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Jim Meirose

Deep Fry

Chapel Quaking by Paul Klee

Barnes read intently from the book in his lap—remove the neck and giblets from the turkey cavity. Discard or use for giblet gravy or stuffing—

Wilson interrupted him again.

Why do you want to toy with death like this? said Wilson.

Barnes looked up from his magazine.

I’m not toying with death, he said.  I’m reading about deep frying a turkey.

It’s a sin to toy with death, answered Wilson, pointing. You know that?  It’s a sin just like playing Russian roulette would be a sin.

Russian roulette?

Right.  Russian roulette.  If the turkey’s even the least bit still frozen, it’ll explode when you put it in the fryer. These turkeys are like big bombs.

Oh, and how do you know that?

That’s what I read on the Internet.

Why were you reading about deep frying a turkey on the Internet?

Oh, I don’t know.

Thinking of deep frying a turkey, Wilson?

No.  Of course not.

Then why read about it?

I read about a lot of things.


Barnes let his feet down from the table and sat upright with the magazine spread out on the table and resumed reading.

—place the turkey in the deep-fryer pot and fill with plain water until the water reaches about 1 inch below the top of the turkey—

As he read, the preacher in the church ten blocks over went on with his sermon, glaring out over his congregation with brimstone in his eyes.

Plunge your hands into the hellfire—plunge your hands in and bring them up and wash your face with the hellfire—

The preacher swayed and waved his arms and continued shouting into the air before the great crowd of believers.

Brimstone, yes, brimstone; the burning will come up all about you, the smell will be in your nose and you know what brimstone is, its really burning sulphur, its of this earth, there’s a little bit of hell on earth wherever the sulphur lies, but until you light it, its harmless–and phosphorus too, we have here on earth. That’s a component of hell, too—like a bed of hot coals, walk barefoot over a bed of hot coals, like Jesus could do if he wanted to, like maybe Jesus did when he was here on earth but maybe it didn’t get into the bible just because its not in the bible doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And, what about the devil?  If the devil is the opposite of Christ, then the devil’s feet would burn, yes, burn. Imagine the look of feet burned up by walking through hot coals—lord God, the devil—

Barnes shifted in his chair.  Wilson rose and went over to the stove and turned on the burner under a small pot of water.  Barnes continued to read.

—remove the turkey, and note where the water level reaches.  This will be your oil level line. Dry the turkey and the pot—

The preacher swayed and waved his arms as though in time to a dance tune, as he went on.

Hell is the absence of God, and is forever. You don’t need a lot of suffering in hell because its suffering enough to know you’ll be there forever and never see God—hell might be great expanses of open grassy fields where you wander forever without hunger or thirst or fatigue or anything else- -just wandering and wandering forever knowing this is all there is forever; that would be a terrible hell and it doesn’t rely on painful tortures or fire. But, purgatory is different; in purgatory, you know you’re going to see God someday, so the suffering has to be immediate and physical, torturing and tearing and ripping and burning, great pain and agonies, not just wandering, because the souls in purgatory have hope, knowing they will see God one day, knowing the suffering will be over someday, so, the suffering has to be worse than that in hell, that is the physical suffering—the burning tombs, the burning feet, but what about the wood of the suicides? Suicides go to hell, and are transformed into plants rooted in dark places all tangled together and that is their suffering, the same way a tree suffers because it’s planted in one place and can never move or dance and certainly will not see God ever and forever—

Barnes swallowed hard and read on.  The pot on the stove began to boil.  Wilson got down his coffee cup and the jar of instant coffee and the sugar.

—read the instructions that come with your turkey fryer carefully before use—

He sat on the back steps reading the instructions that came with the turkey fryer carefully, as she taunted him from the bare dirt yard pacing back and forth between the two trees that stood suffering in the yard, as she tore at her rust red hair and bugged out her eyes.

