A Thanksgiving Christmas Story


In William Kennedy’s novel “Ironweed,” set during the depression is a scene from the “Jungle,” a community of cardboard boxes and lean-tos populated by cripples, homeless and travelers.  Three men, Francis, Andy Which One, and Michigan Mac have two onions, two turkey sandwiches, some wine, and a bit of plum pudding.  They’re all hungry.

“You want a bite of sandwich?” Francis asked Andy.

“I got enough with the onion,” Andy said.  “But the guy in the piano box over there, he was askin’ around awhile back.  He’s got a baby there.”

“A baby?”

“Baby and wife.”

Francis snatched the remnants of the sandwich away from Michigan Mac and groped his way to the piano box.  A man was sitting cross-legged, warming himself by a small fire.

‘I hear you got a kid in here,” Francis said to the man, who looked up suspiciously, then nodded.  Francis could see the shadow of a woman curled around what looked to be the shadow of a swaddled infant.

“Got some stuff here I can’t use,” Francis said, and handed the man the full sandwich and the remnant of the second.  He gave him the plum pudding.

Later, in the distance was the faint hum of automobile engines, and then the closing of car doors.  One man shouted, “Raiders!” and some jungle people picked up their belongings and fled.  The first collapsed shacks were already burning when the men around Andy’s fire became aware.

The three men moved slowly back from the raiders who were clearly intent on destroying everything that stood.  Francis looked at the piano box as he moved past and saw it was empty.

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