“people will be here soon.” said my wife. “Why don’t you take a shower and change?”
“Change into what? A northwest beaver?”
“Some nicer clothes.”
“Hey, I happen to like my pajamas. I think they show some class. You know, like Hugh Heffner always strolling around in sleepware.”
“You aren’t Hugh Heffner.”
“That’s for sure. You’re not much of a bunny.” I wasn’t trying to be mean, but after all, who goes for 50 year old bunnies? And by then, aren’t they cougars?
“Besides, you’re not wearing a robe or an ascot. Heffner always wore an ascot.” She had me there. Or could have. The truth is I have no idea if Heffner wears ascots. I do know he often wears really ugly slippers. I’ve seen them in the photos published about Heff.
I’ll take a shower.” I agreed.
The first guest arrived about twenty minutes later. I was all clean and sparkling and parked in my wheelchair by the front door so I could greet our guests. Actually, I’m not really sure if family qualifies as guests. Most of them come by almost every day, coincidentally arriving at mealtimes. Today’s big difference was that I couldn’t complain about how much they ate because we’d invited them. The doorbell rang and simultaneously the door flew open and the gaggle of mio familia began filing in. The men shook my hand and the women all leaned down to pretend they were kisiing me and making loud smooch noises. I smiled my best smile, which is difficult with no teeth. I look pretty much like one of the ancient denizens of the Ozark that spent his time wondering if the lead in his still would make him blind.
We all went into the living room and engaged in smalltalk before the main event. The dinner table was all fixed up with place settings, a pretty centerpeice towering in the center. It appeared to be made out of the dead branches of some poor shrub but my wife insisted it was artistic because that’s the the florist shop told her. With a price of thirty dollars, I figured it was an artistic representation of petty larceny. Someone turned on a football game and the males all created a semi-circle in front of the tube while the women migrated to the kitchen to complain about the male gender in general. This lasted a half an hour before my wife announced that it was time to eat.
“Someone say grace,” suggested my daughter in law.
“Grace.” I replied. “Pass the mashed potatoes.”
“Come on, Bob.” my wife said reprovingly. “Try to get with the spirit of the occasion. This is nice, all of us here together.”
I sulked a moment, my joke unappreciated. “Fine. Dear God, let this get over with quickly. Amen.” I mumbled. I got kicked under the table but it was deflected by my wheelchair frame. I got the message anyway and shut up. A short prayer of thanks was said, followed immediately by the noise of pigs revelling in slop. I realized it was me making the noise and ate more quietly. The meal went well for about five minutes before the usual subject of discussion was raised, and that was, of course, how much more all of us knew than the people we didn’t like. We chatted contentedly until my son in law announced that he’d just bought a new gun.
“It’s a Glock,” he said whipping it out. “It’s a Nine.” The gun went off and plaster fluttered from the ceiling, seasoning the leftovers. “Oops!” he said.
I looked at him and said “Nice Rick Perry immitation. Do you do Cain too?” I waved my hand in the air trying to encourage the plaster dust to fall away from my plate. After all, I still had a little turkey and cranberry dressing left.
“Just so long as he doesn’t do Cheney.” said my father in law. He turned to me and we high-fived. None of us particularly cared about the bullet hole in the ceiling, it was cottage chese out of the roaring 70s and was discolored to a brownish gray like most old ceilings. We had planned to have the ceiling scraped flat and repainted, but then the VA had offered to help me buy a house and fixing this one lost its place in the list of priorities.
“I should probably check the roof for a hole,” I mused aloud. This brought laughter to the circle of family as they all pictured me trying to get a wheelchair up a ladder.
“I’ll do it.” volunteered my brother in law. “If there is a hole, I saw some stuff on tv that will seal the hole right up.”
“I saw that commercial,” my wife volunteered. “They put a screen door in a boat and sprayed it with that stuff and then went sailing.” In my mind’s eye I recalled the commercial. I’d seen it myself and noticed that when they sprayed the screen door it appeared that it would take a week to cover the screen with the black, tarry goop. Frankly, even the commercial didn’t make the stuff look very convenient. But what the hell, I was moving out anyway so I nodded in assent.
“I pooped!” announced my grandson.
“We don’t say things like that at the table,” his mother admonished.
“Yeah, I’ll say!” I added. I was wearing a tee shirt that said “I pooped today.”
“Bob bought a new generator.” my wife announced. She was trying to change the subject.
“Cool beans!” announced my brother in law. “The way things are going with the weather, and from what the weather people on television say, it’s going to be an awful winter.”
“Maybe we should go hook it up later.” said my father in law. “It’s looking pretty ugly out there weather wise. The TV news said seven cars had slipped off the road earlier on ice.” Actually, it’s was 40 degrees outside under cloudy skies. It was too warm for ice.
“That’s up in the hills.” I said. “The snow line is at about 3000 feet. Not that the mountains got much snow.” By coincidence, the football game was interrupted by an annoying buzz sound as the television did one of those emergency alert tests. Except they were talking about all kinds of flooding in the state’s western counties.
“Well then, we should hook it up in case of floods.” he spoke again, undaunted. I thought about a committee consisting of my family assembling my thousand dollar generator and shuddered. Fortunately, my grandson said he’d pooped again and the conversation was lost as my in-law offspring hustled the boy off to the bathroom leaving eau de pew wafting behind.
* * *
“Well,” I said when at long last the house emptied out, “that’s over with.” My wife came over and leaned in to give me a hug.
“You were very nice tonight. Thank you for not giving your dissertation on the loss of American values and your predictions of coming gunfire and chaos.” She smiled warmly and I looked at the hole in the ceiling.
“There’s already gunfire. ” I said.
“That’s different.” Her face was filled with reproach. “This is family, not roving bands of marauders.”
“Tell me that tomorrow when they all drop in for leftovers.”