More Dinner Conversation (A Family Reunion Part 19)

“Have you tried my famous seven layer salad?” Beatrice Klosner asks you.

Beatrice is engaged to your cousin Bradley. She is willingly joining your family despite your repeated warnings and the voluminous amount of evidence at her disposal.

“Everybody has tried your famous seven layer salad–you push it like a crack dealer.”

“I just want make sure everyone is happy.”

“These people? The group of people that are assembled here? You want make sure this menagerie of dysfunction and horror is happy?”

“Of course.”

“Do you plan on sacrificing a small animal or kicking a puppy; because you’re way off track on what you think makes these people happy.”

“Oh, they are so not that bad.”

“It has mushrooms,” Aunt Pamela interrupts.

“I make it with mushrooms,” Beatrice explains.

“It’s not supposed to have mushrooms,” Aunt Pamela continues.

“It really isn’t,” Cousin Martha confirms.

“You can make it with mushrooms if you want,” Beatrice defends herself.

“May I ask you a question, Niece Martha?”

“Yes you may, Aunt Pamela.”

“What does seven added to one equal, Niece Martha?”

“I do believe that equals eight, Aunt Pamela.”

“A bunch of geniuses we have in this family,” you say under your breath.

“That’s right, Niece Martha, it equals eight…eight layers”

“I leave out the celery, so it still comes to seven layers,” Beatrice says.

“So you leave out the celery and you add mushrooms,” Aunt Pamela exclaims with mock astonishment, “That is not a seven layer salad in my book. Is it Niece Martha?”

“It most certainly is not, Aunt Pamela.”

“That’s how I make it,” Beatrice maintains.

Aunt Pamela and Cousin Martha just stare at Beatrice with disbelief and not a small amount of disdain.

“And these are people you want to make happy?” You ask Beatrice. “Run, Beatrice. Run as fast as you can away from these people.”

“Just don’t run into a tree,” Cousin Bucky adds.

“Unlike that stupid girl who ran into the tree, your Grandmother says I fit in perfectly with the family,” Beatrice tells you as she beams.

“She does have the delusion and misplaced sense of pride required for membership in this family,” Cousin Bucky points out.

“Your grandmother told me I’m already one of you.”

“That’s what Jim Jones said to his people as he handed them a glass of Kool-Aid,” you tell her.

“I don’t like the Monkees,” Beatrice tells you, “their music is too bubblegum pop. I like Nickleback–they’re deep.”

“I’m not sure where to begin with this. I think you’re thinking of Davy Jones who was a member of the Monkees.”

“No. Davy Jones was that squid-faced character from the Lord of the Rings movies.”

“Okay, Davy Jones was a mythical figure that sailors believed presided over the evil spirits of the deep. He was portrayed as a squid-faced character in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.”

“No,” Beatrice says with confidence, “the Davy Jones character was in the Orlando Bloom movies.”

“Yes,” you say with exasperation, “Orlando Bloom was in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.”

“Okay fine,” Beatrice capitulates. “Davy Jones, the squid-faced character, was in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.”

“Thank you,” you say feeling a sense of relief.

“So Davy Jones wasn’t in the Monkees,” Beatrice says defiantly.

You sigh in capitulation. “You’re going to fit in perfectly in this family.”

“Do you know who won’t be running away from this family any time soon?” Uncle Finster says to you. “Rodney–someone let him get shot in the leg today.”

It’s going to be a long day.





That Poor Girl (A Family Reunion Part 17)

head injury

Bertha, or Becky, or…the poor girl that came to the big family reunion with Cousin Milton, is now conscious and sitting in lawn chair in the shade–it’s good to stay out of direct light when your concussed. Cousin Milton is holding an icepack to her head and looking entirely pissed off.

“Cousin Milton looks entirely pissed off,” Cousin Bucky says.

“And Cousin Milton is pretty easy going,” Cousin Peggy adds.

