A fifth-grade girl prepares for her family's Thanksgiving dinner, and an unusual guest.
| My family is so weird. Every year, we have a big Thanksgiving dinner. We get up early, turn on the Macy’s parade, and Mom and I work like crazy, cooking, cleaning, setting the table and stuff. All our weird relatives come over and eat. A lot. Then the guys loosen their belts a notch or two and watch football on TV, and the girls totally get to clean up the mess. Is that fair?
And this year, my Dad’s bringing home a guest for Thanksgiving.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. What’s so weird about that, right? You have no idea.
We have big, fat Uncle Frank and Aunt Thelma over every year. Mom says I shouldn’t call them “big fat” but I mean, really! One time, I sat between them, and I almost got squished! Sometimes they even bring Cousin Clarence the nose-picker. Ewww!
Plus, I love my Grandma, but she has this thing on her face, right below her mouth, you know? It kind of sticks out, and it has a black hair growing out of it! We used to go to her house for Thanksgiving, but she got old, so now she comes to ours. She gets all dressed up, and she puts on lots of stinky perfume and thick make-up that makes her face look like a scary clown with a weird thing on its face that sticks out and has a hair growing out of it. And then, she wants hugs and kisses! Ewwww!
Everybody has stories about their weird relatives from out of town, who come to their house for Thanksgiving and creep them out. But, they’re family, and you have to be nice to them. You even want to, mostly.
But you know what?
They’re not nearly as weird as the guest who’s coming this year.
“Shelly! Come down, please, and finish setting the table! Our guests will be here soon. It’s Thanksgiving, you know!”
That’s my mom, yelling up the stairs. Mom’s pretty cool; she can even tell Nick Jonas from Joe and Kevin. Nick’s my favorite. I have an autographed picture of him in a real frame on the table by my bed. See? I just love the way the light sort of makes his face glow. And playing that white piano is so romantic! I pretend he’s singing “When You Look Me In The Eyes” just for me. Sigh. He is so...
“Shelly!” Mom calls me Shelly, but my name’s really Michelle. You can call me Misha; all my friends do. I like that better. I think it sounds more grown up, don’t you?
“Okay, Mom! I’ll be right down!” Come on; we can talk more downstairs.
The good china’s over here, in Mom’s cabinet, that she got from her Grandma. Give me a hand, would you? Here, just put one of these plates on every place mat. I’ll follow behind you with the soup bowls; they go on top of the plates. Thanks.
Mmmm. Check out the smell coming from the kitchen. Mom’s a great cook. She bakes great pies, too. This year, she made three: pumpkin, apple and cherry.
“Dinner smells great, Mom!” Oops. Sorry about yelling. I didn’t mean to startle you, but Mom can’t hear a thing over the exhaust fan in the range hood.
“Thanks, Shelly, honey. Don’t forget to check the glasses for water spots.”
“Okay.” I guess she heard me after all. The water goblets go on the top right corner of the place mats. Here, take a couple, ‘kay? Hold them by the stems, though. I don’t want to have to polish off fingerprints. At least, not until after dinner.
So. I was telling you about our Thanksgiving guest. Well. I guess I have to tell you about my Dad first. Dad’s one of those smart guys with a lot of letters after his name, like MS and PhD, and stuff. When I tell people what he does at work, they mostly say, “Wow, that’s cool.” Well, maybe. But Dad’s job is the reason our guest is coming over this Thanksgiving.
See, Dad works for SETI. That stands for “Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence”, which sounds cool, like maybe he flies around in a space ship all day or something, like those guys in that Star Trek movie. But really, it means that Dad sits around all day listening to a radio. Even that would be a cool job, if he could tune in to, like, Miley Cyrus, or Demi Lovato, or - sigh - the Jonas Brothers. But, no. He just listens to static! Hour after hour of hissy, crackly, totally boring static. I know, ‘cause I had to listen to it, too, on Take Your Daughter To Work Day, four years ago, when I was a tiny little first-grader.
And you know why? ‘Cause he’s waiting for aliens from outer space to return the message we sent to ‘em, like a zillion years ago! Can you believe it? Bo-ring! After the first ten minutes, I’m like, “Whoa, get a life, Dad. I mean, if they haven’t called you back by now, maybe they just aren’t that into being friends with us. If I was waiting by the phone all day for a boy to call me back, my friends would totally tell me to get over it!”
He said that if SETI ever gets over it, he would be out of a job, so I decided to let him slide. I just always make sure to have a test, or a group project or something, on Take Your Daughter To Work Day.
Okay. Now the silverware. Everyone gets a tea spoon, a soup spoon, a knife, a regular fork, a salad fork, and a dessert fork. How can you tell the difference? Easy. The salad fork is the shorter one. See? And the dessert fork has these little designs between the spikey things. The forks all go on the left side of the dinner plate. The big dinner fork in the middle, with the salad fork on its left and the dessert fork on its right. Then, on the right side of the plate, it’s the dinner knife, the teaspoon, and the soup spoon.
