Although she is incredibly stressed out by her job and the upcoming winter holidays, Melinda’s mother insists on cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving (despite the fact that this has led to culinary disasters many times before). After working all night on plans for her store, she forgets to defrost the bird, and then attempts to hurriedly unfreeze it by pouring hot water on it. Melinda notes that although her family has little in common, her mom believes that cooking on Thanksgiving helps to hold them all together.
The Sordino family’s terrible Thanksgiving is comical, but also indicative of their deep problems. Convinced that making a perfect Thanksgiving will fix her dysfunctional family—that a healthy family is a function of how it looks on “special” days rather than how it behaves on all days—Melinda’s mother insists on making a turkey, blindly ignoring how futile her goal is. This willful ignorance is indicative of her attitude as a wife and a mother.
The chaos continues as the turkey floats in the sink in a bath of warm water, and Melinda’s mother deals with a crisis at work. Melinda refers to the floating turkey as a “turkeyberg” and comments that she feels as if she is on the Titanic. Her father, meanwhile, buys donuts so that the family will have something to eat. Melinda attempts to drink orange juice, but cannot because of her “scabby lips.” As Melinda’s father watches TV, her mother attempts to boil the turkey in order to defrost it, and Melinda retreats to her bedroom.
Melinda’s description of her family’s various Thanksgiving mishaps are largely amusing, but she cannot fully hide how much her family’s problems upset her. Even drinking orange juice is difficult because of her damaged lips. She eventually goes to her bedroom, both to isolate herself and so that she doesn’t have to see her parents fighting with each other. She hides from herself and them.
Melinda hides in her bedroom and reads magazines as her parents fight. When she emerges, she sees her father chopping the frozen bird apart with a hatchet, attempting to hack it into pieces so that they can finally cook it. Her mother, meanwhile, watches disapprovingly from a window. Later, while Melinda’s mom leaves to deal with a crisis at her store, her father washes the turkey with detergent and hot water; it has become dirty from the hatchet, and from falling on the ground. He attempts to be jocular, but quickly loses his temper as he fails at turkey cooking (Melinda, meanwhile, watches TV). When she reenters, her father is boiling the turkey in a disgusting soup; the bones sit next to him on the cutting board. The two decide to order pizza instead of eating a turkey dinner, and Melinda’s father buries the soup and bones next to their dead dog.
Melinda’s father’s decision to chop the turkey with a hatchet only increases the day’s absurdity and dysfunction. Like Melinda’s mother, her father is too stubborn and blind to realize that the turkey is unsalvageable. Both are so concerned with appearances that they keep trying to have a traditional family meal even when it is clearly impossible. This attitude mirrors the way that they act towards Melinda, yelling at her over and over again even though this technique obviously does not produce results. The day ends, meanwhile, with an actual burial of the turkey bones—a scene that is both morbid and comic.