THE GREAT GOBBLER
by Darren J. Butler
“Josh…Josh! Wake up!”
Josh was not really asleep. In fact, he had just managed to crawl back under the covers before his little sister Alyssa entered his room. He fought away the giggles and rolled over to turn on the lamp. Alyssa stood by his bed. Her blonde piggy tails were falling apart and her freckled face was stained in tears.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I want to sleep with you,” she replied.
Josh shook his head. “Alyssa, you’re five years old now, and big girls can sleep by themselves.”
She trembled. “But the Great Gobbler is scratching on my window.”
Josh bit the inside of his cheeks to keep from laughing. “Oh, is that it? Well, you must have been a bad girl. I told you what would happen when you mailed your letter to him. Good girls get toys and candy. Bad girls…well, the Great Gobbler scratches on your window to warn you.”
“I’ll be good. I’ll be good. I promise,” she vowed.
Josh gave her an unconvincing look. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll let you sleep with me tonight, but tomorrow we’re going to have to find some good deeds for you to do so the Great Gobbler will know what a good little girl you are.”
“Okay,” she cried.
Josh pushed back the covers, and Alyssa crawled into bed.
As Josh turned out the lights, he was thankful that Alyssa could not see his face. His grin from ear to ear would have ruined his plan. He had accomplished the first step. She believed his story of the Great Gobbler, a magical turkey that brought toys and candy to little girls and boys who did good deeds. When she had seemed doubtful, Josh decided to crawl out of his bedroom window in the middle of the night and scratch on the window by his sister’s bed. After all, that was how the Great Gobbler warned bad little boys and girls of their fate – whatever that may be.
For the next two days, Alyssa did everything her brother asked her to do. She folded his clothes, carried out the trash, put the dishes in the dishwasher, brought him sodas and any other chore that Josh found for her.
By the second day, Alyssa was becoming a bit suspicious. She wasn’t allowed to tell their parents about the Great Gobbler. No one in her Kindergarten knew about the Great Gobbler. And, there had been nothing on TV about the Great Gobbler.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Josh walked into the kitchen just as Alyssa was about to ask their mother about the mysterious wild turkey. His little sister was perched on a barstool, trying to prod her mother for information.
“Mommy? Can turkeys open doors?” she asked.
Josh slid in behind her and listened eagerly.
“Don’t be silly, Alyssa. Turkeys don’t even have fingers,” her mother replied.
“Oh really?” Alyssa smiled.
“That’s right sissy, but they do have these razor sharp claws called spurs and that’s how they attack—”
“Josh!” his mother exclaimed. “You’re scaring her.”
“Sorry squirt,” Josh replied. “Come on, we’ve got stuff to do.”
He pulled her off the barstool and into the den. When he was sure that they were out of earshot of their mother, he knelt down to Alyssa.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked sternly.
“I was just asking Mom about turkeys,” Alyssa replied.
Josh shook his head back and forth. “You’re gonna get in big trouble with the Great Gobbler. What did I tell you was rule number one. Never, ever talk to anyone about the Great Gobbler except for the person who told you about him.”
“I’m sorry!” she said quickly.
Josh held his finger up to his lips to quiet her. “Maybe, just maybe if you go upstairs and make my bed, the Great Gobbler will not get mad.”
Without saying a word, Alyssa nodded and darted upstairs. Josh smiled as she vanished from sight. “Mission accomplished,” he thought to himself.
That night, Josh tucked Alyssa into bed and promised her that by tomorrow morning she would have all of the toys and candy she asked for in her letter. He trotted off to bed knowing that in a few hours he would be able to taunt his little sister with the truth – there was no Great Gobbler. He would be able to laugh and laugh knowing that she had done all of those good deeds for nothing.
Many hours after Josh had drifted off to sleep, he awoke to the sounds of scratching on his window. He slowly peeked over his covers to see a giant wild turkey standing at the foot of his bed. His eyes widened. This wild turkey had to be at least six feet tall, and its multi-colored wingspan was as wide as his bed! The icy cold stare of the turkey cut into him like a knife. He felt sweat rolling down his forehead and cheeks. The Great Gobbler did exist, and he was standing over him like a cobra ready to strike. Suddenly, there was a great clucking noise, and the Great Gobbler snapped at him.
Josh sat upright in his bed. The morning sunshine poured into his room. It was just a dream – a nightmare brought on by the stories he had told his younger sister. He glanced at the digital clock on his nightstand. It was eight o’clock. The time had come to let his sister have it.
He climbed out of bed and quickly dressed. Just as he was about to walk out of his room, he heard his mother calling up the stairs.
“Josh! Alyssa! Come on down! Come see what the Great Gobbler has brought you.”
Josh froze. Did he hear what he thought he heard? Had his mother just said the Great Gobbler had come? Maybe he was still dreaming. He pinched himself, and the pain in his forearm told him that this was real.
Slowly he stepped out of his room and took the steps at a snails pace. Below he could hear Alyssa giggling and screeching over her gifts. His stomach began to twist and turn. As he reached the bottom step, his mother appeared from around the corner.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Josh!” she said in a sugary sweet tone. “I’ve made your favorite breakfast – chocolate chip pancakes! And, don’t forget to open your gift from the Great Gobbler.” With that, she turned and walked back into the kitchen.
Josh peered around the corner into the den. Alyssa was sitting in the middle of the floor playing with her Barbie Beauty Salon, the one gift she had wanted more than anything. Not far away from her was a shiny ruby red box with a white ribbon. The name on the card was his.
“Josh!” Alyssa exclaimed. “Look what the Great Gobbler brought me! There’s a box for you too!”
Josh cautiously walked over to the box and knelt down beside it. His hands trembled as he lifted the lid on the box. When he looked inside there were no video games or twenty dollar bills – just one piece of paper, folded in half.
He lifted out the piece of paper, unfolded it and read it to himself.
“Dear Josh. Very creative prank, but not a very nice thing to do to a five year old who adores her older brother. Below is a list of chores that must be completed before five o’clock tomorrow. If the list is not complete, you are grounded until after the first of the year, which means no Christmas dance with your girlfriend, no camping trip with your friends and above all – no gifts from Santa or us. Love, Mom and Dad.”
“What did you get? Money?” Alyssa asked earnestly.
Josh forced a smile. “Nope. Just a very important lesson.”