Thanksgiving From Hell

📅 Published on November 7, 2021

“Thanksgiving From Hell”

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Chapter 1: Man’s Best Friend

The sound of Duane’s Dodge diesel pounded a steady thump with a deep cadence as it idled up the dirt drive to the barn. The sun was setting but it still hung just above the ridge that rose above their farmhouse. No snow yet, but Duane’s bones shivered deep as his chilled hands gripped the steering wheel while it jerked back and forth from the tires wrestling the ruts. He glanced down at his grip; his fingers began to cramp. Damn cold arthritic joints seemed to let him know that winter was a comin’ nowadays, after turning fifty. He could feel snow ‘fore it ever came, and it would be here before Thanksgiving, which was ‘bout two weeks out.

He scanned the fence line looking for old Tick, his short ‘Merican Bulldog and Pit mix who always sat at the top of the hill by the barn waitin’ if he hadn’t been lucky enough to get to ride with him. Surely, he hadn’t run off again. Damn portly friend was smarter than he should be in some ways, but dumber than a box of rocks in others. But he and Tick were true friends through and through to the end.

As the Dodge slowly pulled up to the barn, Duane eased the gearshift into park and scrutinized his surroundings once more. Nope, no fat dog sittin’ and waitin’ today. Duane’s wrinkled cheeks stretched a bit from the smile growing as he’d thought of last summer’s escapades battling wits to keep Tick from slipping out and wreakin’ havoc. Scott Maynard, his neighbor, and he had shared some harsh words over Tick frollickin’ on Scott’s place. According to Scott, the neighbor to the east, Tick was growing quite an appetite for chicken. Live chicken. Scott’s chickens. “Good, boy Tick,” he quietly snickered as he sat letting past thoughts mingle in his head. That damned neighbor’s chickens and roosters were always causin’ a damned racket over here waking him and Annaline up too early every single morning. Only difference was—he weren’t no prick ‘bout it. So, if Tick could sneak over and take one out occasionally, things was square in his thoughts.

He reminisced digging the trench around the back yard and laying that “invisible fence” wire to keep ole’ Tick at home and away from the chicken ranch. The sad look his faithful boy wore as he cinched the transmitter collar ‘round his chubbly neck. “This orta’ keep your huntin’ ass at home and away from that asshole’s chickens,” another snicker ended with a guffaw. “I hate to do it, boy, but Scott’d just as soon pepper your butt with birdshot or more, and I love ya buddy, but I ain’t gonna pluck pellets outta yer round ass. I’d do the world for ya, boy, but your hind end is off limits, a bridge I refuse to cross.”

That next day after pullin’ up the drive and headin’ into the house, had Duane scratchin’ his head when Tick weren’t there waitin’ at the back door. His wife Annaline laughed as she told him the story ‘bout Tick.

“Duane, that danged dog of yourn’ is smart as a fox. I was out back in the screened in porch readin’ my book—and I kept hearin’ this high pitch squeal. It sounded like it was mouse comin’ from inside of Tick. He was a layin’ as close to that trench you’d dug as he could. Pretty soon that noise began to fade and ole Tick got up from the ground and slowly walked over that pile a dirt and headed Scott’s way with nary a care. It didn’t make him yelp like the first time or two.

Duane smiled to himself. His smart bully had somehow figured out he could lay next to the invisible fence to let his collar beep with the warning sound tellin’ him he was about to get a shock if he moved closer. That critter just laid there until the damned battery went dead. No more shock left in the collar!

“I knew that dog was smarter ‘n the average pooch,” Duane answered.

“Nevertheless, Scott’s gonna shoot your smart dog. I ‘spose Tick ain’t as brainy in the long game as he thinks.”

As Duane sat daydreaming, he began to smell the diesel fumes leakin’ up into the cab strong, but he was deep down memory lane, and smiled as he had concocted the next way to outsmart Tick. He pulled that collar off and Tick looked up at him like he’d won the battle. Little did he know but Duane had just drilled a hole in that danged ole speaker so it couldn’t give no warning sound no more. Next morning, Tick didn’t know what to do when he wrapped that collar back ‘round his woolied neck and marched him out the back door and turned to leave without him. Duane felt so damned proud of himself even if he did see Annaline shakin’ her head in disbelief. “How much you spend on all that stuff Tick is makin’ you tear up, Duane? Maybe you ought just to take your furry friend with you, ‘stead of matchin’ wits with him.” That was all his little ole sweet potata had to say to him, but Duane was satisfied with his line of action. He’d finally fixed the problem… for a day or two.

