The Trials of Thanksgiving

Authors: Texas Twisters


Somewhere in Arlington, Virginia.

Thursday, November 23, 1989

10:00 AM

Dark clouds hung low in the sky. He didn’t think he’d make it before they released their fury and drenched the earth. As he turned the corner, thunder boomed and lightning flashed across the sky. A large drop of rain hit the windshield. Then another. And another. The heavens opened up, sending down a pouring sheet.

He turned on the windshield wipers. Nothing. Then he noticed the left turn signal blinking. He switched it off and found the correct switch. He hated this damn car. But he didn’t have a choice at the moment. It was the only vehicle available at short notice. Unfamiliar with the car, he gripped the steering wheel when he felt the car slide slightly to the right. He eased off the gas; an accident was the last thing he needed.

At long last, his destination loomed in sight. He followed the line of cars turning at the intersection into the parking lot. A flash of lightning illuminated the sea of vehicles in front of him. Great. He’d have a hell of a time finding a spot to park. He drove slowly up and down the lanes, looking for the telltale sign of red brake lights signaling someone would be leaving and a cherished spot would be available.

It seemed like he circled the lot for hours. But when he checked his watch, he saw that only ten minutes had passed.

The rain started to let up. Instead of a downpour, it became a steady drizzle. He rolled down the window a tad to let some fresh air in and help clear his head. He needed a clear head to complete this mission.

As he tooled the car up another lane, a figure carrying a black umbrella and several bags passed him. Coming to almost a complete stop, he shadowed the man in hopes that he had a car parked in this lane and he’d be able to snag the spot. Luck was on his side this time. The man walked to a car just ahead of him and opened the driver’s door. Within moments, an engine roared to life.

He turned on his blinker. Just as the car backed out, another one came down the lane from the opposite direction in an attempt to steal the space. Thankfully, his driving expertise came in handy, and he managed to swing around the departing car and claim his prize.

After grabbing his umbrella, he stepped out of the car and found he didn’t need it. But a glance at the sky told him he’d better take it because it looked like the storm wasn’t over yet. Black clouds swirled, and thunder rumbled in the distance.

Each step closer and closer to the entrance filled him with dread. Never in a million years did Lee Stetson think he’d be entering a grocery store on the morning of Thanksgiving Day.

Before entering, he looked back and scowled at the hideous Mercury Zephyr. It stuck out like a sore thumb. He despised that car as much as Phillip did, but Dotty had taken Amanda’s car to pick up Curt, and the ‘Vette was in the shop for routine maintenance. Even though the Mercury wasn’t what Phillip had originally wanted, Amanda had picked it out, telling him it was something he could tinker with to his heart’s content. In the long run, that had been fine with Lee; his beloved ‘Vette would be safe from the teen’s hands.


Zippy Mart

10:30 AM

The doors swished open, and Lee walked into chaos. Pandemonium. He pulled the grocery list from his pocket and ran his hand through his hair. A list that had started with only a few items had grown into something of almost ungodly length. Amanda had forgotten a few items the other day, and he’d volunteered to go shopping for her so she could continue cooking the holiday meal. Then, before leaving, Dotty had added some things, and the boys had to add their two cents to the list.

Lee grabbed the first cart he saw and pushed it past the checkout stands to the first aisle. The buggy wouldn’t move at first, then when it did, it shook and rattled, making an awful noise. He stopped and inched it forward. The right front wheel wobbled, making the cart move unevenly. Great. It’d take him hours if he had to use this blasted thing.

He turned the wobbling buggy around and went back to retrieve another one. Before he began his journey into the aisles of grocery hell, he pushed the cart back and forth to make sure it moved smoothly.

Success. He aimed the buggy toward the produce aisle.

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

Where was that infernal racket coming from?

He stopped at the beginning of the aisle. The squeaking halted. He moved again.

Squeak. Squeak.

Stopped. The sound went away.



Stopped. Nothing.

Lee ran his hand through his hair. It was his cart making the squeaking noise. Okay, he could deal with this. It moved smoothly. It was just noisy.

An astounding sight met him when he entered the first aisle. He hadn’t noticed it until this moment, but most of the customers were men. Wide-eyed men who looked like deer caught in the headlights of an approaching car.

Men wandered aimlessly in the aisles, dazed expressions on their faces as they stared at the sheets of paper they held. Fear glittered in their eyes, and Lee knew that if he had a mirror, the reflection would reveal the same expression on his face.