“The spot where her head hit the tree–the bark is peeled off,” Cousin Bucky states in astonishment.

“That’s not good for the tree,” your cousin Erikka says in a voice dripping with disdain.

“That can’t possibly be good for her head,” Cousin Peggy yaps at Cousin Erikka.

Cousin Erikka glares at Cousin Peggy as she moves to another spot under the pavilion.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Uncle Gabe bellows as he joins the conservation, “it’s just a concussion…maybe a little brain damage.”

“You don’t think a little brain damage is something to be worried about?” Cousin Peggy asks.

“Not in this family,” you tell her, “it’s almost a requirement.”

“I’ve taken worse hits than that,” Uncle Gabe says with a dismissive wave. “And look at me–I’m fine.”

“There seems to be a bit wiggle room between your definition of fine and my definition fine,” Cousin Bucky tells Uncle Gabe.

“People only use 10 percent of their brains anyway,” Uncle Gabe assures Cousin Bucky.

“Do you think you’re using that much of your brain…is that what really think?” You ask Uncle Gabe.

“I’m just saying a little brain damage isn’t a big deal,” Uncle Gabe reasserts.

“Spoken like a person with brain damage,” Cousin Peggy says.

“You see Uncle Gabe,” Cousin Bucky tries to explain, “your talking about someone having brain damage is kind of a pot and kettle situation.”

“I don’t understand what that means.”


“Here they come,” cousin Peggy alerts everyone.

Cousin Milton is helping Bertha, or Becky, or whatever her name is, to the pavilion.

“She’s stumbling like a drunk person,” Cousin Bucky points out.

“Well, functional alcoholism is the next stage when joining this family,” you comment.

“Cousin Milton looks entirely pissed off,” Cousin Peggy reiterates.

That poor Girl.




The Blessing Aftermath (A Family Reunion Part 16)

tree“Wow. I’ve never seen anyone run away that fast,” your cousin Peggy says in astonishment. “People who are in fear for their lives don’t run that fast.”

“I know,” Cousin Bucky confirms. “She ran straight into that tree.”

“If you were running away from a mountain lion you wouldn’t run that fast,” Cousin Peggy says.

“I wonder if she couldn’t see the tree because she crossed-eyed,” Cousin Bucky wonders.

“She’s not crossed eyed,” your aunt Beasley corrects, “she has a droopy eye.”

“Well, if she wasn’t cross-eyed before, she’s cross eyed now. Did you see the way her head ricocheted off that tree?” Cousin Bucky exclaims.

“Usain Bolt doesn’t run as fast as that girl was running,” Cousin Peggy continues.

“It’ll be okay,” Aunt Beasley assures. “Uncle Gabe is attending to her. He has medical training–he’s a firefighter.”

“I hope she doesn’t burst into flames,” Cousin Bucky jokes.

“That’s not funny,” Aunt Beasley admonishes, “that’s only happened a couple of times.”

“How many more times than zero would you consider to be normal?” Cousin Bucky insists.

“Cousin Milton really looks pissed,” Cousin Peggy says.

“Uncle Ronnie just ran his girlfriend into a tree, I’d say he has a right to be pissed.”

“Well, you have to listen to Uncle Ronnie don’t you; with him being a pastor and all,” Aunt Beasley tells Cousin Bucky.

“But is he really a pastor?” Cousin Bucky questions.

“I’ve seen the certificate.”

“The certificate he got from that online site? The site that Screech from Saved By The Bell is the spokesman for?”

“I thought that guy was in prison,” Cousin Peggy interjects.

“Uncle Ronnie is a real pastor–he’s allowed to officiate weddings,” Aunt Beasley asserts.

“He’s allowed to officiate weddings in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and he can preside over various hillbilly ceremonies in remote areas of West Virginia.”

“He can also marry people at sea.”

“You’re thinking of Captain Stubbing from The Love Boat.”

“I’m pretty sure that guy’s in prison,” Cousin Peggy continues. “What was his name, Dustin something?”

