A Thanksgiving Story
by Sue K
“Harry….” Edith Abernathy began when she heard her brother pick up the phone.
“Edith! Are you and Phillip all right? I’ve been worried sick. Had no luck trying to get a hold of you.”
“We’re fine, Harry. We weren’t in town when it hit.”
“Thank God!” Harry breathed. “When I found out that maniac had created the second weather system right near your home in the Appalachians….”
“But you stopped him and that’s what is important.”
“It was heavily damaged, but we’re staying in the summer house until we can get everything rebuilt. So we are fine, unlike many of our neighbors down there in Greenback.”
“I’m just glad you two are okay.”
“I appreciate that, Harry. And after everything you and your men have done to stop Marcusian and his weather device, I would like to have you and your command crew come out to the family house for Thanksgiving dinner this year. You all deserve a rest and I will be happy to charter a jet and fly you to Massachusetts.”
“You don’t have to charter a jet, Edith,” Harriman Nelson grumbled. “After all you have been through with this storm, you don’t need a bunch of tired, grouchy men around.”
“I want to. I want to celebrate my good fortune with you and my friends.”
“Edith, I really am tired. I don’t need a big feast; I don’t want any kind of feast at all. I would rather enjoy a quiet afternoon with a pint of Scotch after a nice hot bath. And what we did was what we needed to do. Just like we did with Cregar and his altering of the Gulf Stream.”
“The Florida blizzards; I remember those.* Thank goodness you were able to stop him before he did too much damage, too. But Harry, having you and the men out is really like having family.”
“Most of the men have plans, dear. I have plans.”
“Sitting alone is not a plan.”
“I’m sorry, Edith. I don’t want to go anywhere now.” And he hung up on her.
She almost growled as she
put the receiver down on its cradle. Edith could tell this had been a
lot harder mission than the media made out. Normally, when her brother
completed a difficult mission, he was grouchy and just needed a little
time to unwind, sometimes at her place. It was not often that he hung up
However, she wasn’t
giving up. Edith dialed Lee Crane’s office number. It hadn’t been
that long since his mother’s death, but she felt it had been long
enough for him to be open to a bit of social activity. He needed to get
away just as much as her brother did. He was not at the office so she
tried his home phone.
“Commander Crane’s residence,” he answered.
“Hello, Lee, this is Edith. How are you?” She could hear the almost inaudible sigh on the other end. Uh oh, not good.
“Tired,” he admitted. Then as though a switch had flipped, his voice took on a different tenor. “But how are you? Are you all right?”
“We’re fine. Just some damage to the house. After that mission, I’m sure you’re tired, so I won’t keep you long. I wanted you and several of your command staff here for Thanksgiving. Angie told me that Seaview was going to have a few repairs done, so it would be an especially long holiday weekend.”
“I appreciate the offer, Edith, but I really would like to spend a quiet holiday this year,” he replied.
You said that last year, my dear captain, Edith thought. She knew there would be no changing his mind by direct communication. She had to be sneaky. After exchanging a few more words, she hung up and called Chip Morton. Before he could say anything, she began, “Chip, this is Edith Abernathy; are you free this Thanksgiving?”
“Yes, I am, Edith. Not going out to see the folks until Christmas.”
“Good! I wanted to invite you out to spend the holiday with Phillip and me.”
“Thanks! I accept.”
Edith brightened. At last she had gotten someone at the Institute who was in a good mood. “I really would like the entire command team this out this year if you can talk them in to it.”
“I know Lt. Rojas will be doing something with his family as will Sparks, but I think O’Brien and Carver are free. We were planning on doing something together, but I’m sure they would like to come out to your place. Dr. Jamison might be free as well. Maybe a few others. When do you want us? It might take some finagling to get airline tickets this late, ma’am.”
“Come in that cute little yellow plane of yours.”
“Don’t think the boss will hand over the keys just to jaunt across the country even if you are the one who asked.”
“It’s the boss who needs to come, both of them.”