Annaline told him that third evening she’d never seen ole Tick move as quick as he did. It was as if Tick knew if he just bolted across that trench and kept goin’, the electronic sting would only bite for a second and then let go and be gone.

Hell, Duane was just ‘bout ready to shoot ole Tick himself. But with the holiday comin’, he reckoned he felt soft about losin’ such a smart dog. Duane shook his head with the thought and smirked. He knew he couldn’t ever get rid a Tick. Tick was his best bud.

A damned holiday miracle happened instead. Before he knew what he was doin’ Duane’s finger had dialed up the Maynard’s number after he decided to invite em to Thanksgiving dinner fore, he had time to change his mind.  Duane felt just as surprised as Annaline’s face showed shock when she heard words she’d never guessed would come out.

“It’s time to mend differences and be neighborly, don’t ask me why Annaline, it just happened. If the pilgrims and Indians could do it,” he paused, “I can by God do it.”

“Duane Lee Johnson, Jr.,” Annaline shook her head as she continued walking up to him, arms opening up to hug him, “you never cease to give me warm shivers.” Her eyes warmed and she licked her lips seductively. “I reckon my cockles are warmed up tonight!” She pulled him in and leaned in toward his ear, her lips brushing against it, “Warmed and frisky, baby….”

He smiled and reached around to give a squeeze to her backside. “I’m old and grumpy sometimes, but I ain’t dead nor blind, I still got wants and needs…. He smiled.

Chapter 2: Husband’s Bestest Friend

Duane had put the happiest smile on Annaline’s face she’d worn in a long time. She was nestled into his chest before she rolled over to be face to face. “I thought I’d lost you for good to that damned dog, for certain.” She grinned. “I know they say man’s best friend is his dog, I was beginning to think it was true.” She ran her finger down Duane’s chest. “What’s up with you? Invitin’ my family to Thanksgiving, Hell, invitin’ the Maynards…” She looked deep into her husband’s eyes. “…What’s goin’ on inside that brain of yours Duane Lee? I mean, I like it….”

Duane drew a deep breath before letting it out slowly. He cupped his hand over Annaline’s and inhaled again. “You ever feel like there’s something dark hangin’ over your head?”

“I’m not sure what you mean? You feelin’ down or….”

“I dunno. I just feel different. Been full of anger lately and venom spittin’ outta my mouth all the time. Maybe it’s just the season or somethin’, but lately I been feelin’ like I’m takin’ life and all I got for granted. ‘Member bout’ this time last year when I found who we thought was Tick—all bloody and dead in his doghouse? I was sure I’d lost my buddy; I mean, how many other black and white Bully Pits could be out here on our road?”

Annaline smiled somberly, “I know, Tick is a one of a kind. I remember how devastated you were when you came in to tell me he’d wandered back and had been hit and was gone.” Her eyes teared just a bit. “I’ll never forget how you looked, Duane. I thought I might as well have lost you too.”

“I remember how frozen the damned ground was and how long it took me to dig that big of a hole, ‘specially with my eyes so full of tears.”

“What’s making you think of that awful day, Duane?”

“Don’t know, Annaline. This past week or two I’ve been feeling sorry for myself and then suddenly—I’m realizing how much I have to be thankful for. Like you. I take you for granted so dang much. And Tick, coming back like a miracle, even though his Houdini tricks piss me the hell off constantly!”

“Duane, I’ll never forget after you came in all sweaty, even though it was below freezin’ after you buried Tick. Hearing that scratching on the back door—”

“I know, Annaline, it was like we were bein’ haunted by his ghost! Remember how we both stared at each other—you looked at me like… Am I crazy?” Duane guffawed.

You got up so sudden, even though you were dead tired and frozen. We both got to that back door pretty darn fast!” Annaline began running her fingers down Duane’s chest again. “You flung that door open and there he was… back from the dead!” Annaline snuggled in and kissed her husband’s lips, giggling from the mustache and beard hairs ticking. “There he was, wantin’ in like he’d just been let out to pee.”

Duane kissed Annaline, running his tongue across her bottom lip. “I know babe, I’ll never figure out who’s dog I buried that cold and frigid day. I’m just glad it wasn’t Tick.” He leaned in to Annaline’s ear. Tick may be my best friend—but you, Annaline, are my bestest friend.

Tick moaned a low growly grumble as if he were listening from outside the door and objecting to being his master’s second fiddle. Duane got up to let him in and just before he opened the bedroom door, he turned back to Annaline. “Get ready, sweet potata, cause here he comes!”

As the door was opened, Tick bullied his way through and flew up and onto the middle of the bed, claiming his spot between them.

