ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment, the best d.mn short story about cranberry sauce -ever-
Last Christmas was unfortunate. So this year I expect the family might be a bit solemn. I actually haven't thought about it much today. I've been busy helping my Mom put up some decorations, put gifts under the tree, and set the table for the family dinner. I opened one of my gifts last night, it's a portable CD player with headphones.
Around 3:30pm my Grandmother and cousin Claudia arrived together. We had tea, and Grandma's blue eyes became moist as she remembered Aunt Haddie. I put my hand on Grandma's shoulder and smiled at her. She clasped my hand, and told me how much I'd grown.
It was nearly 4:30 when everyone had arrived and we all sat around the dinner table, talking. Last Christmas, Aunt Haddie got into an argument with Uncle Burt. I must say, it is so aggrivating to finally have a nice Holiday get-together and have two drunk relatives start arguing. I glanced at Uncle Burt. He was quiet, and looking down at his hands on the table.
Yeah, he and Aunt Haddie had gotten into it. I honestly don't recall the subject that initiated the argument, but they called each other names and at one point Aunt Haddie shoved Uncle Burt and he acted all dramatic and fell. Then he pulled Aunt Haddie down, and she was so drunk she could hardly get up. She went to lay in the guest bedroom. Nearly half an hour later, my Mom went into the bedroom to see if she was ok. My Mom thought Aunt Haddie was merely passed out on the bed, but as people went to get their coats and her cold body didn't move, we knew otherwise.
When the ambulance left, the family stood in a grim silence and eventually departed. It was probably something she ate, perhaps an allergy.
This year, it was obvious in the eyes of my relatives that the incident was on everyone's mind.
Everyone smiled tight smiles and chatted while my Mom and I placed dishes of food on the table. I put the cranberry sauce - a special recipè - in the center near the turkey. Uncle Burt already had 2 empty beer bottles next to his plate, and I took them for him and obeyed his request for a cold one. I told him only if he tried some of my fabulous cranberry sauce.
The ambiance was truly seasonal and I felt warm and happy as my family and I ate, visited, and laughed.
Uncle Burt started to get really opinionated over the simple matter of Church, though. I flicked my eyes in his direction and caught him emptying his beer with his head back, and wiping his mouth. The brown forest of curly whiskers on his chin was slightly foamy. He staggered from the table and captured another beer from the kitchen. I looked at my Mom for her reaction, and she simply smiled at him as he squeezed behind her chair to return to his seat. My Mom was chewing some stuffing and nodding politely as my Aunt Kendra chattered about her cat's new Christmas collar. My Grandma sat next to her, and my Great Uncle Albert across from her.
"Did you do well in school this semester?" My Grandma asked me.
"Mmm", I swallowed a mouthful of rice casserole, "I did pretty well, all A's and one C"
"Hey, I'm happy with that" Grandma said, and we talked about my cousin's new boyfriend and how long it had been since my cousin and I went camping together.
"Oh camping is just a waste of time when you could be indoors without gettin' all filthy. 'Sides, who likes squeezing into a little tent and trying to get your damn pants on when you can't even stand up straight?" Uncle Burt interrupted.
"I guess" I shook my head and looked around the table.
"Burt, you couldn't start a fire with a matchbook and a truck of wood, that's why you don't want to go camping" My Aunt Kendra said with a giggle. She smiled at my Mom and looked down to brush a few crumbs from her bright red sweater.
"What? You best shut your mouth -" Uncle Burt started, but my Mom stood up at this point.
"Would anyone like some coffee or pie?" She said loudly, striding to the kitchen.
"Not if you made it" Burt chuckled.
No one responded to him, but Aunt Kendra gave him an icy stare.
My Mom returned with a pie and the coffee pitcher, and most of my relatives indulged in some dessert.
I glanced towards Uncle Burt's plate and was delighted that he had, indeed, sampled the cranberry sauce.
Uncle Burt made himself a strong mixed drink and returned to badger the family as they had coffee and headed into the living room to hand out gifts.
My Mom handed my cousin Claudia a gift, and I retrieved a random present that went to Aunt Kendra. At this point, Uncle Burt muttered something offensive and Aunt Kendra said "shut up" and then smiled at us sweetly.
"Close your face you cow!" Burt slurred, and stumbled to the bathroom.
I watched him close the door and was startled to notice my Aunt Kendra handing a gift to me.
The minutes passed and Burt remained in the restroom.
Great Uncle Albert stood up, straightened his brown trousers, and decided to check on the "drunken codger".
We all ran to the bathroom when we heard Great Uncle Albert's panicked yell. Uncle Burt was slumped next to the toilet, dead. My Mom's face was stricken with disbelief, and she furrowed her eyebrows intensely and started to cry. Everyone was shocked and horribly upset. We called the police and managed to herd ourselves away from the bathroom and back into the living room.
The crisp winter breeze felt numb as I stood outside with my relatives and looked at the blurry lights of the ambulance as it drove away. My Grandma was sobbing, being comforted by a sniffling Aunt Kendra. My cousin Claudia's lower lip trembled profusely and she covered her face and fell into the comforting arms of Great Uncle Albert. He gave me a rub on the back and I just looked at the ground. Everyone began to file back into the house.
I turned around, digging into my pocket as I watched them grow farther away. I tossed the vile, now empty, into the gutter.
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|Reviewed by Felix Perry
|Wow what an ending. This has the makings of a mini journal for sure. Loved it, the characters and the scenes come alive.