Thanksgiving Break

This story follows the events of my debut novel, Henry Garrison, St. Dante's Savior. You don't need to have read the novel for this to make sense (at least, I don't think so), but it certainly doesn't hurt. Hope you enjoy my first short fiction in quite a while!

The heavenly aromas of Thanksgiving wafted into Henry Garrison's nostrils, enrapturing him with their particular blend of herbaceous seasonal delights. The savory fragrance of the freshly-brined turkey, the comforting perfume of warm sage in the stuffing, the buttery bouquet of mashed potatoes. And to top it all off, the uniquely tantalizing scent of the big bowl of-
Henry's mind snapped back to reality as Ms. Tegg's monotonous recitation of the day's economics lesson hit an unexpected peak as she reached the topic of incentives. Something approaching joy filled her voice as she discussed remuneration, and it was very distracting.
The wall clock read 2:47 PM. Each whispered tick represented a miniternity. Henry mused that humanity could achieve immortality by simply dwelling in a perpetual state of feverish anticipation. He tried to focus on the lecture at hand, but ravenous thoughts of the future feast tugged incessantly at his brain like annoying little baby hands. Snorting a sigh, Henry turned and glanced out the window, past the grinning cardboard pilgrims and turkeys taped on the glass, mockingly torturous reminders of the meal lying just out of reach. Outside, the hazy mist of morning drizzle had been replaced by sunshine, glaring off tenacious puddles. Henry squinted at the brightness, then turned back to at least feign attentiveness. Freedom was close at hand. He would endure.
A palpable shudder of relief passed through the classroom when the tone signalling 3:30 PM sounded. Ms. Tegg hastily sputtered a finale to her lecture as the students rose from their desks and a murmur began to rise, her voice straining in a final addendum that a long weekend should not by any means represent a vacation from studying. This grim reminder did little to quell the enthusiasm in the room, which quickly spilled into the hallway, joining that of the other hordes of students pooling outside in their hasty march to liberty.
Henry ran into Doug Seville amidst the jubilant throng as Doug rubbed his hands together, cupping them and blowing warm breath into the gap between his thumbs. "I feel like this sunshine is just a big trick or something. I swear it was warmer when it was raining," he groused. "I need to get me some of those gloves like yours."
"Yeah, they are pretty handy," said Henry.
"Hand-y? Did you do that on purpose?"
"Do what? Oh, wait, jeez, I wish!"
"Well, I'll give you a thumbs up regardless," said Doug.
"Do you do that on purpose?" said Henry.
"Damn right I did," said Doug. "Pun game strong."
"God, I can't believe we finally made it to Thanksgiving!" Henry said. "I was dying in class. All I can think about is food."
"What else is new?" said Doug.
"Hey," came a voice behind Henry as he felt a slight nudge at his shoulder. Denise Hargrove emerged beside him with a wide smile. "What're you guys talking about? Let me guess: Henry's going on about food."
"Oh man," said Doug, rolling his eyes, "it's like you two are married already."
Henry felt his face warm with a sudden rush of blood. "Shut up!"
Denise laughed. "I knew it! What was it this time? Was Henry going on about the crab salad again?"
"What salad?" said Doug.
"Oh lord, I'm surprised you don't know," said Denise. "Henry hasn't been able to shut up about it all month."
"First I've heard of it," said Doug. "What is it?"
"It's something my mom makes every year for Thanksgiving. It's amazing; I don't really know how else to describe it. Like, I enjoy the turkey and the mashed potatoes and everything, but the crab salad is really what makes the meal for me, and it's the only time all year we ever have it."
"Wow, you're really into this," said Doug. "So what is it? It has crab in it, I assume, but what else?"
"It's crab and lettuce and mayo and eggs and, like, pepper and salt and whatever. Probably something else, I don't know. But I know it's relatively simple and basic, and it works because it gives the flavor of the crab a chance to shine without being too overpowered by anything else."
"I don't know that I've ever seen him this excited about anything," said Doug to Denise. Then he paused. "I mean, not...you...I'm not saying..."
