencing graphic descriptions.

An exceptionally clean read, I recommend this book for middle-school ages on up. The Sins of Jubal Cooper is a story appropriate as supplemental material for educational purposes.

Available:

The Sins of Jubal Cooper is available as an ebook for $.99 on Amazon and is part of the Kindle Unlimited program.

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I received no compensation in exchange for this review.
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