The first item on his list was sweet potatoes. He found them easily. Or so he thought. Who knew there were so many varieties–red ones, new ones, baking ones, Yukons, Russets.

What in the world was the difference?

A potato was a potato, wasn’t it?

At long last, he found the sweet potatoes and placed six in a plastic bag.

“Hey, does anyone know what an eggplant looks like?” A man who looked like he was about ready to throw in the towel asked the group standing around the produce.

“I think it’s purple.” A voice rang out.

“Here ya go.” Another guy tossed the man an eggplant.

“Thanks.” The man smiled and looked down at his list.

Lee did the same and checked what he needed next. Cranberry sauce made with whole cranberries. Not the jellied kind. Dotty had been very insistent when she’d told him what type to buy.

Now where would he find cranberry sauce?

As he wheeled the buggy past the ends of the aisles, he checked the overhead signs and figured canned goods would be his best bet.

Maneuvering through the aisles was almost like driving a car on an obstacle course. Carts were left unattended as men went in search of whatever they were looking for, causing others to have to either move the carts out of the way or figure out how to go around them.

In the middle of the canned goods aisle, he spotted cranberry sauce and victoriously reached for a can. His jubilation was short lived when he realized that it was the jellied variety. That was the wrong type. So, with a sigh, Lee placed it back on the shelf.

Several other varieties sat next to the one he’d put back. He studied each of the cans. All of them were the jellied variety.

What was he going to do? Dotty would skin him alive if he came home with the wrong kind. Besides, he wanted to please his mother-in-law.

He looked up at the top shelf and noticed one can way in the back. He pulled it to the front and breathed a long sigh of relief when he read the label. It was the right variety.

Lee pushed his cart past the magazine aisle, in search of his next quarry. Baking soda. He surmised he’d find that in the baking aisle. As he headed in that direction, he went by the magazine rack. Several teenagers with bored expressions thumbed through the magazines. He wanted to tell them he didn’t want to be here either, but a man had to do what a man had to do. Instead, he silently rolled the cart past them. He spotted the latest Hot Rod magazine and tossed it into his basket. Later in the afternoon, he and Phillip could enjoy reading it together.

Instead of turning down the baking aisle, Lee was forced to make a quick right turn when a buggy came careening toward him, pushed by what looked like a five-year-old. All he could see was a mop of red hair above the handlebar.

“Wheeeeeeee, here comes Superboy,” the child yelled, as he veered to the left and circled around.

“Bobby Ray, get back here,” a frazzled-looking man shouted in the child’s wake, as he hurried to catch the wayward imp.

Now Lee saw he was on the chip aisle. Quickly, he found Phillip and Jamie’s request of chips and dip. Since neither had stated what kind they wanted, he picked out several different bags of chips and a couple of kinds of dip.

On to the baking aisle, where he found the baking soda, with no problem and no children racing grocery carts. Maybe he’d get this shopping trip done in less than two hours. Then he made the mistake of turning into the candy aisle.

Children raced along, swiping candy bars off the shelf. “Daddy, I want this,” one child screamed.

“Can I have this?” another yelled.

Then there were the sneaky kids riding in the buggy seats. When their fathers weren’t looking, they’d snatch a candy bar off the shelf and throw it into the back of the buggy. After one father noticed what his child had done, he retrieved the candy bar and placed it back on the shelf. The child released an earth-shattering scream that seemed to echo throughout the entire Zippy Mart.

“Noooooo, I want!” the little boy shrieked. “I want, I want, I want!”

Finally, to placate the child having a tantrum, the father tossed the candy back into the cart. As he pushed the cart and the sniffling child past Lee, he gave him a sorrowful smile and rolled his eyes.

Lee propelled his buggy out of the aisle. Was this something he and Amanda could look forward to in their future? Would their child have a temper tantrum in the middle of a store? Make a spectacle of themselves and him and Amanda? No, he honestly didn’t see that particular scenario in their future. At least he hoped it wasn’t in his future.

A glance at the list showed him the next item he needed was butter. Which he found with no difficulty. But he had a major problem when he discovered all the choices available.

Margarine or real butter?

Did Amanda want the stick kind or the kind that came in a tub?

He’d seen both in their fridge at home. He used the stuff out of the tub for his toast, and he’d seen Amanda use the sticks when she was baking.

