Turkey in Tennessee, book 5 of The Traveling Calvert Sisters, is now available on Kindle Vella. Episodes will be released 2x a week until complete.
Don’t worry. It’ll be a book just in time for fall and Thanksgiving! Kindle Vella allows me to release the book chapter by chapter as I write it.
The first 3 episodes of any Kindle Vella are always free. Click here to read or on the official cover for release later this fall below.
Blurb- Peyton Calvert has never really fit in. Content to work at Chili Shack and stay close to home with her tight-knit family, she’s always been happy slacking her way through life.
When a coworker, Avery, asks Peyton to go home with her for Thanksgiving to help deal with her own difficult family, Peyton accepts. But dealing with Avery’s uptight, all-business brother, Prescott, is harder than Peyton imagined.
Episodes 1 and 2 (The first chapter of the book):
“Has anyone ever told you that you have a shitty attitude, young lady?” the man in front of me asks, pointing a finger in my face. He holds up his container of chili and flings some of the rust-colored fluid off the rim at me. A drop hits my cheek, and I think of saving it for a later snack, but that would be weird. I’m certainly not going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me wipe it off my face now.
The man’s nostrils flare over his graying mustache, and I’m so stoned I can’t look away from his nose. My eyes widen, and I stare at the tiny nose hairs moving with the man’s breath. In. Out. In. Out. They’re like leaves blowing in the wind. Fascinating. When I finally blink and look away from his nostrils, I look around for my coworkers. I must have lost track of time because my coworkers seem to be standing in different spots than they were when the conversation started. Inhaling, complete calm comes over me. It’s just another angry customer, angry at me about something I didn’t do.
I shrug. “My mother says that at least three times a day.”
“Well, she’s right. Your attitude sucks.”
I tilt my head to the side and squint, trying to recognize the man. “Do you know Dottie Calvert? Are you friends with her from bowling league?”
“I don’t know your damn mother, but if she’s anything like you, she’s an incompetent piece of crap that screwed up my order. I said no beans. No beans, dammit!”
When dealing with angry customers, I’ve found it’s best not to show signs of fear. They’re like bees, and I’m convinced they can smell your pit sweat. I pull out the cash to cover the man’s chili from the register and hand it to him with a smile, holding out my other hand for him to hand me the chili with the offending beans.
He takes the money but doesn’t otherwise move. He’s frozen in anger and breathing heavy. I hope he’s not having some kind of heart issue.
I should do something to help. He’ll probably ask to talk to Rex next. “I apologize about the beans. My goal is to make your chili experience a pleasant one. But if it can’t be pleasant, we’d love to hear about it.” I reach under the counter and pull out a stack of white paper. “Would you like to fill out a survey about your experience today?”
“Fuck you!” he yells, tossing the leaking Styrofoam container near my head. I don’t duck or move, and I’m mildly surprised that a man that looks like he was athletic in his youth has such bad aim. The container wizzes so close to my ear that I smell the extra hot sauce the man requested as an add on.
The Styrofoam container explodes against the wall behind me, and orange chili slides down the menu board. Somewhere across the restaurant, my coworker on cleaning duty breathes out something that sounds like, “She didn’t even flinch. Balls as big as canons on that crazy bitch.”
That’s me. I’m just chill as fuck, and not much rattles me. Never has. I have eight siblings for Christ’s sake.
“Your entire generation is an embarrassment to the human race,” the man grunts, gritting his teeth. I stare at his mustache, watching it twitch and wondering if his teeth will break.
“That’s ridiculous, sir. You couldn’t have possibly met everyone in my generation.” I chuckle and wave the next person in line forward. They step around the man like they can’t be fucked with this guy either. A woman around my age with a nose ring looks up at the menu board and then looks at the man like he needs to stand aside so she can order. Like he’s a shit stain on her day.
God bless the good customers.
“This is the last time I come here, young lady,” he says, backing away from the counter and inching toward the door. He’s obviously one that will yell right before he leaves so he can have the last word. “All my friends will hear of this!”
