The whole family is psychopaths and reality TV bait. We’re utterly incapable of functioning without someone ending up crying or walking out into a blizzard under-dressed, just to get some air. I wonder what happens to the ones who do that. Though none of us ever wonder intensely enough to mount a rescue mission, a line of inquiry. It’s easy to get more relatives.
Everyone in this bunch hates someone else; more than one hates all of us. So it was super to gather for the holiday to burn food, point out shortcomings in each other, and fight. Super until Uncle Norbert arrived, anyway. Mom claims he’s Dad’s brother and Dad says he’s Mom’s brother; nobody wants responsibility.
Uncle Norbert wrote a bestselling etiquette book. Asshole.
Here’s how the guy ruins the atmosphere. Case in point. This year, I walked into the gathering and Sally was holding forth:
“How about you don’t tell me how many abortions to have and I won’t tell you how pathetic those hair plugs make you look, you sad little man.”
Somebody called out that Sally should S.T.F.U. So Sally cursed everyone’s birth and yelled that the whole inbred tribe of troglodytes could get bent, each for their own uniquely deserving reason. Something along those lines. Before I hung my coat someone spilled food on me, and I consciously designated Sally as the frontrunner for Most Likely to Blizzard Walk. My Great-Aunt Molly, age one hundred and infinity-plus-one, had a small percentage of her total lipstick array on lips proper, with the rest spread toward cheekbone hinterlands, an unintentional homage to The Joker. She wiped a massive splotch of it on my face in greeting, because—hey—why not? She remembers me from when I was an impossibly short kid—inspiring to hear that. I’m fifty, and I can’t find a tissue.
Howard complained about queers and communists ruining every good thing. He proposed that Sally would be perfect for a Miss Welfare Queen pageant, assuming anyone had the business sense to start such a pageant. So Sally barricaded herself in the bathroom. Then her mother spit on my brother Warren, because she believed Warren stirred up trouble wherever he went, and was indirectly at fault in this instance too.
It was like having a radio on in the background with familiar songs from childhood playing one after another. I mean to say, it was a deep comfort.
Warren announced that he’d arm wrestle anyone, but only one interchangeable niece took him up on it. She’s like nine or six or whatever, so Warren probably slammed her hand down on the table harder than he meant to. The girl’s Dad dove over the kiddie table, spearing Warren in the chest. There was cranberry shit everywhere. That processed can-shaped gel, not actual berries, which are okay. Warren went for the face.
Sally emerged from the bathroom, sobbing. She shouted, “Fuck all you lowlife motherfuckers!”
And finally, then, Norbert spoke up. “Shall we take turns now stating what we are thankful for? Who first?”
How can anyone tolerate a douche like that?
Here’s a quarter. Talk to the hand. Happy fucking holidays, you insufferable dicks.
Todd Mercer won the Woodstock Writers’ Festival’s Flash Fiction contest and took 2nd and 3rd place of the Kent County Dyer-Ives Prizes. His chapbook, Box of Echoes, won the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press contest. These things, small to you, seemed like a big deal around the house when they happened. Spontaneous dances? Yes. Mercer’s poetry and flash fiction appears in The Lake, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Thema, Blue Collar Review, Dunes Review, Apocrypha and Abstractions, and Eunoia Review. Write him if you want at: email@example.com, but not if you work in collections. If you work in collections, you should take a hard look in the mirror, Mercer thinks, and aim to restore your humanity.