TALK about trouble!It was Thanksgiving Day and we were at my grandmother's house, as usual: carloads of relatives jammed into three floors, not including the attic and basement. Good thing there was a basketball court in the driveway, a woods out back. We - everyone - would stay 'til late at night. I was glad about that because Thanksgiving was practically the only day all year I got to play with my cousin John. We used to live near each other, but then his mother got transferred to another city. She's a computer whiz. John and I saw eye to eye about many things. Sports were in, girls out. School was OK. We loved Mad magazine, twisty pretzels, exploring, trying out new things. Once in the winter we thought it'd be fun to fill the pool in back of our apartment building with water and dive in. It wasn't. Another time we tried washing our own clothes, but instead of using soap we accidentally put in corn starch. You get the picture. It was only 9 a.m. but already the house was in an uproar. Ours was a "traditional" family, which meant that most of the women were working like crazy, cooking and cleaning, setting the table, calling out instructions, "you do this, I'll do that," racing up and down the stairs, my grandmother in charge. Meanwhile, most of the men were outside playing basketball. You could hear their loud voices inside the TV room, where John and I were watching a Thanksgiving Day parade on the box, along with a bunch of other kids - siblings and cousins - large and small. What a racket! John went to say something ("Quiet down!") when he was interrupted by our oldest cousin, Frances, a sixth-grader, red-haired, tall, and skinny as a strand of spaghetti, who'd appeared in the doorway. "Look what I found," she said in that weird voice of hers. We all looked. In her hands was an enormous chocolate Easter egg, the size of a softball, wrapped in tinfoil. Some of the little kids, oohing and aaahing, got up for a closer look. John and I pretended not to care. Where had she gotten the egg anyway? Was it left over from last Easter? "Can we eat it?" four-year-old cousin Evelyn asked. Her eyes were wide, as if she'd never seen a chocolate egg before. You know how little kids are. She even licked her lips. I knew the answer almost before it came out of Frances's mouth. She was as stubborn as a mule. "No!" And with that she spun on her heels and was gone. Evelyn stuck out her tongue and sat back down. So did the others. "Hey, John," I whispered a moment later. "Let's go see if we can find the egg. We'll cut it in two. You can have half and I'll have the other, and we won't give Miss Spaghetti any." "Good idea," John whispered back. It took us all of 15 minutes to find the egg - way up on the third floor on a chair in one of the bedrooms. Where Frances was was anyone's guess. "Time to eat," John said hungrily. "Peel off the tinfoil." I started to, but his hand on my arm stopped me. Someone was coming. We could hear footsteps creaking down the attic stairs. "Quick! Let's get outta here!" An instant later, egg in hand, John and I were in the living room, wondering what to do next. Adults rushed by, this way and that, busy as ever. So busy that they wouldn't notice a couple of boys chowing down chocolate? Doubtful. John had the same thought. "We better not eat the egg in here," he said. "We'll get caught. How about the woods out back?" Well, to get to the woods you had to go through the back door. And to get to the back door you had to go through the one room in the house where you'd expect to find adults on Thanksgiving - the kitchen. Without thinking, we rushed in, only to find ... no one! The place was deserted. Empty. Luckily for us, everyone was, at that moment, elsewhere. The one thing we did see - on tables, counters, radiator, refrigerator - was food, all of it waiting to be cooked. It was still early. "Come on," John said. We ran for the door, when whose voices did we hear coming up the back steps? That's right, Frances, along with my mother and grandmother, returning to the kitchen, where they'd go back to work. I was holding the egg. "Here, John! Hide this!" I threw it at him. He caught it right next to the stove. On top of the stove was an uncooked turkey the size of an ostrich in a metal baking tray. John looked frantically around ("Where can I hide this thing?"), sucked in his breath, and ... stuffed the egg inside the turkey! There was a pot of stuffing next to the turkey, but no one had stuffed it yet. And you know what a turkey looks like without stuffing, with that big hole in it. Egg meets turkey. Just in time. The door opened: In they came - Mom, Grandma, Frances; out we went. Whew - that was a close one! "Hey, boys, how