"It's fine," Denise said, shaking her head. "Honestly, I'm just hoping to try some of it so I can find out what all the fuss is about."
"If Henry's even willing to give any up," Doug laughed. "Well, put me in for some too if I can get in on that. Even if it sounds kind of gross."
"Blasphemy," said Henry. "Just for that, maybe I won't give you any at all."
"Eh, don't be so crabby," said Doug. He pivoted to face Henry and Denise, and waved his hand. "I'm off. Hope you two have a great night. Henry, I'll see you Friday, right?"
"You got it," said Henry. "Seeya."
"Friday, huh?" said Denise as Doug departed. "What're you doing until then?"
"Unfortunately, I've got a lot of homework that I'd like to get out of the way, so I'll probably be working on that tonight. And then, tomorrow...you know, Thanksgiving stuff. You?"
"I'm supposed to hang out with the girls tonight," she said. "But I was thinking maybe we could hang out tomorrow night after dinner? I'd rather not wait too long for some crab salad."
"Wouldn't dream of depriving you," Henry said. "Sure, that sounds great. I'll hit you up after we eat."
"Awesome. Good luck with the homework," she said with a wink.
"Thanks. Super psyched to dive into some Middle English poetry," he said, then sighed. "Really can't wait for that crab salad."

Henry arrived home and was greeted by exactly the scene he was expecting upon opening the door: his mother in the kitchen, preparing some dishes for tomorrow's dinner ahead of time, while his father sat on the couch watching some cooking show. Henry practically danced into the kitchen.
"Hey, mom," he said, "what're you cooking right now? Need any help making the crab salad? Or is it done already?"
"Hi honey," his mother responded slowly. "Um, I have some bad news about that."
Henry's heart skipped a couple beats, then reluctantly resumed its work. "Bad news?" he queried, his voice choked and nasal.
"Yes," his mother said wearily. "I don't think we'll be able to do crab salad this year. I guess there was a delay to crab season this year, some toxic algae thing or something, and so crab is a lot harder to come by this year and very expensive. They did have some at the market, but...it's just completely out of our budget right now."
"It's too expensive? Can't we just get a little then?"
"Not enough to even be worth bothering with. I'm really sorry, but you know money is tight right now. After the mortgage payment this month, it's a wonder we even had enough to buy the turkey."
Henry stood there in silence, feeling slightly nauseous. He cursed himself for spending his last $20 on an old used Nintendo game from the local comic book store. But as he turned to head upstairs, an idea suddenly struck him.
"If I pay for the crab," he said, "you can still make the crab salad, right?"
"Sure," said his mother, "everything else is easy. But where are you going to get the money? Don't go bothering your grandmother about this, she's got her own financial problems."
"I have an idea," said Henry as he ascended the staircase. Once in his room, he shut the door and sat down on his bed. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and fiddled around with it for a moment, then nervously selected an option from his contacts.
"Yes?" said the voice on the other end after three beeps.
"It's Henry Garrison," Henry replied. "I was wondering if I could talk to you about that job we discussed a few weeks ago. I know we haven't really discussed it since then, but I'm pretty much healed up now and I could honestly use some money. So do you, I don't know, have anything for me?"
After a few seconds of silence, the voice on the other side said, "There is one thing I've been wanting to have you do. We can be out there first thing tomorrow morning if you have a few hours to spare."
"First thing tomorrow morning?" said Henry. "I was kinda hoping to sleep in; is there any way-"
"First thing tomorrow, or it waits until next week," said the voice.
"OK, OK, fine, first thing tomorrow," said Henry. "Thank you."

Henry blinked rapidly as he entered the gym, the bright fluorescent light within a stark contrast to the slowly receding darkness outside. He heard the clockwork thumping of a couple young women running on treadmills near the wall to his left, nearly synchronized, ear buds in and oblivious to his presence. It was just as well. He poked around the otherwise deserted gym until he heard a gruff voice call him from inside a private room. Entering, he was greeted by the men he had spoken to on the phone the previous night, as well as a stranger. The stranger cut an imposing figure, standing at roughly six inches taller then Henry, all muscle and angular lines like a living action figure. Henry began to regret not eating breakfast that morning.
