Harvest

Kristin Elkin, for as American as she was, did not believe in Thanksgiving. She was actually quite appalled by it. Found it to be something that only Eisenhower-era Republicans ought to celebrate. Alas, this American tradition—the very embodiment of excess and waste—could not seem to be left in the 1950s, or better still, back in the seventeenth century when it was merely a garden variety seasonal harvest festival. And nowhere was that inability to dispense with Thanksgiving reverence more apparent than in Plymouth, Massachusetts. To Kristin’s dismay, it was the town still deemed as the very “birthplace” of Thanksgiving in the U.S. 

Nobody seemed to want to bother acknowledging that there was another earlier known thanksgiving documented in December of 1619, when a boatload of British fucks came to roost in the Berkeley Hundred colony in Virginia, whereupon they obeyed a charter from the London Company declaring “that the day of our ships’ arrival at the place assigned for plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” In other words, praise be to Capitalism. 

Despite this early Virginian celebration being a more “accurate” “Thanksgiving” in terms of its capitalist roots (and Thanksgiving in the present is nothing if not a capitalistic holiday designed to help bust the Christmas mood wide open—and with it, people’s wallets), Kristin had yet to ever encounter anybody who knew what she was talking about when she mentioned the first Thanksgiving being in Virginia (this, too, had political machinations during the Civil War, when Lincoln only wanted a Northern territory to be upheld as a “beacon of beneficence”). Hell, it was probably somewhere else in one of the colonies even earlier than that. And probably a Canadian one, to boot. God knows the French loved their harvest festivals back when they still had their foothold in seventeenth century Canada. But no one could be bothered to consider this when the lore of a “Plymouth Thanksgiving” was evidently so much more compelling. And most (particularly Americans) were hard-pressed to give the French credit for anything, even when it was a shameful “creation” like this. 

And so, here Kristin was, damned to live forever in the Thanksgiving “world capital.” Her situation wasn’t much improved by the harsh reality of being an employee at the Pilgrim Hall Museum—its greatest claim to fame being that it was the oldest public museum in the United States. If it weren’t for that, Kristin doubted that any person would be all that impressed by its “collection,” amounting, ultimately, to a portrait of fucking Edward Winslow. Having to pass by his hideous mug every day was enough to make Kristin want to stab the painting at random with her car key, but somehow, she kept managing to refrain, telling herself that some people genuinely cared about this white supremacist history. Though not enough to hear her out when she brought up the whole “the first documented Thanksgiving actually wasn’t in Plymouth…” tidbit. 

In all the years she had been working there, a total of five since graduating from Cape Cod Community College (after acquiring her Associate’s in “Arts”), it could consistently be relied upon for November to be the most burgeoning for visitor volume. Which was why Kristin couldn’t help herself when it came to calling in sick more often than was believable. Luckily, the only co-worker she could commiserate with about hating her job also happened to be her boss. A middle-aged married man named Eric. It also aided in her cause that, because they had slept together many times, Eric had to give Kristin pretty much whatever she wanted in order to be doubly certain she kept quiet and news of his adultery never got back to his wife. Such were the perks (or really, the one perk) of being the other woman. 

Thus, while most were swamped with the deluge of work that tended to come just before a major holiday, Kristin found herself enjoying the largely uncrowded streets in the daytime as she made her way toward the waterfront (dangerously close to the museum, but fuck it). Everywhere you went in Plymouth, it was an unavoidable walking tour of white people’s assholery. If she wasn’t next to a replica of the Mayflower, then she was next to Plymouth Rock, or the William Bradford Statue. There was also a monument to Massasoit nearby, but that hardly compensated for much of anything, least of all the raping of a land. One that only happened to be available because the Native Americans were experiencing a rash of deaths that made it so easy to inhabit what was then a less fully populated environment. Another “fun” fact Kristin learned during her tenure at the museum was that the Brits, being very daft “la-di-da” twits that they were, assumed that just because the “New World” was “South” of their milieu, it would be inherently warmer. Lo and behold, upon their arrival, they were rudely awakened to find that, as all modern-day East Coasters know by now, it was cold as a witch’s tit. Not only had they not prepared sartorially for “New England,” but they had not prepared gustatorially either. Luckily for them, Kristin supposed, there were plenty of graves to pillage for sustenance. They weren’t necessarily “Donner Partying,” but they were definitely, at the bare minimum, stealing corn and other assorted “items” out of graves. No rest—or peace—not even for the dead. Least of all the non-white dead. 

As Eric continued to tell her this story one day after they were sharing a post-coital cigarette in her dreary apartment (closer to the museum than his house for a “quickie,” and also he had kids that were constantly lingering on the premises), he was sure to remind her that this grave ransacking took place a year before the so-called “first Thanksgiving.” And that the only reason the Wampanoag were in a weakened enough state to think maybe it would be a good idea to ally with the pilgrims was because of the disease that had ravaged their tribe (an epidemic, in fact, brought “stateside” by the European settlers). They naively believed that “peaceable relations” with the colonists would be conducive to staving off any violent advances from their rival tribe, the Narragansett (the name now reduced to nothing more than a cheap beer). That “staving off” being abetted by the colonists’ willingness to trade their surfeit of axes and knives for the Wampanoag’s surfeit of beaver pelts. Oh, to go back to the simplicity of the bartering system. 

