Clockwise from top left: Simon Rich, Mona Simpson, Ravi Howard, Megan Abbott, E. C. Osondu, Tania James

Two-sentence Thanksgiving fiction: New stories from Mona Simpson, Megan Abbott, Lydia Millet, Rebecca Makkai and many more

45 tiny, new stories from top writers, just two sentences and one rule: Include "thanks" in an interesting way


David Daley
November 27, 2014 10:00PM (UTC)
We did Halloween and Christmas two-sentence fiction last year, so it only seemed right to try Thanksgiving this year. We asked lots of our favorite authors to tell a story in only two sentences, with just this one rule -- it had to include the word thanks, thankful, Thanksgiving or some variation.


She was to have been home hours ago, having snuck from the house wearing only slippersocks to pick up the chestnuts and a jar of bayleaves without moths, leaving twelve relatives (including one from her own loins still teething wildly) all waiting for her to drag that beer-car turkey from the oven, but, coming on five o’clock, she'd landed instead at the Two-Way Inn on Mt. Elliott and was drinking her second Brass Monkey just as one of the regulars, a redheaded guy with a mean squint, came spinning in with a Ritz mock-apple pie on a milk-glass pie stand, for which all the patrons were thankful. “It’s one of those things that can’t be explained,” she found herself saying, licking the plastic fork and ignoring her buzzing phone, “how this works.”

Megan Abbott's novels include "The Fever," "Dare Me" and "The End of Everything"

Advertisement:


Last Thanksgiving, Jack, sixteen years old, son of Blue Devil and Jessica, sister to Lucy, with most of his teeth and appetite intact, a fine downy gray fuzz around his snout, miraculous re-bounder from seizures, mini strokes, arthritic hips, vertigo and Lyme disease, died somewhere between the time grandmother’s Staffordshire and sterling was cleared, cleaned, counted, put away, club soda was dabbed upon the lace tablecloth, leftovers pressed into hands, flushed faces kissed goodbye, moth-bitten Pendleton blankets tucked around shoulders of those who had drunk too much, flames in the massive stone fireplace that great grandfather built with his own hands, extinguished, the last slice of pecan pie eaten straight from the tin under the low light of the refrigerator bulb as a fine snow sifted over frozen leaves and the lavender-hued slate patio.

This Thanksgiving, one fiancé, one widowed neighbor, and an old college roommate added, one dog less, all together twenty-five gathered around the table, gravy spilled and cranberry smeared and dark was chosen over white, the port was decanted and glasses were raised in Jack’s memory as wishes for Lucy’s longevity were offered and the bowls of potato and stuffing crusted and bellies swelled and buttons unbuttoned and one sister wondered why the other sister was the keeper of their grandmother’s sterling and yet another sister wondered when her parents were going to move to a condo in Florida and leave her this drafty home, a lone pilgrim slid off her chair, disrupting the tower of pillows she had been sitting on in search of a shiny black party shoe beneath the table where instead she found Lucy and forgetting her shoe she curled against the old dog in their lace-walled hideaway, tossing a tiny crooked arm around her back as Lucy rose up on her front paws in greeting and enthusiastically gave thanks as she licked the gravy dried upon the pilgrim’s rosy cherubic cheeks

Robin Antalek is the author of the novels "The Summer We Fell Apart" and the forthcoming "The Grown Ups"


"Thank You, Anyone"

So cold everyone must hurry and does -- and I hurry -- and before me in the street something like -- it must be -- a thousand pigeons all the same color -- or it is so cold they seem colorless and shining -- a thousand pigeons rise and wheel in the air and in every pigeon a beak and an eye, and a world also wheeling.

Jesse Ball's most recent novel is "Silence Once Begun" (currently available as a Vintage trade paperback)

Advertisement:


My great-aunt Madeleine, who looked like a porcelain doll, received as a gift from her husband: a supposedly unbreakable table-top waste-bin. “Oh, thank you!” she said, smiling amiably, as she went to fetch a hammer in the kitchen to check that they hadn’t been swindled.

Anne Berest is the co-author of "How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits"


"This Fleeting Quality of Everything"

“Oh, and by the way, thanks!”