“You’re wrong.” Aunt Beasley says starting to become agitated.

“No. I’m pretty sure his name’s Dustin,” Cousin Peggy affirms.

“Would you shut up about Screech–nobody cares about Screech,” Aunt Peggy admonishes Cousin Peggy.

“Well,” Cousin Peggy says coolly, “maybe if more people cared about Screech, his life wouldn’t have taken such a tragic turn.”

Aunt Beasley gaped stupidly at Cousin Peggy for a moment before turning her attention back to Cousin Bucky. “Uncle Ronnie married that couple on Lake Erie just a few weeks ago.”

“Are you referring to the double suicide?”

“Uncle Ronnie had no way of knowing those people were going to jump out of the boat,” Aunt Beasley said defensively.

“He made sure he got paid up front.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“The wedding announcement read: We’re going to be taking the plunge to spend eternity together in the depths.”

“That phrasing could mean lots of things.”

“But it didn’t mean lots of things did it? It meant one very specific thing.”

“Nobody could have seen it coming.”

“They purchased their obituaries the same day they purchased the wedding announcement.”

“It’s not Uncle Ronnie’s fault,” Aunt Beasley finally yells at Cousin Bucky.

“Well, the authorities seem to have a slightly different opinion about that; they’re still looking into it,” Cousin Bucky replies.

“Maybe Uncle Ronnie can share a cell with Cousin Roscoe,” Cousin Peggy interjects before gasping in realization. “Maybe Uncle Ronnie can share a cell with Screech!”

Aunt Beasley turns to you in frustration, as you’ve been uncharacteristically silent. “Uncle Ronnie is real pastor isn’t he?”

You pause to properly measure your words. “Sure. Uncle Ronnie is a real pastor. Uncle Ronnie is a real pastor in the same way Dr. Pepper is a real doctor.”

Aunt Beasley storms away.

“Look, Bertha, or Becky, or what’s-her-name, is awake and she’s not on fire,” Cousin Bucky says.

“Small mercies, Cousin Bucky…small mercies.”

Potential cellmate of Uncle Ronnie’s






Uncle Ronnie and the “Blessing” (A Family Reunion Part 15)

It’s that point of the big family reunion when your uncle Ronnie gives the pre-meal blessing.

In your family the blessing isn’t as much about thanking God for the bounty you’re about to receive or about thanking Him for the opportunity for your family to assemble and enjoy each other’s company. It’s more of a passive-aggressive diatribe of accusation and chastisement.

The blessing often ends with someone fleeing in tears. Twice it has ended in stabbings and once there was a bludgeoning.

Dear Lord,

as we gather here today, we ask that you have mercy on those family members who have failed us over this past year…so bitterly failed us. We’re not asking for a lot of mercy, but for an appropriate amount of mercy.  I mean, the guilty do need to be punished–in certain cases, severely punished.

We ask that you bless those family members who have pleased us over the past year. Cousin Erikka whose Haiku writing has reached a whole new level this year. Uncle Gabe-you know, the firefighter- who heroically saved the Henderson’s family dog when their house caught on fire. Of course the Henderson’s all perished while Uncle Gabe was saving their dog, but I’m sure that’s how they would have wanted it. I’m sure they’re all with you now. Well, maybe not Bill Henderson, he was kind of jerk. His wife was no prize either…they’re all dead anyway.

I know you’re blessing my family because we’re as close to human perfection as you can get. Nice job on creating us by the way.

We ask that you watch over little Cousin Milt as he has begun dating the neighbor girl. You know the homely one with the droopy eye and questionable morals. Her name’s Becky or Bertha or something like that. Well you know, she’s sitting next to him right now. I see trouble coming out of that relationship, and possibly something illegitimate.

We ask that you help poor Rodney who was so tragically shot in the leg today due to the heartless inaction of a certain family member whose name I won’t deign to mention.