You shouldn’t even be reading that. Like you shouldn’t pick your nose and you shouldn’t scratch your crotch. It’s too dangerous to even think of deep frying a turkey; it goes against the ten commandments, have you ever bothered to read the ten commandments, Julius? Have you ever read them, you dick, you ought to have a crown of thorns jammed down on your head to make you suffer for even thinking of doing such a thing, you shouldn’t deep fry a turkey the same way you shouldn’t spit on the sidewalk!

She fell quiet an instant.  He glanced up at her smirking, then went back to his reading.

What? she said—nothing to say to me?  I bet if you sat on the pot, and passed a great plug of phlegm, you’d say something to me, or if you were condemned to death the way Jesus was, you’d say something to me, because you know what, you’re no Jesus. He was silent when they condemned him, but you, I bet, would start hooting and hollering and pleading for your life. You’re not Christ, no you could never be like Christ!

Barnes turned the page of the magazine.  Wilson poured the hot water into his cup, into which he had placed a teaspoonful of instant coffee, and the sound of the pouring was like the sound of urine flowing and Barnes laid a hand on the table and read on thinking he’d have to go to the bathroom soon.

—locate fryer outside away from roof overhangs—

Houses can burn down real easy–like old man Lute on New Year’s eve, thawing out his pipes with a blue butane torch and then across the street, in the small grey house, the boy sat waiting for his father to come home they were going to go to the uncle’s house for the yearly celebration and as he waited he sat by the front window looking over at the Lute’s house and seeing a little smoke wisping out from under the eaves and a little more time went by and the smoke grew darker and thicker and it didn’t occur to the boy to call the fire department other people call fire departments we don’t call fire departments and the flames burst out from under the eaves and burned through the roof and as the afternoon passed that section of the house burnt to the ground and somebody along the line called the fire department and the engines came and the whole back ell of the house burnt to the ground, but the main house stayed standing, they said because of a stout brick firewall built up between the two, and then new year’s came and went and it was summer and they were tearing down the ell that burnt up, or at least tearing down what was left of it, and the boy was over there with a sledgehammer pounding down a brick wall that stood standing having withstood the fire, and the wall gave way brick by brick and they all worked at it, the boy, and the Lutes, and Wanda Lute, who the boy used to watch coming down the street from school in the dead of winter everything’s in the dead of winter, and he lusted after the girl, the way boys do, and he watched her come home from school every day, but he really didn’t have a crush on her, or anything like that, he just imagined her body lying on a long wide silken-sheeted bed, naked. And for this sin Jesus died on the cross, for millions upon billions of sins like this, he died on the cross that they gave him after condemning him and he shouldered the cross and they led him away toward his death.

Wilson sat at the table drinking his instant coffee into which he had put no milk and Barnes still sat reading the magazine that lay spread out before him.

—do not use on a deck, patio or in a garage—

The oil drips, burns the floor–drips and spreads like molten lava, melting the shoesoles that walk across it and the fireman carried the unconscious man down the center of the subway train and the lava was flowing under his feet and his feet were burning, but he carried the unconscious man to the end of the lava and tossed him to safety and then melted wholly down into the lava, dead–and suddenly the unconscious man got up and ran and was safe from the lava and he ran down the subway tunnel and the Bronx mental patient stood before the night court judge and admitted throwing trash into the subway, onto the long steel tracks that weigh a ton, and did it say somewhere that the boy stood on the blazing deck imagine standing on a blazing deck, and Willie Lute, Wanda’s brother, also stood in the burned out ell swinging the sledgehammer and the bricks fell one by one and then Jesus fell, under the growing weight of the cross as the sins piled up higher and higher and the cross grew heavier and heavier, and he went down.

Barnes shoved the chair back from the table and brought the magazine down into his lap while Wilson sat finishing off the dregs of his coffee Barnes read further on in the magazine, about the deep frying turkey.

—do not fill the pot with oil while it is sitting on the cooking stand—

Can you believe it? he said—my cousin married Willie Lute—her name’s Lolette Lute, now.  That’s odd.