He slams out the door, and the bell that jingles when a customer comes in falls to the floor, rolling under the tray cleanup station. I watch the bell roll until it’s out of sight and lament that Rex will probably make me get a broom and see if I can fish it out from under the trash cans later.
If I remember.
I paste a calm smile on my face and adjust my red Chili Shack visor over my long, dirty blond hair. “Hi. Welcome to Chili Shack. How can I pleasure you today?”
Avery, my coworker and crowned work spouse, snickers from somewhere behind me. She laughs every time I ask someone how I can pleasure them. It’s my own brand of greeting, meant to troll the pearl clutchers of Alton that come in with their husbands. Rex told me I need to say something like, “I aim to please,” when someone tells me thank you. I put my own spin on it, though, preferring to offer to pleasure them up front. Rex has never complained, but it makes Avery laugh when she comes close enough to the registers to hear it.
I flip her off behind my back. It’s her fault for the bad customer anyway. I love her to death, but she’s from a wealthy family down south. This is her first job, and I can’t think of one thing she hasn’t fucked up, including dishes. Who fucks up dishes? She fucked up that guy’s order, but it wasn’t the first time. I once had to use an EpiPen to save a customer that’s allergic to onions because she put onions in his order.
It’s beside the point to question why someone that’s allergic to onions would come to a chili place. As my mother would say, Avery couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the directions were written on the heel.
She grabs my middle finger and playfully twists it as she walks by. It’s kind of our thing.
I take the nice woman’s order and smile that the long lunch hour is over, and I can finally go into the kitchen and grab some cornbread and bean-filled chili for my lunch. As soon as I get back there, Avery laughs. “You still have chili on your face from that guy.”
“He had a soft arm, huh? I guess I have to go clean that up,” I mumble, grabbing a few paper towels and wiping my entire face, not just the chili. It gets hot in here, and I always sweat under my visor.
While I wipe, I check out my friend. Something’s off with her today. Even though she’s obnoxious, she’s not as obnoxious as usual. We usually sing and laugh our way through the shift. There’s been no singing today and very little laughter. For the first time since shift started, I notice bags under her eyes. She didn’t put makeup on today, and that’s saying something for a girl that once won a Little Miss Tennessee pageant at the state fair.
I throw the paper towel in the trash and walk over to Avery. “What’s going on?”
“What do you mean?” she asks, but she doesn’t meet my eyes.
“You’ve been weird since shift started. Is it something with school?”
Avery shrugs. It’s usually something with school. She got a scholarship to nearby Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, but her parents wanted her to go somewhere more prominent. Avery, always the rebel of her family, wanted to be out from under their thumb and make her own way.
As Avery describes it, they’re your typical wealthy family where appearances count every Friday night at the country club. She always wanted away from them to make her own decisions. When she told her father she was coming to Illinois for a full scholarship, he cut her off because it wasn’t Harvard, Stanford, or even Ole Miss. When she told her mother she was going to a school without an Omega chapter, she cut Avery off.
Her parents much prefer her older brother. Prescott sounds like he wears a cardigan tied around his neck and shined loafers. She’s always said he’s a kiss ass and likes to do things like count his allowance over and over and watch financial news shows. While she wanted to stream podcasts on romance books and punk bands, he chose hedge fund and market shows.
Guess which sibling her parents sided with.
If Avery is telling the truth, and I have no reason to doubt she is, her parents disapprove of every step she takes. That’s how Avery ended up with the job at Chili Shack and a full scholarship she desperately clings to. She’s responsible at school. Hell, she’s more responsible than I was during my short stint at the local junior college. I quit, and I’ve been floundering, ever since. By floundering, I mean I’m twenty-three and still live in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house, have no degree, work at a chili place, and smoke more weed than I should.
“Not a school thing. It’s family.”
“What’d they do this time?” I ask, spooning myself a cup of vegetarian chili and waving the steam away. “Report your car stolen?”
“Not yet,” she laughs. “But only because I bought my Honda myself. Dad wanted to buy the BMW, but I knew he’d hold it over me or, you know, report it stolen.”