“You talked to the admiral already?”
“And Lee. Spoil sports. We need a plan to get them out of their blue funks and back among the happily celebrating.”
“Good luck on Lee. Been trying for about a year now.” There was a pause, and then a gasp as though something had occurred to him. She was becoming used to it. “Wait a minute! Some of that weather was down where you have a home. Do you feel up to celebrating? I heard some tornados hit pretty hard in your area.”
“We weren’t there when it hit,” Edith replied. “Thankfully, there were very few casualties, but any is too many.” Edith paused. She thought of her neighbors in the little town of Greenback. “Chip, I believe I have something better than food and drinks at the Nelson house in Massachusetts. And I think Harry, Lee and anyone else who doesn’t already have plans will go for it.” She explained her idea in detail. “And if you get enough men, I’ll charter a jet to bring you all out here.”
“I believe you’re right, Edith. I think they will go for this,” Chip said after she had laid out her idea. “I’ll go ahead and pass it by them.”
“Do a good job, Chip. There is a turkey with dressing in it for you if you do . . . eventually. Thanks so much for listening and caring. Ciao!”
It only took a day to arrange. Half a day to get the supplies and another half to load and secure them. Dr. Jamison came with medical supplies. Harry and his men, over two dozen of them, including rates, came in a small chartered jet. The closest available airport was called, strangely enough, McGraw’s Backyard. When the owner found out that they were coming, he gathered enough help to clear the runway of debris. Even so, it was barely long enough for the jet to land. Edith and Phillip met them at the tiny airport. As they drove away all they could see were varying degrees of devastation, making the countryside look like a bomb had been dropped on it.
“You were not exaggerating, Edith,” Harry said as he took in the destruction. “By the way, we aren’t just here to bring supplies. Somehow it seems. . . base to dump things and leave. We are going to stay and do whatever work is needed.”
“I pretty much said the same thing when I came down here with some of my company employees and a truck load of supplies, Admiral,” Phillip said as he drove down the road that led to their house.
“Harry, that’s wonderful!” Edith said. “I was hoping you would decide to stay. And you brought more of your men than I expected, too!”
“Yes, ma’am,” Kowalski answered. “Mr. Morton told us what had happened and we wanted to help, too.”
Edith hugged and then kissed the senior rate on the cheek. Ski turned several shades of pink. Patterson nudged him in the ribs and chuckled, but Kowalski looked pleased.
“We’ve been here for two days now,” Phillip continued. "As you can see there’s still much that needs to be done.”
“Give me a status report on basic needs and the damage,” Harry ordered.
Phillip replied, “Gladly! I think you are just what the doctor ordered. I would appreciate your input into the best way to help the recovery of this area. This is a list of the areas that have not had any real help. I also have changes of clothes and tools. There is more equipment on the way from Knoxville. Some of it is heavy equipment.”
Harry skimmed over the report and gazed around him again. “Looks like trees need to be cut and removed before anything else can be done.” He fixed Phillip with a steely gaze. “I want you to make sure there is no press involved. We are here to help, not play fame games with other peoples’ distress.”
“In work clothes, after a few hours, none of you will be recognizable,” Phillip assured him.
Harry looked at his men. “Who is able to use a chain saw?”
It was mid-morning when they got there, but it took only a half hour to organize themselves into teams. Harry was in his element, Edith noted with satisfaction. He only needed a problem to be solved and he was more than ready to do it.
Lee took charge of a group that consisted of several crewmen as well as volunteers from nearby Knoxville. ‡ They found a neighborhood hard hit by the storms but with some homes still habitable. When a lunch break was called, Lee continued working on an elderly widow’s house, sawing away twisted limbs from downed trees, putting tarp up on the roof and boarding up several broken windows. He did not stop until shortly before dark. Chip found him dozing on the woman’s couch.
“Hey, Lee, come on. They are serving dinner at the school.”