She timed it, virtuosic, so that final note of sarcasm chimed precisely as her car door slammed, seeming to roll into the roar of her engine, to fill the air with fumes, leaving him inhaling the poison and the sentiment, wondering, as she disappeared, when last finality had announced itself so thoroughly, had assaulted so many of his senses all at once; the noise, the smell, the dwindling sight, and the chill of the day on his skin, while he breathed a little rapidly, while he contemplated her exit, which through a certain loose logic (he was still a little drunk) became all exits, and then all ends, became the fact that nothing can last, that life itself – life most of all – can never last, that you have to be all right with that fact (as he glanced at the vast and clouded sky) that you have to accept this fleeting quality of everything, and that there’s joy to be found in the acceptance, in a feeling of gratitude for every doomed moment; and that he should start right now with her departure, should let it push him onto this course of embracing that it isn’t in The Great Plan for anything to last; even endings it seemed, even endings didn’t last, her car materializing in his view, a glimmer first, and then, unmistakable, a change of heart, so his musings on finality and endings and mortality, all of that, became only the pretentiousness of drink, unguarded existential elasticity snapped out of its existence by her voice, as she emerged, and slammed the door again, and muttered, walking past him, “Never mind."

Advertisement:

Robin Black is the author of the novel "Life Drawing" and the story collection "If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This"


And from Hong Kong he flew home to Pittsburgh for the holiday, knowing Lorelei would be there, newly divorced, beautifully wounded and, at long last, able to reciprocate. In Arrivals, giddy with anticipation, he texted her and a phone, on the lip of the hot tub in Ojai, buzzed with a turkey emoji and the message "HT!!!!!" from an unknown number.

Austin Bunn wrote the film "Kill Your Darlings" and is the author of the forthcoming collection "The Brink"

Advertisement:


Sadie, unhappy about the vegans, refused to cook the bird. They can be thankful for green beans, she said, and goddamned margarine pie.

Rachel Cantor is the author of the novel "A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World"


"Losing The Gown"

Advertisement:

“You look like a real visitor,” May called after me; she was my night nurse, a middle-aged Chinese woman, kind and eccentric.

“Thank you,” I called back, my street clothes too big for my shrinking frame, my boots heavy, as I escaped from the hospital into the crisp, cool November night.

Lori Carson is the author of the novel "The Original 1982" as well as an acclaimed singer/songwriter and former member of the Golden Palominos


“Stuffing”

Advertisement:

After the fuss over his mother’s misplaced serving spoon, a sketchy Native American heritage claim from uncle Walt, a bullying life coach session from his sister Gretchen, while his father slithered into the pantry for quick hands of Full Tilt Poker on his phone, Bruce rose from his chair, scooped the half-carved, stuffing-evacuated turkey from its decorative platter, then yanked its empty cavity down snugly over his head like a warm football helmet. His mother’s shriek came muffled through the birdflesh, as briny juices of sausage and sage wept into his eyes, and Bruce’s only wish was that these sad strangers could see how truly thankful he was, now that he was going back to the hospital.

Michael Christie’s debut novel, “If I Fall, If I Die” is forthcoming from Hogarth.


"Come On, DJ's Son!"

My father is a DJ, a professional DJ, bringer of joy to weddings, proms, celebratory gatherings of all sorts, including our own family gatherings, Thanksgiving, for instance, every Thanksgiving, all sixteen of my Thanksgivings, including this one, he puts on his headphones and spins the tunes, before dinner, during, and after, encouraging my mother, my aunts and uncles and cousins, the weird guy from Israel my uncle knows from work or something and feels obliged to bring to Thanksgiving because the poor guy has nowhere else to go, encouraging all of them to put their hands in the air, etc. from behind his raised turntable, which they do, or at least I've been told they do, because I spend Thanksgiving in my bedroom closet, and in fact I'm in there right now, and from the closet, even behind the closed door, I can hear the end of "Rich Girl" and I know what's coming next, know that after "Rich Girl" my father always lists, through his microphone, all the things for which he is thankful, including me, his only child, whom he hopes will some Thanksgiving soon, maybe even this one, leave the closet and join them, and maybe I will even take my rightful place behind the turntable, which my father knows that I, deep in my hearts of hearts, really want to do, and he's right, deep in my heart of hearts, that is exactly what I want to do, and that scares me, which is why I'm in the closet, that's what I'm thankful for, the closet, and its closed door, although the door is too thin, and through it I can hear everyone and everything from downstairs, including, and especially, my father. "Come on, DJ's son!" he calls to me, through his microphone.

