It’s All Relative

Contributor: Marian Brooks

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Laura would rather sit through Chain Saw Massacre 3 D than spend an evening with Ted’s parents.

They’re creepy. His mother, Gertrude, seeks her reflection everywhere, even in puddles after a rainfall, totally unaware that she might be standing in a slow current of shit. She fairly oils her way across the floor as she approaches. Laura can imagine her mother-in-law with a silver cigarette holder between her fingers if only she smoked.

Ted’s Dad, Phillip, is a giant of a man at 6’6” with a voice to match. No one ever argues with Phillip. When he frowns, his eyebrows alone could sweep you up and into the dumpster behind the garden. To his credit, he is a world champion flosser. He has to bend his way through doorways. If only he didn’t bend once in a while.

Now they have come to spend the weekend with Ted and Laura and their teen-aged boys, Justin and Lewis. Laura disappeared into the kitchen as soon as she could, stirring plenty of rage into the soup. She calculated the number of hours until their departure – fifty-seven frigging hours. Of course, some of the time would be spent sleeping. Subtract sixteen hours and you have forty-one.

They last visited in May for Justin’s eleventh birthday. Gertrude complained that there weren’t nearly enough balloons and that the cake was a little stale. They gave Justin a golf umbrella. Justin does not play golf. Phillip slept through the whole affair.

The afternoon was spent catching up with who had died and whose children were, or should be, checking into rehab. The Wilson’s daughter was pregnant by that long-haired musician, Doug and poor Uncle Charlie, who once moved like a greyhound, needed a new hip.

Dinner and clean up would consume two hours leaving thirty-nine and so on and so on. Lincoln was playing at a local movie theater. It was over two hours long. “We’re getting somewhere,” Laura thought. Both of the kids wanted to see Skyfall and Ted, Silver Linings Play Book. Gertrude was on her way to a headache and so was Laura. At least they had that in common. They compromised and went to see The Life of Pi.

By the time they woke up the next morning, there were at least twenty four hours to go. Ted made his special blueberry pancakes. Gertrude was proud of him although she thought the coffee was too strong and the orange juice, too acidic. She asked her daughter-in-law what kind of fabric softener she used. “The sheets were like sandpaper,” she said. Laura snapped like a towel on the line in a high wind. She threw her utensils into the dishwasher without even separating them and marched out of the room.

Fortunately, Ted and Laura lived a mile away from one of the largest malls in America. Much time and money could be spent there. Phillip offered to stay home with the dogs. Besides he was convinced that there was a code embedded in the daily crossword puzzle and that he was going to discover it. Everyone else piled into the SUV. The silence was deafening. The boys headed straight for Model’s Sporting Goods to purchase Eagles hats. They put them on backwards and inside out and stood in line for over an hour at the Apple Store. They congregated at Friday’s and were about to head home. Gertrude insisted that she needed to pick up a rain coat at Nordstrom’s and an unmentionable item at Victoria’s Secret. She went in alone while Ted, Laura and the boys waited outside, mouths open.

Shortly after they arrived home, Ted’s parents announced that they were departing way ahead of schedule. All were surprised but not disappointed.

Ted, formerly a gymnast, hadn’t done a cartwheel for ten years. When his parents left, he performed two of them perfectly across the living room floor.

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Recently retired, Marian Brooks has just begun to write some short fiction. Her work has appeared in Thick Jam, Curly Red Stories, One Million Stories, Short Humour, and others. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband.
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