My twin cousins, Margie and Mae, are manning the grill, telling me
about their diverticulitis. They shake their heads. No nuts, no seeds.
Their sweet hound dog, Steve, lies at our feet smelling oddly of
devilled eggs and Crazy Glue.
"Steve. How's about a nice shower, boy?" I unroll the hose on the side
of the twins' house and turn on the faucet. The water gurgles and
whooshes its way through the coiled hose. It's brown at first, like the
grass. Steve comes loping over and flops on his fat back. I spray his
belly and dribble a little into his open mouth. His eyes are closed and
he's wiggling from side to side, tongue hanging out, lapping the water.
"He doesn't like that," Margie says.
The twins don't match. Margie is much grayer and stouter and Mae is as
tall as me and she has a terrible, unfortunate stutter. She smiles a
It's the Swick Family Reunion 2008. My first family function without my
wife, Lorraine. My nieces and nephews painted the banner that's taped
to the garage door, with everyone's handprints, even the adults'. I
have promised that later I'll give them all rides on my back, but
they're a year bigger and I'm a year fatter.
A little blonde is tugging at my belt loop. "Did you bring the
jigglers?" she asks and I realize to my horror that I can't think of
her name. There are so many of them.
"No, sweet pea. I'm sorry." Lorraine used to bring those every year.
The gelatin snacks shaped like, I guess, animals.
Steve wanders away and I go sit at the picnic table next to Gigi Gran
and my brother, Lou. Gigi Gran is telling him how she doesn't believe
in global warming, pulling her cardigan tighter around her bony
"Pah!" she says. "And pah again!" She's never learned to modulate her
"Meanwhile the narwhals are disappearing from our earth," Lou says.
Lou's got his binder, the one that says "Save the Turtles" on the
front. It's full of articles he's cut out and hole punched. He was
captain of the debate team in high school and knows to carry his
evidence around with him, just in case.
Gigi Gran leans into him and says, "Eh?" and he says, "Narwhals.
Narwhals!" She waves her hand around, says, "Pah!" and starts digging
invisible things out of the potato salad with her bare hands.
"Hey, I was going to eat some of that," I say.
"Oh, hello, Bob," Lou says, and then we just look at each other.
Everybody's feeling awkward around me today. I want to tell them it's
all right, that I'm all right, but I don't want to see their eyes when I
Gigi Gran has eased her lumpy feet out of her house slippers, so I
reach down and grab one and chuck it to Steve while she's not looking.
He paws it to his mouth and chews on it, dolefully. The burgers smell
so good and I find my stomach growling again. There's not enough food
in the world for me these days. I buy Lean Cuisines and eat four of
them in one sitting. All my dishes have dust on them.
"Soup's on," Margie says, bearing a huge platter of grilled burgers and
hot dogs and brats.
"Thank god." I'm embarrassed to realize I said it out loud.
The twins' neighbor has shown up, uninvited, and is playing the bongos
while the nieces and nephews jerk their skinny bodies around in
something resembling a dance. They don't want to come eat but their
parents, my brothers and sisters and their spouses, stop playing
volleyball and wave them over, saying they won't get ice cream later if
they don't eat now. They look temporarily annoyed and harried, but I
think, I know, they're all happy in their good lives.
Lorraine and I squabbled sometimes, due mostly to her stubbornness, but
it was always an adventure. She said our someday kids were bound to be
crazy, just like the two of us, but we both kind of liked the idea.
Gigi Gran has made some remark that makes everybody laugh and my cousin
Mae's got her arm around me and she's saying, "Yyyyy... yyyyy... yyyyou're doing great, Bob." She's
smiling a little goofily, a piece of sweet corn stuck in her teeth.
They're all looking at me now, the whole big bunch of them, even the
uninvited neighbor with his bongos strapped around his waist, even
Steve who's standing up now, wagging his tail expectantly. I'm in a
panic, thinking I'm supposed to say something, but the neighbor saves
me. He slaps the bongos and says, "Good God, let's eat!" And so. We do.
Kathy Fish's stories have been published in Quick Fiction, Night Train, SmokeLong Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, Storyglossia, RE:AL, and others. She has a collection of very short fictions
in A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness, from
Rose Metal Press.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200902swicks.htm
Read KF's "Peacock" from the archive.
Photo detail on main page courtesy
w i g · l e a F