Of Puffer fish & Willpower

after weeks of
cleansing fast  a large pizza
her puffer fish act

Another haiku with a story behind it.

Twenty-some years back I met a lady in her mid-forties; in time she became a dear friend. Was it because of her dysfunctional childhood, or the accident she was in that left her in a coma for twelve days, or maybe some of both? At any rate, you’d have to say she was emotionally unbalanced — and had been attending a church where emotional responses were often stirred and encouraged. She was cheerful, likeable, outgoing — but not very disciplined or stable.

At some point she had accepted the concept cleansing fasts, and even discovered a retreat in the country where she could go and cleanse her body of all the impurities tainting our modern diet. In addiction to the physical benefits, she felt that fasting brought her closer to God and told me that one time she had actually fasted for 40 days, just like Jesus. However, I suspect the dream of getting back to a slimmer figure hovered not far in the background.

My dear friend had a couple of weaknesses that affected her health. Like most of us, she was fond of tasty food — which included baking and other sweets. Plus, she smoked — a habit she didn’t like at all. So she viewed going to this retreat for a month or so, where she neither eat nor smoke, was a blessing four-fold: she could relax in a no-pressure environment, lose weight, crack the nicotine habit, and gain spiritually.

We visited her there a couple of times. It appeared she had nothing much to do at this retreat except relax, read, meditate, and detoxify in the small room she was given. There were a number of other guests, with a nurse present 24/7 to make sure no one suffered serious health problems because of the regime. When my friend’s fast was over she was put on a juice diet for a couple of days to re-adjust her body to food. Then she paid the rather hefty bill — this place was into making money as well as healing bodies — and went home.

This “coming back to the real world” got me involved one day — and my involvement brings me to story behind the senryu I’ve penned.

Early one morning my phone rang; my friend was telling me she needed watermelon and could I help her out? Could I buy one and bring it to her apartment? (She didn’t own a car.) She explained that she’d just got home from spending several weeks at the retreat and her body was reacting negatively to food. She needed watermelon to “flush out the salt” being retained in her tissues.

I didn’t know much about what fruits & veggies have diuretic properties, but she mentioned a few and was glad to help. I picked up these foods and went over to her place, where I heard the facts of her current health issue.

When she got home from her fast she’d been so hungry, she ordered an extra-large pizza and ate the whole thing. Her body was reacting big time to the sudden overload.

Reading history I’ve learned this isn’t an uncommon reaction for people who’ve been starved for a time. Their brain registers FOOD! and common sense is lost among the impulses. Their hands automatically start stuffing and people may even eat themselves to death. For my friend, all that salt in her pizza spread through her system, causing her tissues retain fluid until she was uncomfortably bloated.

Maybe puffer fish is an exaggeration, but the simile came to me and I thought it an interesting comparison.

In time my friend discovered one long-term side-effect of those prolonged fasts: starving drains your bones of much-needed minerals like calcium. One day she tripped going down some stairs and broke her leg. Her doctor, after seeing the x-ray, told her, “Your shattered bone looks just like corn flakes.”

It seems self-discipline and will power are rather like muscles. If we don’t use them, they become limp. Bypassing self-discipline in favor of complete abstinence, she short-circuited her willpower. Later, faced with the same temptations, she caved. Food and cigarettes became chronic problems. I won’t say that fasting is either wrong or harmful, in moderation, but nothing can build up the muscles of self-control, or deliver us from our vices, like the day-by-day exercise of resisting temptation.

Sad to say, my friend didn’t live long enough to reap the benefits of all that system-cleansing, either. Shortly after she turned 65 she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and died a year or so later.

I think of her often, and miss visiting with her.

The Plumpest Goose

The Word of the Day prompt today is SHAMBLES
Here’s my response:

O Caveat Emptor!
by me

To the shambles she made her way
to choose their goose for Christmas Day.
The butcher offered “My very best!
This bird will look delicious, dressed.
I’ll set a price you can afford.”
Her shillings in his hand she poured.
At home she learned that goose so plump
had been enhanced with a bicycle pump.

🙂

Thanksgiving Revived

A week ago I  read an interesting, humorous post over at the blog, Tales From the Mama Duck. If you liked my story about Firecracker the rooster, you’ll get a chuckle from her post, titled I Can’t Have A Relationship With My Turkey. Click here to read it

Her post brought to mind the account of another dinner menu that was changed in a hurry one Thanksgiving morning. I first posted this in Nov 2013, so I guess can make a second appearance now. This account appeared in New England Scene almost 25 years ago in a collection of humorous Thanksgiving memories. It was submitted by a lady from Tuscon, AZ, USA. I’m retelling her experience as I remember it.

Turkey
Photo from Pixabay

The Thanksgiving Turkey
A Raw Experience

One year someone gave a young wife, new to the farming life, a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving. She got quite enthused and decided when Thanksgiving rolled around she’d invite both her family and his for this Thanksgiving feast.

So she set out to raise the turkey that would grace their festive platter. She decided that a happy bird is bound to be a delicious bird, so she fed her turkey chick by hand. No hard scrabbling for this bird. To encourage optimum growth, she gave her bird many an encouraging word.

The chick grew into a fine specimen of its breed that summer and by fall it had plumped up nicely. In spite of its maturity, it still came running if it saw her outside and tagged along after her. She smiled and pictured a family feast with all the relatives commenting on her tasty turkey. Thanksgiving Day was around the corner and she had issued her invitations.