Advertisement:

Brock Clarke is the author of the novels "The Happiest People in the World," "Exley," "An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England" and "The Ordinary White Boy"

She told herself there was a lot to be thankful for here, in the middle of nothing: the wild rice they’d found which made deer meat taste more festive, the crowded night sky purpled by far off galaxies, the fact that no bear had mauled her family, and that by their wits and skills they were not yet starved to death. Of course, there was also plenty to bemoan: this deer hide smock still stank of dead musk, her only pillow had lost its down and the dried grasses she’d stuffed it with crackled under her head, there was no bedroom to escape to like in the homes of her memory, and she could never shake the feeling that they’d fallen—or at least were dangling—and were once again no different from the animals bedding down close around them as though in search of warmth, comfort or safety in this ugly new world.

Diane Cook is the author of the story collection "Man V. Nature"

Advertisement:


Moments before the first guests arrived, Rebecca stood at the front of the sanctuary -- she didn’t cry. She placed her hand on her daughter’s closed casket, thankful that she finally knew where she was.

Jean Love Cush is the author of the novels "Endangered" and the forthcoming "The Missing"


"On Missing My Flight Home for the Holidays"

I slept through Thanksgiving, again, because, as I am told, I am “ungrateful” (my mother) “not my daughter” and  “no daughter of mine” (my father) and ultimately “an ungrateful bitch” (my big brother who hosts at his seaside atrocity) and though I am starving, I say, "Put my nephew on the line," because he’s the only one I wanted to visit with anyway and when the little tyke props the cellphone that I fear will bloom cancer against his perfect ear and asks what gifts I’m bringing for only him, I say, “Promise you will never grow up to be one of those wolf boys who rides the late-night party train home from boarding school, spikes the Jack and Coke then lies in wait with his sharp teeth as all of the girls (who have yet to learn the sober art of pretending to be drunk) drink that poisoned syrup then stagger and pass out in the train’s observation deck like so many wasted beauties stuffed inside a glass coffin and don’t be the conductor who looks away as the wolf boys have their way with the girls in the coffin and why are there so many glass coffins in fairy tales and why are the princesses always slipping into sweet drug-induced comas only to wake with boys and their goofy not-guilty smiles lording over them and maybe that’s why I can’t wake up in time to catch a flight and why I live so far away from the scene of the crime but understand, dear nephew, I love you best and there is more to me than this cautionary tale and that mostly, I am thriving, until — out of nowhere — I’ll be hit by what feels like (I hate to say it) a freight train and am unable to push back against its weight, and tell your father, my brother, that I know he’s sorry he took an earlier train home that day and upset that he's failed so often to untie me from these tracks," and before my nephew, the prodigy, who I am told is able to say "Thank You” in a 160 different languages, before he can say, “Thank you, for my bedtime story,” his mother, my sister-in-law, lifts the phone away from his soft cheek and whispers, “I made the gingerbread men you love so much, the ones with the royal icing,” and I say, “Thank you for thinking of me,” and I'm about ready to hang up and close the lid on my glass coffin when she says, “The funny thing about those observation cars is not how filthy they are in daylight but how, at night, after all of the boys buckled up and went to bed, how the stars above always looked so pretty through those dirty windows." And reaching out from 1,693 miles away, my sister-in-law hands me a broken gingerbread man and, like a wolf, I lick off all of the icing.

Advertisement:

Amber Dermont is the author of the novel "The Starboard Sea" and of the short story collection "Damage Control"


“Thanks, but no thanks,” she said when he passed her his mother’s grey oyster stuffing. She’d had enough of the old woman’s how-tos and what-fors, and with the help of three Dubonnet twists and a class at the Y, had worked up the nerve to sit at the head of her own dining room table.

Helen Ellis is the author of the novel "Eating the Cheshire Cat"


Alice went online looking for a used copy of the first novel she’d ever written — now out of print. She was thankful to find one for sale, even though it contained a handwritten dedication from her to her uncle in which she’d said things like, “For Paul, my dear uncle,” and "It was great to spend Thanksgiving together,” and “I’m so touched by your enthusiasm for my novel.”

Advertisement:

Amanda Filipacchi’s fourth novel, “The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty,” is forthcoming from W. W. Norton in February.


Outside his office door, you, with that resplendent red hair, recounted stories of your Italian mother with dementia, of your brother who wouldn’t visit, of midnight dinners with old friends and solo travels to make new ones, of one past love and no regrets, for your life was full -- full of laughter (that big Village-girl laugh), full of wonder, as you refused to be sorry for not finishing Third Year, refused to be anyone but an awe-filled woman born into some decade I still do not know, you, this white woman, who made an insecure girl feel like a worthy lawyer.

