“Tom, you should know better. You shook Sinatra’s hand,” Tino sneered.
Tom stroked his beard, filled with fear. This wasn’t his plan. Nowhere to run, surrounded by crooks. Fate’s magnet seemed to pull him across the country though. From the streets of Manhatten, onto the highway, across the nation, to this moment right now, right here.
“I just don’t think I can stay here any longer, Zsa Zsa,” Tom said quietly. “I wish I could, but I’m not like the rest of them.”
“Tom, you’ve been saying this once every sixth week of every two months for the past three years,” Zsa Zsa replied. “Now, you may not like it here, but it isn’t like the world out there is any better.”
“I just feel like its time to spread my wings and fly,” Tom said with a hopeful smile.
“That’s the thing, Tom,” Zsa Zsa said frowning. “You can’t fly! You start to rise up sometimes, but this world and its gravitational effect pull you down time after time. You’re believing something that just isn’t real.”
“Yeah, Zsa Zsa, you tell me that all the time. Like I can’t have a thought without you. Like I can’t make it on my own.”
“Listen to me, Tom. If you want to leap off a high building with the idea you will soar, that is one thing. But if you really believe that, and you really want that, then what is keeping you hear?”
“Zsa Zsa, I’ve told you. You’re the only thing I’m still holding on to that’s real. I’m just a lad from the farm who came to the Big Apple. I didn’t have a plan. But that’s how I met you. With no plan, no security, just the hope to rub two quarters together and hope that they’ll somehow breed.”
“Oh, Tom don’t start on luck again.”
“Zsa Zsa, you know I’ve told you about this before. The farmer should have gotten me. But he didn’t. Somehow I escaped,” Tom said. With a crooked grin, he continued, “And that’s what’s going to take us into the future. Just a little bit of luck. Come on, come with me.”
“Tom, I won’t. New York is my home.”
“There are other places that can be home.”
“Not like here. This is home. It always will be home.”
Tom thought for a moment. This sounded strangely familiar. Then he remembered the fortune cookie he read when he first arrived in New York.
“Familiarity begets security.”
“But what does security beget,” Tom wondered out loud.
“What did you just say?” Zsa Zsa asked.
“Nothing. Look, Zsa Zsa, I can’t do this anymore. Stay here. Not here. It just isn’t me. There’s a little place I’ve heard of. A city that sleeps even less than the city that doesn’t sleep.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“You bet I am.”
“Tom, you can’t! That’s a horrific place.”
“Zsa Zsa, baby I’ll be ok. Come with me.”
“No, Tom, I can’t. I won’t.”
“Well, this is it. I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“This is not happening.”
“No, you’re right Zsa Zsa. I can’t fly away. I’m taking the train out in the morning.”
“I’m going, and that’s that,” he cut her off. “Zsa Zsa, you’re a great dame. You’ll make some Wall Street tycoon the happiest of ’em all. But me, I’m just not that guy. I’m rolling the dice and seeing where it takes me. Goodbye Zsa Zsa.”
Tom pecked Zsa Zsa a kiss, and turned quickly, walking away.
“Tom,” Zsa Zsa whispered through tears. “Don’t go.”
But he was already out of earshot. One day he waddled into town, now he strutted out.
A gulp of fear exited Tom’s gullet. What if this spin did nothing for him? What if he ran out of cash this time? He was dollars away from an alternate destiny. Afterall, he had convinced Tino and his crooked cohorts that he truly had found the secret to success with the slots.
Tom had promised millions. Now, he was on the edge of underdelivering. And you don’t underdeliver to Tino.
When Tom met Tino, he thought Tino one of the most charming fellas he’d ever met. Tino thought Tom was rare, that although he didn’t fit the norm, he somehow had the ability to come out of a poker game, the slots, or a game of craps as the hands down winner.
Tom had become the prized promotional tool of the Bellagio. No one knew how he did it, but Tino had backed him through and through. Tom’s success led him to a picture with Sinatra, and a strange relationship. Frank always looked at Tom with a look of hunger, as if he knew Tom held the secret recipe to satisfaction. Tom looked at Frank with an admiration of wonder. How could one man have built all this? After all, this was Sinatra’s town.
Three years before, Frank and Tom sat shaking hands on the front page of TIME magazine. Tom had made it to the bigs through luck.