Oh, man.

Was she using this for baking, or just for buttering the dinner rolls?

Would it make a difference?

And how much did he need to buy?

The list didn’t tell him.

Shaking his head, Lee tossed one of the larger tubs, one of the smaller ones, and two packs of the sticks into the cart. Better to be safe than sorry.

A check of the grocery list showed him he only needed one more item. Eggnog. He steered his cart to the milk case. As he opened the glass door to retrieve a carton, a vivid memory flashed through his mind.

Several years ago, he’d stood at the opposite side of this very milk case and asked Amanda to help him on a mission. He’d needed her to pose as his fiancée on a honeymoon cruise. In fact, he even married her for the first time on that cruise. Okay, so he used a phony name to make sure the marriage wasn’t legal. Plus, at that time he didn’t have those types of feelings for her. But when they had to kiss after the minister pronounced them man and wife, he’d secretly enjoyed it and didn’t want it to end. Her soft lips under his . . .

Lee blinked his eyes and shivered. He turned his head slightly to the left and right to see if anyone had witnessed him standing in front of the open door, lost in thought. He grabbed the container of eggnog and placed it in the cart.

Another quick check of the list showed him he had everything on it. Now to get out of here. As he pushed the buggy toward the checkout counters, he passed the bakery. Delicious aromas beckoned him. The scent of fresh-baked apple pie, the spices of pumpkin pies. He stopped at a table laden with pies.

What was he doing? They didn’t need pies. Dotty and Amanda had baked an apple and a pumpkin pie yesterday. Then he saw a box labeled mincemeat.

His mouth began to water.

He had to have it.

He picked one up and added it to his grocery cart.

As he turned the corner, he jerked the cart to an abrupt stop. Eight checkout counters were open, and the lines in front of each of them had to be twenty deep. He groaned as he positioned himself in one line and began the endless wait.

After what seemed liked hours, Lee was finally next in line. He piled his groceries on the counter and waited for the man in front of him to finish his transaction.

“That’ll be $84.25,” the cashier told the man.

The guy reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. A look of horror etched his face. “I’m sorry, I don’t have enough cash.”

“We take checks and credit cards.”

“My wife has the checkbook, she won’t let me have it. Let me try to find my credit card.” He rummaged through his wallet, pulling out papers and business cards. “I know it’s here.”

The cashier, a young blonde girl who didn’t look over the age of sixteen, watched him with a bored expression.

“Here.” He held up a credit card and turned to Lee. “I’m really sorry to hold up the line.”

“No problem,” Lee replied, wondering if he had enough cash or a credit card in his wallet.

The man signed the receipt and left.

Lee pushed his cart forward and waited for the cashier to ring up his order.

“I’m outa tape, I gotta replace it.” She knelt and searched under the counter, then rose and picked up a microphone next to her register. “I need tape on register four.” Her voice boomed across the store. She flipped a switch, which caused the light above her register to flash.

A man behind Lee groaned. “For Pete’s sake.”

Another voice boomed back over the loudspeaker. “You have some.”

The girl shrugged and replied to the anonymous voice, “No, I don’t.”

She smacked the gum she was chewing and blew a purple bubble, which she promptly sucked back into her mouth.

A sweating, frustrated-looking man rushed up to the check stand. “Sally, you have tape right here.” He knelt and rose with a roll of tape in his hand. “Now get back to work. And don’t forget to turn your light off this time.” He stomped off.

“Gee, that wasn’t down there when I looked.” Sally shrugged. “Now I just gotta get this thing in right or it won’t work.”

She flipped open the little door and yanked out the old tape roll. She tossed it into the trash and threaded the new one into the receipt printer, all the while cracking her gum.

Lee’s foot tapped the floor impatiently while he waited for her to replace the tape. Why did it seem like every time he went to a grocery store and checked out, the cashier had problems? If it wasn’t problems with the register, it was a price check needed on an item that wouldn’t scan. He’d never forget the time last year when Amanda needed tampons. He’d felt his face redden when the clerk had screamed over the loud speaker she needed a price check on a box of super-absorbent Tampax.

“Yeah! Got it.” She blew a huge bubble with her gum.

Lee watched while the girl swiped the items across the scanner and haphazardly tossed them into a bag. At this point, he didn’t care, just as long as he could escape this chaos. He thanked his lucky stars he hadn’t bought any eggs. If he had, they’d be scrambled. He cringed as she flung the chips in and then tossed the can of cranberry sauce on top.