Chapter 3: The Dinner Guests

Scott looked over at his wife Mary. “What the hell is going on? Have you been talkin’ to Annaline and cookin’ this whole Thanksgiving dinner thing up?”

“Hell, no, Scott. I’m still wonderin’ why you agreed for us to go?”

“He caught me off guard. So much, I even agreed to smoke some meat to bring over. I’d smoke some chickens but that damned dog has already ate several of ‘em. The way I understand it, Annaline’s sister and husband will be there too. The whole damned goody-good bunch. Should I break out some venison?”

“And waste good meat on them? You’re kiddin’ right?”

“Well, I ain’t gonna go buy nothin’.”

“Why did you have to say we’d bring the main course? Chips or something’ woulda been better. A green bean casserole or rolls. Hell, the meats the most expensive part a dinner! You ought a cook up somethin’ gross like… snake… or roadkill!” She cackled. “Kill that fuckin’ dog of theirs that keeps killin’ our chickens and smoke his ass for their “Thanksgivin’ party.” Mary squinted at Scott with an evil sneer. “Now, that would be some funny shit there, watching that geezer eat his own damn dog.”

Scott laughed out loud. “Now, that, I could do! If he shows his damn pork butt over here before next Thursday!” They both laughed hysterically. “Hell, I may coax that fat turd over myself with a chicken!”

“Hmm…” Mary sounded as she appeared to have a thought. “You know…”

Scott looked over, “Uh oh, looks like you got those evil cogs in your head goin’.”

“I’m just a thinkin’, we could make this little neighborly get together real interestin’.

“I like the sound of your wicked tone. Be great if those old farts never felt the urge to call us back again! Never have liked ‘em since we moved to the neighborhood. Old farts think they know everything—and that damned chicken eatin’ dog…” Scott’s scowl changed to wonder, “What kind of idea do you have brewin’, Mary?”

“Oh, I have the perfect casserole that will go along with smoked Bulldog. We’ll bring them a special meal they will be sooo thankful for! It’ll be a Thanksgiving meal none of them will ever forget!” Mary’s eyes were dark yet glimmered with joy. “You just get that stupid dog of theirs in your smoker! I’m going to use some of our mushrooms for a tasty side dish!” Mary’s laugh was insidious.

Chapter 4: Tick is Gone Again

Duane rolled up the drive and right off the bat noticed Tick wasn’t at the barn waiting. “Old Tick must be getting’ too long in the tooth to sit outside in the cold—” Duane parked the old Dodge and gave a quick look-see around the barn. He shook his head, I’m gonna start bringin’ you with again.

Annaline was at the door to greet Duane as he stood in the coat room taking off his Carhartt and boots. The time change was making it darker sooner, which made the days feel colder and more depressing. Annaline knew Duane’s mood was changing. He needed sunlight to keep his spirits up the more the years passed.

“Tick asleep in the living room?” He asked.

“No, I thought you’d taken him with you today. I haven’t seen him since early this morning. I’ve been busy all day with getting’ all the fixin’s together for Thursday.”

“I hope he hasn’t disappeared over to the Maynard’s again. And just before our big meal.” Duane headed for the back door. After walking out on the screened porch and glancing around the yard, he felt a sharp pain in his stomach. It was followed with a feeling of dread. “Hey Tick!” He yelled out. “Come-by, boy!” He touched his middle finger and edge of his thumb to his lips and sharply blew, causing the loud whistle that usually brought Tick running around the corner of the house. He waited several seconds and attempted again. Nothing. Duane hesitantly closed the back door and moped through the kitchen. “He didn’t answer, Annaline.”

“Give him awhile, he’s probably out scroungin’ the barn or shed.”

“Hope to God he isn’t terrorizin’ chickens. It’ll be difficult to have a peaceful dinner with Scott and Mary shootin’ daggers at me with their eyes.”

Wednesday morning Duane was up before sunrise walking around his property looking for Tick. At 8 am he was in the living room with the phone to his ear listening to the ring sound, hoping Scott would answer with news he could live with.

“No, Duane… haven’t seen him. The chickens have been quiet all week.”  He looked over at Mary and smiled a devilish grin. “So, we still on for Thanksgiving? Yeah… I’m sorry, hope he shows up soon… maybe he’s out frisking with a hot little Blue Heeler or something… Alright, we’ll be there tomorrow around noon with some smoked brisket and Mary’s favorite casserole. Looking forward to it, yep… you too… good luck.” CLICK.

Chapter Five: A Thanksgiving to Remember

Just before the Johnson’s door opened, Mary reminded Scott, “Don’t eat the casserole, put a small amount on your plate and bury it under some other dishes, unless you want the trip of a lifetime!”