Then Tom learned how he could make even more money. If he linked up with Tino, Tom would make millions upon millions. Some people told Tom to have nothing to do with Tino. Although you might like the sound of the deals he promised, they said Tino’s word had more venom than a King Cobra. And that he would strike in a moment if you upset him in the slightest.
Tom clutched the final amount of Tino’s three million. His strength waned, but Tom rooled the dice with as much gusto as he could muster.
Tom’s stomach wrenched with agony. The game was over. On this night in late November, luck had finally run out. Tino and the gang would grill him for a few hours, and then they would finish him off together.
Tom thought of Zsa Zsa. He would never see her again. Tom knew this, and he was filled with sadness. It had been five years. The occasional letters they scratched out to each other meant nothing any longer. Tom was alone, and preparing for a death he was too young to die. Tino and his cohorts walked Tom inside the New York New York, through the ESPN Zone, and past the doors of Gallaghers. Tino marched to the front desk and asked for the key to the elevator. No one could ise this elevator except for three men in the city. Tino was one of them. A high roller who played high stakes and didn’t like to lose.
The receptionist handed Tino the key. He turned and strode through the room of “Central Park” to that one elevator. He and his cohorts corralled Tom into the elevator.
Once they were all inside the small capsule, they ascended at a rapid rate. The elevator stopped, but the door did not open. Tom heard the sound of steel seperating above the elevator. Then the elevator crept upwards, slowly.
The door opened and they walked outside. In the night air, the city shone its neon all around them, much of it below them. From pyramids to fountains to the MGM, Tom was shocked by the splendor of the view.
A voice brought him back to reality.
“Do you know where we are Tom?”
“We’re on top of the Empire State Building.”
“Ok. Now what?”
“Tom, you should know better. You shook Sinatra’s hand,” Tino sneered. “You know me. I’m kind and benevolent, but Tom, you should have known better than to lose all the money I stood behind you with.”
Tom stroked his beard, filled with fear. This wasn’t his plan. Nowhere to run, surrounded by crooks. Fate’s magnet had pulled him across the country though. From the streets of Manhatten, onto the highway, across the nation, to this moment right now, right here.
Tom blinked several times. Then the decision set within him. Although Tino and his thugs were much taller than Tom, he was suddenly filled with courage.
As one of the henchmen reached down to grab Tom by the neck, he leaned his neck forward and bit that henchman’s hand for all he was worth.
They all jumped back and Tom knew it was time. He raced forward, resolute that this time he would fly. Tom leapt off the top of the New York New York’s empire state building, and began to fly. Five, ten, twenty feet. Tom was soaring!
Then gravity set in and with it came the feeling of sinking. But as Tom fell, he was swept further into the air by a gust of wind. The wind tossed him away from the New York New York and towards the Bellagio where Tom knew he would be finished. Such speed he was flying with now, only out of control. He would soon hit the Bellagio when the wind stopped, and he was suddenly dropped downwards, only to be caught by a fountains shooting upwards. (Oh if Pitt and Clooney could see this one happen.) The water made Tom go higher still. Until he suddenly fell. No stream rising upwards. Tom landed in the pond. He then swam to the edge of the pond, crawled out, jumed in a taxi behind a man who intended for only one to sit in the taxi.
Tom rode away from the Vegas Strip. Away from his self-proclaimed destiny of luck. He jumped into the back of a semi hauling cows. He sat on one cow from Vegas all the way to Pennsylvania. He then began to walk towards the old farm. He knew he couldn’t go back there. Not after all he had gone through. They wouldn’t accept him back. Surely, someone would kill him. So Tom, with a vision of a destiny of love jumped on a train that led him back to Manhatten. Tom leaned against her door. It was a small place, but Tom recognized it well.
Then Tom gave the signal knock. Three knocks. A scratch. A knock. A three second pause. Two knocks.
Zsa Zsa opened the door. She stood there, gaped mouth. Then she glared, “Well, what do you want?”
“I’m sorry. I was wrong about Vegas,” Tom said. ” I’m done playing with luck. I came back because of love.”
Zsa Zsa smiled and said, “Come on in, Tom. We have some catching up to.”
She turned and starting walking back inside.
Looking left and right, he let out a gobble of thanksgiving. Tom the Turkey walked inside trading luck for love, but found in time that this love made him the luckiest bird on the planet.
When I was growing up, my family wrote Tom Turkey stories at Thanksgiving. I decided to write this story for Thanksgiving this year. I wrote this story on the way out to West Virginia. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into Tom Turkey’s life from the last. Happy Thanksgiving!