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Illustration by John Stricker
I’m a little worried about Thanksgiving this year.
It has nothing to do with family getting together or where we’ll all converge; it’s the feast itself. Specifically, will there be enough left for everyone after our 15-year-old gets finished? In the last year, the boy has developed an appetite that makes locusts look picky.
His metamorphosis into a teenager is like that scene in An American Werewolf in London where David Naughton becomes a werewolf for the first time…only slower, and not on all fours.
No pizza is safe, or burrito, frozen chicken nuggets, loaves of bread or boxes of cereal…except the Fiber One. Right now a snack to him is pretty much aisle five at Safeway. It’s no coincidence my wife’s interest in couponing has grown in direct proportion to Joe’s appetite. Just to make our groceries last a little longer each month, I’m thinking about talking to the folks who invented those bear-proof trash cans, to see if they could develop a line for teenage boys. We haven’t had a dinner leftover since May, and then only because it was stir-fry. I wish there were a high school team for pantry rummaging because he would be varsity and his mother and I would be talking scholarships. When he was little and got a speck of food on his face while eating, you would just reach over and wipe it away. Now if you did that, you could lose a finger. The other night things were very quiet in his bedroom. I went to check and caught him “Googling” “quadruple bacon cheeseburgers” on the computer. There’s no safe mode for that. Most amazingly, Joe is at the age where his metabolism is still able to turn all of it – from Cheetos to pot roasts – into muscle, which of course is nature’s way of helping him open cans of Red Bull more easily.
Sometimes though, his insatiable appetite has unintended consequences. One afternoon this summer, after a long hike in the Sierras, we stopped off for some hard-earned grub. Joe ordered the biggest burger they had at Colfax Max’s, and it was the size of a truck tire. He also got a mountain of fries, a side of pickles, stole onion rings from his brother Sam’s plate, and ordered three tall glasses of lemonade. And Joe was finished before I’d started on the second half of my broiled skinless chicken on wheat.
We were barely out of the parking lot when Joe suddenly clutched his belly and doubled-over in pain. Naturally, my first thought was Sam finally had enough and shivved him. But no, Sam wasn’t packing an ice pick. Joe was groaning, gritting his teeth, his eyes scrunched shut. I hadn’t seen him in agony like this since the last time we took his PlayStation away. It was so bad – this is true – we actually took him to the emergency room in Auburn. I must say, the doctor was great for not snickering as he explained what Joe experienced was nothing more than a case of eating too much, too fast. Hey, even pythons take their time swallowing large dogs. But when we arrived home a short time later, what was the first thing he did? This is also true: he went right for the pantry.
So, yeah, we’re looking forward to Thanksgiving about as much as a seal pup looks forward to Shark Week. But we figure if we organize, plan ahead, and distract him for a few minutes right when the meal is first served, everything will be all right. We just have to have our ducks in a row. Although, he might eat those too.