“Excuse me.”

Sally ignored him as she continued scanning.

He raised his voice. “Excuse me.”

“Huh? What?”

“My chips.”

“Yeah, what about ’em?”

“You crushed them.”

“No, I didn’t.”

Lee slid the bag toward him and pulled out the chips. “You put the eggnog and the cranberry sauce on top of them.”

“Oh.” She smacked her gum.

The same frustrated man who’d brought Sally the tape appeared and stood next to her. “Is there a problem here, sir?”

“My chips have been crushed.” Lee shook the now flattened bag of chips in front of them to demonstrate that they were definitely crushed into nothing but little pieces.

“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll take care of that immediately. Bobby!” he called out to a bag boy. “Go get another bag of chips. In fact, get me two bags.” He handed the smashed bag to the teen. “Quickly.”

Bobby sped off around the registers and down one of the aisles. In a matter of moments, he returned with two uncrushed bags of chips. “Here ya go, Mr. Johnson.”

“Thanks, Bobby, now go help with register seven. Let me say again how sorry I am that your trip to Zippy Mart has been unpleasant.” He scowled at Sally, who shrugged her shoulders and pouted.

“That’ll be $32.50, mister.”

Lee pulled out his wallet and handed Sally two twenty-dollar bills. “You really don’t have to give me a free bag,” he told the manager, as he waited for the cashier to give him his change.

“Yes, I do. I can’t have customers returning home with crushed groceries because checkers can’t bag items correctly.” He looked sternly at Sally.

“Here ya go.” She handed him his change. “Have a Happy Zippy Day!”

Lee pocketed the change and grabbed the bags. “Happy Thanksgiving.” As he left, he noticed the manager following him. “Is there anything else?”

“I just wanted to give you this coupon for a ten percent savings off your next shopping trip to Zippy Mart.” He pulled a coupon from his shirt pocket.

“Thanks.” Lee tossed the coupon into the shopping bag. “I’ll give it to my wife.”

As Lee headed out the door, he heard the manager mumbling to himself. “Why couldn’t we close on Thanksgiving Day? Doesn’t corporate realize that we all have families and wanted to spend the day with them? Don’t they know the incompetent teenagers I’m saddled with as cashiers?”

Lee shook his head, grateful that he didn’t work in the retail industry.

On the drive home, he was about two blocks from the house when suddenly an incredible urge came over him. He had to have a Choco Bloco Shake from Marvelous Marvins. He had to have it now! Hoping they were open, he made a quick u-turn and drove to the side street that would take him to the fast-food restaurant.

As he pulled into the lot, he noticed that even here there were a lot of customers. Didn’t anyone stay home on Thanksgiving Day anymore and watch TV? When did they cook? Or did they bother to cook?

He maneuvered the car to the drive-through lane and spoke into a box shaped like a hamburger. “One . . .” No, he’d better bring enough home for everyone. “Five Choco Bloco shakes.”

“” A voice came from the burger.

It wasn’t hard to decipher he’d been asked if that was all. “Yeah.”

“” The metallic voice grated.

Lee had absolutely no idea what he’d been told. He pulled out a ten-dollar bill and placed it on the dashboard. A light rain began to fall as he waited in line.

Several minutes later, he drove up to the window and paid for his order.

While he waited for traffic to clear at the intersection, he tore off the lid of one of the shakes and drank. The chocolate flavor titillated his taste buds as the creamy mixture slid over his tongue and down his throat. Heavenly.

When he finally saw the white picket fence of his home, the sky opened up again. He pulled into the driveway and noticed that the Wagoneer wasn’t parked in its usual spot, so that meant Dotty hadn’t returned. Normally, Phillip’s car resided at the side of the garage, due to the fact he hated driving it and did so as little as possible.

To avoid getting soaked, Lee parked in the garage. He took the shake from the cup holder and saw he’d drunk the whole thing. But he wanted more. He grabbed the grocery bags and cardboard holder containing the other four shakes and sprinted to the back door. It was a good thing Dotty hadn’t returned. He only had enough shakes now for himself, Amanda, and the boys.



