Last Laugh shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader submitted American humor with other readers.
As I drove up Highway 27 heading toward Northern Michigan, I was enjoying a late fall day, the kind just sunny enough that if you wanted to (and I did), you could stick your hand out the window and feel the crisp air passing through your fingers without being cold. It was gorgeous, and so was she.
Her name was Jennifer Johnson. I met her at a grocery store in East Lansing, Michigan, the year before.
I had been hopelessly shopping for food for my first Thanksgiving dinner away from home when I spotted her. "Pardon me," I said, "could you tell me which one of these turkeys is the best?"
Slightly startled, she smiled and explained patiently, "Well, I like them a little fresher than all of these, but if you have to, I'd go with that one" I accepted the bird of her choice, and then managed to wrangle her phone number out of the deal. We went out the next weekend, then the weekend after that, and then the weekend after that. A year later she was sitting next to me in the passenger seat with her hand dangling out of the window as well. "Are you nervous?" she asked. "Of course not," I laughed, lying.
"Good," she smiled, "Everybody's so excited to meet you.
A few hours later we arrived at the Johnson's farm. "There's where we keep the goats;" she said happily as we drove up the gravel road to the house, "and there's the pond where I learned how to swim, and there's my brother's hunting shed, and there's my dog, and there," she pointed, "is my mom and dad!" As we pulled up, Jennifer's mother, father, sister Loraine, and brothers Ben, Tom, and Rick came up to the car.
After all the greetings were made and dinner was had, we sat in the living room and talked for a while, and to be quite honest I was feeling pretty good about things.
As the evening came to a close, it was time to say goodnight.
"It was very nice to meet you, Mr. Johnson," I said to Jen's father. "Likewise Ed. Now you be sure to get yourself some sleep, you're going to have to be up pretty early in the morning.
"I am?" I said. He looked confused. Then he looked at Jen.
"Didn't you tell him?"
"Oh," Jen said, "I forgot.
"Forgot what?" I asked.
"Well" said her father proudly, "every year I ask one of the boys to go and bring back the fresh turkey for the Thanksgiving meal." He paused. "This year I thought I'd ask you.
Although I was flattered by Mr. Johnson's offer, I was also shocked. I mean, sure, I'd killed animals before—a frog here, a frog there, a few hundred ants underneath a magnifying glass. But I'd never actually stalked and killed wild game, and to be honest, I didn't think I particularly wanted to.
Her father just stood there waiting for a response. "That'd be great," I said.
"That a boy," he said smiling. He turned and went to bed. Jen smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
I lay in bed that night, staring at the ceiling, wondering how I was going to explain to Jen's father that not only had I never really killed anything, but that I barely even knew how to shoot a gun. I could see the disappointment in his face. And her brothers—I'd never be able to look one of them in the eye. I didn't sleep a wink.
At the first sign of light I went out to the hunting shed. There I found camouflage vests, camouflage face paints, bright orange hats with ear flaps, crossbows, polarized glasses with yellow lenses, and of course, the gun rack. "I can't do it;" I thought to myself, "I'll just go back in, thank them for the offer, but tell them no."
I turned and was halfway to the house when it hit me. "Jen"
I turned around and went back to the shed. "I can't embarrass her in front of her family," I thought.
So I got ready for the hunt. First, I slipped on the camouflage pants, then the shirt, the hunting vest, and the boots. And looking in a small mirror on the wall, I stood and painted my face until the only things that weren't dark green, olive, or black were the whites of my eyes. Then I grabbed the biggest of the shotguns off the wall. Maybe it was true love, or maybe just too little sleep, but when I walked out of the shed I was ready to kill, and all but kicked open the kitchen door with my excitement.
The family had just sat down for breakfast. No one said a word for a moment. Then finally Jen's father spoke. "Mornin' Ed" he said.
"Good morning, sir," I answered.
"How'd you sleep last night?"
"Not so well Mr. Johnson, but don't you worry," I said proudly, "I'm going to bring you that fresh turkey." I stood there smiling proudly, but to my surprise, I got no response. I was confused, and after what seemed like forever, Mr. Johnson spoke.
"Well, Ed" he said, "I must say that I'm glad to hear that, but you know, if you go in like that, you're libel to scare the woman at the poultry counter to death.
My face turned a bright camo-red, but the family was kind enough to keep their laughter to a five-minute maximum. After changing clothes I sat down and joined them for breakfast. An hour later I set out to McDell's Poultry Farm, 45 miles down the road.
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