Huggy Bear leaned back on the couch, satisfied with a full stomach. "Hey, Thanksgivin' is comin' up. You two give any thought to whatcha wanna do?" He stretched his long arms along the back of the couch and lifted one shoe to perch on the edge of Starsky's coffee table.
Hutch came from the kitchen toting three beers, passing one to each of the other two men. "I've got to work until ten that morning, but I'm free after that. What did you have in mind Huggy?"
"I've got a suggestion," Starsky offered. He had been sitting on the floor, close to the bowl of chips on the coffee table. Taking a good swig from the beer, he continued," What if we all take turns for Thanksgiving? One year Huggy throws it, the next year Hutch, and this year me."
"Why this year you?" Huggy challenged.
Starsky shrugged. With a grin he declared, "It was my idea."
Huggy looked to Hutch expecting him to side with him and shoot down this idea. Much to his dismay, Hutch shrugged and said simply, "Sounds okay to me."
Inwardly Huggy groaned. Starsky was likely to serve a Thanksgiving banquet of delivery from Tony's Pizza Emporium with a side dish of frozen pumpkin pie. Or worse yet, turkey tv dinners. No thanks. With no backing from Hutch, Huggy decided to make a play to salvage the holiday. "Okay, okay. We'll do it your way Starsky. But I'll be happy to help you with the food. Just say the word, my man."
"That's okay Hug, I think I can handle it," Starsky smiled. "This year it's my year. You can worry about the food next year." He watched his two friends exchange looks, and carefully suppressed his amusement.
The realization of what Huggy was concerned about finally dawned on Hutch. "But Starsk, as guests, Huggy and I should be bringing something to the table. Why don't you let us each bring a side dish, or desert or something?"
Starsky's eyebrows rose. "That's a great idea Hutch! Why don't you bring the beer? Huggy, can you bring some hors d'oeuvres or snacks or something?"
"Uh, sure, I can do that," Huggy stammered. "But I could bring something for the dinner too if you want..." He wondered if his friend would be offended if he brought mini turkey sandwiches for hors d'oeuvres.
"No, no, Hug. Snacks will do. Thanks! This'll be great! We'll have food, football and friends. I can't wait!"
Hutch and Huggy exchanged looks again, and then Hutch smiled at his friend uncertainly. "Sure, buddy. It'll be fun." Huggy sagged lower in the couch, certain the holiday would be a bust.
Later that evening, after his two friends had left, Starsky picked up the phone. First he called Edith Dobey, extending an invitation for the Dobey family to join them for the holiday.
"We'd be delighted, David!" Edith readily agreed. "But I insist on bringing desert. Tell me your favorite pies, honey, and I'll bake a couple of each."
"Edith, you're the best," he grinned. "How about some pumpkin, apple and cherry?"
"Wonderful choices, son," she laughed. "I'll try to keep Harold and Cal from eating them before we get there."
"Edith, I have another favor to ask," Starsky said in a more serious tone. "I want to keep this secret from Hutch and Huggy. Do you think you and the Cap'n can keep it from him that you're coming?"
"Why sure, David, we'll keep your secret."
"Thanks, Edith. And thanks for your help."
Next he called his mother. Anxious for any opportunity to see her son, she jumped at the chance to come to California for Thanksgiving. His brother Nicky turned down the offer, claiming to be unable to get out of work during that week. Rachael and Starsky tried to coax Nicky into taking the time off, but he refused. Rachael would come alone. She insisted on shipping Starsky some home-made cookies, since she would be unable to bring a prepared dish. Mouth watering in anticipation, Starsky gratefully accepted the offer.
Finally he placed a call to Sylvia Hutchinson. He had no trouble persuading Hutch's mother and father to come for the holiday, nor about keeping his secret. Hutch's sister, however, already had plans to join her in-laws for the holiday so that she could spend Christmas with her own family.
"Richard and I will rent a car at the airport," Sylvia stated. "Would you like us to pick up your mother, Dave?"
"That would help out a lot," Starsky admitted. "I'll call you back as soon as I know her flight."
In the weeks that preceded Thanksgiving, Hutch and Huggy alternated on making offers to help with the food for the holiday meal. Starsky shot down all offers politely, reminding them that it was his turn this year and he would take care of it. "Don't worry. You won't go hungry," he assured them.
Huggy took Hutch aside one night at The Pits and shook his head. "He hasn't asked for a thing, my friend. What's he up to?"
"I couldn't tell ya, Hug. He is really tight-lipped about this."
"Did ya check out his fridge? Any turkey tv dinners? Any real food?"
Hutch shook his head. "He won't let me in. He finds excuses to keep me out. I don't know, Huggy. I kinda get the feeling he's enjoying keeping us in the dark." He sighed. "I guess we'll just have to humor him on this one."