11:30 AM

The Wagoneer crawled along the curvy, tree-lined road that wound its way out of the new housing development where he lived. While Dotty had finally managed to conquer the nervous sweat that popped out on her forehead when she drove on Key Bridge, she was still a little hesitant when it came to driving in the rain. Nonetheless, he encouraged her.

“You’re doing fine.” Curt reached over and massaged her neck. He could feel the tension under his fingertips.

She glanced at him and smiled. “Well, someone had to come get you because we were not going to have you miss Thanksgiving dinner, and it really wasn’t your fault that you broke your foot, and since Lee had to go to the grocery store, well, that left me.”

“I think all those piloting lessons I gave you improved your driving skills,” he complimented her.

“You’re just being kind.”

“No, my dear, I’m being totally honest. Oh, don’t forget to slow down almost to a stop up ahead. That last curve is a doozy.”

“Why anyone would design a road with all of these turns and twists is beyond me. It’s worse than that one ride at Busch Gardens.”

Just as Dotty slowed the Wagoneer to an almost complete stop, the unthinkable happened.

“Watch out for that little duck!” Curt grabbed the dashboard and squeezed his eyes shut, awaiting the sickening thud he was positive he would hear.

He didn’t hear a thud. That had to be a good sign.

Instead, he heard thunder rumbling louder than it had all morning.

Dotty put the vehicle in park. “I need to see if I hit it.”

“Are you insane? You really want to see what you hit?”

Dotty ignored him and flung open her door. She scurried to the front of the vehicle.

“Oh my gosh!”

Curt rolled down his window and poked his head out. “Do you see it?”

“It’s still alive!”

He watched in amazement as Dotty yanked off the black silk scarf that adorned her neck. The one he had given her for her birthday. She disappeared from his view momentarily and then stood back up and hurried over to him, handing him her package.

“Take him,” she ordered.

“Dotty,” he began to protest.

Ignoring him, she quickly rounded the vehicle and climbed in.

She put the car in gear and headed down the road again, appearing remarkably calm for a woman who had only had her driver’s license for a few years.

When she made a left, instead of a right, at the intersection, he looked at her quizzically.

“Where are you going?”

“The poor little thing needs medical help, and there’s one of those emergency care facilities just up the street, past the gas station.”

“Dotty, those are for people.”

“Are you saying that this poor little duck doesn’t deserve medical treatment? I couldn’t live with myself knowing that because of me, he’d been injured and left to die a lonely death in the middle of the street. It wasn’t his fault that he ran out in front of us. I can’t ignore anything that is hurt. I mean, did you see a mother duck back there? No, I didn’t think so. It’s Thanksgiving Day, and I will not let this poor little abandoned baby be run over by someone else. I mean, nobody would ever see him, not with all of this rain and gloominess, which, according to the weatherman, wasn’t supposed to arrive until late this afternoon. I’m so glad that Amanda ended up marrying Lee, instead of him. Now will you just hold him until we get there?”

“All right, all right.” Curt sighed. When she rambled on like that, he knew he wouldn’t get a word in edgewise. So what choice did he have? He eyed the baby duck, huddled in his lap. Its little eyes looked up at him with the most pathetic expression he had ever seen.

Well, since Dotty West had entered his life, things were never boring.


Curt clumsily maneuvered his crutches in an attempt to keep up with Dotty as she rushed into the clinic. He hated using them, but the doctor had told him he needed to keep as much weight off his foot as possible. Thankfully, it was the first time in his long life that he’d broken a bone, and he hoped it was the last.

“We need to see the doctor,” Dotty told the elderly woman sitting at the receptionist desk.

“If you’ll just sign in, please. Have you ever been here before, and do you have any health insurance?”

“Thank you, and no and no.” Dotty looked at the clipboard and then down at the bundle in her hands. She turned to Curt. “You’ll need to fill this out.”

He sighed as he leaned against the counter and balanced one of his crutches against it so he could take the pen and fill out the form.

“Patient’s name?”

“Is there a problem, sir?”

“I don’t know its name.”

“You don’t know whose name?”

“It.” He couldn’t control the annoyance in his voice as he glanced at Dotty.

“It? You mean you’re not here because of your foot?”

“Of course not.” Dotty extended the bundle toward the woman. “We’re here because of this.”

“Oh, dear. I’m sorry, but we don’t treat animals.”

“But he’s injured,” Dotty cried.

“I’m sorry, we can’t have animals inside.” She leaned over the desk. “You know, diseases and such,” she whispered.

