Milan Smith has published 31 short stories in various magazines, including Pear Noir, Everyday Fiction, Midnight Times and
Crimson Highway. After he got his B.S. degree in business from the University of Florida, he worked in the business world
for two years, and hated it. Then he got job as a reporter for a year, and hated that. Finally, he decided to try writing, and
now works part-time at night and writes during the mornings, and he loves it.
A Little Thanksgiving Brandy
It was Thanksgiving Day, Edna had worked all morning on dinner, slicing and mixing and baking, as well as keeping the kids
out of the way – some of these “kids” being in their 30s – and sometime while stuffing the turkey, she lost her bottle of
brandy. True, she’d been a little tipsy, and she’d been in a panic to hide it before her husband Daniel saw it, then right after
that came the boys, Robert and Joe, and their wives, Cindy and Lisa, and the grandchildren. Now they were all in the living
room, the men watching the game, the children playing with the new puppy, the women talking about Cindy's third now
coming, all of them out of the way and out of sight and here Edna was and not able to find the damn bottle.
She had looked inside the drawers, the cabinets, the refrigerator, and nothing. Edna stood in the middle of the kitchen,
twisting her apron and muttering, "Where, where, where?" She looked in the potato salad, the beans, among the pies, all
through the leftover mess on the counter, and even the trash. Nothing. All this free time to take a few sips, and now the
bottle up and disappears.
Edna walked to the door of the kitchen and peered in the dining room. It was empty, and she could hear the TV announcer
from the living room, as well as Daniel's sudden booming laugh and the titters from Cindy and Lisa.
Well, since they were busy, Edna could look around, and so she did. She walked to the bathroom and checked in the
cabinets, but nothing. She walked back and checked the big hall closet, then the linen closet. Again nothing. She headed
back to the dining room and stood by the table, twisting the apron in her hands.
She tried to think, but her mind just wouldn’t work. Now, she thought, if I had a little nip at the bottle, that would clear my
mind up right quick. But she had no clear impression of where it could be. She tried the master bedroom, and while passing
the living room door, she glanced in and saw Robert's two boys petting the puppy, while their father watched from the love
seat. Back in the kitchen, Edna stood by the oven mumbling to herself, "Where did that silly thing get to? Where, where,
From behind, she heard Robert's voice. "Ma, what's the matter?"
Edna whirled around to face her son, a tall, bony blond. "Nothing at all,” she said. “Why do you ask?"
"Because you've walked up-and-down the hall a dozen times. What’s wrong?"
Edna looked past Robert to the dining room, and saw no one. "You mustn't tell anyone," she said. "You have to be
absolutely quiet. If your father knew, oh, I'd be so miserable."
"That's fine, ma, what's the matter?"
"Well, honey, you know when I cook, especially on Thanksgiving, I like to take a nip every now and then, don't you?"
"You do like your brandy. You need me to get another bottle?"
"No, no. It's just that your father gets awfully upset when I drink, and so I've been very careful, you see, to hide it. And I
have half a bottle left, but it seems I might’ve hid it too well. I mean, I can't find it."
"Well, shush, I'm a grown woman, and if I want a little drink now and then, well, that's my business. But you know how
your father gets."
"Alright," Robert said, "so when was the last time you saw it?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe an hour ago."
"Tell me everything that happened. What were you doing when you last saw it?"
"Well, I was making stuffing when I sent your father out to the grocery store – I had forgotten the cranberries – and I took
a sip or two. I felt pretty good, that's very good brandy you know, that you gave me for my birthday –"
"Yes, ma, but what happened then?"
"Well," Edna said, twisting the apron in her hands, "he came home, and I got flustered and put the bottle away, then I
finished stuffing the turkey, and taking out the apple pie, then put the turkey in the oven, then opened the cranberries,
and you came and I rushed out, then, well, I don't remember what happened. Oh, if your father knows, he'll just get upset,
and I don't want to ruin Thanksgiving just because he's a grump."
"Alright," he said, "so you definitely left it in the kitchen somewhere? Maybe in one of the cabinets?"
