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November 1965. I’m 11 years old. I’m the only child in our family. I was more than enough for my mother to handle, trust me. It was Thanksgiving day, and my mom was making a Thanksgiving meal for us. My aunt and uncle were coming to dinner, driving in from the Bronx.

So, my mom was busy in the kitchen, and I was at the kitchen table, playing with my army men. These were sold in a package back then in the 60s. You got approximately 25 or so army men, each about two inches in height. Those little green army men. Some would be lying prone with a rifle, some on one knee pointing a rifle and some standing erect with their rifle.

My mom had the turkey cooking, and also decided to make a meatloaf. Why? I’m not sure. I was busy fussing about the kitchen, setting up my army men all throughout the area, pretending I was to shoot the other “yellow” army men on the floor, on the kitchen counter, window sill, etc.

Somewhere along the way, I happened to place one of them army men near the oven. My mom didn’t notice as she prepared the meatloaf, and placed it into the oven to cook. Well, that one army man I mentioned? He somehow fell from above inside the oven, and landed into the meatloaf. 

My mom told me to clean up, and go wash up, because Uncle Lou and Aunt Anna would be there shortly. She had no idea of this mishap, and I wasn’t going to tell her. I just knew all hell was about to break loose.

Fast forward in time. We were at the dinner table in our dining room. We said grace, all that lovely stuff. My mom was serving the meatloaf, potatoes, turkey and all the trimmings. She served my uncle Lou a piece of meatloaf. 

You can imagine what happened next. My little army man that I had carelessly forgotten to retrieve from the oven, the one with the rifle and it’s bayonet, landed into the meatloaf and melted into the meat. 

The slice that my mom happened to serve my Uncle Lou, had the partially melted army man with the bayonet. He went to take a nice healthy bite. As he started chewing, the helmet and a bayonet lodged between his teeth. It was a Thanksgiving surprise!

But, of course, my mother was appalled. And me, well, I was sent directly to my room. And that’s how I spent Thanksgiving one year, alone in my room, with a plate of food for the rest of the night.

I ate turkey, of course.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Lloyd Friedland is a writer and artist incarcerated in New York.