Dotty cradled the duck. “Where can we go? I can’t just leave him out in the storm.”

“The daughter of a friend of mine works at an emergency animal clinic. It’s not that far.”

Dotty’s head rose, and Curt saw tears on her cheeks.

“Tell us where to go.” He would do anything to make Dotty smile again.

Ten minutes later, Dotty parked the Wagoneer in front of the Baker Pet Clinic. She sprang from the vehicle and raced around to the passenger side and opened the door. She tenderly took the baby duck from Curt’s arms. He grabbed his crutches and followed her inside.

“Please, can somebody help me?” she pleaded to the receptionist.

“Of course, ma’am. What is the problem?”

“I accidentally hit this little fellow with my car, and I’m afraid I hurt him badly.” A tear fell down her cheek.

“Well, why don’t you fill out this form, and I’ll just take this little guy back to the doctor.” The woman took the bundle from Dotty’s arms.

Curt stood at the counter and watched the exchange. He knew Dotty was upset, by the way she wrung her hands together and stared at the swinging door the nurse had gone through.

“Come on.” He hobbled over to her, with the form clutched in one hand. “Let’s sit down and fill this out.”

“Oh, Curt. I hope we’re in time. That the little guy has a chance.” She rested her head on his shoulder.

“We did. I have faith.” He rubbed her shoulder and kissed the top of her head, in an attempt to give her comfort.

Curt took the pen he’d snatched from the receptionist’s desk and looked at the form on the clipboard that straddled his knees. Might as well fill this out.

Species. That was easy. He wrote “duck” on the line.

Age. That wasn’t so easy. But the duckling didn’t look very old, so he put down “infant,” figuring that would suffice.

Name of owner. Well, they didn’t own him; they’d found him, kind of. He wrote down “orphan,” since he didn’t recall seeing any other ducks around after the accident.

“Curt, why did you write ‘orphan’? We don’t know that. He probably has a mother out there worried sick about where he is.”

“I’m sure he does, but we may never be able to locate her.”

“I know. What will become of him?” Dotty rose and paced the waiting area. “What’s taking so long? Shouldn’t we have heard something by now? Oh, no. It’s bad, and they don’t want to come out and tell us. I just know it’s not good news. I can’t stand not knowing.” She stopped pacing and stood in front of the swinging door, looking through the window.

“Dotty West, you come over here now and sit down.” Curt tried to use an authoritative tone. She wouldn’t listen unless he could break through her depths of sorrow at hitting the duck. “Don’t make me get up and walk any more than I have to on this broken foot.”

“Oh, Curt, I’m sorry.” She sat down next to him and caressed his cheek. “Are you in pain?”

“No, dear, I’m not. I just want you to sit down and relax. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

He had barely spoken when the swinging doors opened and a handsome young man emerged from the back, cradling the duck in his hands.

“Good morning. I’m Doctor Baker, and I understand that you’re the owners of this little gal.”

“Well, not exactly,” Dotty told him. “Oh, how is she? I didn’t mean to hit her, I really didn’t. Please, tell me that I didn’t hurt her.”

“Ma’am, you can relax. She hardly has a scratch. I believe you frightened her more than anything.”

“Really?” She jumped out of her seat and kissed the vet on the cheek, giving the duckling a caress on the top of her head. “And it’s a girl, Curt. Not that we could really tell.”

The vet nodded. “A slight scratch, but that’s nothing that won’t heal.”

“Great,” Curt said. “That means we can take her back and let her find her family.”

“We’ll do no such thing.” Dotty turned to face him. “It’s cold and raining out. And there weren’t any other ducks with her. She was all alone. I can’t turn her out in this weather.”

“Dotty, just what do you intend to do with her? We can’t keep her. It’s not like she’s a dog or a cat. Besides, ducks like water.”

“I don’t care.” She took the baby duck from the vet.

Curt and the vet exchanged looks while Dotty’s eyes were firmly fixed on her new ward.

“If I may make a suggestion.” Dr. Baker glanced at Dotty. “I have a friend who has a small farm in Virginia. He actually has a duck pond as well. I know he’d be happy to take the little gal in.”

“There we go, she’ll have a home with other ducks. That’s great, isn’t it, Dotty?”

She nodded and smiled.

The vet frowned. “There’s only one problem.”