"Good morning," said James Foley with an off-putting amount of energy, given the time of day. "Glad you could make it out."
"You're late," grumbled Tom Tyker, eyes never raising from his phone. "Bad enough we had to take a red eye to get here. You could at least have the respect to show up on time."
"He's only six minutes late," said Foley.
"Six minutes I'm never getting back," said Tyker.
Henry wondered what the two men had been up to since his last encounter with them. At the time, they had offered him a somewhat vague job opportunity on the tail end of a whirlwind October that had included Henry finding a pair of enchanted gloves that granted him strength, speed and resilience beyond his imagining, and using said abilities to battle and narrowly defeat an otherworldly threat. Today, still coping with his powers but having had time for his adrenaline to fade and his wounds to heal, this meeting seemed to Henry peculiarly ordinary.
"Now, now," said Foley. "It's good to see you again, Henry! You're probably wondering what it is we're going to have you do today."
"Yeah, that, and also who that guy is," Henry said, pointing at the stranger.
"The plan for today is that we are going to administer some tests, to help us determine the best role for you going forward," said Foley.
"You're not going to stick me full of needles, are you?" said Henry.
"No, not at all," said Foley.
"Not yet, anyway," murmured Tyker.
"Which leads me to your next question," said Foley, gesturing at the stranger. "This fellow is Dutch McKean. He's a, ah, mixed martial arts combatant of some renown."
"Ohhhh yeah, I think I've heard of you," Henry said, looking up into McKean's eyes. "You were a really big deal, what, five years ago or so?"
McKean's eyebrows raised and he grunted. "Wow. Huh," he said. "OK."
"No offense," said Henry. "I meant it as a compliment. I'm tired, I don't know. Pleased to meet you, really."
"Anyway," said Foley, "Dutch here was kind enough to come out this morning to help us with our tests."
"My pleasure," said McKean, never taking his eyes off Henry.
"Oh no, wait a minute...you don't mean...?" said Henry.
"Oh yes! I think it's best that you two spar a bit. I know you've got some interesting abilities, Henry, but I want to see just how far they go and where you have room for improvement. Really, it's a wonderful opportunity for you," said Foley.
"You've seen me fight," said Henry, "so I don't really see the point of this." He glanced over at McKean. "Respectfully, of course."
"Honestly," said McKean, shrugging, "I don't really see the point either. Look at him. He kind of makes me sad."
"What?" said Henry sharply.
"I know we've seen you fight," said Foley. "But we need some more context. We need to see you in a situation that is less, shall we say, life or death. So please, bear with us. And you did say you wanted to get paid, so..."
"Fine," said Henry. He looked down at his leather gloves, the secret source of his power, and said, "It's OK if I just fight dressed like this, right?"
"Whatever you prefer," said Foley.
"Weirdo," said Tyker.
"Good," said Henry. He motioned his head at McKean. "Are you gonna wear gloves or anything?"
"Yeah, I'm wearing gloves. Don't worry."
"I'm not worried for me."
"Ho ho, this kid, said McKean, strapping the gloves on. "So. Shall we?"
Henry couldn't help but have a smirk as he squared up with his much larger opponent. He had gotten away with wearing his enchanted gloves for this fight, so despite the massive disparity between his and his opponent's size, skill and experience, there was no way he could lose. You just couldn't beat magic. Or whatever it was.
Henry was struck with a flurry of strikes before he even realized it, to his face, chest and side. Thanks to the protection afforded him by the gloves, they were not exactly painful so much as they were shocking and annoying. He grunted and swung at McKean awkwardly, conscious of the fact that hitting his opponent at full strength could be dangerous or even fatal. He didn't even come close to connecting.
McKean was now behind him somehow, his fists thudding against Henry's kidneys and the back of his head. As Henry whirled to face his opponent, McKean rushed at his legs to take the boy down. McKean's arms slipped off ineffectually, and he grunted in surprise as Henry hopped backwards.
