My daughter watched me throw away food. That turkey, a twelve-pounder, should have been eaten at least two Thanksgivings ago was my excuse. I didn’t tell her Pete had won it at some grocery store giveaway and let it get all freezer-burnt and gave it to me. My family is the poorest on Kensington Drive, but the idea of eating some old defrosted bird is sick. Just because I’m broke doesn’t mean I get excited about everything handed to me.
A brother. That’s how I used to think of Pete. I was the first person he called after his mom died. Phone rang in the middle of the night. I couldn’t let him go through something like that alone. He wasn’t married yet, like me. I drove from Boulder where I was finishing up my MBA, down to his apartment in Denver to get him on the next flight to Hawaii. That’s where his parents were on vacation when his mom drowned. Found Pete on the kitchen floor, crying. I wrapped my arms around him. He took a shower while I packed his suitcase.
A couple years later, Pete married his high school sweetheart and became the father of twins, a boy and girl. His family and mine ended up living in the same subdivision in Arvada, north of Denver. Our wives weren’t as close as we were, but liked each other enough. They were in a book club and exchanged recipes, stuff like that. The twins and my daughter played together. Our families went out for breakfast on Saturdays and skied together in Vail a couple of times every winter.
Eleven months ago everything changed. The CEO of my company expected me to lie about a mistake we’d made on a multi-million dollar contract. I blew the whistle instead. Got fired. The week after I lost my job, I stopped playing golf with Pete so my daughter could continue taking piano lessons. Pete got annoyed. Instead of getting my haircut, I took my family out for ice-cream. Pete said I looked like a wreck. I sold my Escalade so I could feed my family.
The phone stopped ringing. Pete continued to ignore me until he showed up with a frozen turkey. “Thought you could use this, man,” was all he said. Did he give me a turkey to make-up for excluding my family from neighborhood barbeques? Was it obvious I’d lost thirty pounds? Did he know I couldn’t afford to pay my mortgage last month? This is the best you can do? I wanted to say as he handed me the frozen bird.
Today my wife told me she heard Pete got let go. Something about budget cuts. I’d never wish that fate on anyone, not even Pete. Yesterday I accepted a new job four states away. I won’t ever need to see Pete’s face again. But I’ll show him mercy. He’ll need more than a frozen turkey.