And yet, for all the assistance the Native Americans gave, pilgrims, like the Republicans of today, genuinely seemed to believe the success they achieved not only in surviving, but thriving was a result not of Native American generosity, but some kind of divine right spurred by God Himself. Thus, one pilgrim’s description, “It was with God’s help that we found this corn, for how else could we have done it, without meeting some Indians who might trouble us.” “Trouble” their asses indeed. As Kristin and anyone else without “patriotism” tunnel vision knew, the Native Americans were the only reason that pilgrims were able to “learn how” (read: steal methods from) to navigate and tame the unruly land before them, effectively sealing their own fate in getting fucked over. Which just goes to show that America was a happier, more picturesque place before being infected by European-styled capitalism.

Kristin ruminated upon all these things, all these fucked-up origins of what made Americans the entitled, excess-prone twats they were during the month of November, when she was too “sick” to work. And yet, it wasn’t entirely a lie. Because it did make her sick to think of how Thanksgiving was this “thing,” this runaway train that, of all people, Abraham Lincoln had turned into a national holiday. A political maneuver, of course, designed to create some sense of “unity” through the cultivation of a “shared national identity” during and in the wake of the Civil War. Lincoln, naturally, hoped this would help quell some of the tensions that had rent the North and South into two warring factions. And if Civil War cuisine was any indication, surely the “Turkey Day” menu manufactured by Sarah J. Hale, the oft-forgotten “Mother of Thanksgiving,” looked like a smorgasbord of delicacies to those who had been sustaining themselves on Johnny cakes. To Kristin, and anyone else with discerning tastebuds, however, the “spread” wasn’t exactly enticing. Just the sight of a turkey, cooked or not, made her shudder. And all she could think about was its stuffed asshole. Or, depending on how you looked at it, maybe it could be considered a vagina as well. She didn’t want to stare too deeply into the abyss of that hole long enough to truly decide on how the orifice should be classified. 

With this flurry of thoughts coursing through her mind as the contempt brewed within her during her daily walks past these monuments to human cruelty and the horrors that “founded” the America of the present, Kristin could start to feel herself directing that rage toward Eric. Although she had stated repeatedly that she no longer had any interest in fucking him, he kept pressing the matter. And she was aware that the reason he was doing so now was because he felt he was owed something for being so “kind” about her sick leave. Well, Eric, as far as she was concerned, could go right ahead and fuck himself. She wasn’t going to debase her body once more for his pleasure. Unfortunately for her resolve, Eric managed to catch her during one of her daily constitutionals near the waterfront, having just polished off a few drinks at the Pillory Pub. Maybe that’s why she, in her state of inebriation, was so amenable to just about any suggestion, including Eric’s query, “How about we go back to your place?”

Having allowed him to finish within about thirty seconds as usual, Kristin rolled her eyes as he grunted in ecstasy and proceeded to thank her profusely for making him “feel alive again.” She, in contrast, felt all the more dead. In that sense, he was like a kind of vampire, draining her of her own lifeblood. Though she wouldn’t deign to liken her pain to any Native American’s, she, too, was experiencing her own National Mourning Day after succumbing to the “easiness” of fucking Eric again. And the sight of Eric, in all his white, flabby unglory was making her pain more pronounced. She wanted him to get out, yet, at the same time, she didn’t want to be alone. Kristin could barely contain the push and pull of her contempt for Eric paired with the looming slew of holidays that were designed to make every “unattached” person feel alone and inadequate. Enough to actually be angry when Eric said he wouldn’t be able to get away from his family at all on that accursed fourth Thursday of the month. 

***

The days grew colder, grayer. All leading up to that most famous dark day of all. She could scarcely understand how it happened. One minute, she was by the waterfront as usual, telling herself the peacocking revelry all around her would soon be over, and the next: standing outside the window that looked into Eric’s dining room. Kristin could see how well he, like so many Americans at this time of year, put on the veneer of “happiness.” She couldn’t understand why, when he had expressed to her at every available opportunity how miserable he was in his marriage, his life—that even the “wonders” of being a father didn’t seem to be enough to keep enduring. But, like all those resigned to the life middle-class, he had reaped what was sown. And in that regard, this was his own “harvest festival.” Where was Kristin’s? 

As it turned out, in a pile of guts on the floor where she had, on a whim, decided to cut out Eric’s heart with the turkey carving knife after smashing the window open with a sizable rock in the midst of his family and friends’ predictable shrieking. She knew he wasn’t worth this “crime of passion.” And yet, her rage at everything—the injustices of the past that begat more injustices in the present—had reached its boiling point and needed to be unleashed on some representative source. What was Eric if not that? A middling white man who celebrated Thanksgiving like it wasn’t the most disgusting holiday in the world. 

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