|Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday, both for the celebration with family and friends, and for the little-known back story. In this excerpt from my novel Full Asylum, everyone’s favorite hippie-for-the-Right, Brownie McCoy, tells what really happened at Plymouth Plantation:|
The McCoys’ dining room table was set with rough terra cotta plates. Bottles of homemade turnip wine communed with bowls of cornbread stuffing and cranberry relish. The spicy smoke of incense blended with the aroma of roast turkey. On the walls, framed posters of moons, sunbeams, and kaleidoscope patterns duplicated an acid trip in sunset colors. A reproduction of Peter Max’s Liberty Head watched sternly as Brownie carved the bird…
Brownie had let his hair down and replaced the dingy shirts and doublewide ties that he wore around the Test Nest with a t-shirt and jeans. The t-shirt said Thankful…for capitalism on the front and “for it made all hands industrious” on the back.
When Gimbel asked about it, Brownie explained, “Thanksgiving is all about capitalism.” He slid another slice of turkey onto the serving platter. “The Pilgrims were communists, man. When they started Plymouth colony they agreed to joint ownership of land, tools, and stuff. Whatever crops grew they would split equally. Trouble was, when it was time to work, the Pilgrims split. They starved, man.”
Mrs. McCoy had heard this speech every year…“Are you ever going to pass that turkey?” she said. Brownie handed the platter to Gimbel. As Gimbel loaded his plate with white meat, Brownie continued. “So then they tried something different. They divided up the lands and the tools, and they told everyone they could keep whatever they grew on their own land. Now everyone was working for himself. Suddenly it was like Foodstock. They had more than they could eat. That’s why they invited the Indians over.”
Brownie offered the gravy boat to Gimbel. Several mushrooms floated in the thick brown sauce; Gimbel eyed them suspiciously. “Anything you want to tell me?” he asked.
“I think you already know. The Pilgrims and the Indians gave thanks to God and everybody stuffed themselves.”
“No, I meant about the gravy.”
“It’s cool, man. They’re normal ‘shrooms, not tripping ‘shrooms.”
“I didn’t know the story about the Pilgrims,” said Gimbel. “At least, not the way you told it.”
“They don’t teach it in school.”
“But it was four hundred years ago. How does anybody know it?”
“They wrote it down, man. Governor Bradford kept a journal. He wrote that the change ‘made all hands industrious’ and that ‘much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’”
Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, hospital gowns, and being thankful.