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Please enjoy this holiday short story, a free gift from me to you. : )
FAMILY FAUX PAS: A THANKSGIVING STORY
I was in no mood for this.
“Excuse me,” I said.
She kept walking. I ran along side her, determined to get back in front of her before we reached the stalls.
“I know you aren’t talking to me after running into me like that,” she said.
“Excuse me? Is that what happened, because I don’t think so,” I said.
Her phone rang. She talked loudly into it, telling whoever was on the other end how some people are so rude and have absolutely no home training.
By the time we reached the end of the line, I’d had it. She and I did a dance, taking turns hedging closer to the woman in front of us who had more bags than arm length. At one point, I ended up a little too close to the wall and skirted back when I saw that it was teeming with a species of insect I’d never seen before. All of a sudden, I didn’t have to go anymore, for the moment anyway.
She and I never got to figure out who won, because neither of us got to move an inch more in the line. Someone flushed something she wasn’t supposed to. I heard the back up start and the water lap up over the commodes. All of them brimeth over at the same time and the grocery center janitor kindly ejected every last one of us from the line. Promises were made that we could come back in a few hours. Those who can hold it that long are a mystery to me.
I let the woman escape my line of sight and went in search of my husband. I locked in on him across the frozen food section and watched him wander the meat cases as I hobbled (I had to go again) up to him.
“Did you get a cart?” I asked.
“No, did you?” Cory asked.
I wanted to ask him if I looked like I had a cart, but I bit my tongue. He didn’t look like he had a cart either. He went back to scanning the ground beef, why I’m not sure. I waived past him at Jessica, my girlfriend from work. She smiled, that same sweet smile she’d had when we’d left work that afternoon, then went back to picking out a turkey.
“We’re buying Thanksgiving dinner, we’re going to need a cart,” I said. Maybe I did roll my eyes, but I think that may have been understandable. Forgivable. What he did next was neither of the two.
Cory slammed his hands against the metallic rail then muttered something about not being able to take it anymore. I knew he was frustrated; we both were. The holidays are hectic, the traffic is maddening. Something about the time of year drives all the crazies out; people that must hide under rocks until mid November. But Cory still didn’t have to act like that, like one of the damn crazies in the middle of our neighborhood grocer.
“Yeah, I’ll go get the cart Tammy. I’ll get it right now,” Cory said.
Then my husband of thirteen years did something so ridiculous, I’m sure he’ll never do it again. To his side stood an unsuspecting clerk unloading his cart of ground beef packets into the very same case my husband leaned against. Cory pulled out row after row of ground beef packets and slammed them into the floor. They made this smacking noise; some broke open and sent pinkish red meat flying. My shoe is still gooey on the bottom, because of this incident I’m sure, but I refuse to look.
I watched in horror for as long as I could, then pretended like I didn’t know him or Jessica as I worked my way out of the now fully formed crowd surrounding Cory and the clerk. Funny, but yet again, my bladder forgot its urgency as I raced out of the store chasing after my pride and dignity.
We’d both had a hard day, nothing had gone right. His truck broke down this morning, our daughter came home from school with the flu, the house was filthy, his parents were on a plane headed our way, and he’d found out on Monday he was getting laid off. I got that, but I didn’t get what had just happened.
Cory chased me down in the parking lot. I told him I didn’t know him and he better get away. Then I got in my car and argued with myself about leaving him in the parking lot to find his own way home. I blinked, but the look on Jessica’s face when my husband started a food fight in the middle of a grocery store wouldn’t leave me alone.
Was I overbearing and a nag today? Of course I was, being on my period does that to me. But in thirteen years of enduring my menstrual cycle, Cory had never snapped like that before. If the pressure was too much on him, I should probably back off. Or maybe he needed to man up. I’m under pressure too, but I don’t behave like that, in public or otherwise.
Cory scared me when he snuck up to the driver’s side door. His face was puppy-like, I could tell he’d never felt this sorry in his whole life. I rolled the window down, but didn’t let him speak first.