“Gotcha, babe. And unless you like meat other than beef… stick to the top layer on the plate.” He snickered.

The door swung open and Annaline was there to greet Scott and Mary. “Come on in, neighbors, this is my little sister Claire and her husband Ben. They live over in Duke County—just past Stack’s Mill on Turner’s Corner.”

“Nice to meet ya’ll. I’m Scott Maynard and this is my sweetheart, Mary. We just moved in next door ‘bout a year and a half ago. This is real nice you included us Duane—Annaline….”

“Can I take those dishes out to the kitchen,” Annaline asked, “they smell wonderful!”

“I sure ‘nuff hope they meet up with your standards, they’re both Scott’s favorites,” Mary answered.

“Hope you don’t mind a little beer drinkin’ with some football on the tube, Scott. Kinda the family Thanksgivin’ tradition around here,” stated Duane.

Football, beer, brisket and the fixin’s—life don’t get no better!” Scott smiled as he responded. His face faked a somber transition, “Did your pup show up?” He asked with drippy concern.

Duane’s mood dimmed. “Nah, I’m still hopin’ he’s just pullin’ another couple a all-nighters’ with one of the neighbor’s bitches in heat. With any luck, there’ll be little cloned puppies come spring.” He tried to smile, but if you knew Duane, one could tell he was hurting inside.

“Have a seat Scott and I’ll grab you a beer,” Annaline said. “Mary, you can come out to the kitchen with Claire and I or watch football out here. Table’s already set and I’m just doin’ some last-minute touches.”

Ben laughed at whatever joke was told. The truth was, he’d had several beers and didn’t really hear what was said. “It’s hard to hear with all the hen-cacklin’ goin’ on in the kitchen!”

Scott and Duane both chuckled, Duane’s appeared a bit forced. “Duane, I’m sure sorry ‘bout your dog, what was his name?”

“His name is still Tick. He’ll be back. He has a habit of flyin’ the coop occasionally.” Duane intentionally tied Tick’s disappearance to the word coop. He’d felt Scott was trying to be coy. And something about his demeanor today made him sorry he’d ever invited him. He didn’t want the tension to grow, but he wouldn’t put up with any shit from some young move-in. He glanced out to the kitchen where he caught a glimpse of Annaline. She gave him a subtle look and he winked back at her with an “everything is fine” look in his eyes.

* * * * * *

Dinner was served and the table was full of a variety of dishes sitting on the lazy-Susan in the middle of the table. Annaline stood before anyone began serving and spoke. “This tradition may be new to our guests,” she nodded at Scott and Mary, “but we’ve always gone around the table and spoke one thing we are thankful for in this year of life that is about to turn the page onto the next. I’ll start—I’m personally thankful that this year we have new additions to our tradition. Thank you for Scott and Mary.”

There was silence around the table.

Duane cleared his throat and then there was a brief hesitation. “I… I normally suck at this kind of thing… I’m… I’m a quiet… weathered…  um… well-weathered old guy… and I reckon I’m already…uh… the most fortunate man… that… that there ever was… I was blessed with a woman who… I truly don’t deserve. She’s stuck by me through it all. She still loves me with…with all my faults…I’m… thankful… I’m blessed… I’m… I’m also… saddened on this… blessed day… but dammit… I’m hungry, too… Annaline… I love you, sweet potata… always will… Tick… you damned ole cantankerous friend… get yer ass home… and last but not least, pass that brisket as quick as possible….”

Silence again.

“I guess I’ll just say the obvious,” Ben began, “I love my wife, Claire, I married into a much more stable and loving family than I ever came from. I’m thankful for that. Great in-laws, wonderful wife, nice farm and now some new friends. Prayers Tick makes it home, ‘cause I know how much he means to Duane… Amen!”

“I’ll just echo what my wonderful husband just said. I’ll add that I’m thankful Scott and Mary are here to share this meal and day with us too.” Claire pinched her eyes closed even tighter.

Scott cleared his throat and quickly began speaking, “I wasn’t sure what this day was gonna bring honestly. We ain’t been the best of neighbors and I’m feelin’ a bit ashamed of that fact at the moment. My wife and I aren’t the easiest people to get to know and I realize that. I’m thankful that these good people saw past our un-neighborliness… and… invited us nonetheless… I’m thankful and hope everyone enjoys this day and what the unknown can bring….”

Mary snickered under her breath. She fidgeted a moment before stuttering, “I ain’t no public speakin’ kinda person. This has been eye openin’ and I’m hopin’ everyone eats up and enjoys. The way I see it, we all gonna have moments we ain’t expectin’—I’d just say be thankful for whatever they bring… understandin’ em or not. Sometimes it’s those experiences you don’t expect… that… bring you the clearest answers you didn’t even know was questions… and I guess that’s all I got to say ‘bout it. Dig in and eat up! Amen.”

Annaline spun the dishes on the lazy-Susan over to the newest guests. “You’re special company, you go first!”

“No ma’am, you’re the host, I insist you start. All the trouble you went to and to include us, I insist.” Scott then spun the main course to Annaline. Everyone took turns serving themselves the food that was in front of them. Scott looked around and noticed that everyone’s plates were full of the smoked meat and casserole he and Mary had brought. The conversation lulled occasionally, as everyone enjoyed tasting the different dishes.

“Scott, this smoked brisket is really good. It’s flavorful like I’ve never tasted before, and very tender.” Annaline commented.

“Do you have a special marinate?” Ben asked.

Scott smiled before he answered, “Yes, yes I do. It’s a special family secret recipe. So, you like the flavor? Some people say it has a bit of a bite to it, but I think it’s tasty. No bark at all!”

Claire chimed in, “This casserole is wonderful too. Is this egg and mushrooms?”

Mary nodded, “Again, like Scott said, it’s my family’s recipe. I’m glad you like it. Eat up, I don’t want to take anything home! This was made just for you folks for your kindness.”

“This is beef brisket—right, Scott?” Duane asked.

“Yep, 100 percent, right outta the pit.” He glanced at Mary.

“It has an odd texture. Very good though.” Duane complimented.

The conversations remained steady, each complimenting the other’s offerings as the bowls, dishes and pans each became less and less full.

Twenty minutes later, Scott and Mary began noticing eyes becoming glossier and the grins becoming wider across the other guest’s mouths. The fun was just about to begin. Scott was questioning his motive after the warming and thankful comments that had been shared just before the meal began. But it didn’t take long to stir the memories of Duane’s damned bully pit wreaking devastation on his chickens and the lack of care Duane showed when he’d complained about his dog.

Mary on the other hand was enjoying herself watching as the others began tripping. She knew Annaline had been very judgmental about her and Scott when they moved in. She’d heard talk about Annaline questioning others in town because of all the visitors they received and the odd hours she and Scott kept. Damned busybody old fogies, she quietly thought as she began realizing they were beginning to see trails in their vision in the movement of their hands and arms when gesturing in conversation. The grins and giggles were beginning to overtake the unsuspecting victims. It wouldn’t be long before they would be putty in her hands. Their good trips would be redirected into nightmares. Mary giggled both at the thought and the sight of the show before them.  Knowing Duane was eating his favorite dog in the world gave her butterflies in her stomach. If he only knew. But he sure as hell would find out very soon.

Duane sliced another bite from the strip of dog that lay across his plate. His now dilated pupils filling up his entire eyeballs. Mary looked at Scott and winked. Scott smiled and shook his head as he eyed the long carving knife laid beside the dish of meat. His eyes skimmed across the four oblivious dupes that were quickly sliding out of reality into the wacky antics of psilocybin mushroom world. He looked over at the dish and then to Mary, “You must have really sweetened the taste of your casserole, honey. These clowns really cleaned their plates! I’m thinking they are way overdosed.” He laughed wickedly. He got up and excused himself to the bathroom as he winked once more to his wife. His plan was to run outside to his truck and collect the zip ties he’d gathered for the late afternoon activities.

Annaline began to say something to Scott but looked over at her sister and broke into uncontrollable giggles. Ben and Duane began to speak, but neither seemed able to spit their words out correctly. They too quickly began laughing, their mouths grinning so widely from cheek to cheek their faces began to look as if they’d split. This seemed to add to Claire’s laughter, which drew Annaline into the collection of hysterical cackles.

As Scott exited the front door, he smiled at Mary, acknowledging her expertise in the plan for retribution against the Johnsons for being less than welcoming a year and a half ago when they moved in next door. She mouthed the sentence very clearly to him before he walked out… “I get to slit that fuckin’ bitch’s throat—she’s mine,” and then she blew a kiss to her man as the storm door slammed closed with a loud “thwack” and brought a quick silence that turned into more uproar of laughter when nothing else happened.

Chapter Six: Animated Perspectives

Duane shook his head back and forth while he still sat at the table. He looked at the can of beer that stood firm beside his nearly empty plate. He stared blankly as the colors and textures of the piles of leftovers gently began to move and mix, forming what appeared to be a new life form from some alien planet. He snickered to himself, but deep down he felt a brewing fear. His heart was racing, forming excitement within, but his muscles and tendons to cause movement were dueling with his brainwaves. The signals were crossing, and he knew it. It caused frustration but then the need to laugh overtook him again. The beer can was becoming a tall silo sitting on the table. It begged him to pick it up to take a sip, but his lack of coordination would not allow it to be.

He knew the world he was now entrapped was not the world he had known earlier in the day. He feared this world would be the one he was lost in forever and while that should create fear within, he felt another barrage of laughter building and ready to overflow from his insides. He scanned the room for his sweet potata… Annaline. He felt like he needed to protect her. Noises of the football game in the living room began to build louder and as it blended or churned into the laughter and sounds of people talking around the table—it became impossible to divide one sound from the other and understand what was happening. Duane was stuck in a world he couldn’t fathom, and it was building into a panic that was pushing his heart into overdrive.

* * * * * *

Annaline’s laughter ended abruptly. It was as if a door slammed loudly, or the clap of thunder snapped her brain into an abrupt stop. Her eyes were as wide as saucers as she scanned the area, dividing familiar faces with those that didn’t fit completely into her psyche.

The front storm door slammed again and drew her attention. Annaline knew it was the neighbor but somehow couldn’t remember him leaving the table. Her mind stirred trying to piece together the previous moments. It was as if the jigsaw puzzle, she’d just finished were now scattered about on the floor for no reason. Ben and Claire sat talking and giggling with each other as if no one else were present in the room. And Mary, Scott’s wife. The smile she boldly wore scared Annaline. She was clueless why, but her urge to laugh was suddenly transformed into the need to scream for help. Scott walked up behind Duane and slipped pieces of plastic around his wrists and then pulled his hands behind him. Duane looked stunned but made no attempts to resist. Scott then walked around the table and did the same thing to Ben before he knew what was happening.

There was nothing but confused silence as each of the family members sat still, glassy eyes with large dark pupils lost in the middle of their large white orbs. Scott zip tied Claire’s hands together and then worked his way further around the table to Annaline where in her stunned state, held her hands up to be hog-tied also.

Mary scooted her chair away from the table and slowly stood up. She walked over to Scott and they both looked into each other’s eyes. “Oh, baby, I told you this would work out perfect,” she smiled and then moved her lips closer to his before sliding her tongue out and teasing Scott.

Everyone sitting confined at the table watched in confusion. A snicker slipped out of Ben’s mouth before he let the words spill, “You guys gonna do it right here in front of us?”


Scott pulled back from his wife’s lips and grip. He slowly walked over and picked up the pan of meat. He walked over to Duane and stopped as he stared at him. He set the plate in front of Duane and then took a fork and knife and began cutting a bite sized piece of the brisket. “You really enjoyed the flavor and tenderness, didn’t you?” He questioned Duane as he lifted the fork and brought it up to Duane’s mouth. “You like another bite? See if you can’t taste something familiar?” He released a low rumbly and raspy guffaw. “It certainly was satisfying smoking this meat. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever skinned dog and marinated it for the smoker. I must admit though, I myself did not taste it as a true chef would to make sure it was satisfactory as I don’t believe I’d care for canine.” He smiled again. “But by the way y’all ate it up, I’m guessing ole Tick made quite a tasty main course! Hell, he probably has a flavorful undertone of… chicken, too—as many of mine as he fuckin’ ate.”

It took a few moments for Scott’s statement to take hold. Their fucked-up minds just couldn’t process what the sentence really meant. It was Claire whose stomach first began to heave up and down. Her face first pale white before becoming shades of yellowish green.

“You ain’t gonna make a mess on Annaline’s dinner table, are you?” Mary questioned. “Cause I’ll make you lick it right back up, probably won’t be quite as delightful the second go-round.” Mary smiled. “Now buck up Ms. Pretty little prim and proper! The fun is just beginning!” Mary’s eyes became dark slits that sank deep into her darkened sockets and her look sent instant shivers up Claire’s spine.

“Y’all treated us like shit for a year and a half, talkin’ trash about us in town and lettin’ your damn dog destroy our chickens… and you think a little holiday dinner is gonna clear consciences and make us all hunky-dory-happy neighbors? Well, bullshit! It’s time to play now, and it’s by our rules! Ain’t that right, Scott.” Her dark hair hung over her eyes as her witch like thin face grew more hate-filled by the second. “We’re gonna see you take torture while y’all are flyin’ high! Yee haw!” Mary cackled.

Silence once again, except for Claire’s sniffles and Mary’s giggles. Everyone else except for Scott, sat in a bewildered daze.

* * * * * *

Annaline looked across the table and focused on tiny tears that were escaping the corners of Duane’s eyes. His eyes were glossed over, shinier than she’d ever seen them before. They didn’t look real. Her heart pounded in deep thunderous beats like a bass drum echoing inside shaking the walls. The crazy laughter that filled the room just minutes ago, suddenly morphed into panicked fear—consuming terror and anxiety. Annaline couldn’t catch her breath as her eyes bounced between Duane’s, her sister’s, and the neighbors who were holding them captive after… drugging them? The room’s walls felt as if they were moving closer, tightening the space around her and stealing her breath. She felt faint. She needed to throw up but remembered what her captor had told Claire.

* * * * * *

Scott’s face was zooming in and out of Duane’s vision. He saw the knife in Scott’s hand. The swirls of light and shiny chrome metallic strands danced in front of him in swirling motions like a river of blended substances from another world. The feeling in the pit of his stomach caused an ache that begged to rise and spill from his mouth. His surroundings were like nothing he’d seen in all his life. His desire to protect his wife tore at every fiber of his being, yet it mattered not how hard he pulled against the resistance around his wrists. They tightened even more. The ache and burn defeated his ability win that battle. During all the oddity and horror around him, a smoky gas bubbled up from his stomach. As it escaped in a belch of garbled wretch and bile, he was reminded he had eaten a meal consisting of his best friend—Tick.

The sick bastard in front of him darting in and out of the crazy mix of blurred colors—had killed his dog and cooked him, feeding him to us in a meal of thanksgiving. Who in hell could do that? What had he or Annaline done to deserve such an attack on their family?

The chill of the blade’s steel tip drug just lightly enough across his throat to send the cold sharp tingles which begged him to take the action to flinch. His jumbled thoughts were disconnected from his ability to respond. Every emotion and feeling felt foreign. Including the saliva in his mouth which now felt like thick straw, adding to his confused judgments being charred from all the differing senses attacking at once. His vision began to fade, his receptors overtaxed, he called out, “Annaline… I love you… I’m sorry….”

The familiar sound of something being drug across the back screen door awakened Duane from the intoxicated stupor he’d fallen into. It couldn’t be though. It sounded like Tick’s paws scratching to be let in. A sound both Annaline and he knew well. But he’d been told Tick was dead. Worse yet, he’d been told he and his family had eaten him. He must be hallucinating. Had Scott lied? Was this some kind a sick joke?

The sound of claws dragging down the screen again drew attention. This time the screen door banged a couple of times as if Tick were trying to open it.

“Mary! Go check out that noise, baby doll. I gotta watch these four toys careful like.” Scott snapped out. Mary sauntered by, again looking at Annaline and softly saying, “Oh, do you have an evening of horror ahead of you, Ms. Too Good,” and then she laughed as she headed out toward the kitchen and to the back of the house.

Annaline looked over at Scott, who still had the knife in his hand close to her husband’s throat. “Why? What did we ever…?”

“Shut up!” Scott yelled. Several moments went by and Scott hollered out towards the back where he’d sent his wife. “Mary! What’s going on?”

There was a clatter and a bang followed by a shrill scream. Mary yelled for help but was quickly muffled by the sound of growls and chewing noises, gurgling and hissing. Scott let the knife down and away from Duane’s neck.  As he began to walk past Duane towards the kitchen, there was a low rumble that sounded like a big dog’s warning of an impending attack. Scott looked down at Duane as it sounded like it was coming from him. Scott leaned over Duane’s shoulder and as he did, Duane looked up and into Scott’s eyes. They locked stares. Duane’s eyes held the look of a rabid Pitbull, and a low grumble was resonating inside his throat. The growl kept drawing on, never changing tone or tempo. It was the kind of rumble that would stop an intruder in their tracks, sensing the impending doom about to occur.

Scott’s eyes were locked with Duane’s, but Duane’s eyes no longer resembled what they were. They weren’t blue anymore, instead they held a brownish yellow hue with a sharp deadly focus within. His eyes looked exactly like Tick’s eyes.

Scott stood completely still, his legs and hands now trembling as if he knew he was about to meet head on with a beast hungry with vengeance. The low rumble became louder.

The racket in the back room had subsided, leaving only heavy breaths and sighs soon followed by the pitter pat of paws getting louder and closer.

Scott merely tightened the grip on the blade he held, but it was just enough movement to send the growling beast surging back and up, grabbing Scott by the throat. It wasn’t Tick that grabbed him. It was Duane’s jaws that snapped closed and began shaking and pulling like a rabid dog in fight to the death. There were gurgles that came out with Scott’s muted cries along with the sound of air hissing in escape from the open wound in his neck. He quickly dropped the knife and fell helpless to his knees, his sheer weight ripping a chunk from his neck away as the grip of Duane’s snarling mouth held tight.

It all happened so quickly that Annaline, Ben, and Claire didn’t seem to have time to even conceive what was or had just happened. When Duane looked up and over to them from across the table, the mere sight of his bloodied face caused shrieks filled with terror and trepidation at the grotesque sight of what their eyes fell victim of seeing. Horror-struck and shaking in their skin, still unable to do more than tremble and attempt to look away, hoping it was all just a ghastly nightmare.

Claire’s head dropped with a loud thud to the tabletop. Now passed out only inches away from the casserole dish that had begun this grisly drug-induced hell.

Annaline sat sobbing uncontrollably, dazed and confused, not knowing if Duane was dead or a transformed animal from the depths of the unknown. She was incoherent and lost in the hallucinations still coming on strong in waves from the mushroom concoction Mary had brought.

Ben’s eyes were opened so wide there was bright white that showed completely around his large still dilated pupils. Tick came trotting in from the kitchen, his once white and black face now covered in crimson red with strands of black hair still clinging to his fangs.

Duane lifted his head and looked at his faithful dog. “Tick, you… you… saved us… boy… but….” Duane’s eyes scanned the table and saw the tray of meat. “He told me… he… told… me he killed you boy… and… and… cooked… you.” Tears filled Duane’s eyes as he hollered out to his wife, “Annaline, sweet potata—baby… are you okay? I love you, girl….”

It was as if their energy all died in unison. Each of their heads began bobbing, their eyes becoming empty as the adrenaline quickly oozed from their veins. Hands still zip-tied together behind them, one by one their heads dropped until either their chins rested on their chests, or their forehead landed on the tabletop.


* * * * * *

The sound of a body pulling itself across the floor melded with subtle moans of what sounded like a woman and broke the dead stillness that had encompassed the morbid setting around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Fans cheering at the football game could be heard on the television from the living room. Tick’s low gravely growl began slow and steady but was elevating alarm as Mary crawled closer to where Duane was motionless, his head on the dinner table, drool spilling from his mouth mixing with blood dripping from a red line across his neck.

Mary held a sharp stainless steel carving blade in one hand as she pulled herself closer to the chair holding Duane’s body. Scott lay next to it, a crumpled pile of flannel and jeans, his head lying a pool of blood.

Ticks body stiffened as he watched Mary pull herself closer, one hand gripped the chair leg, the other clutching a knife. Tick’s growl increased as Mary pulled herself upright, knife held overhead, readied to plunge into Duane’s back…

Tick charged just as the front door opened. A thunderous bam shattered the quiet as Mary fell backwards onto the floor, blood oozing from the tiny round hole in the center of her forehead.

Tick ran up and snapped his jaws at her but soon sensed no threat in her deathly stillness and sat next to his master’s chair he was tied to.

The reflection of blue and red lights bounced off the tree limbs that could be seen through the window as it mixed with the changing television tones.

Deputy Brown stepped up onto the porch and peered in through the open door at Sheriff Buckner, “What the fuck happened here, Bill?”

Sheriff Bill Buckner turned and slowly responded, Goddamned if I know… This is a Thanksgiving dinner from hell.


Tonight’s weather will bring in another cold front from the northwest, dropping temperatures to a subnormal 18 degrees and then warming throughout tomorrow into the upper 30s.

In other breaking news, it seems Black Friday came a day early during a Thanksgiving get together for four family members who are in guarded care at Barton County Hospital recuperating from a holiday gone awry.

Sheriff Bill Buckner states that two deceased unnamed individuals were neighbors of the recovering victims.

As it turns out the sheriff and his deputies investigating possible drug dealings, happened onto a skirmish just in time to avert a possible murder. Police later found an undisclosed amount of drugs and marijuana in the deceased couple’s home next door. They also uncovered an illegal psilocybin mushroom farm at the same address’ basement.

The four family members are expected to survive but were apparently dosed by ingesting a casserole containing a large amount of the mushrooms before being tied up and tortured.

One of the two suspects was shot and killed by Sheriff Buckner as he came through the door, stumbling onto an attempted murder in progress.  The suspect nor her husband survived. More details as they are uncovered.

We here at Channel Eleven hope you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and remember to show kindness during your Black Friday shopping… only twenty-eight more shopping days until Christmas!

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Eli Pope

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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