Thanksgiving

Here on Hopeless Thanksgiving has never been as popular as it is on the mainland. There are valid reasons for this as most islanders, or their ancestors, came here unwillingly, more often than not as the result of a shipwreck and few have seen little reason to give thanks for anything. Another contributing factor to the general indifference to the holiday is that most of the variety of foods associated with it are scarce, to say the least. Despite these factors, however, following a disastrous Hallowe’en party (related in the tale ‘The Unquiet Gravy’) Betty Butterow was determined that Thanksgiving that year should not only be celebrated but celebrated properly.

Having made up her mind to do this  Betty compiled a shopping list and sent her husband, Joseph Dreaming-By-The-River-Where-The-Shining-Salmon-Springs, to the city of Portland with strict instructions to bring back only the best of everything. Joseph, originally a trader from the Passamaquoddy tribe, was one of the few people who regularly went back and forth to the mainland, often bartering moonshine for whatever was needed on Hopeless. When, at last, he returned from this latest trip, Joseph’s  canoe lay low in the water, laden down with enough sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, dressed turkeys, corn, pumpkins and a host of other comestibles, to provide the makings of a real Thanksgiving feast.

The Lypiatt family, who owned The Squid and Teapot, were as enthusiastic as Betty to make this an occasion to remember. They filled the ground floors of the inn with chairs and tables; dining tables, kitchen tables, gateleg-tables, card tables, trestle-tables – you get the idea, I’m sure – begged and borrowed from all over the north of the island and beyond. Bill Ebley donated several crates of ‘Old Colonel’ from his brewery, while his brother-in-law, Solomon Gannicox, sent a firkin of his popular and famous ‘Gannicox Special Distillation’. Almost uniquely on Hopeless, this promised to be a night that nothing could mar – and fortunately the full moon was not due until the following Saturday, so there was no possibility of Lady Margaret D’Avening suddenly manifesting in the privy and upsetting the unwary.

The evening of Thursday the twenty-sixth of November arrived and the guests who poured into The Squid and Teapot gasped at the sight that greeted their eyes. Never before on Hopeless had such extravagance been seen. Each table, laden with the most mouth-watering delights, was graced by a number of candles, thrust into either old wine bottles or candlesticks. The effect was quite magical, creating a constellation of flickering lights that sent shadows soaring up honey-gold walls, gilding the simple cutlery and twinkling in the delighted eyes of young and old alike.

Those familiar with these tales and conversant with the ill-fortune that often besets the islanders will doubtlessly be expecting some dreadful tragedy to occur. I am happy to report that on this occasion nothing untoward happened. Joseph Dreaming-By-The-River-Where-The-Shining-Salmon-Springs breathed a huge sigh of relief at the end of the evening. He had, quite erroneously, felt responsible for the shambles that was the Hallowe’en party; this success seemed to put things right. It had been no mean feat haggling for the party food and then transporting it to the island. The result, however, made everything worthwhile. He sat back in his chair a contented man. He was even happier

when, after the guests had left, Sebastian Lypiatt urged everyone helping to get home to bed and leave the clearing up until the next day.

It was in the early hours of the following morning and Randall Middlestreet, the Night-Soil-Man was more than half-way through his round when he reached The Squid and Teapot. Since the installation of the new privy, some six years previously, he had found no reason to call there but tonight, however, was the exception; this was pleasure rather than work. Betty Butterow had made up a small hamper of Thanksgiving food for him, along with two bottles of ‘Old Colonel’, leaving instructions for Randall to collect it from the porch. This was a rare treat. The unsociable nature of his calling usually excluded the Night-Soil Man from celebrations on the island. This did not trouble Randall particularly; he was introverted by nature and was happy not to attend but the promise of sumptuous food and strong beer… well, that was a different story.

Randall, having collected his hamper was just leaving the porch when he heard a faint, clinking noise. This carried on for a while then the clinks were joined by a volley of high-pitched, argumentative squeaks, all coming from within the building. It sounded as though the Squid was being burgled and Randall hazarded a guess as to whom the culprits might be. Spoonwalkers, no less! He slipped into the darkest shadows, beneath the wall, making sure he was well downwind of the doorway.

A minute or so elapsed before the diminutive burglars appeared. There were half-a-dozen of them, each laden down with as much food as they could carry. Some were sporting extra spoons, stolen from the uncleared tables. Randall grinned to himself in the darkness; despite their evil reputation and madness-inducing gaze there was no denying their comical aspect.  His grin grew even broader when two more appeared, carefully carrying a glass filled with ‘Gannicox Special Distillation’. They gently lowered the glass to the ground and then the eight Spoonwalkers stood examining it with some curiosity. One cautiously dipped a spoon into the clear liquid and took a large sip. Randall nearly gave himself away and only managed, with difficulty, to stifle a laugh when the Spoonwalker almost toppled off its cutlery stilts in a fit of coughing. The others fell back, obviously worried at their colleague’s reaction but were reassured when, once recovered, the inquisitive creature felt emboldened enough to sample another sip of the powerful brew. This time, fully prepared for the taste, the Spoonwalker drank with gusto, then, just to be sure, helped itself to several more mouthfuls. It did not take long for the others to join in and soon the contents of the glass were completely gone.

Spoonwalkers, although adept at all sorts of criminal activity, are not known for their drinking habits. To be frank, this particular raiding-party had no head for booze at all. They were soon giggling and staggering around in the time-honoured fashion of drunks everywhere. Then something peculiar happened. One of them started to dance. Randall could not believe his eyes. It was definitely a dance, with a regular set of steps and gestures. To add even more to this most bizarre of scenes the other Spoonwalkers began to make a humming noise, a noise which could be loosely construed as being faintly melodic as, one by one, they all joined in the dance. Randall found a stub of pencil and a scrap of paper to record what he was witnessing. I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing his words slightly, here, in the hope that the ‘Spoonwalk’ might become a recognised dance on the island. Foot and arm movements are suggested in the lyric but feel free to improvise.

(Any resemblance to a certain other dance is purely coincidental. Honestly).



It’s  just a hop to the left.
And then a step to the right.
Put your spoons where they fit
Pull your tentacles tight.
But it’s those glowing eyes
That really drive you insane.
Let’s do the spoonwalk again.
Let’s do the spoonwalk again.

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