No ThanksTaking Today
I should have seen it coming when Yasunori said, “I thought there would be turkey.” The thin whispery voice from the translator carried to the kitchen where Rain heard. She’s been on a rant about ThanksTaking and the many wrongs of the White Man for ten minutes. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at our house. So why did I invite all my wizard friends for a Thing the same week?
My nerves are on edge, I can feel Odin ready to give me strength in a battle that doesn’t need to be won. Too many voices, anger, and stress send me into panic mode. There’s nobody to fight, only people to hurt. Grabbing my hoodie and new staff, I sneak out the front door for a walk.
Outside, it’s cold, gloomy, and wet. Somebody’s grilling, the smell of hickory and meat reminds me that all we’ve got at my house is a stack of frozen pizzas. Didn’t help that the oven died twenty minutes ago, so my house full of guests might starve. Or that Rain refuses to use any service open on a holiday to show solidarity with workers. Nevermind that it’s a holiday that she hates.
About half the houses have lights on and cars parked out front. The other half must be out to gramma’s house. So I notice the house with a car parked in front of the driveway (illegal) and no lights inside. I can hear arguing inside. Sounds like another happy home. The synapses in my brain are just about ready to go Pompei on somebody’s ass. It might not have been a good idea to grab the staff that shoots bullets. But the cold stabs daggers in my knee, so I need it to walk.
Plus the pain almost takes the edge off. I need to chill out. Be thankful for what I’ve got. That’s what pabbi would say. My parents came from the old country. Iceland. Land of ice and snow. We have a song. Lots of yelling. I never quite got the reason they left, but they did it so I could be born in America. Well, American waters anyway. So for us, Thanksgiving was always about immigrating and celebrating having a home. And ham. We raised pigs and cows on our farm. I didn’t like that part, but mom could cook a mean pig.
The wind sent a draft through my unzipped hoodie. Thank Ullr for cooling me down a bit. I never acclimated to the heat in Houston. My time in Afghanistan fucked me up more. It’s hard to regulate. Walking helps. Cold weather helps, except then my knee hurts worse. And now I’m back to complaining.
I’ve been married to Rain for six or seven years now. Everything is a battle with her. It used to be easier to support her, but now- I can’t regulate. I think it’s PTSD. Whatever it is, I can’t be getting worked up. Which brings me back around to the house with no lights and a car parked out front. I stop on the sidewalk that crosses the driveway as two white men in suits back out of the house with a hispanic woman between them. Ignoring the yelling, they turn and face me, holding the crying woman between them.
“Sir, get out of the way, we’re ICE.”
Odin take the reins, ThanksTaking Day is over, motherfuckers. My scrawny one-eyed self doesn’t present an imposing image. I whip my hoodie back, revealing my stark white hair and shout the words.
“You shall not pass.”
I slammed the butt of my staff onto the concrete for emphasis and a deafening boom adds an exclamation point.
Skit. This thing’s loaded. I swing the business end downward and press the plate that triggers the aiming laser.
“Are you threatening us? What’s that thing supposed to do?”
“It’s a wizard staff, we’re in Texas. Figure it out.”
Glass shattered behind me. At least I know where the bullet went. The men draw their pistols. They probably are ICE agents, but I don’t see any badges. We glare at each other for tense moments. I can feel Odin picking away at the rational part of my brain, maybe talking will help.
One of them sneered, “We don’t have to, we’re Federal agents.”
Of course I get the kind of assholes who’d work to take harmless people from their homes on a holiday. I don’t have a rebuttal for that, my vision’s getting redder. The voice from the left blindsided me.
“And he’s the Lone Ranger.” A shotgun ratchets and the Texan continued, “I don’t know what’s going on here, but my daddy taught me that a man who makes a woman cry is always wrong.”
“Sir, you need to put down your weapon. This woman is in violation of her work visa. We’ve orders to deport her.”
The woman dropped to her knees, causing the ICE men to shift. “Please, I lost my job a few months ago. Don’t send me back to Honduras.”