“Are you banned?” I knew it wasn’t as big a deal as anything else, but we could work out his behavior issues at home. Now I just needed to know if he could be counted on for emergency milk runs or if I was officially in charge of all household shopping forever. If I was, we were moving near another damn store.
“No one said anything to me before I left.”
“Did you pay for the damage?”
“No, was I supposed to?”
“I guess not, if they let you leave.”
“Can I please come home?”
I didn’t answer him verbally, I just shook my head and unlocked the car.
I left Cory in the car to think about what he’d done when I stopped at my sister’s place to pick up my daughter. On the way up the path to her apartment, my bladder let me know in no uncertain terms, that I was going to pee my pants if I didn’t make a stop immediately. I danced like a toddler at her door until someone I’d never met before opened it. Must be a new boyfriend. I greeted him as best I could without knowing his name, and then led myself back to her bathroom without even asking. I was her older sister all her life, sometimes I pulled that card. If someone had something to say about my rudeness, now would be yet another time the card came flying out of my purse.
My sister’s cleaning habits and lack of toilet paper left something to be desired in the experience, but I felt much better when I left the bathroom. That is until I found my daughter sitting Indian-style on the floor with a guy who had more gold than teeth in his mouth. I’m not sure what his skin color might have been before he became a human canvas, but presently it was a vibrant shade of tattoo. I grabbed my sister by the arm and asked her what the hell was going on before even saying hello or thank you for watching Katie on short notice.
“Oh, she’s getting tatted,” my sister said.
I jerked my head so hard my neck cracked. “What?”
“Yeah, she said you wouldn’t care.”
“She is getting a tattoo?”
“Am I in trouble?”
I ran to my daughter, and probably shouldn’t have, but I ripped her away from the giant needle that was mixing black ink with red blood on her left arm.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” was all I could say. Completely frantic, I tried to wipe the ink away. It wasn’t coming off. Katie cried out in pain and tried to pull her arm away. I yanked it back to me.
“How did you do this? Why?” I yelled.
“I’m sorry mom, I really wanted one.”
My death stare found the man with the golden mouth.
“I’m going to sue you, you hear me? You didn’t have my consent to do this.”
As soon as I finished talking I felt foolish on top of frighteningly angry. He didn’t appear to have a whole lot a court could hand over, not unless I wanted gold capped teeth. A death threat might have been more striking and appropriate in this situation.
“I got a signed consent form. What are you talking about?” said Gold Mouth.
My grip on Katie’s arm tightened like a boa constrictor.
“I got Auntie to sign it,” Katie said.
At that point my sister ran and hid, which was a great idea. I knew I had to leave soon, but first I had to see the damage.
“Well, it’s not that bad,” I said. The inside of her arm had a wavy line on it, like the outline of one side of a bowling pin. I might be able to afford getting that removed.
Then I turned Katie’s arm over and felt like I might pass out. He hadn’t just started working, he’d been at it for a while. The entire back of her arm was covered in outlines of the characters from Ice Age, Zac Efron, and that kid from One Direction. Some of it was seasonally appropriate, especially the pumpkin and cornucopia circling her upper arm. He’d made cute little sketches all the way past Katie’s elbow in some places. Her private school was going to love that.
Before I did anything that would result in a call placed to the authorities, I marched Katie out of my sister’s apartment, down the path, and into the back of my car. This was partially my fault for resorting to my brain dead sister for a babysitter. I knew better, but never expected this.
I didn’t have to say a word on the ride home, my husband did the shouting for me. I was just thankful there was no ground beef within Cory’s reach. We got back to the house just in time to hear the answering machine announce his parents would be arriving early. I couldn’t wait for my in-laws to see my daughter’s new “tatt” or my messy house. This is why I drank an entire bottle of Zinfandel and smoked my first cigarette since high school before deciding to go to bed at eight o’clock. And quite frankly, on this eve before our national day of thanks, I’m truly thankful for cigarettes and bottle openers.