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This story, also based on a song of mine, is very short.
Harvey Phelan was stranded magnificently, holed up in the last place he’d expect to be on Thanksgiving. As best he could tell, the body of water outside the window was called Alton Bay. The little village about a half mile away was either Alton or Alton Bay. From the signs he had passed the night before, it was hard to tell. It appeared to be a resort village, at the bottom of Lake Winnipesaukee. A carpet golf course, shut down. Flimsy food stands, boarded up. The community center had been dark, though a couple kids inexplicably played hacky sack under a lamp pole in the cold.
The United States of America was roughly shut down as much as Phelan. The air was empty. The first wave of attacks had been swiftly met, or so the television set in the Old Friends Inn informed him. No one knew if there was another, but Phelan figured he wouldn’t be flying out of Boston for several days. America was on lockdown. Phelan was hungry. It was, after all, Thanksgiving. Surely, there must be some place to get something to eat. He drove into town and found nothing open but a general store. First he drove past, but the pizza parlor near the cemetery was closed, and out on the “rotary” – traffic circle elsewhere – Phelan was astonished to find even the McDonald’s closed. He drove back to the general store and was relieved to see it was selling turkey dinners with all the fixings, whatever fixings were.
“I’d like to buy a dinner,” he said to the man behind the counter.
“Phelan, but why do you need my name?”
“To check it off the list. They’re strictly by reservation.”
Thayuh strictly by resuhvashun.
“I’m sort of … stuck here,” Phelan said. “I was hoping I could buy one.”
“Well, that’s okay. I’ll just order a sub then.”
“Deli’s closed for Thanksgiving.”
Yet it was right there. Various slabs of meat, ready for the slicing. Tomatoes, lettuce, onions, oil, vinegar, pickles, everything the man needed. All he had to do was make the sandwich.
Phelan held his temper. It’s what he did.
“Sir, I’m not trying to be a pain, but is there any place a man can get something to eat in this town?”
The man – the ironed on circle on his work shirt said “Sal” – thought a moment.
“Okay, here’s what you do,” he said. “You drive past the cemetery, take the next left. The American Legion is serving turkey dinners to the homeless.”
Phelan was incredulous. He looked the man in the eyes.
“Sal, you realize, I got cash money and I’m working steady.”
“Just make a contribution.”
“Just kiss my ass.”
What says Thanksgiving better than bags of Tostitos and white-cheese popcorn, a jar of salsa, and a twelve-pack of Diet Coke?
Phelan walked out, put his groceries in the back seat of the rental car, and leaned against it, studying the wooden, whitewashed general store. He imagined what it would be like when he called in the air strike.