On Tuesday, she thawed her turkey and plunged it into an herb-infused salt brine bath overnight to be sure it would be tender and flavorful. This year, the bird was so big--nearly 25 pounds--she’d had to go out and buy a metal ice bucket to accommodate the chubby sucker. Of course, the bucket leaked, so she ended up lining it with a trash bag and making another batch of brine to replace the first one which was now soaking into the back yard lawn. She hoped her husband wouldn’t notice the big patch of dead grass encrusted in a salt ring. It was pretty hard to miss, but she was going to plead ignorance, no matter how much he questioned her.
She was almost finished preparing all her dressing ingredients to mix and stuff inside the turkey. Of course, her favorite, the one with cornbread, apples, currents, onion and mushrooms, she’d have to make separately the day before. Her mother-in-law was allergic to mushrooms, couldn’t stand the things, and refused to eat at the Queen’s house if she had fixed anything with mushrooms that day. As she diced onion and celery, the Queen’s mind wandered to other mushroom recipes. Ones where she might be able to completely mask the ingredient. A small smile curved the edges of her mouth upward, and she pulled her red stock pot from atop the refrigerator and started a batch of home-made stock. “Vegetable soup will be perfect tomorrow. It’s forecast to rain, and soup always tastes better when it’s rainy outside.” By the time the stock was bubbling, the Queen was humming happily.
Wednesday she got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed the floor grout until it was almost the same color as the tiles. She timed herself: twenty squares cleaned in an hour. Two hundred and fifty squares in the kitchen and entry way. No wonder she hadn’t cleaned them in years. By the time she finished, it was dark out. She could barely stand and her back was in spasm all night. She’d forgotten to eat her soup. But boy, that floor looked like new.
She got up before dawn Thanksgiving morning to stuff the turkey and get it in the oven. Almost screamed when she squatted down and shoved that twenty-five pound roaster pan of slimy poultry into the oven. Next house, she was buying a built-in oven she didn’t have to bend in half to use. She took some ibuprofen with her coffee. No time for breakfast, she had pies to bake. Oh, and that second pan of her favorite stuffing.
The Queen ironed her best table cloth, the linen one with scalloped lace edges. It had been a wedding gift, but she rarely used it. The stains were so hard to get out of linen. But today she thought, “It’s Thanksgiving. My loving family will all be here. My house looks beautiful. We have a delicious meal. I am so thankful for all this abundance for myself and my loved ones.” She was so happy, in fact, that she set the table with her best china and crystal.
The house smelled delicious already. With all the wonderful scents in the kitchen, her mother-in-law would never know she made that mushroom dressing today. She added a vase of bittersweet to the dining table and lit candles in the front windows. Feeling contented, she headed the bathroom to shower and dress for dinner.
While she was in the shower, the Prince arrived, home for the long weekend from college. “Mom, I’m home,” he hollered. He dumped the soft drink from his car in the gleaming sink, leaving it brown. Peeking into the oven, he checked the turkey. It smelled good but it wasn’t done. So he rummaged in the pantry for chips and salsa, dripping salsa on the counter as he filled himself a bowl, and leaving the dirty dishes in the living room when he went to his room to play video games.
Then the King arrived. He dumped a pile of junk mail on the table, next to her vase of bittersweet. He’d been collected it in his car all week and decided this was the day to clear the passenger seat in case they used the car that night.
The Queen was out of the shower by then. The king joined her in the bathroom, giving her a peck on the cheek and grabbing a quick feel-up. Then he headed into the next room to turn on the football game, leaving a trail of muddy boot prints on her pristine floor. It was raining outside.
The Queen stumbled through the house in disbelief.
NO! She’d only been gone for thirty minutes. She sank into a chair, feeling numb. It was the first time she had sat down in four days.
The front door opened and Mother-in-Law popped her head in. “Do I smell mushrooms?”
Several newspapers lay amongst the pile of discarded mail. The tired Queen picked up the most recent one.
“Screw the domestic goddess. I’m going to the movies.”