You mean your crazy cousin Lolette, she said.


Smiling, she shrugged and continued pouring the peanut oil into the cooking pot that sat in the grass by the stand.

They live in the Lute house, you know.

Oh really?  You mean the house where the ell burnt down years ago?  That great big place?

The same.

I would’ve thought she’d have wanted to stay with her mother.

I know, me too.  But that would have been a strain.

I don’t know. That might be true for you and me, but you never know with odd ducks like that.  They might have gotten along like peas in a pod.

That’s true.

And she came up to him—as he was carrying his cross—and her heart was broken.

Mother, he said.


Crazy Lolette Lute. My God.

Yes. And her crazy mother.


They laughed together as they lifted the full pot up to the stand.  Barnes rose from the chair by the kitchen table and carried the magazine to the window and kept on reading.

—never leave the pot unattended—

The ice-cold wind blew across the back yard where the cooker was set up.  It’d be such a sin to be so careless as to leave the cooker unattended.  But it’ll be so cold out here in the back yard on Christmas day.

And in the rain on Thanksgiving.

It poured rain on thanksgiving, and the pot had to be out in the open, and he had to be watching it. But, he took a chance and set it up just inside the garage door, taking a chance a dangerous chance because they say when there’s a mishap, and these cookers go up, they go up like a giant blowtorch. Plus, not three feet from where he had the cooker set up, he had a big can of gasoline hung with spiderwebs and filthy with dust, that if the flame got under it, it would blow like a bomb and probably take half the house with it. So realizing the great danger, he didn’t bring the cooker into the garage. For safety’s sake, he stood out in the rain, holding an umbrella over the cooker. As it rained harder, he thought he must be reaping the wages of sin, in the driving rain with the wind slicing through him, and then he remembered, that someone somewhere said that it’s because of man’s fallen nature that it’s natural for him to sin, but—to get punished here, like in this rain, is being punished much too early. Especially, when later, after the frying is done, the turkey will be brought in, put on a platter, and carved—and it may be that everyone’ll say this fried turkey is really delicious; but, he still couldn’t believe he was really doing it, as he stood there shivering in his overcoat. He thought of Wanda Lute again, and of her father, who loved to use his welding torch. He loved to use it in much the same way a devil in hell would love to use his flame thrower. He cut up old Studebakers—that’s right, he cut up what would be collectable classics today, for no good reason that anyone could see except for the thrill of it, yes, yes. Old man Lute—but, a gust of wind cut through the yard. The umbrella was getting hard to handle, nearly blowing all inside out, like they do, and you feel like a fool running after your inside out umbrella on a gusty day—and he thought this really isn’t so bad standing here with this umbrella, its only for a hour or so but what if it’s raining on Christmas day too? What if it’s raining or snowing or windy or ice cold every day its time to deep fry a turkey, and he thought to make the next turkey the normal way as Jesus passed the crowds lined up on either side of the Via Dolorosa, and the soldiers dragged a man out of the crowd by his hand, and said to him, Help this man carry his cross, you must help this man carry his cross and he thought of this Simon of Cyrene pulled out of the warm safe house of the crowd into the dangerous rainy blustering road where Jesus walked and he shouldered the cross and gave Jesus a break the way he’d been told and he knew why the soldiers had singled him out, he knew, and didn’t like it, but there wasn’t anything else to do but obey when the man’s got a razor sharp short sword drawn and they’re going to kill three people today the soldier might think, why not make it four, especially since he was the kind to get singled out to help carry the cross, he also might be the kind to get singled out for death.  Barnes sat once more at the table and kept on reading.

Why are you reading that anyway? said Wilson.  You’re not going to deep fry any turkey.

I don’t know, said Barnes—it’s such a dangerous thing to do, I think I find it fascinating.

You find the danger fascinating?

Yes. The danger aspect.

What does it say about how the turkey will taste? That’s what really counts you know.  That’s what it’s all about.