Minnie secretly provided Starsky with a carload of folding chairs, and Edith Dobey loaned him her china, and was able to round up several card tables to set up for the meal. Starsky found orange and brown paper table cloths to give the room a little more festive look. He set up the room to see how it would look, and realized that it needed something. Grabbing the telephone, he quickly dialed the Dobey home.
Edith answered the phone. "Edith, could I speak to Rosie?" Starsky asked.
"Of course, David." He could hear her call her young daughter to the phone.
"Uncle Dave?" Rosie greeted him.
"Hi Sweetie," Starsky smiled. "I was wondering if I could ask you a big favor."
"Sure! Whatcha need?"
"I was just looking at my Thanksgiving table, and it looks kinda bare. Do you think you could make me something to put on the table to dress it up?"
"You mean like a centerpiece?" Rosie asked.
"Yeah! A centerpiece! Could you do that for me?"
"Oh sure, Uncle Dave! I can do that!!" Rosie said excitedly.
"Thanks Rosie," he smiled. "I knew I could count on you!"
Satisfied that all was in order, Starsky headed for the grocery store.
Thanksgiving morning, Starsky rose early to begin his preparations. He made the stuffing and got the bird in the oven. The night before he had made the candied sweet potatoes, so all he had to do was cover them with marshmallows and heat them up. He had also made a green bean casserole that just needed heating up as well. Baked potatoes were washed and wrapped in foil, ready to be popped in the oven. He purchased bakery rolls, the only thing he didn't make from scratch. Now the only things remaining were the salad and the cranberry sauce.
His mother had included her food grinder along with the shipment of home-made cookies she sent. He laughed when he saw it, thankful for her insight. Now he clamped the contraption to his kitchen counter, and pulled out the cranberries, oranges and sugar. It was a messy job, but one he always enjoyed. After that he threw together a huge salad. With pride, he realized even Hutch would approve of the salad.
Candles were added to the tables, and the chairs unfolded. Napkins were carefully folded and placed at each place setting. Christmas albums were stacked on the stereo, and the Thanksgiving parades were showing on tv. With a lost feeling, Starsky realized there was nothing left for him to do but wait. He took the opportunity to shower and get dressed, and finished long before the first knock at his door.
Huggy was the first to arrive. "Happy Turkey Day, my pale brother!" he happily addressed his friend. He arrived dressed as a sequined pilgrim, much to the amusement of Starsky. The tall hat was perched on his head like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Huggy stepped into the apartment, breathing deeply. "Starsky, someone is cooking up a feast in this building. You can smell it the minute you get out of the car." His eyes widened a moment later. "Starsk, those smells aren't coming from YOUR kitchen, are they?" There was such a hopeful tone in his voice that Starsky couldn't help but laugh.
"Yeah, Hug. Come on in." He took the hors d'oeuvres from his friend and headed to the kitchen with Huggy hot on his heels.
Huggy watched in shock as Starsky opened the oven to baste a huge golden bird. "I'm sorry I can't offer you a beer, Hug. Hutch isn't here yet with the brewskies."
"'S Okay," Huggy murmured. He surveyed the room. There was food galore, and it all looked fabulous. "Starsk, you goin' to the competition for your catering needs?" he asked with pleasure mixed with disappointment.
Starsky stood and faced his companion. "Well no, Hug. I did this myself." Then his face broke into a huge, crooked, self-satisfied smile as he left the kitchen.
Another knock signaled Hutch's arrival. Starsky opened the door to Hutch's grumbling. "Really Starsk, I don't know why you needed so much beer. You'd think there was a frat party goin' on here or..." He stopped short as he nearly stumbled into one of the festively set tables. "What the..."
"I needed so much beer, buddy, because I invited some other people," Starsky chided his pal. "No one said I couldn't invite more than just you two clowns." He took one of the cases from Hutch's arms. Hutch looked to Huggy's amazed face. Huggy smiled and shrugged.
"Hutch? You want to bring the rest of that beer in here?" Starsky called from the kitchen. Hutch trotted after his friend. "Put it on the counter, will you?"
Hutch looked around the counter, but there wasn't any space available to put the beer down. "Uh, where?"
"Oh, sorry." Starsky grabbed the beer and placed it on the floor in front of him. "Hold this," he instructed, stuffing a bowl of cranberry relish into his hands, followed by a bowl of salad. He picked up the cases of beer and slid them into the fridge. Closing the appliance door, he looked at Hutch, standing there staring at the food in his hands. "You can put those on the table now," Starsky suggested, popping a couple black olives into his mouth.
"Uh, right, right," Hutch stammered. He placed the food on the table and looked back at his friend. "This is real cranberry relish! And that salad has tofu in it! Where did you get the grub?"
"I made it," Starsky shook his head at the two men. "What were you two thinking? That I'd serve pizza on Thanksgiving?"
Hutch blushed. That was exactly what he expected, but he feared the wrong answer would hurt his friend's feelings. "No! No, we didn't think that. I...uh...we...um...didn't think you would go to so much trouble is all."
