Not a Hallmark Holiday

NOTE: Hi everyone, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and that means that families will be gathering around the turkey, et cetera and so forth. . .but, the reality is that families are complex social systems and the reality is that oftentimes these gatherings are fraught with emotional baggage, such as abusive and bitter histories that make the holiday less than joyous. Out of obligation, some family members feel pressured to attend these Thanksgiving Day dinners. Those family members who opt out of the mind games and abuse and choose not to subject themselves to the family drama are often left to feel inadequate and ostracized from their family and society as a whole. We are supposed to all be the Hallmark movie family with the two sets of happy, smiling grandparents, wonderful parents, and loving siblings; of course, all our houses are two levels with spacious lawns and even more spacious dining rooms in which we gather with generations of family and dear, lifelong friends. Oh! Only if this were reality! Well, it isn’t true for everyone. If it is for you, then bravo for you and have a Happy, Happy Thanksgiving. But, if your Thanksgiving Day feast is more like “I’m going to turn off my cellphone, put on dark sunshades, grab a novel and a notebook, and head to Starbucks for a holiday latte, and be totally incognito until January 5th,” then this short story is for you.

Short story: Not a Hallmark Holiday

Pollie Johnson polished the pink porcelain figurine. Carter Cumbee had been restive in his long, dramatic life. Never satisfied, he had changed jobs like most people changed their underwear. She laughed at her witty analogy regarding her mother’s third cousin, twice removed. Looking around at her family gathered for their Thanksgiving feast, she bit her bottom lip and felt the pit of her stomach churn and lurch a bit. But, they were her children and extended family. And, well, nobody’s perfect.

Ganymede jerked the tablecloth from beneath the Thanksgiving dinner plates. Aunt Sue and Uncle Hobart scooted their chairs back, their chair legs scraped against the hardwood floor. Plates shattered, teacups clattered, silverware hurled heavenward. Grandma Martha’s turkey toppled over and landed with a sickening thud at the white paws of Miss LeMeow, Pollie’s 14 year old Himalayan cat.

Mouths agape, Julius, Cyrus, Cyrene, Lydia, and Micheala, Ganymede’s siblings, jumped to their feet and stared at the hardwood floor strewn with stuffing, green beans, sweet potato pie, and the turkey.

“But, why?” Julius screeched, his hands shoved towards the culinary mess.

“Because he has to always be the center of attention. It’s always like this. Always,” Cyrus yelled in response, and slammed his white linen napkin against the white linen tablecloth.

“He just likes to ruin everything for everyone.” Micheala and Cyrene chimed in together.

Lydia clutched her sides and screamed. “I’m panicking. Panicking. Can’t stand this!”

“What the heck is your problem, Lydia. No wait, let me guess. Your ulcer is acting up. Always something with you. You, you hypochondriac.” Cyrus lowered his voice and spoke deliberately as if he were lecturing a small child; then, he sneered.

Ganymede knelt down and scooted Miss LeMeow up and scratched her behind the ears. He rested his nose against her warm, pink nose. “Miss LeMeow, it was an accident. My foot got caught in the tablecloth. It’s too long.”

She nuzzled his neck and purred.

Pollie blinked back tears and looked at each of her adult children as they yelled, criticized, and berated each other. Opening her arms, she asked Ganymede to give Miss LeMeow to her.

One hour later, Pollie and Miss LeMeow sat at a booth at Starbucks. Miss LeMeow’s pink tongue licked at the tiny styrofoam container of milk Pollie had placed on the floor. Jumping, Miss LeMeow landed in Pollie’s lap, snuggled up and fell asleep.

“Next Thanksgiving Day, Miss LeMeow, let’s make this our tradition.”

Miss LeMeow’s bright blue eyes opened. Pollie felt sure that she saw a smile cross the little cat’s face.

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2021

Envision Your Revision: A Short Story

It had started off well enough, as these such affairs often do.

Henrietta pressed her lips tightly. She did this whenever she was in deep thought. How exactly had she come to this moment? Certainly, it had not been her intent. The affair with Jasper Jackson, that is. J.J. as she had chosen to call him.

Not a particularly handsome man, nor a particularly prosperous man, nor a particularly intelligent man, neither.

Mississippi summers, it had been told to her by her grandfather Clem, could literally fry the brain. Or, had he meant figuratively?

Well, no never mind. Pastor Jenkins had advised her that it didn’t really matter how it had all got started. The why was the worrying part, and she being a lady, wasn’t about to divulge those details, especially to a Baptist minister who would most certainly turn her personal failings into a Sunday morning series with allusions, hyperbole, parables, metaphors, and all manner of semantic acrobatics, while just barely not revealing her identity.

But, she knew full well that the entire congregation at Mount Gilead Baptist Church would most certainly recognize her. She, as Martha Hennessy had told her, was the train conductor in her own wreck. According to Martha, she had overshot the trajectory of the route, had veered completely off the track, and toppled her own caboose over into the ditch.

“It was the heat.”

“Excuse me?” Mr. Littlefield, her legal counsel, peered over his bifocals at her.

“I had a migraine from the one-hundred and twelve degree temperature. You see I was sweating.”

“The heat is no excuse. We all live here, Henrietta.” Mr. Littlefield sopped his forehead with a white handkerchief.

Judge Claxton thumped his gavel. “Mr. Littlefield, how does your client plead to these charges?”

“J.J. was driving the car.” Henrietta blurted out. “The heat was just too much.” She smiled. Maybe, just maybe, if she could deflect any blame from herself to J.J., then maybe Judge Claxton would just let her go.

Judge Claxton removed his glasses and stared at Henrietta. “We are not talking about him; we are talking about you.”

Henrietta suddenly dropped her head against the table and covered her head with her arms. Hopefully, when she woke up, Judge Claxton and Mr. Littlefield, would have disappeared, just like that self-help book had promised. “Envision your revision,” she began to chant in whispers.

She envisioned a complete revision of the past eighteen months. She laughed, and waited.

Jenny W. Andrews copyright 2021