Then years after I’d abandoned New York City for nuptials and motherhood, you called to tell me news of the Big C forcing the tireless to bed, and I was sorry you were alone, sorry there were no decorative diplomas nailed to your walls, only two aging cats to witness the wretchedness, until you laughed at a silly joke of mine, said you were thankful, and I was sorry for feeling sorry, because you were not sorry, not even when it left and returned, not even when the laughter burned your lungs, and not, I hope, today, as I write these two grateful sentences, hoping, praying, that the reason you haven’t returned my calls is because you’re out in that crazy city of yours still not being sorry.

Lauren Francis-Sharma is the author of the novel "‘Til the Well Runs Dry"


Flanders. 27 November, 1914

Private Dawson smiled through his tears as he cradled the contents of the small package in his lap, so very grateful for these wonderful treasures from his much-missed home: the badly knitted socks, the packet of smokes, the photograph -- so beautiful he almost couldn’t bear to look at it -- and the letter, bursting with sentiments of love and yearning, hope and fear. Only the melody of sudden birdsong could stir him from his meandering thoughts, and as his eyes flickered wearily to the eastern sky, where the first faint shades of pink and peach quietly dusted the clouds, he offered his thanks for the greatest treasure of all -- the chance to watch the dawning of another day.

Hazel Gaynor is the author of the novels "The Girl Who Came Home" and the forthcoming "A Memory of Violets"


"AWOL"

It was the first time she had seen her father since she was eleven years old. Over dinner, he told her how to correctly cut her steak and why hummingbirds can fly backwards and the derivation of certain military acronyms, and when the bill came she blushed furiously as she paid, telling him it was nothing, it was no problem, she was happy to do it, she was thankful even, and the next time he was in town ... the lies hovered all around her, impossibly buoyant, as she ran for the taxi.

Panio Gianopoulos is the author of "A Familiar Beast" 


Nick Campbell, my boss and mentor, the greatest hot-rod mechanic in New England, diagnostic demigod and diviner of high compression, sits at the tan Formica table flicking cigarette ash like a lifter on a slow cam, his head framed by the doorway to where, on a braided rug, I gave his wife Mary Ann the first orgasm I ever gave anyone other than myself. As I slice off a disc of can-ribbed cranberry sauce, offering silent thanks for this idling moment with the two people who matter to me most, Mary Ann leans back in the chrome-legged chair, watching her husband with arctic blue eyes that deepen before the sudden burst of her voice stalls my heart: "Nick, it's time for you to listen."

Wayne Harrison is the author of the novel "The Spark and the Drive"


The late November morning broke raw, dark and cold and at first the fog in the distant hills was dense, and as Big Ray and his older brother Little Ray and I strolled down the road toward what little sunlight there was, I couldn't remember a thing about the night before, but then, as the fog around us thinned out and turned to fluttery wisps, so too did the vat of pea soup inside my head, and everything became clearer and clearer with each step and suddenly I realized I'd behaved appallingly the night before, I'd humiliated myself in front of friends and family and strangers, I'd had way too much to drink and smoke and snort and I'd made passes at men and women and their children and possibly even domesticated animals, and as all of this came back to me in a combination of jump cuts and freeze frames, a lukewarm lump the size of a softball began to ascend from my gut into my throat, and I stopped walking and reeled over to the side of the road to retch, but just as I bent down to heave out every meal I'd ever eaten (and then some), I heard Big Ray whisper to Little Ray, "Okay, bro, now's as good a time as any" and through squinting, burning eyes I could make out Little Ray pulling out a handgun from his floor-length chinchilla coat and putting it up to my throbbing temple.

"Thanks, Little Ray," I told him. "You're doing me a HUGE favor."

Ted Heller is the author of the novels "West of Babylon," "Pocket Kinds," "Funnymen" and "Slab Rat"


“Turkey Shoot”

When my neighbor field dressed his kill, he thought he had removed all the turkey shot, but the bird still held the last pellets, a secret hidden between wishbone and nerve, which during those weeks in the deep freeze turned to ice. On Thanksgiving, when dropped into the rolling boil of the fryer’s grease, up jumped the turkey, the proud bird poking its chest out one last time as the fire in its belly — peanut oil, propane heat, ice crystals — turned its cavity to musket and sent its load — gristle, lead shot, pneumatic bone — so close to my neighbor’s skull that if he had worn a pilgrim’s hat, it would have flown clean off, dead-bird twirling in the same wind where that grease-fire phoenix rose into the tree branches, brightening a morning that was otherwise gray.