Something shifted inside of me. Odin’s given me a battle plan. “Let my employee go. I hired her yesterday, and I came over to wish her family well, and here you are, assaulting her.”
The men lowered their pistols, but the sneering one still had a jibe to give, “Really? What’s she do for you?”
Something brushed my shoulders, I’d kept my eye nailed to the ICE monsters. The sound of five metal wizard staffs setting onto the ground, punctuated Rain’s answer. “Project manager. You can call my office on Monday.”
I looked around, while the agents made more feeble excuses. A crowd had gathered behind me, surrounding the asshole-mobile. Red and blue lights added to the scene as a police car rounded the bend and rolled up to the scene.
A short woman, stepped out of the car, moving through the crowd. She stopped between me and the pair of giants towering over her. “I’m Corporal Gutierez, with Harris County Sherrif’s Office. Why aren’t you all inside eating turkey.”
“Officer, we’re with ICE and-”
“We don’t have to. It would put us at risk.”
The Corporal stepped closer, glaring up at the pair. “If you don’t have badges or paperwork, then these fine citizens can assume you mean harm and have every right to defend this property and these people under Texas Penal Codes.”
“You can’t do that.”
“The badge I wear says otherwise. You can leave or I can arrest you for trespassing, impersonating Federal Agents, kidnapping and judging by the bullet hole in your windshield, misusing a firearm.”
“But we are-”
“Then act like it. Tomorrow. Today, if I see you here again, I’ll shoot you myself.”
The crowd cheered. Gutierez faced the frost giants and won. I relaxed my grip on the staff and set it to stand next to me. Nobody got shot. Rain gave me a hug. “You okay? Haridas noticed you left, so we tracked your phone and turned on your bluetooth mic. Then we rounded up all the neighbors.”
A slap on the back almost knocked the Bluetooth out of my ear. “Hot damn, you got some balls, son. Mike Stratton. What’s your name?” The man with the shotgun towered over me, not all giants are bad.
The warring pressure vanished. “Alex Rune. This is my wife, Rain. We live around the corner on Bedevere.”
“Oh yeah. I see you walkin’ a lot. Well good to meet ya. I tell you, it takes a crisis to meet your neighbors around here. But listen, my wife says, these folk ain’t got power. I bet they ain’t even got a hot meal today.”
In a voice loud enough to organize a community, Rain spoke her truth, “Then we bring them food and help them.”
Before long, extension cords run, pop-up canopies deployed and tables spread out in the garage and on the driveway. Lights came on in the house and neighbors came over with
Tuppermaids of stuff and covered platters with turkeys and brisket.
Watching the street from the end of the driveway, I fiddled with my Blackberry. Haridas sidled up, “If the plan was to be all secret wizards, I didn’t expect you to go Gandalf, today.”
“Sorry, sometimes I can’t keep my hate of frost giants in.”
“Wasn’t there a joke about Odin’s promise.”
“Well, I nicked their wallets when they gave me the bully brush-off as they left, so the joke’s gonna be on them.”
“Damn, they’re gonna feel that burn for a while. Anyway, since you’re the verbose one, everybody’s askin’ for you to say the prayer.
I glanced back at the table, everybody sitting down, looking at me.“Say what?”
“Just pull a monologue out of your ass, I’m hungry and this is better than frozen pizzas.”
We turned and walked back to the table. Rain saved a spot for me in the middle, but I waited at the chair. Panning my eye over the assembly, the wizards blended in equal measure of skin tones and cultures.
“We are all born strangers to one another. Whether two doors down, or from across the sea. But we are all the same. Hungry. Cold. Alone. So we gather. We share. We trust. And when another stranger appears, if we remember when we were hungry, cold, and alone, we share our fire and bread. We give. And today, we give thanks. Thanks to those who grew the food, and those who prepared it. Thanks to those who built our homes, and those who warmed them. And thanks to the Great Spirit of many names who enables us all to learn these truths and share with others.”
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