“What would that be?” Curt gripped his crutches and rose awkwardly. He still hadn’t quite gotten used to these dang things.

“He’s away until Monday, but I know he’d be very happy to take her on as well.”

“Well, what do we do with her until then?” Curt asked him.

“Normally, I’d offer to keep her, but I’m actually headed to Pennsylvania for the weekend. In fact, she’s our last patient for the day, and I’m headed out as soon as we close up. I’ve only had the clinic open a month, and I haven’t had a chance to get the pet boarding part of the business into operation.”

“Well, I’ll just keep her until then. I’m sure she’ll be no bother.”

“Dotty, we don’t know how to keep a baby duck. And we’re leaving tomorrow to visit my niece and nephew. That would mean that Amanda and Lee would have to watch her until we get back Sunday night.”

“Oh, my. You’re right. I forgot. But I know Amanda wouldn’t mind. She couldn’t turn this little gal away. Look at her, she’s so cute.”

Realizing that there would be no discouraging Dotty, Curt turned to the vet and shrugged. “I guess we’re keeping her until Monday. Now, what do we need for her?”

“Well, you’d need something she could swim around in. A small, children’s plastic swimming pool would be best. I don’t suggest placing her in the sink because she could fall off and hurt herself. I wouldn’t put her into a bathtub for the same reason.”

“But it’s almost winter and the stores won’t have any of those kiddie pools for sale.” Dotty looked a bit distressed again.

Doctor Baker snapped his fingers. “I have an idea. A kitty litter box. You can put some newspapers under it so she doesn’t track water around the house or slip on the floor.”

“What about food?”

“That won’t be a problem. I have some feed here that I can give you, and you can chop up some fresh vegetable greens. Under no circumstances give her bread. It’s considered pet junk food, and we don’t want her getting any bad eating habits.”

“Thank you, doctor, we’ll give you a call on Monday.” Dotty shook the vet’s hand and turned to Curt. “Let’s head to the store. Amanda’s probably wondering what’s taking me so long.”

“Here’s my card.” He handed Curt a small white card. “I’ll try to call my friend over the weekend and set up a time for you to bring her to his farm.”

Curt pocketed the card. “Will do. Oh, and how much do we owe you?”

The receptionist came through the swinging doors. “Everything is locked up, sweetheart.”

“I can see by the look on your face we’ve stunned you. I’d like you to meet my wife, Tara. She’s been helping me get the clinic up and running.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Baker. How much do we owe you, doctor?” Curt withdrew his wallet from his jacket pocket.

“Put your wallet away. This one is on the house. I really didn’t do anything.”

“Thank you both,” Dotty said. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

Forty-five minutes later, and with their last unscheduled stop of the day at Wal-Mart behind them, Dotty and Curt were finally on their way home, with their little downy sidekick happily seated in Curt’s lap.

And true to the vet’s words, the duckling was beginning to take an interest in the world around her, now that the initial shock had worn off and she was warm and dry. She kept turning her head from side to side, as if she was trying to follow the conversation between the two humans. If Curt didn’t know better, he’d swear she understood what they were saying.

“I never thought I’d get out of there,” Dotty said. “You would think that people would stay home today. But, no, the place was packed. I mean, really, the Black Friday sales don’t start until tomorrow, and everyone knows that’s when you get the best bargains.”

“If you say so,” Curt replied, glad he’d been the one to stay in the car, even though he had to duckling sit.

“It’s true. Amanda and I always start our Christmas shopping on Black Friday. I just couldn’t get over it–standing in line for fifteen minutes. And all I wanted to buy was the litter box. She’ll like that, don’t you think? We’ll fill it with some nice warm water for her to swim in, and she’ll feel right at home.”

“What the poor little gal would probably like is some food. I know I’m hungry.” His stomach rumbled. “Do you realize that Amanda’s probably having a fit right now because the food is getting cold?”

“Lee went grocery shopping. Trust me, we’re not going to be late for dinner.” Dotty laughed. “Poor Lee.”

Curt turned and looked at her.

“It’s a proven fact. Go to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day and you’re bound to spend at least two hours in there, even if you only went in for one item in the first place. At least Zippy Mart was open. This is the second year in a row that they’ve done that. I can remember when nothing was open on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing. And they’re the only grocery store open on this side of town. I bet in the coming years nothing will be closed on holidays. It’ll be business as usual.”


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Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only.