Ravi Howard is the author of the novels "Driving the King" (forthcoming in January) and "Like Trees, Walking"


Into the pie shell, Mrs. Sen poured a mixture of salt, sugar, doubt, cinnamon, pumpkin, ginger, denial, cloves, pleas, therapy, the glittery bindi (not hers) which she’d found on the shower door that morning, 1/2 cup antifreeze, and two well beaten eggs. She baked the pie at 425 degrees, then served him a slice on a spotless plate, and when he offered her a bite, she said no thank you.

Tania James is the author of the story collection "Aerogrammes" and the novels "Atlas of Unknowns" and the forthcoming "The Tusk That Did the Damage"


"Last Thanksgiving"

We ate and gave thanks, then the women went about washing dishes and sharing cigarettes in the tight kitchen, and the kids chased the old dog and threw the football over the fence and dared each other to fetch it, sneaking behind the family men in the garage, men nursing sweaty beers and chewing Swisher Sweets, men who every so often couldn’t help but shake their heads at what they’d heard my father had done at the job site.

He was inside on the couch, watching the game, alone and walled-up and icing his knuckles again, and when I found him and asked about the score, he turned and took time regarding me, as if I were just then unrecognizable, his only son, the only one young enough to believe things would work out, then he twisted back to the television and said, “The score’s always the same, baby boy.  Too much to not enough.”

Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of the novel "Remember Me Like This" and the short story collection "Corpus Christi"


She bought the thing, washed it, placed it breast-side-up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan and turned the wings back to hold the neck-skin in place and brushed the skin lightly with canola oil and then inserted a meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh (without touching the bone) and when the thigh was up to temperature, she moved the thermometer to the center of the stuffing and finally placed it in the oven, and then loosely covered the breast and top of the drumsticks with a piece of foil (to prevent overcooking) once it was two-thirds of the way there, and when the temperature hit 180° F in the thigh and 165° F in the breast she lifted it onto a platter, where she let it stand for 15 minutes. She carved, pried, sniffed, swallowed, forced a THANK YOU GODDESS out loud, washed down her antipsychotic cocktail with some cider, and proceeded to read that same first volume of Knausgaard’s My Struggle out loud to her Yorkipoo for the rest of that frigid Black Friday’s Eve.

Porochista Khakpour is the author of the novels "Sons and Other Flammable Objects" and "The Last Illusion"


"True Story"

To her, Thanksgiving will always be the anniversary of the day she knelt beside a dying man and whispered, "Daddy, do you love me?" Eleven years later she can still hear his rasping voice, can feel his regret with that small and plaintive yes.

Ariel Lawhon is the author of "The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress"


Thanks to a consultation with a psychic astrologer, my father believed (and told me, throughout my childhood) that he and my mother had been brother and sister in 11th century Spain, while he and my sister had been husband and wife in Puritan New England, he the evil mayor of the village and she long-suffering – which explained, he said, their current strained relationship – and so my early understanding of Thanksgiving was therefore tangled with images of my own family miserably washing clothes in the creek, my own father buying everyone off with a yearly harvest feast and day of joyful prayer. I didn’t insert myself in these imaginings, though; when my father had asked the astrologer about his second daughter, she said I’d been no one to him.

Rebecca Makkai is the author of the novels "The Hundred Year House" and "The Borrowers"


The other night I dreamed I was young, a teenager once more instead of forty-five, and so in love with another similarly young person, in this case a boy, that I wanted nothing more in life than just to walk down the street with him, being all over him alongside, enfolding him in the worship of my regard, covering his body and spirit lavishly with my new and ravenous eating-up feeling of love, and though I know how this sounds (pathetic, cheesy) I couldn’t get enough ever of this obsessive and delighted sensation, and I do believe I felt just as ecstatically thankful, in the dream, as I had felt in waking life long ago, barely thirteen — what a warm, senseless marvel of joy! I walked, in the dream, with this coveted object of my affection, pressing myself against him as we went on, and when I was awoken by the sound of faint and tinny music from an ancient intercom on the bedroom wall (for I was not at home) I also knew for certain, not out of pessimism or gloom or self-pity, not asking for reassurance or contradiction, simply knew for a fact that from now until the very day I died I’d never feel that love again.