She takes her phone out of her standard Chili Shack apron and taps something before turning it to show me. “Mom texted and wants me to come home for Thanksgiving. It’s the first holiday they invited me home for since I left for school last year.”
Avery went home with me for Thanksgiving dinner last year during her freshman year. Even though she’s a few years younger than me, I couldn’t just leave her to the dorm food with the international students that don’t go home for the holidays. My mother would also kill me if I let a friend be alone for a major holiday. Sure, I was worried about what Avery would think of my very large and extremely loud family gathered around an old dining room table and then playing a game of touch football in the yard before ending the day with rousing games of Clue. But Avery smiled and laughed through it until even my dad, an old grouch if I ever saw one, liked her. She ate four slices of my mother’s pumpkin pie and asked for the recipe to the cranberry conserve.
“Are you going to go?” I ask, blowing on my food. “You can always come home with me again. Mom would love to host you. Regi’s bringing Craig, and Samantha’s bringing Cooper. We’ll have more people for football.” I get my fingers out and count. “Actually, we won’t. Cora’s staying in Seattle with Eric’s family, and Ava’s going to the Arctic Circle or some shit. See? We need you for touch football.”
She looks at her phone. “I feel like this could be the point when I work things out with them, you know? But I can’t go by myself, and Drew’s going home to New Mexico. We’ve only been together a couple months, and I don’t think he’d even go if I asked. It’s too soon.”
She sits on a nearby stool and takes her visor off, shaking out her dark hair. I cringe and eye the nearby chili pots. All we need is a bunch of hair in them and more pissed off customers. “Is there a friend you can go with? Someone else alone for the holidays? What happened to that girl from Dubai that is stuck on campus for holidays?”
Avery squints. “I adore her, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
I nod, chewing the inside of my cheek and trying to focus on the problem at hand. It’s hard when you smoked up out back by the trash bins before your shift. “I guess I could come with you. That is, unless they’ll think we’re like together or something…” I trail off and smile at the thought of Avery’s conservative parents being horrified by the suggestion their daughter may be a lesbian. “But that could be fun, too. We could really play into that.”
“My parents would close the door in our faces, and then we’d be stuck in the middle of Tennessee.”
“How far are they from Nashville?” I ask, suddenly wondering if I’ll finally be able to go out in Nashville. I’ve heard it’s fun. Surely, Avery can find a fake ID so she can go with me.
“An hour. But my dad likes the quiet of being in the boonies and has seventy head of cattle.”
“Head of what?”
“Cows. You know…beef.”
“Your parents don’t strike me as farmers.”
“I’d classify them more as pretentious ranchers that just want to stick it to the vegans.”
I tap my foot on the floor and ponder the opportunity. I don’t get out much. My family never traveled because of the monetary problem of taking eleven people on vacation. Road trips were out due to bathroom logistics. I never even saw an airport until we dropped Cora off for her trip to Hawaii. This could be an opportunity to visit a new place. Be a tourist. Have a fun night out in Nashville. I could learn how to milk a steer or something.
“Is a steer a male or a female?” I ask, completely off topic. I don’t blink at the stupidity of my question. Avery’s used to me asking ridiculous questions when I’m high, so she doesn’t judge.
“Well, that leaves milking one out,” I mumble under my breath.
“Will you go with me?” Avery asks. She bounces on her toes a little and claps her hands quietly, a smile on her face. “It would solve the problem of going alone, and as long as you don’t tell them you’re a pescatarian and don’t smoke up in the house, you’ll be fine.”
“I don’t know, Avery. I don’t even think weed is legal in Tennessee. I should stay in Illinois.”
“Can’t you not smoke up for a long weekend? Please!” she begs.
I tap my toe and look around the kitchen. I give the front of house a quick glance to make sure there isn’t a line out the door and think. Points for Nashville and trying something new. What do I have to lose? A couple of shifts here? There are worse things in life. I take a deep breath and pinch my nose. “My mother will be peeved I’m not at home for Thanksgiving, but I’ll come with you,” I say, holding up my hand. “Just don’t make me jerk off a steer.”