I lived with a couple of roommates I’d found on Facebook of all places, a forty-something YouTuber and a thirty-two-pound tom turkey named Frederick. The guy made videos of ping-pong ball tricks, earning royalties from advertisers. He had something like six hundred thousand followers, which blew me away.
“Who the fuck cares enough about trick ping-pong shots to subscribe?” I’d ask.
“You’re behind on your rent,” he’d reply.
He had a point, but he spent most of his day building elaborate ramps like we lived inside Mousetrap. He’d bounce a ball off an upside-down bucket on the second floor onto the banister where it would strike a series of dominoes that would careen down until the last one knocked another ping pong ball at the bottom of the stairs, which would trigger a pellet gun to shoot a balloon filled with another ping-pong ball into a cup. His ridiculous contraptions took hours to set up, and then they’d miss the mark. He’d set it up again. Miss again. He’d repeat the process dozens of times until eventually, it worked. Drove me insane. Problem was, though, I needed a place to live.
A bigger problem was that I’d been quarantined with Ping-Pong Pat and Frederick for seven months, and I wanted to kill them both.
You ever see a turkey wearing a diaper? Let me tell you, it’s not nearly as cool as it sounds.
Amazingly, Frederick had been potty-trained somewhat, scratching at the back door whenever he needed to relieve himself, but whenever he got startled, he’d erupt into a flurry of feathers, piss, and shit.
On several occasions, I’d lobbied for Frederick to be kept in a pen in the backyard.
“You can go fuck yourself,” was Ping-Pong Pat’s only response.
The compromise was the diaper, which was just some bandanas tied together. Deal was, I had to put it on him, and Ping-Pong Pat had to wash them.
First time I tried, Frederick peacocked, beak stabbing the air. Talons scratched the carpet. Beady eyes burst with rage. Cornered him in the living room. Pat was working on a new trick: four buckets, a tennis racket, and a water glass sitting on the bar. Frederick stood next to the armrest of the large sectional, ready to attack.
And he did.
He charged, screaming like a drowning toddler. Didn’t know a turkey could make that noise. Jumped on top of me, talons scratching my face, and Pat not only laughed, he recorded it on his phone. Turned out to be his most popular video. Me? I got six stitches above my left eye, but I got the diaper on.
Before the pandemic, I’d landed a job stocking shelves at Target. Wasn’t a bad gig. Didn’t have to sit through long meetings or deal with people much. Boss was an asshole, but whose wasn’t? But then COVID hit. People hoarded toilet paper as though a nuclear war was imminent. I figured policing customers’ compliance with store policy was above my pay grade, but not according to my boss, Wesley, a sniveling store manager, who fileted fish on a George Foreman Grill during his lunch break.
“Tell that couple to put on their masks.”
The couple in question was a man wearing a Realtree hat, standing about six-foot-six, and a woman who clearly carried a concealed pistol underneath her shirt.
“You got to be fucking kidding me.”
“Lower your voice,” he whispered. “Customers can hear you.”
“I don’t give a good goddamn. Why don’t you tell them to wear masks?”
“Because I said so. Because it’s your job. Because if you don’t, you’re fired.”
“Fuck. Fine. But if I get hit, I’m suing this place into the ground.”
“I’m sure you have an attorney on retainer. Just go.”
The couple looked at strollers, the woman talking, the guy scratching his thigh.
“Excuse me,” I said.
“We’re just browsing.” The man didn’t look at me.
“I really don’t give a shit, but my boss made me come over here.”
This got their attention. They were ready to cause a scene. Looked like Frederick fighting his goddamn diaper.
“We’re just browsing.” The man had a vein in his neck the size of my forearm.
“You see my asshole boss behind me?” I asked.
They both looked.
“He said if I don’t tell you to put on your masks, I’ll be fired.”
“That little bitch?” The man cracked his knuckles and stared down Wesley, who stood by the adult diapers.
“I got bills to pay, man. Rent. Utilities. I can’t lose this job.”
“Motherfucker sent you to do his dirty work?”
“Please, man. I’m begging you. Will you put on your mask?”
“I should fuc—”
“Just put on your mask,” his wife said.
“You want to get this kid fired?”
Dude looked deflated. Could tell he wanted to flip out on Wesley. “No.”
“Then put on the goddamn mask.” She grabbed hers from her purse and slapped it on.
“Fine,” he said.
When I got home, Ping-Pong Pat was eating a huge piece of meat over a TV tray. Grease smeared all over his chin. Motherfucker looked like a caveman.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” he said. “Dinner’s in the kitchen.”
Dude had gone all out: green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, mac and cheese. Frozen stuff he’d heated up in the microwave, but still. Most food I’d seen in months. All of it hot and not just some questionable milk over Fruity Pebbles. Shit was delicious. Pulled up a tray next to Ping-Pong Pat and decided it was going to be a good night.
“Cheers,” he said.
“Where’s Frederick?” I asked.
He held up his giant piece of meat next to his shiny grin.
“He says hello.”
Frederick was gamey. The meat dark and firm. He was good, though. Tasted wild. All I can say is, I don’t know what to tell you. Best damn meal I’ve ever had.