From the first Tri Short Story Collection Love Isn’t A Mood Swing
Ms. Thames’ real job was to be a busybody and not the secretary that she was being paid to be. Mouth as wide as the river that her surname carried, she took it upon herself to throw my dad’s fiftieth birthday party. An important milestone because no man in my dad’s family ever lived to see the big 5-0. Maybe they were cursed.
My family sucked. No sucks because they still do. She knew that. She knew that we couldn’t get along. I saw through her offer to have that party, and I wasn’t being paranoid. She probably sat in her big house and thought to herself why not put on a show for the neighborhood. I don’t know why my mom went along with her evil plan, but there we were, the neighborhood’s reality show, waiting to go on display thanks to the longtime family friend.
Mom and dad always said that they were half and half; half of the time they could’ve tolerated each other; the other half, they wished each other away. Their children, me included, inherited that trait, although I would say the fraction of hate and tolerance were different. Four of us had our safe zones away from each other in different parts of the world. Two boys, two girls in their four-walled cocoons.
We all showed up on the day of the party. My mom told us that no phone calls were being accepted, neither were those e-cards that annoyed my dad, or the paper birthday cards he thought were slowly vanishing like the hair on his head, going but not quite gone.
I was the first to come; my time zone was the closest to my parents.
Ms. Thames was there. And with one of the fake smiles I had ever seen that wasn’t a part of a commercial, she smiled and said, “Hello.”
“Hey,” I replied.
“Look at you, all grown up.”
“That’s what you do when you age. I see you’ve grown out.”
“How was your flight?’ my mom asked, sensing the aura of irksome from where I stood.
“Fine. Is dad around?”
“See ya,” I said as I left the two of them behind.
Maybe my mom knew what was going on. Ms. Thames, director, and my mom, producer. I caught the word ‘rude’ from the river’s mouth before I made it upstairs.
The door of my parents’ bedroom was open and my dad was sitting in a chair by the window. He looked so fragile. He had been through a lot—a recovering alcoholic that had lost too many jobs because of what he used to call “the liquid happiness”. He was my favorite parent.
“How long are you going to stand there watching me?”
“You, are you coming in or what?”
“Hi dad,” I said as I kissed him on his cheek.
“How is my favorite child?”
“I really don’t want to be here.”
“Neither do I. But I heard I am the guest of honor. The others have not arrive?”
“I’m the first.”
“No, you are the last child.”
We tried to hushed the fact that we were laughing. But wondering why, we laughed as if there were no other people in the house.
“You see what your mother wants me to wear,” he said, pointing to the clothes on the bed.
“Tell me about it. I do not know if she is hinting at a divorce.”
“Too many times.”
“What time is it?”
“I was hoping the snail would let go time.”
“How’s the bookstore?”
“No one read books nowadays.”
“We’ll make them.” And again our laughter traveled through the house. “My room isn’t turned into anything, huh?”
“I’m gonna lock myself in before the others come. Dad, Happy Birthday,” I said as I hugged him.
The party was at four o’clock. I was in my room, which still looked the same. The blanket, pillow case were all the same and washed and kept in good condition. It had been years.
I had my earphones in my ears, music trying to blast out the fearful thoughts that wanted to remain in my mind. I must have drifted off to sleep because I jerked up when I heard a door slammed. Yeah, I was home. My earphones were on my desk. I don’t know how they got there. Up on my closet door was a dress with a note attached to it. “Wear this,” it said. It was from my mom.
I got off the bed and looked around. A poster of Solar Flair was still on the wall and a John 3:16 sticker on the chair. I felt like a teenager again. The door opened.
“Are you awake?”
“May I come in?”
She headed directly for the dress. “Isn’t it lovely?”
“Are you planning on wearing it?”
“No, dear, it’s for you to wear.”
“Ms. Thames and I picked it out.”
“So I guess she can wear it.”
“Wear your hair up.”
“You still don’t listen,” I said, becoming angry.
She was going to say something but a noise from the hall never allowed those words to be said. I closed the door after she left and stood behind it. I heard what was going on. Child number one was arguing with child number two.