I don’t know it might say something. Let me keep on reading.

—after experimenting with various seasoning rubs, we have found that injecting the turkey with a spicy marinade produces the best results; a very moist and tasty turkey—

He stood out in the icy cold holding the umbrella over the cooker and thought what’s wrong with an old fashioned turkey anyway, why do we have to have it deep fried? Yes, old fashioned, like that top drawer in his parents’ room with all the old prayer books hung with multicolored frayed placeholder tassels and with red all around the edges of the pages, and there were pictures of saints in that prayer book, bloody saints, martyrdom, and Christ’s passion, and the blood flowed and the drawer smelled musty. He thought he had that prayer book now downstairs in his bookcase, since he took it when his father finally died.  His father who used to take him to church at five am on Sunday in the freezing cold. That’s probably where he gets the fortitude to stand out here in the freezing wind with this umbrella, because its like it was in the cold church with the heat still turned down for the night and she came up to him with a cloth in her hands—and she wiped the face of Jesus and the cloth bore the impression of Christ’s face in sweat and blood. And he stood with the umbrella letting his mind wander, and he knew the book he had out from the library one time said, They’ve got the Veronica cloth somewhere in Saint Peter’s basilica to this day but for some reason its kept buried in the dark of the mazes of tunnels and rooms in the church. No Pope has ever wanted to see it displayed—for what reason? He waved the umbrella, and thought, why do they not want to show the Veronica cloth like they do the shroud of Turin? It’d be something to be proud of. It’d really be something to be proud of, but the turkey sizzled in the pot, and the rain started to let up. He thought it must be because he’s thinking such holy thoughts, about such holy things, he’s being rewarded. Barnes turned the page.  There was yet more to read.  There sure was a lot to know about deep frying a turkey.

—injecting the turkey with a marinade sauce makes a very tender and tasty turkey. Injectors and various marinade sauces are available at most grocery stores in the herb and spices aisle—

What’s the matter you got something against old fashioned stuff, he asked her, after she brought up the idea of deep frying the turkey this year.

No, not at all.

You got something against Currier and Ives? And Norman Rockwell, or the Saturday Evening Post with that cover showing the turkey being brought into the dining room by the proud grandma who did the cooking. A huge turkey longer than she is wide. And she is very, very wide. How can she hold it, it must be so heavy.

Jesus fell the second time.

Glorification of the sin of gluttony was embodied in that picture and it was just one more sin added to the thousands of sins weighting down the cross that got heavier each step Jesus took.

It starts to talk about the taste of the turkey now, Wilson.

It does?  What does it taste like?

I don’t know yet let me keep reading.

Let turkey marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours, overnight for best flavor. Do NOT leave the turkey on the counter after marinating and do not reuse any leftover marinade.

The odor of spoiled food left out too long filled the house, and the pot of marinade lay in the refrigerator getting older and older. It’s really supposed to be thrown out because it gets rancid. You could get salmonella poisoning, and if you leave the turkey out, if your cat’s anything like my cat, the cat’ll leap up and go after the room temperature turkey. So, don’t leave it out actually don’t leave it out. Whether you’ve got a cat or not, it’s no good to leave meat out on the counter. Anyone with a brain already knows that; why do they have to say it in the book when its such a common sense thing?  Jesus moved forward shouldering the cross and the women of Jerusalem came forward and wept and he told them not to weep and they melted back into the crowd and so many people were weeping and wailing. Why did they kill him if so many people were weeping and wailing? What about the rule of the majority, if the majority of people were weeping and wailing, he should have been let go, cut loose, set free.

It all seemed wrong somehow.

Barnes’s lips moved quickly silently following the words. Wilson put his cup in the sink and ran water into it and turned and left the room.

Your turkey deep fryer comes with a turkey stand to insert into the body cavity of the turkey. Place the loop of the stand through the neck of the turkey and exit through the body cavity at the legs.

