Thanksgiving Tea Bags

Leroy looks for the fabled "Free Lunch", but finds something else.

November 2001

Leroy tried to sleep through Thanksgiving, but that task exceeded even his considerable skills.

He finally had to get up around noon. The trailer was empty, since Andrew's brother had come and taken him home for the holiday. Leroy was invited, of course, but he couldn't face all that family cheeriness and concern. It was always an awkward situation when people asked "So, what are you doin' these days, Leroy?"

He tried to watch TV, but every commercial seemed to show families and food. He managed to ignore the families, but the constant food references did make him hungry. He made a quick search of his kitchen, but it only turned up stale Chee-Tos, some greenish bread and an empty jar of peanut butter with the knife still stuck in it. It was time to make a food run.

When he went out the door, Leroy noticed that even Wild Dog had abandoned him, and was up the hill at Chuck's house waiting for a little free lance leftover recycling.

If you drive around here on Thanksgiving, you might think there's been an evacuation ordered. Most of the houses are dark and empty, and the patchy remnants of cotton on the picked over fields give everything a forlorn look. But every now and then you go around a curve and see a house with cars and trucks all over the grass and kids outside throwin' footballs. If you slow down, you can smell the fireplaces and the cookin'.

But Leroy kept his windows up tight and his eyes on the road. He knew the restaurants and most of the stores were closed, but he pressed on to Mr. Manoor's grocery. Sure enough, the lights were on and the door was open.

Leroy was standing in aisle 3 when the phone rang. He was holding up a jar of Vienna sausages and a can of tuna fish, trying to make an entree decision. Mr. Manoor had a brief conversation on the phone, then called out, "Leroy! They need more ice down at the Children's Home. Can you take it to them?"

Leroy immediately had a vision of the amount of food that must be laid out at the Home. He gently put the sausages and the tuna back on the shelf and said, "Sure!".

Mr. Manoor tossed four bags of ice into Leroy's truck and called after him, "Thank you, Leroy!".

Leroy rolled down the window of his truck as he got near the Home, and parked right next to the kitchen. After he unloaded the ice, Miss Shirley, the director of the Home, said "Thank you, Leroy! Would you like to stay and eat with us?"

Leroy was moving toward the dining hall, trying to look politely reluctant, when the phone rang. Miss Shirley answered it, and a few seconds later said, "Leroy! Mr. Byrd has some pies and cookies for us down at the bakery. Could you go get them for us? We're all busy serving."

"OK", said Leroy, slowly putting down the plate he had just picked up. He knew it would be a quick trip into town, and Mr. Byrd's pies are definitely worth a little effort.

When he got back, Miss Shirley met him in the parking lot and whisked the goodies away, . "Thank you again, Leroy!", she said over her shoulder. "Come on in and eat!"

Leroy headed again toward the dining hall, feeling good with a firm sense of entitlement. But as he walked through the playground, he was hijacked once again.

"Mr. Leroy, can you push me? Please?"

It's hard enough to resist a five year old on a swing, but this one had used an extra weapon. Leroy is held in such general low regard around here that ten year olds consider him a peer, and so he doesn't get called "Mister" very often. So it was natural he paused to help out a little.

The key to survival when surrounded by pre-schoolers is to keep moving, but Leroy lingered a bit too long at the swings. When he tried to leave, he found children wrapped around both his legs, which made movement difficult and escape impossible. He had to ransom himself with multiple horsey rides and a fair amount of general roughhousing. He finally extricated himself and made it to the dining hall, trailed by a chorus of "Thank you, Mr. Leroy!"

But time and turkey wait for no man, and Leroy was out of both. The dining hall was already cleaned out, and several volunteers were finishing up the kitchen. Miss Shirley had of course lost track of Leroy, and when he walked into the kitchen she thought he was looking for something more to do. "Leroy, can you take this trash to the dump?", she asked, as she tied up the last of the bags. "Thank you, Leroy!"

Well, it wasn't a total loss for the day. Leroy did find a crescent roll on the counter on his way out, and managed to dredge it through a gravy spill on the stove. But he was not in a good mood when he got to the dump.

He did however give each bag a lot of attention. Each one got kicked at least three times, and he was in the process of jumping up and down on them when a voice rang out from the woods next to the dump.

"Leroy! What are you doin'?"

Mr. Henry has a special place in a clearing there. When he's not performing, Mr. Henry is quiet and shy, and he likes to spend time alone. He's fixed up the clearing with stuff from the dump, and even spends the night there sometimes when the weather's nice.

Leroy had not intended his punishment of the trash bags to be a public performance, and when he heard Mr. Henry's voice he stopped his jumping and began to calm down. Mr. Henry waved Leroy over to the special place, and they sat down on a couple of old metal lawn chairs. Leroy picked the one with the nice new green paint.

Mr. Henry listened to Leroy's tale of woe, which was of course embellished with complaints about the injustice of the whole thing. It was hard to really come up with much sympathy, but he did try to make Leroy feel better.

"Sounds like you didn't do ThanksGIVIN', you did ThanksGETTIN' ! But sit down a while, it might all work out yet."

Mr. Henry is not really a prophet, but he does have a good idea of my tolerance level for in-laws and football. Sure enough, I got there about ten minutes later with the usual turkey sandwiches and jugs of tea. I was a little surprised to see Leroy there, but I had brought plenty so it didn't matter.

Mr. Henry opened up a can of peaches, and Leroy had to repeat his story for my benefit. 'Course, talking with his mouth full did seem to take a lot of the bitterness out of his mood. By the time we were into the second can of peaches, he had returned to his usual cheerful self.

Leroy even got up to refill our jars with tea, pouring with a flourish from the plastic jug.

Mr. Henry and I said together, "Thank you, Leroy!"