And finally there is poor Cousin Roscoe, who as we speak is being deloused. It was that same family member who is to blame for the long legal battle ahead of poor Cousin Roscoe. If only this family member could be trusted to get the marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars.

I won’t say that family member’s name. I’m just going to glare at that family member for ten to fifteen seconds in a condemning way. I could see some boils, or maybe a bout of leprosy coming the way of this particular family member–it’s your call.


“That last bit was about you,” Uncle Monty tells you.

“I get that,” you tell him.

“Because of that thing that happened earlier.”

“I understand,” you confirm.

“If you do get boils, I have some suave that might help…I not going to tell you what’s in it, but I made it myself.”

“Fantastic,” you say.

It’s going to be a very long day.

Uncle Monty (A Family Reunion Part 14)

uncle montyUncle Monty takes a seat next you adorned in blood stained camouflage and reeking of an odor previously thought to be reserved for things in an advanced state of decay.

“You smell like the ass end of rhinoceros,” Cousin Bucky exclaims through a pinched nose.

“It is a very pungent odor,” your uncle Monty confirms.

“Why?” You ask.

“Why what?” Uncle Monty responds.

“Why do you smell like the ass end of a rhinoceros, and why do you seem entirely unbothered by the fact that you smell like the ass end of a rhinoceros?”

“It’s a new masking scent I’m trying out.”

“A masking scent?”

“You know, to mask the human scent so you don’t frighten off the wildlife when you’re hunting.”

“That smell is meant to not frighten things off?” Cousin Bucky says with bewilderment.

“The scent of humans often frightens some animals,” Uncle Monty explains.

“Well, if you were going for a smell that’s inhuman: mission accomplished,” you tell Uncle Monty.  He takes it as praise–it wasn’t really meant to be.

“Thank you,” Uncle Monty beams with pride. “This is a scent of my own design.”

“You created this smell?”

“Absolutely. There are few secret ingredients that I can’t reveal, but mostly it’s yak urine and deer semen.”

“I just threw up in my mouth a little bit,” Cousin Bucky tells you as gets up to leave. “You’re on your own.”

“I’m certain I don’t want to know the answer to this, but where do you get deer semen?”

“Let’s just say, I’m resourceful.”

“Unnervingly creepy would have been my choice of words, but we can go with resourceful.”

Your cousin Rebecca stops on her way  past. “Hey Uncle Monty did you get anything today?”

“What do you mean?” Uncle Monty seems confused by the question.

“Haven’t you been hunting today?” She responds.

“Why would you think that?” For a self-proclaimed inventor, your uncle Monty is really quite dim.

“Because you’re all dressed in camouflage and you smell like death,” she explains.

“Have you not met Uncle Monty before?” You tell her matter-of-factly.

“Yeah. Have you not met me?” Uncle Monty backs you up.

“You’re both idiots,” Cousin Rebecca says as she walks away.

“You do wear an awful lot of camouflage, Uncle Monty.”

“I wear a normal amount of camouflage.”

“You have a camouflage wallet.”

“I need a camouflage wallet.”

“Why? In case you get mugged by a deer?”

“I need a camouflage wallet because I hunt.”

“Drop that thing in the forest and you’ll be hunting.”

“When I get this masking scent approved by the FDA, this camouflage wallet will be stuffed with cash.”

“I’ll be holding my breath–mostly because of the smell, but good luck.”

“If those pricks at the FDA weren’t so completely anal. A few tumors in some lab rats and a couple of random puss filled sores and they put a complete halt on progress.”

“How many lab rats?”

“Just three or four…dozen.”

“Those pricks,” you say disgustedly.

Before your conversation can proceed any farther down a genuinely disturbing path, your Aunt Zelda demands everyone’s attention because it’s time for your uncle Ronnie to say the blessing.

And so the big family reunion officially begins.

Can you spot the camouflage wallet in this photo?




Aunt Zelda (A Family Reunion Part 13)

Aunt Zelda has outdone herself this year.