"Well, I think so. Of course, I've been taking nips everywhere. The bathroom, the bedroom, out in back."
"And you're not drunk yet?"
"Boy, I can hold my liquor," Edna said. "And don't you forget that!"
"Okay, okay, shush," Robert said.
They then heard Daniel's voice rise up from the living room. "Everything okay in there?"
Robert leaned out the kitchen door. "Everything's fine, dad. Everything's going right on time." He turned back to his
mother. "Okay, you check the drawers, I'll check the cabinets. But be quiet."
Edna sniffed at him, and began to open drawers, while Robert opened the cabinets, taking care to look behind bowls and
glasses, the glassware clinking as he searched. Both were thorough, yet within five minutes, they'd found nothing. Robert
then looked inside the refrigerator and microwave. Still nothing. As Robert crawled under the sink to look, Joe walked in.
"What're you looking for?" Joe asked.
Robert started up, slammed his head on the sink, and swore. "Keep it down," he said.
"What’s going on?"
"Just keep quiet," Robert said, and cussed some more. “Look, you know how dad feels about ma's brandy?"
"Well, she's trying to be discreet about it. Understand?"
"Sure, but what are you looking for?"
"Well," Robert said, "you see, she sorta misplaced the bottle."
Joe turned to his mother. "Alright," he said, "how do you do that? Lose a whole bottle in your own home?"
"I don't know," Robert said.
"Oh, shush, both of you," Edna said. "Now look, Joey, I can't find it. Either help me look, or you go back to the living room
and keep your father company, but either way keep quiet."
Joe agreed to help, and all three searched the house, again going through the bathroom, the bedrooms, the hall closets,
and even looking outside under the bushes. Nothing. They all met back in the kitchen.
"Where the hell can it be?" Joe said, barely a whisper. "Are you sure it's not in the trash?"
"Of course, I'm sure," Edna said. "I had half a bottle left."
"Well, try everything again," Robert said. "Just be careful, don't make too much noise. If we don't find it this time, I'll see if
I can find someplace still open." Joe nodded and all three turned and walked out into the dining room, and then froze.
Daniel stood before them, staring hard at each one, suspicious.
"What's going on?" Daniel asked, his voice ringing off the walls, and his fat, white eyebrows twitching. "For half an hour, all
three of you have been running around, getting into everything. You think I'm blind, or I can't hear? What're you up to?"
"Nothing, dad," Robert said. "Nothing at all."
"Bullshit," Daniel said. He pulled a chair from the table and sat down facing them.
"Now, I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what's going on. And neither are you."
All three began babbling at once, trying to reassure Daniel, giving conflicting stories. Daniel listened to them for two
minutes, watching each of them in turn, then threw up his hand for silence. They fell quiet, and waited.
As Daniel began to speak, an explosion from the kitchen shook the walls. The children screamed, and Daniel fell off the
chair as the oven door blew out of the kitchen, flew through the dining room, then the living room, and crashed through
the front window. The turkey followed close behind. All four rushed to the window and watched the oven door fly like a
frisbee, skip off the road, and fly another 20 yards. The turkey hit the ground and rolled almost as far. All were in awe and
said nothing as Cindy and Lisa and the children gathered around. The smell of hot brandy wafted in from the kitchen,
followed by a cloud of gray smoke.
Robert turned to Edna. "Ma," he said, "what’d you do?"
Edna blushed and began to twist her apron. "Well, Robert honey, if I remember right, I got a little flustered when your
father came home. You know why."
"Well, in the rush, it seems I put the bottle in the turkey. With the stuffing."
"Oh, ma," Robert said.
"I meant to take it out," Edna said, "I really did." Daniel glared at his wife, but said nothing. Edna looked from one to the
other, then at the wives and children. She sucked in her breath, then let it out. "Well, boys," she said, "could one of you
run up to the store before it closes, and get us a small turkey?”
“Yes, Ma,” Robert said.
“Oh, and since you're up there anyway, why don't you pick up a little, teeny bottle of brandy?"