Lydia Millet's latest novel is "Mermaids in Paradise"


"Let's Make a Holiday With the Neighbors"

On Monday and Tuesday, we marched to the neighbors' houses, knocked politely on the front doors, walked inside, ate from the refrigerators, sat on the furniture, talked for a little while, declared ourselves the owners of the houses, sent some of the neighbors into exile in the woods, killed a few of the neighbors, kept a few of the neighbors' daughters for ourselves, told the neighbors they had to forget about the old ways they kept before we arrived in the neighborhood, made a few promises about new lands and new houses we'd give the neighbors as compensation for the lands and houses we took from them, reneged on our promises, killed a few more neighbors, stole a few of their children so we could educate them properly, felt sorry for the neighbors because we had so much more than the neighbors had, and because we were clearly superior to the neighbors. On Thursday, we invited the neighbors to celebrate life with us, we killed a bird and stuffed it with bread and vegetables, we asked the neighbors to hold our hands and sing our songs and give thanks for all the good things in our lives, and between us and the neighbors everything was good, didn't we know it and didn't the neighbors know it?

Kyle Minor is the author of the story collections "In the Devil’s Territory" and "Praying Drunk"


He reached for a cookie and said, “Mama, if you can be thank-full, can you be thank-hungry?” and she thought of the dinner to come, the turkey to be basted, the potatoes to be mashed, the gravy to be thickened, the lumps to be sieved from it, the table to be laid, the guests to be greeted, the drinks to be poured and refilled, the bickering over who would get the drumstick and who would get the wishbone while she jumped up from the table to fetch more butter or more bread or another spoon to replace the one dropped on the carpet, the pie to be sliced, the goodbyes to be said, the dishes to be scrubbed, the tablecloth to be washed though the gravy and grease spots would never come out, the morning to follow when he and his brothers and their father would descend again into the kitchen that she’d been the last to leave and the first to enter and ask, “So what’s for breakfast?” all the demands sheathed by their innocent faces, and she said, “Yes, I suppose you can.” Her hands were wet and cold from the turkey but she managed to kiss him, just once, before he ran out of the kitchen.

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel "Everything I Never Told You"


"Potatoes & Peas"

She insisted we do that thing where we go around the table telling each other what we’re thankful for, which seemed like a pretty naive thing to be doing at a truck stop in … wherever the hell we were. But, then I noticed my son’s plate and the perfect pair of breasts he made from mashed potatoes and two shriveled peas, and I had to admit, things could probably be worse.

Matthew Norman is the author of the novel "Domestic Violets"


She wanted to know if we celebrated Thanksgiving where I come from -my son’s social worker working hard to get him a speech therapist-she favored Gucci knock-offs and bright red lipstick to go with the red bag and painted nail- of course we do- I told her, but no miserly turkey for us, we go for something more full-bodied-a cow and the feasting and dancing goes on for a week, no sleep-eat, dance, drink, eat some more-seven days and seven nights non-stop and as I continued to improvise her smile continued to widen.

When I was done we were both thankful and relieved in our shared knowledge that sometimes a good lie covers a multitude of sins.

EC Osondu is the author of the story collection "Voice of America" and the forthcoming novel "This House Is Not for Sale"


“Why?”

“Because, you idiot” — I really can’t believe I need to explain this, and I’m having a hard time not hauling off and punching him in the face, again, right here in front of the police station, bam, a broken nose to go with last night’s black eye — “that woman you were about to rob for a second time, she’s married to a cop, and not just any cop but a famously vicious and maybe even murderous cop, and you were like three seconds away from getting caught red-handed, which would’ve meant the receiving end of an unprecedented beat-down — in public, in front of your girlfriend — as a prelude, as a like amuse bouche, to arrest and conviction and incarceration and the abject horror of prison, where a guy like you” — I jab him in the his chest, and this incidental contact makes me prickle, and again I’m having a hard time restraining myself from further violence — “might even get killed, and so I punched you in the face to stop you from the dumb-ass life-ruining mistake you were in the process of making, at the same time getting me cuffed and dragged down to the station to spend a horrible sleepless night in lockup with smelly drunks and petty dealers and menacing thugs, and so that’s why, you motherfucking moron, you should say thank you.”