“Heard there had been some looting in other neighborhoods.” Crane sat up and patted his sidearm hidden inside his jacket. “So I’m staying to protect Mrs. Branson’s house.”
“Lee, I can have a couple of the men stand guard. You didn’t join us at lunch, you need to have a decent dinner.”
Crane shook his head. “No, Chip. There’s a generator. I can get another hour of work before I quit for the night.”
“I’ll bring you both some dinner.”
“No need to bring anything,” Mrs. Branson said. “I have things in my freezer that have thawed out and need to be cooked tonight. Otherwise I will have to throw everything out and that would be unsanitary as well as very wasteful. If you can bring more gas and the neighbors can bring some pots and pans,” she told Chip, “I can cook you a feast. It may take a while, but it is the least I can do for your sweet friend and everyone who has helped.” Mrs. Branson patted Lee on the cheek. It was all Chip could do not to laugh at Lee’s discomfiture.
As it was, Nelson and the rest of the men brought dinner as well as more gas for the generator. When Chip hooked the stove up, Mrs. Branson pulled still edible things from her chest freezer and threw them in a huge stockpot. That was joined by a variety of fresh and canned vegetables brought by neighbors. Other roasts were foil wrapped to cook on grills or fires. Mrs. Branson announced that Thanksgiving dinner would be ready by breakfast time. There was laughter and a smattering of applause.
By a spotlight powered by
the generator, Doc built an outdoor pit where a limb had gouged a hole.
He, Carver and Chief Sharkey used some of the debris to start a fire. It
took them a while but when they had it going, people showed up from
everywhere. Neighbors who had stayed with their homes came out to join
the submariners. They sat on salvaged chairs, upside down buckets and
tree stumps. Tattered blankets were used to keep the chill of evening
off their backs while they were kept warm with the fire and stories. O’Brien
and Carver distributed the food brought from the school, and mismatched
dishes were used to serve up the dinner.
It was quiet for a while. Then, one by one, the locals began telling about the storm. How scared they were when the winds came, tearing off parts of houses, and toppling trees. Then there was the hail, pounding what was left and shattering windows. A local river had overflowed its banks nearby, something totally unheard of. For a while it had seemed determined to sweep them away. Thankfully the water had not reached the homes in this neighborhood, but some other areas were not so lucky. The weather had been horrifying, strange, like a messenger of death coming to get them. There was gratitude for living, for still having homes, for not having lost loved ones.
Chip noticed Lee sitting in the shadows with Mrs. Branson. They were talking in whispers, then the woman grabbed Lee in a fierce hug, murmuring her thanks. Lee did not pull free but put his arms around her and returned the hug. Chip knew that his friend was finally letting go of the last of his grief for his mother. The blond turned away.
O’Brien summed up the feelings as the fire and camaraderie continued to warm everyone. “I’ve been at many Thanksgiving Day celebrations, but don’t think I have felt quite as good as I have at this one.”
Edith was sitting between Harry and Phillip. She saw her brother smile and nod. Wrapping her arm around his waist, she gave him a hug.
she thought. Mission accomplished.
*I used the episode The Blizzard Makers as a sort of jumping off point.
The storm in this story is generic, caused by man’s intervention and
not nature’s. However there is a real Greenback and they did have a
tornado April 27th, 2011, like many other people that day in
Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. It caused a great deal of damage but
there were no lives lost in the EF 3 twister in Greenback.
You do not usually find storms like this in the end of November,
so I decided to conjure up an evil scientist to do the job. Hey, if
Irwin could do it, why can’t I?
BTW the picture is from a tornado that occurred this past spring
(2012). It hit just west of Delano, TN, about ten miles, as the crow
flies, from where I was living at the time. This was where a group of us
from our church went to help with the clean-up. It was horrendous to
drive into the area and see all the destruction. The house in the
picture has still not been rebuilt.
couldn’t help it…. ‘volunteers from Knoxville’ is a pun.
Knoxville is the home of the University of Tennessee. The sports teams
are called . . . yeah, you guessed it—the Volunteers.