A Holiday Tale
fatty knob at the business end of a turkey is the tail, sometimes called the
Pope's nose. On a smoked turkey, it's pretty good. The fat has melted away and
the remaining flesh nuggets are actually quite sweet and succulent. In a
medium-to-large family, every generation has a connoisseur of this appendage. In
my family, it was my brother, The Eldest Son, Joe.
The peak year of my brooding teens, Joe and I were drawing battle lines. He had always got the Pope's nose (unless Aunt Ollie showed up) and since he had been picking on me, I wanted to cause him distress. So I privately lobbied for it with Dad, who --never wanting extra trouble but always wanting to be fair-- conceded that I didn't even know if I liked this, because Joe always got it. So, as he agreed that I should get a chance to taste this dubious delicacy, an eavesdropping little guttersnipe (Tommy) carried the news to his king.
Joe had a conniption. His passive/aggressive argument was that he was prodigal (hmph; a wanderer, Joe was always prodigal for all holidays from the time he was about thirteen) and that I ate like two pigs, anyway. Nasty, hm?
Dad called me out back by the ancient cast-iron smoker, his holiday office, to lecture and cajole. He expertly buttered me up with this preface: He realized Joe and I had had some friction and, while my "fairness doctrine" logic was unimpeachable, still he just knew that I didn't really want to cause trouble for everyone on the holiday. Ouch. Score one for the past master...
At last, Dad came up with a solution; he would strip an unnoticeable morsel from the underside, for me to taste. And if I actually liked it, I could still claim the tail but, if I didn't, would I please in the interest of harmony, let Joe have it?
Well. Fourteen-year-old girls are historically disinterested in harmony, and in this case I was no exception. However, I loved my Dad, and he had once again made me feel privately important and special among eleven children and a bunch of guests -- a feat only Dad could ever achieve.
I gave a nod and the conspiracy commenced. We turned our backs to the house. Checked around for lowly spies; none. Dad expertly shimmed a sliver of flesh w/ a speck of the coveted crispy, smoky skin from the tail, and gifted it to me on the end of his legendary carving knife like he was loaning me Ex Caliber.
Alas! The sample was indeed delicious. I longed to snatch the turkey tail and run off down the hill to one of the many fox holes dug by my brothers and nibble on it like stolen cheese. I imagined sucking on the bones before burying them so that no one, NO ONE would share in even the remnants of my exclusive enjoyment. HAHAHAHA!!!
But there was Dad's face, so hopeful. Presentation of the Turkey was his finest hour, and he deserved his accomplishment to be center stage. Though my teen family alienation was pronounced, and I was at the height of not giving a shit about anyone else's feelings, though I desperately wanted this prize for myself, though Joe was a first-rate bastard and never deserved to enjoy this ambrosia again... I loved my Dad. And this, he knew, was his best hope for successfully plying his diplomatic craft.
"CACK! Auughhh!" I feigned disgust, and spat the precious morsel onto the ground.
Dad's face failed to conceal an unwhooped whoop of joy, before he recovered and tsked at me; "Didja have to waste it? It wasn't that bad!" He quickly hustled the little plate into the house, before "Mary, quite contrary" could change her mind, and placed the Smoked Coccyx of Family Harmony on the stove, where it would go untouched by, as repugnant to, the entire family except for Joe.
I gazed at the not-thoroughly-chewed sliver balanced lightly enough on a tuft of clean-looking grass. Wistfully I wondered if the 5-second rule applied, outdoors. But alas, a solid six seconds had passed, and anyway with always at least two dogs hanging around, too risky. Damn! That smoked turkey tail was GOOD!
Joe, of course, casually took for granted his right to the tail, believing Dad had ordered me to accede to the Rights of Inheritance to which Joe's manifest destiny entitled him. He strutted a bit, pointedly savoring the underappreciated treat that was rightfully mine. I seethed, a little, before secretly, smugly treasuring my gifts of finer appreciation and diplomacy. I was The Better Person.
Well, not anymore.
Joe, on this day, with you 4000 miles away and Dad gone these nearly four years, and as I summon all the scorn envy and superiority I barely concealed thirty years ago, I am pleased to command you in retrospect, (as I would so have loved to on that day) ....
Suck my coccyx!!!!