“That’s harsh,” Cousin Bucky sympathizes as he eyes the giant gelatinous clump of Aunt Zelda’s potato salad on your plate.

One spoonful of your aunt Zelda’s potato salad is a chore to force down. You’ve been served enough to put down a rhinoceros. And not a weak or sickly rhinoceros that’s been having a tough time of it, but a young strapping rhinoceros that really takes care of itself and has a long and fruitful life ahead of it.

“That’s enough to kill a rhinoceros,” Cousin Bucky tells you,

“I know,” you tell him.

“And rhinoceroses are huge.”

“I know.”

“Way bigger than you are.”

“I know.”

“Like twenty times bigger.”

“I get it!” You yell.

“What do you think makes her potato salad so horrible?” Cousin Bucky asks.

“She puts way too much eye-of-newt in it,” you tell him.

“Is that what weird stuff is?” Cousin Bucky says matter-of-factly. “I thought it was monkey brains.”

“She puts some kind of curse on the potato salad then she makes everyone eat it,” you tell your cousin Bucky, “why do you think she brings it in a cauldron?”

“My mom says all that stuff about her putting curses on people is just rumors,” Cousin Bucky replies.

“That because Aunt Zelda put a curse on your mom.”

Cousin Bucky stares at you with disbelief.

“Do you remember that time Cousin Roscoe made that crack about Aunt Zelda having chunky thighs?” You ask.

“Yes,” he responds with apprehension.

“And the next week he grew a tail.”

“Grandma said he was medical miracle.”

“Most of Grandma’s miracles tend to fall under the category of aberration of nature,” you explain. “Remember how he couldn’t wear shorts that summer; he had to tuck that sucker down his pant leg.”

“I remember,” Cousin Bucky confirms.

Your cousin Roscoe had the tail surgically removed, but it grew back. Then they had it surgically removed again, but it grew back again. Then had it surgically removed a third time and that time it only came back as nub.

“You’ve seen the nub,” you tell Cousin Bucky.

“That nub is going to be a problem in the prison showers,” Cousin Bucky says. “You shouldn’t try to rob a convenience store if you have a nub.”

“And for so many other reasons,” you add.

As you and Cousin Bucky ponder he significance of a nub and how it would relate to prison showers, your uncle Monty plops down next you.

“Looks like I’ll be dining with you ladies today,” Uncle Monty bellows with his fog horn of a voice.

You sigh because it’s going to be a very long day.

He’s young and healthy, but he’s still going down.


Uncle Gabe: The Volunteer Firefighter (A Family Reunion Part 10)

Before Uncle Gabe.

It’s time to fire up the grill and start cooking the hamburgers and chicken. (The hot dogs will be roasted over on open fire because one fire hazard isn’t enough for your family.)

You’ve discovered your uncle Gabe (who is a volunteer firefighter) is in charge of the grill and the fire pit this year.

You question the wisdom of allowing your uncle Gabe (the volunteer firefighter) to oversee the grill and fire pit as his presence seems to frequently precede catastrophe.

“This isn’t a good idea,” you tell Cousin Bucky.

“I’m in charge of nothing,” cousin Bucky tells you as he shrugs his shoulders.

“Do you remember what happened the Thanksgiving Uncle Gabe cooked the turkey in a deep fryer?”

“I remember. The guys at the firehouse still refer to it as the incident.”

Your uncle has been on fire so many times, he has virtually no hair left on his body. Oddly he has never been set on fire as the result of his duties as a volunteer firefighter, but as the result of his sheer stupidity.

“Was that the same year uncle Jed cut his thumb off?” Cousin Bucky asks you.

“It couldn’t have been,” you tell him. “Uncle Gabe was there to administer first-aid, and not at the burn unit of the hospital.”

“That’s right. It was a good thing Uncle Gabe was there to stop the bleeding and take care of the severed thumb. The doctor said they could have saved the thumb if it hadn’t caught on fire.”