Chris Pavone is the author of the novels "The Expats" and "The Accident"


And then one morning I realized it was me I was reading about in the newspaper, that I was the focus of the article (there, as confirmation of this fact, was my photograph, an unfortunate selection since it was out of focus and from before I lost the weight), but no matter how many times I read through it, I couldn’t suss out what was being said about me, whether I was being honored, thanked, criticized, vilified, or whathaveyou.  The article’s primary purpose, so far as I could tell, was to make clear that I existed, that I was a real person, and that I could be found at the following address:

Thomas Pierce is the author of the story collection "Hall of Small Mammals," which will be published in January


Divorce, 1987 – It has been asked and I have given permission for Mitzy to eat Thanksgiving dinner from Samson’s dog bowl, which you’ll remember is porcelain (a bonus) and which has been washed (by me) several times — she claimed to have cleaned it herself, though a speck of dried kibble told me otherwise. In advance, I thank you for accommodating the request, respecting my decision, etc., etc.: she seems to think dear dead Samson will be moved by the act.

Hannah Pittard is the author of the novels "Reunion" and "The Fates Will Find Their Way"


"Thanksgiving in Space"

"Thank you for the oxygen we breath, the food we hydrate, and the urine filtration system that gives us plentiful drinking water."

"Thanks for gravity pills, star-tan lotion, and the sex robots who gratify our increasingly eccentric demands, no questions asked."

Nathaniel Rich is the author of the novels "Odds Against Tomorrow" and "The Mayor's Tongue"


“In honor of Thanksgiving,” the President announced, “I hereby pardon Waddle, the Turkey!"

“What was his crime?” joked a reporter, “being too delicious?”

“Haha no,” said the President, “it was murder.”

Simon Rich's latest story collection is "Spoiled Brats"


Lucy said nothing when her husband, Kip, informed her a week ago that she’d be solo-hosting Thanksgiving dinner (for God’s sake it was only thirteen people) and said nothing when, on his way out the door, he’d paused in his pilgrim costume -- breeches, buckle shoes and big pilgrim hat — and called her a selfish bitch for not being excited for him, wondering aloud, if she would ever be happy, and she wondered too if maybe she wasn’t dead inside, because she should be happy, not to mention proud, that her husband was part of the battalion of balloon handlers that would be commandeering a two ton tomahawk-wielding Navajo Indian down Fifth Avenue, as well as, tossing blankets to the chilly onlookers on the parade route, and she was excited, she had to admit, to see Kip’s blurry visage come into focus as Charlie Brown and a monocled peanut with a walking stick floated by on her TV screen; and it was exciting — thrilling, even, but unsettling too, frightening, too, terrible of course — to watch the TV sky turn rapidly from blue to gray to black and the wind shift from breezy to blustery to gale, and watch as, one by one, the pilgrims, who fought valiantly to wrest control of the soaring Navajo, were forced to let go of their tethers lest they dislocate a shoulder, or find themselves, like the only pilgrim still holding fast to his line, her brave and steadfast husband, lifted up off the ground and now soaring towards the greater peaks of midtown. What could she say but thank you.

Elissa Schappell is the author of "Blueprints for Building Better Girls" and "Use Me"


She was nothing I wanted to be; she had two little kids, a husband who’d left, a sad white house with a washing machine that she was desperately trying to hang onto; she wrote a story that ran in the paper we both freelanced for about getting through that first Thanksgiving, just she and her kids; they took a road trip, ate at some dive, the message being: they survived. Later, we competed for the one staff reporting job; she got it and I was mad, I thought I was better.

Mona Simpson's many novels include "Casebook," "Anywhere But Here," "A Regular Guy," "My Hollywood" and "Off Keck Road"


What else to say but “Thanks!” when an elderly man who appears to be smoking a cigar shouts “Congratulations!” from the rolled-down window of a slowly passing car? “What could that possibly mean?” I ask my daughter, both of us clad in all-weather athletic gear, and she repeats the phrase — it is unexpectedly buoying — as we continue running uphill in tandem at a pace that pleases us both — adult and child — against the wind and whirling snow, which pleases us both too.

Carrie Snyder is the author of the novels "The Juliet Diaries" and the forthcoming "Girl Runner"


All our thanks has a far margin of grace; hers is the Nassau County line. She is appreciative of where she grew up and all it gave her and yet she'll never visit again.

Darin Strauss' many books include "Half a Life," "More Than It Hurts You" and "Chang & Eng"


"Holidays Are All About Family"

“Everyone we know is dead,” says my grandfather, from the back seat where we’ve stuck him (and me with him) and Grandma — riding shotgun, ostensibly on account of her back, though privately I suspect she feels that since it’s her handicap sticker we’ll use to park right in front of the restaurant, dibs on shotgun are permanently hers — adds: “Bernie was the last and now that’s it, dead and gone, everyone.”

