“You sure you saw that turkey run into the garden?” Groover glanced at his companion as he tugged on the leather sling he grasped.
That seemed like a fair question considering that Squinto, a boy around Groover’s age, was probably the most nearsighted Wampanoag in his tribe. They’d known each other for enough months to pick up on each other’s languages and communicate satisfactorily.
Squinto nodded as he pointed, rock in hand, toward the outer garden where Groover and the other pilgrims first learned how to plant corn, beans, and pumpkins in this new land. “He must have gone there to hide.”
Hiding wouldn’t be too difficult. The harvest was generous enough that Governor Bradford called for a feast to be shared with the local natives who taught the colonists how to foster the growth of those crops. Many dry cornstalks were still veiled with bean vines, and remains of squash plants snaked over the grounds.
But feasts also needed plenty of meat. Groover and Squinto weren’t quite big enough to go hunting with the men, but when they spied a turkey scampering along the edge of the woods this morning, they decided to make a contribution to the upcoming celebration.
“Let’s look for him.” Groover stepped toward the garden.
Squinto accompanied him into the tattered crops that crackled as they pushed into the plot. Sometimes they stopped to listen for their quarry moving about, but the turkey must have found a darn good hiding place that it refused to leave.
Then Squinto tripped.
Colorful feathers and leaves swirled in the air as the large bird leaped up from below him. Groover was too close to sling a rock at it, but he was also close enough to snatch it by one leg. He raised his other arm to protect himself from being bludgeoned by the flapping wings.
Squinto jumped toward them and grabbed the turkey’s wings to pin them down to its sides.
“No! No! You don’t want to gobble me up, you little nincompoops!”
The two lads stared at each other as they maintained their grips. The turkey could talk?
Squinto blurted, “He speaks my language!”
“No.” Groover frowned. “He spoke my language.”
“Neither!” The bird squawked again. “I speak Fowl Language, which everybody understands.”
Squinto’s eyes widened, which he didn’t do very often. “We might have caught the chief turkey!”
“Which means you must let me go!” The feathered captive struggled and kicked, prompting Groover to grab its other leg as Squinto wrapped an arm around it. “If you do not release me, I will cause blight upon your crops!”
“Too late.” Although Groover was no longer inclined to eat it, there was no way he would give up showing a prize like this to everybody else. “We’ve already harvested them.”
“I mean next year, you dolt!”
Squinto’s eyes narrowed again. “Maybe we should heed him. Offending the animal spirits can bring calamity.”
“Animal spirits?” Groover stared at him with more intensity. “Like a poultrygeist?”
“I haven’t heard of this one specifically, but he might lead all the turkeys and have special powers, like affecting the gardens.”
Groover appreciated the friendship he’d been able to cultivate with Squinto, but that explanation only made keeping their prisoner more desirable. “We’ve got to take him back. We could, I dunno, have the other kids give us candy to see him or something like that.”
The turkey craned its neck to glare back at him. “Hey, dingbat, I’d tell you to stuff it if I didn’t think that would give you the wrong idea.”
Squinto tilted his head. “Do you really want to keep this jerk around?”
The bird’s attention shot to him. “I’ll give you a jerk you’ll never forget.”
Hmm, Squinto might have a point. But if they released the turkey, it seemed they should be rewarded with more than simply not getting the crops blighted.
“We’ll make a deal with you.” Groover grasped its legs more firmly. “Grant each of us a wish, and we’ll let you go.”
“What do I look like?” their captive screeched. “A bloody genie in a bottle? Of all the imbeciles in the world, I had to end up with the two that have the most wind blowing between their ears.”
“Then what are you willing to trade for your freedom?”
“Oh, for the love of – fine, I just want to get your grubby hands off me. Let me go, and I’ll tell you the secret of how we turkeys can help double your crop production.”
Squinto shook his head. “If we let you go first, you will fly away without showing us.”
“Are you calling me a liar, lamebrain?”
Squinto shrugged before he replied, “Yes.”
“That so? Then what reason do I have to believe the two of you will let me go after I tell you?”
“Because I don’t want to keep a scoundrel like you around.”
Their prisoner’s head twitched back and forth for a few seconds and then he said, “Okie-doke, I can actually see some logic there. In that case, the first thing you have to do is get lots of turkeys to gather around your garden.”
This encounter was only getting stranger. “And how are we supposed to do that?”
“Turkeys are curious. You have to offer them something that they haven’t seen before.”
Squinto frowned. “Like what?”
“A new dance.”
Groover resisted the temptation to squeeze his legs harder. “You’re putting us on.”
“No, I’m trying to get you off me. Turkeys are always on the lookout for new moves. Put me down so you can show me if you’ve got the steps that will make them flock in.”
Squinto pursed his lips. “Not unless you can promise to not fly away before we show you.”
“I promise. If I take off before you show me your new turkey trot, may all my feathers fall out.”
“That would really happen?” Groover squinted this time.
“You’re not from around these parts, are you? I put a taboo on myself, hayseed, so if my feathers fall off, I’ll be one cold turkey.”
“It could be a potent taboo.” Squinto nodded. “He also doesn’t want us to see his dressing, because that would make him blush.”
Neither of them was making much sense, but since Groover had never met a magic turkey before, he was just going to have to follow along. “Okay, then, we’ll set him down.”
They squatted slightly as Groover set its feet on the ground and Squinto removed his arm from its silvery body. As the turkey shook itself, its golden tail feathers spread out.
“That’s funny.” Groover glanced at his friend. “Now that I’ve got a good look at him, I can see he’s not exactly like the other turkeys.”
Squinto leaned a little closer to the bird. “He’s a Narragansett.”
“That’s better.” The turkey looked up at them. “Now, since I’ve got the drumsticks, do you want me to keep rhythm while you show me your dance? Or will you just wing it?”
Groover didn’t know much about native dancing. He looked at Squinto, who pursed his lips before responding.
“Your tribe has probably never seen how Groover’s people dance. Let’s try that first.” He looked at his companion. “You can show me how.”
Well, that might help him feel a little more comfortable, but they still needed some kind of music. A tune sprang to mind, and Groover started humming Turkey in the Straw. He started to skip around the bird, and Squinto followed him.
The turkey bobbed its head. “Hey, I think you’re on to something there. Those kinds of moves should work. But after you’ve drawn them in, you have to keep them in suspense so they’ll stay around. Do you know how to keep turkeys in suspense?”
The lads shook their heads as they pranced around him.
“I’ll tell you later!” He hopped into the air, flopped over, and then flapped away into the sky.
“Hey!” Groover tried to grab for him, but wasn’t close enough this time to succeed. As he watched it veer to the side and disappear into the woods, he glared at Squinto. “I thought you said his feathers would fall out if he took off!”
Squinto shook his head. “He stayed just long enough to watch our dance.”
“Great, not only is he gone, we’ve got no proof we saw a talking turkey.”
“At least he shouldn’t curse the crops. But what was that he did before he flew off? It looked like he rolled over.”
Groover contemplated that execution, and there seemed to be only one conclusion.
“I think he just flipped us the bird.”
Here is my contribution to this month’s #BlogBattle, and the prompt word this time is Cultivate. Every now and then I have to go a little off the wall … but be sure to check out all the other submissions!