about some basketball?" It was my Uncle Dan. He and a bunch of other men, my father among them, were sitting on the grass, taking a breather. Sweat rolled down their faces. Their shirts were soaked. They'd been playing for hours. John and I looked at each other and shrugged. Why not? We had lots of fun playing basketball with the men, hide-and-seek with all the other kids, climbing trees in the woods, running around the neighborhood. We even took a walk downtown. We were the only ones on Main Street; people stay home on Thanksgiving. Five hours went by; we completely forgot about that egg. Then we heard, "Dinner!" You know how hungry you get on Thanksgiving? I ran for the house as fast as I could, up the back steps and into the kitchen, washed my hands in the sink, and went into the dining room. I don't know about you, but our family was so many that two tables were always set; a big one and a small one - for little squirts. I took a seat at the big table, drooling I was so hungry, with all those delicious smells coming from the kitchen, and waited to be served. John sat down across from me. The moment was finally here, for all at once the kitchen door opened, and in came the adults with the food. They put the food on the table - one large enough to seat 20 - moved things around, and before I knew it I had a big plate of Thanksgiving dinner in front of me: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce. Yummy! We said grace and then ... we started to eat. I was eating my favorite food, turkey with gravy, shoveling it in as fast I could, when my Uncle Dan said in a loud voice, "Wait a minute. Something's wrong." "What's wrong?" my grandmother asked, looking worried. She never wanted anything to be wrong. Not on Thanksgiving. My uncle said, "This stuffing tastes funny." "What does it taste like?" "Just a minute," he said, putting a forkful of stuffing inside his mouth. He chewed for what seemed a long time, eyebrows scrunched up, then swallowed. "It tastes like ... chocolate." As he said the word my own fork dropped onto my plate, and impulsively, I threw my hands up over my face. I guess I didn't want anyone to see me. Pretty stupid, huh? But you know, I also didn't want to see anyone else. Because I knew, at that moment, if I looked across the table at John I'd probably start to laugh. And, worse, if I happened to see my father I'd probably start to ... cry. And I didn't want to do either. Laugh or cry. So I kept my hands up, hiding my eyes. Two things happened at once. When my grandmother heard the word chocolate, she jumped up and ran around the table, scooping stuffing off of everyone's plate. She didn't want anyone eating stuffing that tasted funny. At the same time, when my cousin Frances heard the word, she got up and, not so anyone would notice, left the table. Where was she going? You guessed it: the third floor to check on her egg. Two seconds later she was back down and announced in that pebbly voice of hers, "Someone stole my chocolate Easter egg, and I think I know who did it." I slowly lowered my hands; she was looking right at me. Seated next to her was my father. I'd never seen him look more angry or upset. His mouth a-scowl, his face, all mushed together, resembled a school art project gone wrong. Uh, oh. I knew that I was in for it now. So did my heart, which had mysteriously come loose and begun to travel up into my throat. You know the feeling? Bet you do. Only this time, before my heart had a chance to pick up speed, my father's scowl turned into a smile, and all the adults, my Uncle Dan and grandmother among them, started laughing. They laughed long and hard. John and I just sat there. Then all at once my father reached down into his lap and pulled out the enormous chocolate Easter egg, still wrapped in tinfoil. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh. What had happened? They'd tricked us, that's what. The egg hadn't cooked and melted inside the turkey. They'd found it beforehand and had taken it out. It was all a practical.... "Joke's on you, boys." My father handed Frances the egg. She'd eat it later, all by herself. She looked as surprised as John and I did. "You get something, too," my father said to us, as my grandmother went around putting spoonfuls of stuffing back on everyone's plate. "After dinner you two boys get to wash the dishes. How's that?" Laugh. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh. John and I looked at each other and started laughing, too. After all, it could've been worse.
'Kidspace' is a place on The Home Forum pages where kids can findstories that will tickle imagin-ations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, always on a Tuesday.