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Monday, November 26, 2001
By Paul Ford
A declarative story about my Thanksgiving holiday.
We went to West Virginia for Thanksgiving.
I went to Philadelphia and slept on a folding couch in my father's apartment. I fell asleep listening to the couple upstairs walk across their creaky floor. We left at 6 the next morning, and took the turnpike to 81, got off on 70, which turns into 68, and then took 219. It took 6 hours.
Everyone was there: grandmother, father, mother, brother, sister-in-law, myself, nephew, niece, niece. We had an hour before dinner so we watched a scheduled educational film about the white-tailed deer. The ranger who controlled the VCR was a 19-year-old woman wearing rouge and eyeliner.
The film showed a newborn white-tailed deer, curled up on pine needles. “The mother deer licks the fawn to stimulate bowel movements,” said the video.
At the lodge buffet we said a prayer and ate turkey. I was nervous and ate too much. Everything had gravy. I didn't want to talk about New York City.
After dinner my brother and I sat in the cold and smoked cigars and drank whisky. Our seats were on the edge of a valley. The mountain across the valley was gray with winter trees.
When I went up to bed I looked out the window and counted 8 deer on the lawn.
On Friday my father, brother, nephew, and I played golf. Several of the holes were 500-yard fairways up steep hills. Old men in carts zipped around us. We were tired after 11 or 12 holes. My 12-year-old nephew had a birdie, sinking the ball from 80 yards away. My brother promised to frame the scorecard. My nephew put away his lucky golf ball in a pants pocket.
We found a restaurant in Parsons, an old coal town, and drank huge glasses of super-sweet lemonade and ate $2.50 hamburgers.
Later that night my mother and I sat in the cold and smoked cigars and drank whisky. We talked about my future plans and if I could make enough money this year. As we spoke, a deer walked past, within a few yards, and stopped to nibble grass.
The next morning, Saturday, I played with my nieces and nephew and talked to my grandmother. We left at 11.
As we drove past Accident, West Virginia I snapped a picture. A few minutes later there was a sign that said “Negro Mountain.” There were cars parked at random intervals along 219 and sometimes we saw men in fluorescent orange hats, carrying shotguns.
We pulled off for gas and the gas station was also an official deer check, and dozens of hunters were pulling freshly killed deers out of the backs of their pickups, hefting the deer by their hooves and dropping them onto the asphalt, comparing their kill to the other deer, waiting for the state to weigh the body. The deer had red gashes in their chests from gutting, and their eyes were not quite closed.
We filled the tank of our rental car and used the bathroom, waiting in line with hunters. Several of the hunters were women, in camouflage overalls. It began to drizzle.
Finally we got back to Philadelphia. We watched some television. I checked email and opened the sofa bed, then read a book about science and went to sleep. 25 feet away, on the other side of the room, my father began to snore, and I clicked my tongue loudly several times until he rolled over and stopped.
The next morning we got some breakfast and he dropped me at the Chestnut Hill station. A woman with nice hair sat in front of me on the train from Philadelphia to Trenton. Two seats back two little boys of 4 or 5, both in suits with ties, wept for a straight hour. Every few minutes their grandmother yelled at them to be quiet.
When I got back to New York I walked my bags through the people waiting to leave New York, up out of the station. A woman stopped me and asked if I could help her hang a poster because I was tall. The poster featured a photo of a young woman who had died in the World Trade Center, and asked for prayers. I put it up with their clear tape, among hundreds of other posters, some handmade, some carefully laserprinted. Then I walked over to 6th Avenue. I walked to the B-F-Q-N-R station, swiped my card, and walked to the end of the F platform. After a long wait the train came, and I found a seat on a half-filled car.
When I got back to Brooklyn it began to rain hard, and I took off all my clothes, threw down a blanket, and slept two hours on the floor.