Now the stand isn’t just a stand; it’s also what you’ll use to lift the turkey from the pot, when it’s done frying. He stood on the low footstool with the noose around his neck made of steel cable with a funny knot in the noose that wasn’t a really good knot, but if it was steel cable it must have been good enough. And, they were all sad to see this man hanged, too. Why do they call it a turkey stand? It could just as well be called a turkey lifter, and the sins of the man who hanged this man who went up on the stool wearing his shroud, went into the cross. And it was, as they say, the straw that broke the camel’s back; and Jesus went down the third time, flat onto the ground, with the cross loaded with sins lying atop him. Then the soldiers stepped forward to get him up, but where was Simon of Cyrene? He was supposed to have helped Jesus with the cross. How did he manage to sneak away? It doesn’t say anything about that in the bible—he probably was helping Christ carry the cross, and he was thinking, How do I sneak away from this job? How do I get away from this job—and so probably, at the first opportunity, when the soldiers weren’t looking, he went and let go of the cross, letting all the weight once more go on Christ’s shoulders—then he melted back into the crowd, and went straight home to wash the blood and sweat from his body. He didn’t even know that he had felt the weight of all sins, past, present, and future on his shoulders. He didn’t even know that the bath he took then just washed away all the memories of having helped carry the cross. He just dried himself off, and sat in a chair by the side of the room, glad to be clean and away from that place.  Picking up a book, he began to read alongside of Barnes, who read faster and faster.

—tie legs together with a piece of string—

The man who’d taken on the role of executioner put his hand on the lever of the crane they’d use to hoist this man dressed in a shroud into oblivion, But, another, heavy man came out of nowhere, and put his hand on the executioner’s hand.

I can’t let you do it, he said.

The steel cable lay twisted on the ground at the construction site.  It was of the same size around as the twisted steel rope decorations at the Lone Star restaurant. The way that was bent, they must have heated it red hot before twisting it into artistic shapes—maybe done by a blacksmith of some kind, or at least years ago this would have been done by a blacksmith. Plus, the artist stood before the canvas, her brush flying, the paint spattering all around, and the tripod was just like the stand for deep frying the turkey. The only difference was it was a tripod not a four legged stand like the one for the turkey; and, the building she was painting was out across the valley; yes she was like Hitler, just like Adolph Hitler, where the only art she could do was of buildings, or rooms. Neither of them could do people; people were beyond them both. It might have something to do with some kind of pathology; but, at last they reached the Golgotha, where the crucifixion would be done. He put down the cross and stood there as they rudely stripped him of his garments.

Barnes looked up from the magazine for a minute. He looked over toward the door Wilson had gone out of, and he thought for an instant he wanted Wilson to come back in, it had been good to have Wilson in the room while he was reading, but it’s a free country. Wilson can go wherever he wants; so Barnes’ eyes fell back into the magazine, and it seemed the article was going on forever.  He read on.

—heating the Oil and Adding Turkey—

The heavy man’s hand stayed pressing the executioner’s, keeping him from pulling the LIFT control lever to kill the condemned man.

I don’t want you deep frying any damned turkey. What?

I could stop you. I could stop you easy.

I could get you in a bear hug.

I could get you in a half nelson.

I could get you in a figure-four leg lock, like I used to know how to do.

I could do one of these things, and kick out, and tip over your turkey cooker, and all the scalding oil would splash out then, and; there would be the biggest mess and maybe there would even be a big puddle of fire, if the oil caught.

What? What are you talking about?

And they crucified him.

Use a high-quality cooking oil that has a high (450 F preferably) smoking point, such as canola or peanut oil.

They sat there staring at what’s just been done. They really did it, they really, really did it.

High smoking point, high flash point, nonsense. A naked flame will do the job every time.

Popcorn at the movies is cooked in oil.

Fries at White Castle are cooked with oil.