“How could you use up all the hot water?” child number one asked. It was my older brother.
“You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”
“Come, come, let’s not argue,” my mom said.
“It’s a million degrees, why’d she have to use hot water?”
“Then why are you making all this noise if it’s a million degrees?” my sister asked. She was child number two.
“I don’t know why I came in the first place,” I heard him say as it sounded like he was heading toward my door. I hid, but he knew where to look. “I see you’re still stupid,” he said, bending down and looking under the bed. “Don’t you think you’re too old for this?”
“Is everyone here?” I asked as I crawled from underneath the bed.
“Yeah. Don’t you think you should be getting ready?”
“Heard all the hot water’s gone.”
“Don’t tease, it doesn’t suit you.”
“You’re gonna wear a dress?”
“I’m not a kid.”
“Well don’t crawl underneath the bed.”
He was out of the room before I got a chance to respond. I felt like I was five again.
Mom, dad, older brother, older sister, third oldest child, and me, all stood in the living room at 3:15 PM. Me not in a dress. And my dad not in the outfit that was chosen for him. My mom wanted us to get things from out our system. Whatever we had to say to each other, we better get it out before we left. I felt like I was three again when she had us lined up before church and let us “discussed” things. She went first.
“I see you’re not wearing the clothes I chose but some jacked up, hurried together pants and shirt. You’re the guest of honor; you should’ve dress better. Total embarrassment.”
She turned to me and said,”You were born a girl and not a boy. I thought that dress would’ve looked great on you. Now I’ll never know.” She wanted to take me on a guilt trip. I didn’t go.
To my older brother she said, “You’re not a kid to be complaining about hot water; it’s hot enough already.”
To my older sister she said, “Your selfishness has never stopped amazing me. There was no reason to use all the hot water.”
To my other brother she said, “I never thought I gave birth and raised a wandering child. Speak only English here. You’re not in one of your foreign countries. We’ll all be seated at one table, so don’t embarrass me.”
“Why do we have to sit at one table?” my older sister asked.
“Because we’re a family.”
“Don’t get smart.”
We were all young again. We lived not too far from Ms. Thames’ house. And like school kids on a bus, with our mom as the bus driver, we headed there. She was the only one to have spoken and got things from off her chest. Ours were still glued, welded on tight and lying there like ash from a dormant volcano with small tremors.
Our party hostess was all smiles. Ugh. She led us to center stage to where a table that seated six was waiting.
All eyes were on us like watchers of a very popular soap opera. At four o’clock exactly, the party began. I was so nervous and scared of what might happened. My hands were on my lap and my eyes anywhere other than facing forward.
Ms. Thames stood up and said, “It’s nice to have so many people here. It’s good to see everyone from the neighborhood here to join in the celebration of the fiftieth birthday of such a wonderful man. I’ll not talk much. Everyone, the man of the hour.”
My dad got up and said, “Thank you.” He then sat back down.
My mom nudged him and whispered, “You can say more than that.”
He got up again. “Thank you very much.” He sat back down again.
The third oldest child got up, looked at our mom, and told my dad happy birthday in all the foreign languages he spoke. Instead of silence from the guests, he received applause. The glitter in my mom eyes told me that she was proud, and so was I. I never knew he spoke five different languages.
We were the first to be served. With the food came alcohol. I looked at my dad and then my mom. Their eyes said it all. My older brother walked over to the server, whispered something, and then returned with bottles of apple cider. The wine was removed. My hands weren’t on my lap anymore; the nervousness evaporated.
My oldest sister danced with my dad; that brought back so many memories. They used to do that when she was younger.
There was a camera man there, recording everything. I like watching the video every Saturday. Ms. Thames looking unhappy. The civil conversation between my family and our mingling among the people that were there. Us laughing. Us being happy like when we were kids. And I realized what the problem was, we grew up—and I hated it.
This story is an original idea written by me.© Thanks for reading.
See you next Tuesday, God willing. 🙂
Story one from collection is The Farm Team