For weeks, I’ve known that murder was on the horizon.
My father had purchased a turkey tag and he was going to use it. Toms, jakes, and hens have been frequenting the yard all spring. They hardly stood a chance against a man in his pajamas with a mask and a gun.
Jake’s body was still extremely warm when I first laid my hand upon his head. The wrinkly skin upon his skull folded loosely between my fingertips, his brown eyes still appeared to stare back at me. His limpness and the blood oozing from his beak were the only indicators that this bird was not a living creature.
Once he’d been cleaned, Jake’s body no longer retained the lifelike appearance that had minutes prior given the uncanny illusion that he might wake up at any moment.
Feathers and blood were tangled on the grass in the backyard, while the rest of his insides lie down the hill. Over the course of the next few months, those remains would either be devoured by scavengers or decompose into the dirt and fertilize it.
Whatever made him sentient was presumably gone. His body was no longer a casing for thoughts and intellect. It was but a few hunks of meat in the refrigerator, next to the boiled potatoes and stone ground mustard.
But unlike the pork chops that resided next to the plastic box containing Jake’s muscles, we knew where the meat had come from. We knew that this meat once had an identity; a concept that is lost when you’ve only ever seen pre-sliced meat in the grocery and in the fridge.
Jake spent his life gobbling and clucking amidst beautiful pine trees and thick brush. He ate a nutritious diet of clover and bugs, augmented by the occasional treat of cracked corn. I believe that Jake was happy until the moment when he began to scamper away from the man who would take his life. He had the opportunity to flap his wings and take flight, but he made the fatal decision not to.
I know that there is no way you’d ever have volunteered to meet your fate the way that you did, Jake, but I’d like to thank you nonetheless. You and your kind are more to me than simply meat and a nice beard. You, like every other aspect of our world, serve a purpose. I don’t know what turkeys see as success in life or if they’ve even conceived a concept like success, but I hope that in life you were fulfilled in some way. If you didn’t, I hope that those who were close to you who may or may not be mourning over your death can find comfort in the thought that your body offered nourishment to other bodies and that your remains will fertilize the earth, thereby giving life to countless other organisms.
Thank you, Jake.