There it was, cooling on the counter. Golden and flaky on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside, begging to be slathered in whipped cream. It yearned to yield pliantly before my fork, to be pulverized by my teeth and saliva before sliding down my gullet to rest comfortably in my stomach. The pumpkin pie called to me like a lover.
“You know what I’ll say,” said Mom, catching me looking.
“What?” I asked innocently.
“Pie comes after Thanksgiving dinner, and Thanksgiving is tomorrow.”
“That doesn’t seem fair,” I said.
“No one said anything about fair, Mikey. Those are the rules.”
Rules, ha! I scoffed at her rules. It was a silent scoff, for I didn’t want to arouse her suspicion.
“Sure Mom,” I said. “Rules are rules.”
I played my part expertly. I was an accomplished thespian. I belonged on Broadway.
Mom shot me a sidelong glance, instinctively distrustful based on last year’s incident. How could she understand the bond between me and the pie? She was old, and listened to public radio. I was young, and vital, and would not be denied that which was rightfully mine.
“If anything happens to this pie tonight, I’ll know who to blame,” she said.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I know I’ll enjoy it more later, after I’ve waited for it.”
I’d like to dedicate this Oscar to pumpkin filling and Cool Whip.
It was getting late. Grandma and Grandpa had gone to bed first, followed by aunts and uncles and younger cousins. Mom would soon drift off as well. She’d worked hard on pie today. She deserved a rest. Sleep, dear mother, sleep. Worry not about your delicious baked dessert. It’s in good hands.
But Mom wasn’t my biggest obstacle. My biggest obstacle was five feet tall and staring daggers at my back: my younger brother and arch-nemesis, Pete. He stood against everything wonderful and pie-related, and lived only to foil my crusade for pumpkin flavored justice.
“I’m gonna stay up and watch you until you fall asleep,” said Pete.
I turned around and forced myself to smile. It was a very wide smile, a smile that said ‘you don’t want to know the lengths I’ll go to.’
“Okay, Pete,” I said. “I was going to go to bed soon anyway.”
Pete thought he knew me, because we shared DNA and our rooms were adjacent. But he knew nothing. I had been preparing for this day for months, leaving red herrings and false trails for him to follow. He thought he had me cornered now, but he had no idea what lay in store for him.
“Just remember to let the dog out,” said Mom with a sigh. She headed for bed, as I knew she would. That just left the final hurdle.
“I think I’ll watch TV,” I said, nonchalant. “Care to join me, Pete?”
“I’m not letting you out of my sight,” he replied.
He followed me into the living room, where we settled into the recliners. My secret weapon, queued up in advance, was armed and ready to be fired. I powered up the Roku, hit play, and watched with satisfaction at the horror on Pete’s face.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Don’t you enjoy History Channel documentaries on 1980’s Australian parliamentary elections?”
He moaned pitifully. I had watched this documentary series six times in the past month, inoculating myself against its soporific effects. Pete was completely unprepared for the horror to follow. The saga of Bob Hawke’s rise to power as head of the Australian Labor Party played out on the screen in front of us. Pete held up admirably. He gripped his armrests until his knuckles turned white, eyes freakishly wide, during Hawke’s first election. His grip slackened, and he slowly molded his spined against the back of his recliner as Hawke won reelection in 1984. Pete’s eye began to droop when Labor won again in 1987, and he resorted to pinching himself to maintain alertness. By 1991, when Hawke’s Treasurer, Paul Keating, challenged him for party leadership, Pete could stand it no longer. The hours of droning Australian accents were too much for him, and he slipped into defeated slumber.
“Good night, sweet prince,” I whispered.
Victory was within my grasp. Hours had passed, and it was nearing midnight. The house was deathly quiet. Then I heard it: a siren song, calling me to the kitchen for a forbidden tryst. I could but follow. I didn’t walk, but floated through the house, levitated by the immaculate smell that filled my nostrils. I didn’t give a damn about the repercussions. The pie and I would soon be one, and everything else was secondary. Don’t worry, sweet pie. I know it’s your first time. I’ll be gentle.
When I entered the kitchen, I witnessed a horrific sight: my lover, murdered before my eyes. Our dog, Randy, had mounted the kitchen counter, sniffed out the pumpkin pie, and buried his snout in it, creating a slobbery crater right in the center of my beloved. I was so focused on dealing with Pete that I had forgotten to let the dog out, and now he was paying me back for my error. Randy looked up from the pie, face covered in pumpkin filling, and licked his lips. He stared me right in the eyes, and sent me a telepathic message: “That’s right, motherfucker, I ate your pie. Do something.”
But there was nothing I could do. I let out a pathetic sob and sunk to the ground. Randy hadn’t touched Mom’s pecan pie, but you know what? Pecan pie is a piss-poor substitute for pumpkin. Cancel Thanksgiving, folks. There’s no point in going on.