"That's new," said McKean, wiping at his nose. He turned to Foley and said, "You weren't kidding when you said he was an oddball. I can tell he's tough. But he ain't good."
"Ain't good how?" protested Henry.
"Ain't good at fighting," said McKean. He advanced on Henry. "Go on, hit me."
Unsure again of how forceful his attack should be, Henry threw a jab at McKean, who easily ducked it and punched him several more times in the gut. Henry swiped at him a few more times, but made no contact. Henry lurched back, embarrassed.
"You're choreographing your moves way too much," said McKean. "I think I know where you're going to punch before you do." He punched Henry twice in the ribs and once in the cheek, then danced back. "But damn, my hands are starting to hurt. What're you made of, anyway?"
"Look man," said Henry, feeling a familiar warmth creep into his cheeks, "I appreciate the constructive criticism and everything, but I don't really want to even fight you. I'm only here because I want some freaking crab salad."
"What?" McKean said, laughing in astonishment.
"Hmm?" said Foley, cocking his head.
"What the hell is crab salad?' said Tyker.
"My mom makes it," said Henry. "It's got crab and lettuce and mayo and-"
Henry was interrupted by a punch in the jaw. "No instincts at all," muttered McKean, shaking his head.
"OK, really?" fumed Henry. His stomach had turned sour with embarrassment. "I was trying to say something!"
"Never know when the enemy is going to attack," said McKean, darting forward for another assault. Henry flinched. Unthinkingly, his fist swung out towards McKean. This time, he made contact, his glove thumping up against the fighter's side. He heard a crack, and McKean dropped to one knee, breathless.
"Oops! Sorry, man," Henry said, cringing. "You alright?"
"Wha-," McKean gasped. "Hah-"
"Yikes" said Henry. He glared at Foley and Tyker. "Is that enough? Are we done now?"
Foley's eyes were wide as he surveyed the crumpled combatant clutching at his ribs and groaning obscenities. "I, um, I suppose so. That definitely was...enlightening."
"Good," said Henry. He extended a hand to help McKean up, but the fighter swatted it away with a most ungrateful epithet. Henry looked back at his employers. "Can one of you give me a ride home?"

"I think the fact that it's so simple is the best part," said Henry. "The crab really gets to shine, you know? It's not overshadowed by anything."
"Oh my god, enough!" said Tyker. Foley had stayed back at the gym to help the injured McKean get some medical attention, leaving Tyker as Henry's chauffeur. "I have zero interest in your family's weird gross food."
"You only say that because you haven't tried it," said Henry, gazing out the passenger window. The repair work going on downtown had temporarily halted for the holiday, and the rising sun shone upon heavy machinery sitting abandoned outside shattered storefronts. Henry turned back to face Tyker. "So how am I getting paid? Check, cash, direct deposit?"
"Probably a check," said Tyker. "But I need you to fill some forms out. We'll hand them in to get processed, and accounting should mail you your check in a couple weeks."
"A couple weeks?" gasped Henry. "What do you mean? I need that money now! I've got to go get some crab. Why do you think I called you in the first place?"
"Look, kid," said Tyker, "I'm not your personal ATM. You might think you're special, but you've got to go through the same process as everybody else. Everything has to go through the proper channels. This is your first job, I take it?"
"Come on," said Henry. "I called you guys up for some work because I'm desperate. I need that money now."
"Cry me a river. I barely got any sleep last night because I had to fly out here to watch you get pathetically beat up for a few minutes. I'm not some puppet at your beck and call. This hasn't exactly been a thrill for me either."
"Sorry, that's not what I meant," said Henry. He has quiet for a few moments, then said, "So there's really nothing I can do? I just have to wait?"
"Welcome to the workforce," said Tyker. "One agonizing disappointment after another. I'm going to let you out up at the corner, OK?"
"Sure, fine," mumbled Henry. The car crawled to a halt and the car doors unlocked with a mechanical crunching sound. Henry hesitated, looked at Tyker, then looked back out the window and opened the door. "Have a happy Thanksgiving," he said, and exited, closing the door behind him.
