A Family Reunion Around The Christmas Dinner Table Takes A Strange Turn
Ben Larson walked into the kitchen just as his wife was ending her phone call.
“Alright, Tracy. We’ll see you at eleven. Drive safe.”
He already knew who Jill had been talking to, and he knew what the conversation was about. After grabbing a beer from the fridge, he sat down at the table with a heavy sigh.
He wasn’t happy.
“Ben, you’ve got to get over this,” Jill said, trying to break the tension. “What happened between you and your cousin happened twenty years ago. You’ve got to let it go.”
Ben popped his beer, took a swig, and looked at his wife. No, make that glared at his wife.
“I don’t care what you say,” Jill continued. “Mike and Tracy are in town, and they’re coming for Christmas dinner tomorrow. This may be the last time you two see each other, and you both need to grow up and make amends.”
“Jill, you don’t understand what —”
“I understand perfectly,” she interrupted. She reached across the table and took his hand in hers. “Besides, Ben, he’s the only real family you have left.”
Another heavy sigh. “Alright,” he said at long last. “But I still don’t think this is going to work.”
“It will, baby. Trust me, it will.”
~ ~ ~
Christmas morning dawned bright and blue, and Mike and Tracy arrived promptly at 11 o’clock with a complimentary bottle of wine. Jill watched anxiously as the two cousins shook hands, even going so far as to give each other a brief 'man hug'. But even though Ben was trying his best to hide his true feelings, he couldn’t mask them from Jill, and she was already thinking that maybe this wasn’t going to work.
Tracy helped Jill in the kitchen while the boys sat in the living room watching football, and by one o’clock they were all seated at the table where yams, cornbread, mashed potatoes and gravy, a honey glazed ham, and a fourteen pound turkey waited to be devoured. Since no fireworks had gone off for the last two hours (actually, the only sounds she heard coming from the living room was the football game), Jill was once again thinking that maybe they’d get through this after all.
After carving the unfeathered fowl, saying grace, and loading their plates, the dinnertime chitchat began.
“So Mike, are you still in the drug store business?” Ben asked, a touch of condescension betraying his voice.
Either Mike didn’t catch it or he let it slide, but Jill definitely caught it. Her eyes darted back and forth between the two men.
“Well, it’s actually called pharmaceuticals, and yes I am. And I’m not doing too bad, either. You’d be surprised about some of these new drugs they’re coming out with these days.”
“I’ll bet I would,” Ben said, taking a sip of his wine.
Jill felt the temperature in the room drop ten degrees.
“I’ve heard about that Viagra stuff. What else they got out now?”
“Well,” Mike said, “there’s this new drug called ‘Muscillin’. The FDA says it might actually cure arthritis.”
Ben put his fork down and began rubbing the back of his neck with both hands. “Yeah, I could use some of that stuff,” he said. The sarcasm couldn’t be missed.
There was an awkward ten second pause, and Jill knew something was about to hit the fan.
Mike finally broke the ice.
“Ben, are you still pissed about that car accident?”
Ben’s hands, which were still on his neck, suddenly wrapped into fists and slammed down on the table, almost spilling his wine.
“You’re damn right I’m still pissed!” he bellowed. “You left me there to die, you son of a bitch!”
“Ben, please…” Jill pleaded.
“No I didn’t,” Mike said, maintaining a level voice. “I went for help.”
“No bullshit,” Mike said, as though Ben’s outburst had never happened. “And besides, you won’t have to worry about that arthritis anymore, anyway.”
“What are you talking about?” Ben angrily demanded.
“Well, it seems that another pharmaceutical company came out with a drug called ‘Constrictorcin’. It's still in the testing stage, but I managed to get a few samples of it.”
Ben was listening intently. He started to reach for his wine to calm down a little, but as his hand went for the glass his right arm slowly came to a stop just inches from the goblet.
“What the hell?” he said. His arm was frozen in mid-reach.
Mike went on.
“According to the company, Constrictorcin was originally designed to help people with muscle deficiencies. You know, sort of a super steroid to tighten up the muscles.”
Ben started to move his left arm toward his right, but just like the first one, it too slowly froze mid-reach.
Jill stared at her husband in disbelief. As she turned her gaze toward Mike she noticed that Tracy's hand was frozen in front of her face, her fork in her mouth, her lips wide open.
“The FDA probably won’t approve Constrictorcin because they found that too high of a dosage can actually solidify the muscles.”
Tracy was making strange ‘ungh, ungh!’ sounds around the fork in her mouth.
“Kind of like rigor mortis,” Mike said, “and after dropping a few pills in a couple of these glasses of wine, I can see they were right.”
Jill sat there in silence, her mouth agape in horror.
Ben felt his entire body stiffening up now. Tracy was feeling the same.
“Ungh! Ungh, ungh!”
“Remember senior homecoming, Ben?” Mike asked. “How about you, Tracy? You and I were going steady, and I was supposed to be on the field quarterbacking? Well, turns out I got pulled out of the game in the third quarter and I went looking for you. Guess what? I found you. And Ben. Underneath the bleachers.”
Mike took a bite of his turkey.
“Mmm, mmm. This is one fine meal, Jill. Thank you for having us. Tracy? Aren’t you going to thank Jill?”
“Ungh! Ungh, ungh, uuuuuunnnnnngggggghhhhhhh!”
OVER THE HOLIDAY DINNER TABLE, IT BECOMES APPARENT THAT A COUSIN HAS UNDERGONE (OR IS UNDERGOING) A SHOCKING TRANSFORMATION.