Over time, though, she smiled less when she looked at her turkey. On the Eve of the event she knew it was time to deal with the Thanksgiving platter’s guest of honor, but a strange sadness niggled at her. When her turkey came running to meet her as she stepped out the door, she burst into tears. She went back into the house sobbing and told her husband, “I can’t do it!”

“Just leave it to me,” he comforted her. “I’ll take care of it. You make room in the fridge.” He went out and came in half an hour later with the limp turkey in his arms. She sniffed the air as he passed and caught a vague whiff of… Chloroform?

Hubby opened the fridge door and stuffed the turkey in, feathers and all. “It can chill in here overnight and we’ll pluck it in the morning.”

She was good with that. Avoiding opening the fridge that evening, she and her husband passed a few relaxing hours. Then, thinking of the busy morning ahead of her — and perhaps feeling some unconscious stress over poor bird — she said,  “I’m sleepy; let’s go to bed.”

She woke up quite early the next morning, her mind on the task at hand. She was anxious to have the turkey plucked, cleaned, and dressed for the oven in good time. She dressed and headed for the kitchen. And when she opened the fridge door the turkey leaped out at her. Its garbled gobble would have translated as “Mom! Save me!”

She screamed and fell in a dead faint. Her husband came running and found her out cold and the well-chilled turkey staggering drunkenly around the kitchen. He must have thought he could avoid the merry chase around the poultry yard and bloody-axe episode by drugging the bird, but hadn’t used enough chloroform. He grabbed it and ran outside, dumping it in the yard. Then he came back to revive his wife, and face the music.

His parents and siblings arrived on time for the Thanksgiving dinner and heard the sad tale of the Thanksgiving bird that got away. The couple invited all the family to a nice meal at the local restaurant. Strangely enough, no one ordered turkey.

From that day on the festive bird enjoyed an unthreatened existence in the farm yard and lived to a ripe old age.

Firecracker

Fandango’s prompt word for today: BELONG

FIRECRACKER: A Feathery Tale

Rooster 2

See that handsome young rooster over there. That’s Firecracker. Raised him from a chick, I did, fed him, fussed over him, gave him lots of TLC so he’d be nice and plump come fall.

He was a cute little guy back then, especially when he started following me around the yard. I’ll admit, I’m going to miss having him tagging along after me, but now that he’s full grown, he’s going to be the star of our Thanksgiving table.

He wasn’t very old when the grandchildren named him Firecracker — and we thought it was kind of a cute name, so it stuck. I’ll tell you why he got that name. Oh, yes, he can make enough noise when he wants to, like at 5am when you’re wanting another hour of sleep. But you should hear him explode when he catches sight of a mouse or rat around the chicken yard. One day the grandchildren were in the yard fussing over him like they do, when he spied a mouse in the grass nearby. They said he went off just like a firecracker and went dashing over to do battle.

He’s been really good that way. Every time he sees a rodent he goes after the thing, calling all his ladies to come help him. He has a certain kind of squawk that says, “Enemy spotted!” and the hens come running. Our dog, Duchess, dashes into the action, too, when she hears that sound. Between them all, they make short work of rodents. I’m thinking poor Duchess will miss Firecracker. The hens will, for sure, but he belongs on our Thanksgiving table.

One thing I’m happy about is how good Firecracker is with the grandchildren when they come over — maybe because they’ve fed him grain and other tidbits ever since he was just a spring chick. Roosters can sometimes be cantankerous, but not him. You know how kids are. As soon as they get here, they rush out to see Firecracker and he usually comes running when he hears their voices, to see what treats they might have for him.

When I told the youngest grandchild last week that Firecracker is going to be our Thanksgiving dinner she got all sober and sad-looking for awhile. I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I guess they’re all going to miss seeing him around after next week.

One of the grandsons must have heard the news, too, because he phoned a few days ago specially to ask if I was really going to cook Firecracker for Thanksgiving. He sounded so blue about it. I told him that Firecracker has had a good life and now it’s time to say goodbye, because he belongs on our Thanksgiving table. That’s what we raised him for.

I’ve got the bread cubed and in the freezer for the stuffing. Next Tuesday my husband’s going to dispatch Firecracker. I’ll tell you, plucking that bird is going to be hard. Oh, hang on a minute…my phone’s ringing. I see my son is calling.

“Hi, Jason. How are things going? Glad to hear it. By the way, I wanted to let you know we’re planning to have our Thanksgiving dinner at 5pm this time… What do you mean, you’re not coming? … Are you saying NONE of you are coming? … But why? I have this huge meal planned… Your kids are all refusing to eat Firecracker? … But he belongs in our Thanksgiving meal. What am I supposed to do with him if… What!?”

Doesn’t that beat all! The grandchildren have emptied their piggy banks and say they want to buy Firecracker. They want to keep him as a pet, of all things, and we can just let him live here. And the family is offering to bring fish for the meal. Jason says none of them know any fish.

Oh, well. Anything for the grandkids, right? The hens will be more content having a rooster around the place, too. And Duchess will be happy if Firecracker stays around, seeing she’s grown so fond of him.

I’m not especially sentimental, but I have, too, if truth be told. 🙂