“Yeah,” you agree. “You wouldn’t think something packed in a bag of ice could catch on fire.”

You and Cousin Bucky pause for a moment to reflect upon your uncle Gabe’s ability to inadvertently ignite things.

You decide to check on your uncle Gabe (the volunteer firefighter) to see how he is doing. Not out of concern, but out of the sheer the enjoyment you derive when bad things happen to him (your uncle Gabe–the volunteer firefighter).

Note: you may think I’m bringing up the point that your uncle Gabe (the volunteer firefighter) is a volunteer firefighter a little too often. But it’s not as often as he brings it up.

“How are things going with the grill,” you ask. “Any burn victims yet?”

“Things are going great–I’m volunteer firefighter you know,” he boasts.

“I’ve heard that once or twice,” you tell him. “It’s just that…when you leave a place, things tend to be on fire that weren’t on fire before you got there. You’re really more like a fireman from Fahrenheit 451 than a genuine firefighter.”

“If I understood that reference, would I be pissed off?” he asks you.

You explain that Fahrenheit 451 is a Ray Bradbury novel set in a dystopian future where firemen start fires rather than put them out.

“If I knew what dystopian meant, would I be pissed off?” he follows.

“I think you’d be fine with it,” you reply.

“It’s okay, I’m trained to deal with fire–I’m a volunteer firefighter.”

“Sure. Have your burns from the fireplace fiasco at the Christmas party healed yet?”

“What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.”

“Or it disfigures and cripples you.”

“I can treat wounds–I’m a volunteer firefighter,” he tells you as he swats at his apron which has caught on fire.

“Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, check it out.”

And with that bit of helpful advice, you retreat to a safe distance.

After Uncle Gabe.

Where are Roscoe and Rodney? (A Family Reunion Part 9)


Your aunt Debra is now standing before you, cellphone in hand, with an ugly look on her face. When your aunt Debra is in good mood her face isn’t a thing of beauty. You once dubbed her face: the unpleasantness. But now her face is contorted in ways that would make a Cirque du Soleil performer envious.

Cousin Matilda is standing next to her looking equally perturbed. Her face isn’t quite as hideous, but give it a few years.

“Roscoe wants to talk to you,” Your aunt Debra hisses at you.

You take the phone with trepidation as you notice a crowd gathering around you. “Hey Roscoe how’s it going?”

“Ask him if he’s been deloused yet,” your cousin Billy shouts out with a chuckle.

(Your cousin, Billy Joe Jim Bob, is one of the few family members you actually get along with. Which always surprised you a little since his parents are intolerable jackasses.)

Undeterred you continue the phone call. “What? Are you serious? This is what you used your one phone call for? Don’t worry, Uncle Finster got the marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars. I’ll tell him that you made sure he got them.”

You hand the phone back to Aunt Debra. “He had to go; they’re taking him to be deloused.”

“Yay!” Cousin Billy cheers.

Matilda hands you her phone. “Hey Rodney, how’s the leg…” You sigh in exasperation. “Yes. Uncle Finster got the marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars.”

As you hand Matilda her phone, you notice the family is now surrounding you like the creepy glowing-eyed kids in Village of the Damned.

“Why did you let your cousin Roscoe get arrested?” Uncle Gabe accuses you.

“I didn’t want Roscoe to be arrested, but the police had ideas of their own.” you try to explain.

“My poor baby is in jail now. What do have to say about that,” your aunt Debra demands.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have got him that camouflage ski mask for his birthday.”

Your aunt Debra contorts her face in a way previously not possible for a human being–her mouth was above her nose.

“And how could you let Rodney get shot?” Your uncle Gabe continues with the accusations.

“I didn’t shoot him.”

“Well who did?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can you not know?”

“There was a lot tear gas, things got chaotic.”

Your aunt Debra gasps in alarm. “My baby was in tear gas?”

“I was in tear gas too,” you tell the crowd.

