Kissing the ring has been a long standing practice in your family.
At any family gathering-and especially at the big family reunion-the first priority is always finding your grandmother, announcing your presence, and showering her with praise and adulation. (She appreciates it if you kneel, but it’s not mandatory.)
She will then indicate whether you have pleased her or not. It’s not unlike the way Roman emperors would decide the fate of gladiators with a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Your grandmother’s just as cruel and slightly more unforgiving, but it’s similar.
One time your cousin Bucky went to get a Coke before he went to kiss the ring. Bucky’s family still refers to it as the year of tears.
Your grandmother sits in giant chair atop an ornate dais built specifically for that purpose.
Your uncle Dodge the contractor built the dais out of the finest materials.
Dodge is your uncle because he married your aunt Zelda.
You should have “dodged” Zelda you say to him jokingly. He never laughs.
The first dais your grandmother used was built by your uncle Saul. But that dais wasn’t built as well and it collapsed with your grandmother on it. Saul’s whereabouts are still unknown; your best bet is a shallow grave somewhere.
You’ve always suspected Aunt Zelda married Dodge just for his dais constructing abilities…and of course his money.
“Well look who decided to grace us with their presence this year,” your grandmothers hisses, her voice drenched in sarcasm.
“It was either here or the fiery pits of Hell…this was closer,” you reply.
“It’s good for you to be around your family. Maybe they’ll rub off on you and you’ll learn something.”
“I already know how to color with crayons and drool on myself, so probably not.”
“It’s that smart mouth of yours I’m concerned about.”
“Oh grandmother, you know I’m just joking. I couldn’t be happier to be here,” you say lying through your teeth.
“You know, this could be my last year on this Earth,” she scolds.
“Nothing I was just…”
Suddenly from behind you hear your aunt Debra’s voice growling at you, “hey!”
You turn to find her shoving her cellphone in your face. “It’s a call from Roscoe–it’s his one phone call from jail, and he wants to talk to you.”
Before you have a chance to respond, your cousin Matilda storms up with a phone in her hand. “Rodney’s been shot in the leg and he says you knew about it.”
Your grandmother is glaring down at you with a look of malevolence.
You get the sinking feeling it’s going to be a thumbs down kind of year.