Of Crickets and Turkeys: Part II

The deep blue pool of Houghton’s Pond was still in the early morning. Already the sun peeked over the wall of trees in the east. The area was empty of people; they were preparing for their Thanksgiving feasts.

Suddenly Lennie appeared out of the brush, teetering clumsily towards the sand. The dead lizard had been preserved by weeks of below-freezing temperatures, and was mostly intact. Lennie approached the body and pecked at it, his head bobbing up and down like a jackhammer. When he was finished, he sat on the beach and gazed across the water.

Lennie said softly, “I di’n’t forget, you bet. Go to the shore and wait for George.” He scratched at the rough ground. “George gonna give me hell,” he said. “George gonna wish he was alone an’ not have me botherin’ him.”

From out of Lennie’s head there came a gigantic squirrel. It stood on its hind legs with its head at eye level, and it crinkled its nose and sneered at him. And it spoke in Lennie’s voice too.

“Tend squirrels,” it said scornfully. “You crazy bastard. You ain’t fit to clean the fur of no squirrel. You’d forget ’em and let ’em go hungry. That’s what you’d do. An’ then what would George think?”

“I would not forget,” Lennie said loudly.

“The hell you wouldn’,” said the squirrel. “You ain’t worth a single woodchip in the whole goddamn park. If you think George gonna let you tend squirrels, you’re even crazier’n usual. He ain’t. He’s gonna gouge your eyes out, that’s what he’s gonna do.”

“He won’t,” Lennie cried frantically. “He won’t do nothing like that. I know George. Me an’ him travels together.”

He’s sick of you,” said the squirrel. “He’s gonna gouge your eyes an’ then go away an’ leave you.”

Lennie buried his head in the sand. “He ain’t, I tell ya he ain’t.” And he squawked, “Oh! George- George- George!”

George came quietly out of the brush and the squirrel scuttled back into Lennie’s brain.

George said quietly, “What the hell you yellin’ about?”

“I done a bad thing, George. I done killed that nice turkey.”

“It don’t make no difference,” George said, and he fell silent.

Lennie began to snivel. “All them other birds, George. Are they comin’ for me? I done a bad thing.”

“It don’ matter no more.”

“I can go away, George,” said Lennie. “I’ll go right off in the trees an’ be a tree bird if you don’ want me.”

George shook himself. “No,” he said. “I want you to stay with me here.”

Lennie said craftily, “Tell how it’s gonna be. With you and me.”

George watched the surface of the lake ripple with the wind. He tried to listen for the crickets, but they were gone. “Look across the river, Lennie, an’ I’ll tell you so you can almost see it.”

Lennie sat and looked off across the water at the trees on the other side. “We gonna get a little place,” George began. In the distance he could hear a mob of birds running down the path. He stepped softly into the brush, and with one claw he grabbed a gargantuan butcher knife.

“Go on,” said Lennie. How’s it gonna be. We gonna get a little place.”

“We’ll have a house,” said George. “An’ a wide field… an’ we’ll have a room filled… with nuts-”

“For the squirrels,” Lennie shouted.

“For the squirrels,” George repeated.

“And I get to tend the squirrels.”

“An’ you get to tend the squirrels.”

The turkey calls were coming closer. Lennie turned his head.

“No, Lennie. Look down there across the pond, like you can almost see the place.”

Lennie obeyed. George looked down at the knife.

“Go on, George. When we gonna do it?”

“Gonna do it soon.”

“Me an’ you.”

“You… an’ me. Ain’t gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from ‘em.”

“Let’s do it now. Let’s get that place now.” Lennie closed his eyes and smiled.

“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta.”

George took the knife in his beak and held it above Lennie’s neck. The blade trembled in the air, but then it steadied. He slashed downwards forcefully. Lennie’s body stiffened. The sand was streaked with red. Lennie’s eyes were still closed as his head rolled down the beach. It was picked up by the water and floated away from the bank, bobbing once, twice, before finally sinking down out of sight.

George dropped the knife to the ground as Slim burst through the brush. The tall bird looked at George, then to Lennie’s lifeless body, then to the knife on the sand, and back to George. “You did it.”

“I did it,” George said hoarsely.

“You hadda George. I swear you hadda. And now it’s alright. Ain’t no more trouble now, George.” Slim led him away from the beach. “You oughta be thankful.”

George looked back at the spot in the pond where the head had disappeared. “Yeah. I guess I oughta be thankful.”

Like what you read? Give Henry Lin-David a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.