"Well, you ain't seen nothing yet," Starsky replied mysteriously. There was another knock at the door. "Get that, will ya?" he asked Hutch, devilment twinkling in his eyes.
Hutch opened the door and was delighted to see the Dobey family. The Captain, his wife and son, all held a pie in each hand, and Rosie had a large box of what appeared to be home-made flower decorations. "Come on in!" he welcomed them.
Rosie dashed in yelling, "Uncle Dave! Uncle Dave! Come see what I brought you!" Edith directed her male escorts to deposit the pies on the card table in the corner, already stacked with dessert plates and serving utensils.
Starsky took the box from Rosie, overwhelmed by the hard work evident in the carton. He carefully pulled out one of the vases, filled with carefully crafted flowers. Each blossom had a photo of a face in the center, the faces of the people invited to the meal. Each little flower had a picture of Starsky or Hutch or Rachel, Sylvia, Richard, Huggy, the Dobeys... It was adorable.
"Those are all your loved ones," she beamed.
"Sweetie, where did you get all these pictures?" Starsky asked in admiration.
"Most of 'em I got from your Coming Home party, when you got out of the hospital." He had forgotten that she was there and met his and Hutch's parents. Cal had taken lots of pictures.
"These are just beautiful Rosie! Thank you so much for making them for us. I can see you put a lot of hard work into them"
She grinned and helped him place the vases on the tables.
There was yet another knock at the door, and Starsky called to Hutch, "Get that, will you?"
Hutch looked around the room, wondering who could be missing, before heading to the door. When he opened it, you could have knocked him over with a feather.
"Kenny!" Sylvia Hutchinson exclaimed as she threw her arms around her son.
Hutch was dumbstruck. "Mom! Dad! What are you doing here?"
"Dave invited us for Thanksgiving dinner, son," Richard declared chuckling, clapping him on the back. "Are you going to invite us in? Or are you serving it in the hallway?"
"I'm sorry," he blushed. "Come in! Come in!" They crowded in, finally moving enough for him to see Rachael in the hallway behind them. "Rachael! For goodness sakes! Come in!"
She laughed at his embarrassment. "Hello Ken," she grinned at him, squeezing his hand. "Happy Thanksgiving."
He kissed her on the cheek. "I'm so glad you all are here!"
He followed them into the living room. Starsky snuck up beside him and announced, "Happy Thanksgiving Hutch!"
"Gordo, I can't believe you did all this," Hutch shook his head. "How did you manage all the food?"
Rachael Starsky proudly stood beside her son. "Davey always cooked the turkey for Thanksgiving. It was a tradition at our house. He used to get up in the morning with his father and help him make the stuffing and get the bird in the oven. Then the two of them would grind up the cranberry relish. They would handle the whole meal themselves. After his father died, Davey took on the duty of cooking the meal. He's quite a good cook, you know."
"Starsky is?" Huggy asked.
Starsky feigned being hurt. "You wound me, Hug. Of course I can cook! You think I live on pizza, burritos and Huggy burgers?"
"Well yeah!" Huggy spat out, much to the enjoyment of the group.
"Just because I don't cook often, doesn't mean I can't," he grinned.
He enlisted the help of Rachael and Sylvia to finish getting the food on the tables. Richard Hutchinson had the honor of carving the turkey. Starsky pulled several bottles of wine from the fridge, and got each of the adults a glass.
When they were all seated and ready to eat, Starsky asked Rosie to say the blessing.
"Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen." Then she covered her mouth. "Oh I'm sorry, Uncle Dave!" she cried. "I don't know any Jewish blessings!" She turned bright red as the rest of the group laughed.
"It's okay Rosie," Starsky assured her. "I am going to add to your blessing, okay?" She nodded, relieved. He stood and addressed his loved ones.
"I'm so glad you were all able to come today, and I'm particularly grateful for our folks for traveling so far to be here. It was important to me to have you all here. I discovered this past year that I've got a lot to be thankful for." He slowly looked from face to face. "I know you all worried that I wouldn't make it when I was shot. You thought you were gonna lose me." Hutch and Rachael bowed their heads, Rachael brushing away a tear. "What you may not realize is that I almost lost all of you too. Coming that close to death really makes a man think. I realized how lucky I am. Not only to live through that, but to have all of you in my life. Ma, for coming out here and making me realize how much I'm loved. Hutch, for nursing me back to health and for being the best friend a guy could ask for. Huggy, for always lending a helping hand, and for keeping Hutch sane. The Dobeys, for their love and support. The Hutchinson's, for treating me like one of their family. I'm thankful for you all. I thank you, and I thank God for having you all in my life. And I thank God for letting me remember how to cook all this food for you!"
The all laughed at his final words. "Now dig in!" he ordered. Every member of the group did as they were told.
Hutch stared at Starsky until he caught his eyes. Starsky smiled and nodded to his friend.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Starsky," he raised his glass to him.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Hutch"