Barnes looked up suddenly and thought, here’s a question; if its so deadly dangerous to deep fry a turkey, why isn’t it just as deadly dangerous to cook the fries at White Castle, or at McDonalds? The oil is just as hot, and they don’t even wear gloves. I know that’s true, I’ve watched them. Oh, well keep reading. It was just a thought. Sizzle.

A worker at Pathmark stood mopping a spill in aisle seventeen.  Rogers came up with a wide rusty shopping cart.

Say there, said Rogers.


What’s the smoking point of the various oils you sell?

What? said the worker, quizzically.

I said what’s the smoking point of the various oils you sell? I need an oil with a smoking point of at least four hundred fifty degrees. Do you have a cooking oil with a smoking point of four hundred fifty degrees?

I don’t know, said the worker.

Rogers eyed him.

Let me get the manager, said the worker.

Oh, never mind. I’ll just get canola oil. The recipe says canola oil. Where’s the canola oil?

How much do you need?

Five gallons.

Aisle thirty-seven.

All right.

Rogers walked away.

The worker kept on with his mopping.

Why did he ask me that question about the smoking point of the oils, when he already knew what kind of oil he was going to buy? Why did he make a fool of me, by forcing me to admit I didn’t know anything about the smoking point of oil, when he didn’t even have to ask the question?

The worker went on fuming, mopping.

Christ died on the cross.

Barnes blessed himself, as he went on reading.

Pour oil into the pot, using the water fill line. Attach the thermometer included with your turkey fryer to the top of the pot with the clip provided.

He scratched madly at his face.  Didn’t we already put the oil into the pot?  And they left out the step of lifting the full pot from the ground onto the cooker.  Things are still safe; things are still cool, things aren’t yet dangerous, there’s still time to turn back. The sleet whipped the car going up route 380 in the Poconos, the pavement was slick. Just think of what it would be like to be standing by the edge of the road there, alone in the middle of nowhere, instead of being in the warm car, but; the car could start skidding any time, the car is getting more and more dangerous, the storm’s deepening all around the car, as they drove on.

I don’t know. Should we turn back?

I don’t know, he said, gripping the wheel.

The gusts rocked the car. It seemed to drift over the slick road. He decided.

Let’s turn back. This is too dangerous.

All right.

Drain the oil.

Where do you drain such a vat of oil?

And then there’s the clean-up. The vat needs to be cleaned. How do you do that? You can’t  just do that in the kitchen sink, the vat’s way bigger than the kitchen sink. Yes, you could drain the oil, but, where to drain it? And, you could clean the pot, but, where to clean it?

Let’s go back.

Go back.

Tenderly, they take his body down from the cross.

There’s no turning back. He is dead. Yesterday, he was alive. But there’s no turning back.

So, into the storm?

Yes. Into the teeth of the storm.

There’s no turning back. The oil is in the pot, and the pot’s already dirty.

So, gently, they lay his body into the tomb.

Barnes read more rapidly now. Something was making him anxious to get to the end.  Something was making him want to know the bottom line. Something somewhere had just happened, and it was pushing him hard. He could have gone straight to the end, but no—he was committed to reading this whole article. He would be an expert on deep frying a turkey. He would be able to give Wilson the what for. He eyed the door Wilson went out of. Where could Wilson have gone? Oh well. He shoved his nose back into the magazine, and relaxed. He determined to see this thing through, no matter how long it took.

Light the outdoor cooker, beginning with a low flame. Gradually increase the flame until the oil reaches a temperature between 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

He read further, and reached the moment of truth.

Then plunge the bird into the oil—and pray.

Explosion, carnage.

Or birth, life, death.

Either way, it’s begun!



About the writer:
Jim Meirose‘s work has appeared in numerous venues. His novels include Sunday Dinner with Father Dwyer (Optional Books), Understanding Franklin Thompson (JEF), Le Overgivers au Club de la Résurrection (Mannequin Haus), and No and Maybe – Maybe and No (Pski’s Porch).

Image: Chapel Quaking by Paul Klee (1879-1940). No medium specified. No size specified. 1924. Public domain.


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