Anyhow, I told you Dad’s job was totally boring, right? Well, that was before.
Things are different, now that they finally returned our call.
Now that they’ve come to Earth.
Now that Dad’s invited one to dinner.
Uh-oh. There’s the doorbell.
“Shelly, could you get that, please?”
“Okay, Mom.” Keep your voice down, okay? She can hear better in there than I thought. Come on, let’s answer the door.
“Give your old Grandma a great big hug and kiss, Shelly-sweets. Oooh, Grandma has missed you so much!”
“Me too, Gram. I’ll hang up your coat. Mom’s out in the kitchen.”
“Thank you, sweetie. Frances! Move over, girl, the cavalry’s arrived!”
Whew! See? What did I tell you? Scary clown, right?
The orange wig? No, that’s new. Last year it was kinda blue. And how about that gross thing with the hair? I wonder if it’s naturally curly, or if she uses a curling iron on it? Totally icky, right? Yeah, I know. It’s hard to believe she’s my Dad’s mom. He’s had to kiss that since he was, like, littler than me!
One good thing, though. Now that Gram’s here, Mom’ll shift into Superhostess Prime, like one of those Transformers the boys like so much. You know; the things that start out as a cool sports car, or a jet plane, or something, then turn into big robots. Of course it’s silly, but when Mom turns into Superhostess Prime, she doesn’t need my help any more. In fact, it dangerous to get in her way. You could get stepped on by a giant robot foot.
I’m only kidding, silly. But Gram brings that out in her.
Come on; let’s go back upstairs, quick! Uncle Frank and Aunt Thelma are pulling into the drive. And Clarence the nose-picker is with them! Superhostess Prime will take it from here. I need to change into my fancy dinner dress. Oh, no. It’s just one of Superhostess Prime’s rules. You look just fine. Guests get to wear whatever they want.
The relatives are all here. Now we’re only waiting for Dad to bring his guest. I mean, Dad said he was giving him advice on, you know, presentation, and stuff. They’re probably still on his UFO, trying to decide what color tie he should wear. What do you think he’ll look like? Well, I don’t know, but I’m afraid he’s going to be something so weird that Grandma looks normal, or so gross that even nose-picking Clarence would be a better choice to sit next to.
Maybe he’ll be one of those skinny little green guys with the giant heads and bug eyes. Or maybe he’ll be a giant bug, like those cockroach guys in Starship Troopers. Or maybe he’ll be more like a talking slug, who leaves a trail of slime wherever he goes. Eww! Oh, I just know I’ll be the one who has to clean it up!
I’m like, totally embarrassed. You don’t think I’m a geek, do you? Thanks. That’s a relief. Could you do up these buttons for me? I can’t reach ‘em.
“Fran! We’re here! Come on in, Fnozar, don’t be shy.” Oh!
Sorry. Sure, I’ll hold still. I guess I’m a little jumpy. Dad’s voice just, you know, startled me. Sort of.
Fnozar? The guest’s name is Fnozar? What kind of name is that? It sounds like the name of the stuff Mom sprays up my nose for my allergies. Oh, well. It’s time to face the music. Or maybe the mucus, in this case. Ewww! Hee-hee-hee-hee!
Thanks for sticking with me. I’m totally nervous, and laughing with you has helped a really lot. Come on. Let’s see what’s what.
Wow. Listen to them, all talking at once. How am I supposed to get a look at the guest from a safe distance, when they’re gathered around him like boys around a Hot Wheels track? Oh, well... nothing else to do but go for it. Ready? Okay. Let’s go.
It figures. Dad would be the first to see me coming. “Oh, here she is, Fnozar. She’s been very anxious to meet you.”
Oh, right, Dad. I’ve totally been hopping up and down with excitement.
“Misha, Dad. I like Misha, remember?”
“Oh, yes. Of course. Well, Misha, I’d like you to meet our guest. From Alpha Proximus 3, this is Ambassador Fnozar. Fnozar, this is my daughter, Shel- er, Misha.”
Okay. Here goes. I’m gonna shake his hand, even if it’s sticky, or slippery or whatever. Uncle Frank and Aunt Thelma slowly drift apart like a couple of planets. The guest steps forward, and...
I must really look geeky, with my jaw hanging open and my eyes totally as big as the good dinner plates. He takes my hand and gives it a little shake, then holds it for a moment, and a concerned look comes into his gorgeous brown eyes.
“It’s nice to meet you, Misha. Are you okay?”
Did my teeth click together when I forced my mouth shut? I just know I have a stupid grin on my face, don’t I? I can’t, you know, remember how to be cool!
“Um.” Did I really say that? Um?!
But I can’t help it. If you weren’t here, you’d never believe it, right? You’ll back me up at school on Monday, won’t you? Wait’ll we tell them! Except for the green hair, Fnozar looks totally like Nick Jonas!