As Henry walked toward his house, he felt a tightness in his chest. His face scrunched up involuntarily. Crestfallen, dark thoughts brewed within his brain, despair clouding his mind like a poisonous fog. So consumed was he by this misery that he failed to hear the click of a car door opening, nor the footsteps behind him. He was startled by the sound someone clearing their throat.
"Hey," said Tom Tyker, as Henry turned to face him. "Here." Tyker pushed a small wad of money into Henry's hand. "Go get your damn crab."
"What?" said Henry. "Really? Oh, thank you! I'll pay you back, I promise! You don't know how much this means to me."
"I think I do," said Tyker. He stepped back into the vehicle, closed the door behind him, and sped off. Henry gazed dumbly for a minute at the crumpled bills in his hand, then checked the time on his phone. The grocery store should be open by now, he thought, and he hurried away in the opposite direction of his home.

"I have to say," said Denise Hargrove as she sat by her living room's glowing fireplace with Henry, "you were right. That crab salad was really delicious."
"It's even better the second day," Henry said with a yawn. "The flavors have more time to mingle."
"I can't wait," said Denise. She took a sip of chamomile tea. "I'm glad you were able to come over tonight."
"Me too," said Henry. "You sure your parents do mind me being down here alone with you?"
"Please. They remember you from elementary school. They think you're a sweetheart."
"Huh. Is that a good thing?"
"Saves me some hassle," said Denise. "They don't exactly love Roderick, which was always a headache." She immediately regretted mentioning her ex as she turned to see Henry staring inscrutably at her. "Oh gosh, sorry, I don't mean to bring him up right now."
"It's no big deal," said Henry. He looked back toward the fire. "Actually, it's funny you mentioned elementary school. That reminds me of something."
"Really? What?"
"It was...nah, never mind, it's dumb."
"OK, now you have to tell me."
Henry stared into the flickering flames. "Do you remember when we were in that play together in sixth grade?"
"Oh yeah," said Denise. "The Aristocats was such a weird choice for them to adapt into a stage play."
"Right?" chuckled Henry. "So on opening night, when we were all backstage getting our makeup done and everything, there was this one moment when we were right beside each other, and when I looked at you, I was like...overcome, I guess?"
"What do you mean?"
"It was like all of a sudden, I just saw you differently. I guess it was the beginning of puberty or something. It was the first time I ever looked at a girl and was legitimately attracted to them. Does that make sense? At that moment, you were just the most beautiful girl in the world to me, and I had absolutely no idea how to feel or what to do. Then you asked me what I why I was staring at you, and I just shook it off and moved on."
"Really?" said Denise. "I really don't remember that, but...wow."
"You wouldn't have," said Henry. "It was just this crazy moment for me, the first time I felt....that for somebody. And now, all these years later...I mean, it's funny."
"What's funny?" said Denise. She looked into Henry's eyes and smiled.
"Just...this, I don't know," said Henry, looking away quickly. "Anyway, I thought you might find that interesting."
"Thank you for telling me," said Denise. "That's really cute." She watched as Henry picked up the paper plate beside him with his mostly consumed slice of pumpkin pie on it and took the last bite.The two sat beside each other in silence, the fire cracking and popping.
"I'll be right back," said Denise as she grabbed Henry's plate and her mug. "Do you want anything from the kitchen?"
"I'm good," said Henry. "Do you need any help with that?"
"I'm fine," said Denise. "Just relax."
When she returned a few minutes later, she saw Henry slumped forward, snoring lightly. The fire cast dancing shadows upon his gently bobbing face. Denise considered waking him, but ultimately just sat beside him and put her hand on his. His pale fingers seemed even more so in contrast to the black gloves he had recently taken to wearing. Henry unconsciously exhaled as Denise rubbed her thumb on the back of his hand, relishing this quiet moment together. As she peered into the flames, she silently hoped that it wouldn't be the last such moment.

For more Henry Garrison content, you can purchase a copy of the book in either paperback on Kindle form right here or preview the first chapter on this very blog right here!

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