“Nobody cares about you,” your aunt Jackal seethes.

Things seem to be growing dire when Cousin Matilda intervenes. “Wait a minute, Rodney says that none of it was your fault.”

Your aunt Jackal grunts in dissatisfaction as the revelation seems to have abated the prospect of a potential lynching.

You’re very thankful that Rodney isn’t a blood relative and has only been married into the family for a short while. He has yet to be fully tainted by the family blood.

(The family blood is not only good for corrupting souls, but it can also be used to degrease an engine.)

The crowd around you disperses, but you can tell it’s going to be a long day.

village of the damned


Kissing the Ring (A Family Reunion Part 8)

queen's throne
Similar to your grandmother’s throne, but slightly less ornate.

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.

“Fingers crossed.”


“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.

jaquin pheonix
When gladiators got the thumbs down they were executed…lucky bastards.


The Arrival (A Family Reunion Part 7)

storm family reunion
The family approaches.

As you turn onto the driveway leading to Gravel Stone Park, you feel a sharp pain in your chest and your breathing becomes shallow. The first several times it happened you mistakenly thought you were dying. But you soon realized you were simply having a reaction to your family’s presence–not unlike the way the human body reacts to mustard gas.

Since your mother was the oldest of thirteen children (you had never considered the validity of the number thirteen being unlucky until you thought of this) the family is immense.

By the time you factor in all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, in-laws, significant others, and random stragglers who were caught like a moth in a spider’s web and couldn’t escape, it adds up to a butt-load.

(Incidentally, a giant web is how your cousin Erika ensnares most of her boyfriends.)

As you pull up to the Pavilion you see all their bright shiny vacuous faces smiling at you like some kind of weird cult. It reminds you of the painted on smile of some creepy clown that will attack with an axe the second turn away.

You’ve barely climbed from the safety of your car before Uncle Finster is in your face demanding to know you brought the marshmallows , graham crackers, and chocolate bars.

You defiantly shove the bag of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars in Uncle Finster’s gnarled wooden face.

He eyes you suspiciously. “Your cousin Roscoe was supposed to pick up the marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars, but he hasn’t shown up yet. I guess he’s being a bit unreliable today.”

“You have no idea,” you quip as you walk away in victory.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Read about it in the paper,” you yell back over your shoulder.

“Hey,” your Uncle Finster yells back, “why does this bag of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars smell like tear gas?”

You just shrug your shoulders and keep walking.

You make your way through the thicket of sneering aunts, condescending uncles, drooling half-wit cousins, reprobate in-laws, and assorted relatives whose names you’ve forgotten or whose existence you were wholly unaware of, absorbing the barrage of snide remarks that always accompany these wonderful family get-togethers.

“I am so glad to see you made this year,” your aunt Jackal tells you, her voice dripping with disdain and sarcasm.

(Due to a clerical error at the hospital, the first name on your aunt’s birth certificate read Jackal instead of Jackie. It has always amazed how much more appropriate the erroneous name is.)

“I have told you–I was in car accident that year,” you calmly explain again.

“So you say,” she sneers through her canine teeth.

“All of the police reports and medical records say so too.”

“Well, isn’t that convenient for you?”

“Actually, all of broken bones and subsequent medical bills were quite inconvenient for me.”

“I wouldn’t know about that.”

“Since none of you visited me in the hospital, sent a card, or even any well wishes; it’s not surprising that you wouldn’t know about it.”

“At least you’re here this year,” she snaps.

“I love these family gatherings,” you tell her, “I’m particularly looking forward to your funeral…I hope we can do it soon Aunt Jackal.”

“I had that name legally changed to Jackie years ago!” she seethes “Everybody knows that!” She then skulks away in much the way a wounded Jackal might.

You continue forward pushing past the rabble until you make to the queen bee herself for obligatory ring kissing.

She’s just sitting there on her throne–waiting for you.

It’s your Aunt Jackal in her natural habitat.