What you’ve got to understand about this statement is that Bernie, Grandpa’s school friend from the first grade forward (itself a mindfuck to think about; I don’t) died two years ago and we have this conversation every time we visit — the one time we suggested that they make new friends, among those living people who populate their apartment building, Grandma looked at me like I’d just shit myself and said, “What do I need friends for?” — so I have had and will continue to have other occasions on which to be generous, kind, consoling, decent — all that happy Christian shit — but there’s something about the three o’clock drive down the sunny humid November streets of Greater Fort Lauderdale to Carrabba’s Italian Grille (nobody, naturally, in this car cooks) that just drowns any inkling of Christian charity you might happen to have — which is probably for the best anyway, given that we’re Jewish, Grandma and Grandpa married in a rabbi’s living room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one Wednesday morning seventy-whatever years ago, two days before he shipped out to fight that bastard Hitler though in the end they sent him to Japan — and what I really want to do is shout out, “Hey now you ancient raving loveless motherfucks, here we are — my father, your only son, and me, his — having dragged ourselves down here, here rather than anywhere else we might have dragged ourselves, which is plenty of places, kind of, but anyway here we are here with you, riding in this car right now, alive and bound for the early bird and so what are we chopped goddamn liver?—” but I’m not going to ask the question because the truth is that I already know the answer — which they wouldn’t give me anyway, even if I asked, even if they knew how to say it, which I won’t and they don’t — which is that when they say “everyone we know” they aren’t talking about the family; family’s the last thing they’re talking about; in their minds, for whatever suite of unfathomable or obvious reasons, “family” is categorically excluded from the index of people who are or have been known or, indeed, who can be known, so I just look over at Grandpa and go, “You win.”

Justin Taylors most recent book is "Flings." He can be found @my19thcentury and http://www.justindtaylor.net/


"Westmalle Trappist"

In Delfshaven, in the southwest of central Rotterdam, past the canals with willows dipping their narcissus arms down into the stagnant water, at the edge of the biggest port in all of Europe, is the berth the pilgrim fathers left from on their trip across the North Sea and into the Atlantic and across to what we now call Massachusetts. Thankfully, I drank a Belgian beer there once.

Daniel Torday is the author of the forthcoming novel "The Last Flight of Poxl West"


"In the Wrong Place"

She waited until late afternoon before trudging down 24th Street to buy yams, glowering at the sight of yet another generic, slate grey condo being erected more quickly than she could get around to doing her laundry, in front of which loitered a bunch of kids, chests puffed, who clucked at her in passing, words she barely registered as she wondered if the produce market was going to have any yams left this late on Thanksgiving, having delayed accepting her roommate’s invitation to an “orphan potluck” until she was sure no better offer was coming, by which point the only unclaimed dish on the Google doc was “candied yams,” a casserole she’d despised when her mother used to make it back in Missouri, and felt no nostalgic urge to create for a bunch of twenty-something technocrats who would wonder out loud what she was doing at their table (“Whose mom are you?”) even though it was actually her table, made of reclaimed wood (before that was trendy), her first proud purchase when she arrived in the Mission twenty years ago, as naively persuaded of her inevitable success as they are now.

"Just be thankful the bullet missed the bone," the doctor said as he disinfected the wound of the shot that was probably meant for someone else, a shot she didn't even hear until after the bullet whizzed through her leg at a speed she’d try to replicate as she left the city that no longer felt like home.

Malena Watrous is the author of the novel "If You Follow Me"


“Work-for-Hire Agreement”

We’ll pay you fifty bucks for two sentences, the editor said, and I calculated all the variables of participation: namely, the exposure versus the whoring, a small advance toward rent against the sacred purity of my artistic soul, approval- and money-seeking over self-contentment.

A dollar a word, I said, thanks.

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels "The Love Song of Jonny Valentine" and "Kapitoil"


She told her son to say thanks, even though what she wanted to tell him was to put it back, that he’d get plenty of sweets at her in-law’s house, because what kind of a liquor store kept a basket of lollipops by the cash register? The kind that was open on Thanksgiving.

Alexi Zentner is the author of the novels "The Lobster Kings" and "Touch"


David Daley

David Daley, a former editor of Salon, is the author of the national bestseller "Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn't Count" and the forthcoming “Unrigged: How Americans Fought Back, Slayed the Gerrymander and Reinvented Democracy.” He is a senior fellow at FairVote.

MORE FROM David Daley

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••






Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •