The Withers’ farm was located twelve miles outside the one horse town of Spurlock. It was once a bustling and immaculate farm. The corn was planted in long straight lines, and the fence for the pasture was strong and new. The farmhouse was once freshly painted, and the fruit trees just off the back porch were tended with care. The barn was bright red and there wasn’t a single leak in the roof. All of this had once been true about the Withers’ farm. None of it was true any longer.
Frank Withers sat in his favorite chair shortly before noon staring at the blank screen of his television. The glass was still in his hand although the bourbon had already descended into his gut. It was not the first drink of the day, and it probably would not be his last. He had started his day off early by doing a hasty repair on the fence to the south side of his farm. He was dang lucky none of his lazy cows had found it before he did that morning. After he was back in his truck to finish his rounds, he took his first drink. Shortly later, he found himself in his favorite chair with a glass in his hand. He was not really sure when he came in the house again or if he had even finished his morning chores. He had been lost in dangerous thoughts. He stayed that way most of the time now even ignoring the most basics needs of the farm on some days. But today was not just any day. Today was Thanksgiving. He got up to get another drink.
His wife, Anne watched him warily from the kitchen. It was always best to stay out of the way when he was brooding like this. She knew his anger was not focused on her, but she still gave him a wide berth any chance she could on days like today. He had not always been this moody and dark. He had been a simple man in love with two things; this farm and his family. Now both were broken, and Anne thought the thing that hurt the worse was the fact Frank was killing himself slowly. She knew he felt guilty about what happened to their Abbigail. He felt shame. Not shame of Abigail, of course, but shame in himself. And Thanksgiving was always the hardest she continued to think as she went about putting the final touches on the dinner.
Out on the front porch in the swing that faced the dirt drive sat young Abigail. As the swing rocked her gently, her long blonde hair swayed with her. Her ice blue eyes stared out across the farm without seeing. Today was a bad day. Ever since it happened, she would have bad days like this, but they were becoming less frequent. Sometimes she would go two or three months without having a bad day. Sometimes longer. For four years she has relived the nightmare of that Thanksgiving when she tried to sleep at night or when a particular smell would invade her nostrils. She felt like she was swimming against the tide. No matter how hard she pumped her arms or kicked her legs, she was still right where she jumped in the water. The swing was nice though. So was the blanket she had wrapped around her shoulders. She took comfort in these small things, these small distractions. She didn’t know what else to do.
A couple of towns over the last of the Withers family sat in a run down bar nursing a cranberry juice. Bradley was sick and tired of his family hurting. He was exhausted by his father’s anger and his mother’s fear of the future. Most of all, he was tired of seeing his once vibrant sister become a shell of herself. She should be graduating from State this year instead of being locked in her room upstairs on the farm. So, Bradley had hatched a plan. It was crazy really, but it was all he had to save his family. His plan was born six months back when his father was more sauced than usual. He and Bradley were sitting out back of the barn passing the bottle back and forth when his dad abruptly said, “I’d kill that frat boy you know. It’s all I can think about sometimes. If I ever get the chance, I will introduce him to my 44 and bury him in the corn field. I’ll be damned if I care that I might get caught. He deserves no less.” Bradley didn’t have to wonder what who his father was talking about. As a matter of fact, that same boy was sitting about three stools down from him. He was slamming screwdrivers with the occasional shot in between. He was almost as drunk as Father had been that night.
“Next round is on me,” Bradley said to the bartender. The bartender just nodded his head and mixed another drink for the frat boy.
“Thanks. But what do I owe you for it? Nothing in this life is free.”
“Not a thing. Just thought with the holiday an’ all, I could buy you a drink.”
“You can buy as many as you can afford. It’s a liquid Thanksgiving for me this year,” quipped the boy as he turned up his glass in order to drain the dregs out of the bottom. Bradley moved over a couple of stools and stuck out his hand.
“Name is Wes. Figured I might be the only one in the ol’ place till closer to the potluck.”
“Tim,” replied the boy as he shook Bradley’s hand.
“Well what brings you to this watering hole Tim?”
“Closest one that was open.” It was obvious Tim came to the bar to drink and talk. But Bradley kept buying him drinks and Tim opened up a little at a time. Screwdriver. Shot of whiskey. Screwdriver. Bradley was impressed with the amount of booze Tim could get down.
“Any plans for Thanksgiving Tim?”
“Seeing how it is almost over, my plan seems to be in full effect.”
“I have to say you do look familiar. Did you go to Central?” Bradley started speeding up his plan. It wouldn’t do for Tim to pass out on the bar right in front of the bartender.
“Nah. I went to Littleton. Lettered in football three years in a row. Would be playing for State right now if it wasn’t for that little bitch,” Tim spat out angrily.
“That’s it!!! That’s where I know you from. You the fella that was found not guilty of raping that girl over yonder a ways. I knew I would figure out why you looked so familiar,” Bradley exclaimed feigning excitement.
“Well the case was thrown out but the same thing really,” replied Tim as he brought another drink to his mouth. “That bimbo ruined my life though. Screw her, lying ass.”
“So is that why you’re here today?”
“No where else to go bud.”
“Well hell, come out and eat dinner with me and the family. Everybody deserves a good meal on Thanksgiving!!!” Bradley said excitedly.
“I don’t even know you. Or your family,” staring at his empty glass longingly.
“Come on. I think this might help get things back on track. I’ll drive.” And for some reason, Tim agreed. As Tim stumbled out of his stool, Bradley grabbed his cell phone that was left on the bar. On the way out of the dirty front doors, Bradley deposited it in the overflowing garbage can. It was time to go home.
Back at the farm, Frank was out back chopping wood. It gave him something to do besides fill another glass with bourbon. Anne was sitting at the kitchen table. The food was ready, but she wasn’t sure she was. She stared out the window and down the driveway wondering where the blue blazes her son had got off to. Abigail was in her room with the blinds shut and nothing making a sound except the small fan blowing on her face. She had told her mother on the way up the stairs that she did not feel like eating today. Her mother was too timid to protest. She saw Bradley was coming up the drive in that old farm truck he took everywhere. What she couldn’t see was a passed out Tim in the passenger seat.
As he skidded to a stop by the barn, Bradley’s mind raced. This was his last chance to back out. He could put that beat up old Chevy back in drive and drop Tim off at the first watering hole he came by. He knew he wouldn’t even as he thought it. He hopped out of the truck and rounded the barn. There was Frank all sweaty from taking his frustrations out on the pile of logs. Frank looked at his son, and Bradley smiled back.
“We have a guest of honor for Thanksgiving this year dad.”
“And who would that be?” asked Frank more than a little annoyed.
“Go get your 44 and come find out.” Bradley watched as it dawned on Frank after a couple of moments. Frank’s face split into a grin that, for just a moment, gave Bradley pause.
“ANNE!!!! Bradley and I are going to be a couple of hours before we can eat!!!” Frank yelled.
“WHAT? Why?!?!” screamed Anne from the kitchen.
“Dang varmints in the field. We are gonna go take care of em!!!”
“Well alright then!”
Four hours later, the family finally sat down to eat their Thanksgiving meal. Anne was flustered because everything was going to be ruined by her trying to keep it all warm. Abigail had finally come down the stairs and was eating in a mechanical way. Bradley was shoveling the food in as he watched his father smile and crack a joke for the first time in years. Frank had even told Anne to set a place for the guest of honor and bellowed laughter at her confusion. She was so happy to hear his laugh that she went along with his craziness anyway. Thanksgiving was a special time of year after all.