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by olgoat
Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #2263541
a family thanksgiving


Looking around the huge table, I wondered what the hell I was thinking going along with this gathering. Seated here were the remaining members of my wife’s family with faces ranging from bored to openly hostile. This guilt-driven gathering had been several weeks in the making and now it was happening. Everyone was hoping to avoid an emotional avalanche. Ah, the joy of Labor Day.

Having survived the cheese and cracker social hour facilitated by the alcohol-based lubricant of choice, the combatants rested a bit before the main event - dinner. The social hour had ended with a surprising zero body count. (There were a few minor verbal jousts and some rebirths of ancient harms.) The players now faced each other around the table in a scene that was reminiscent of the ‘moment of truth’ in a bullfight.

As the senior member present, I picked the least angry-looking family member (Great Nephew Lance) and inquired, “So Lance how is college going?”

The room fell into a deadly silence and Lance paused a long few seconds looking like a cornered rabbit before answering. I could see that he was calculating the opportunities for public humiliation that each possible answer would provide. “Well, I did alright during this last semester but I’m still not sure of my Lance Said, Lance
“You think you’ll have that figured out by next year,” I asked
Lance’s eyes glanced furtively around the room and came to rest on mine as he said, “it seems like a huge decision. I need to think about it more.”

Jim (Lance’s Uncle by marriage) straightened up in his lawn chair and said in the taunting style everyone was familiar with, “Haven’t you had enough time to figure that out? Seems like a guy your age would have a better handle on what he was looking for in life. Just saying.”
Marge (Lance’s mother) with a cool look of disdain answered, “For God’s sake leave the kid alone. At least, he is attempting a college education. Unlike some here who never tried.”
A tense silence descended on the patio. You could almost hear all the minds there calculating what their next move might be in this no prisoners taken verbal battle.
But the battlefield was about to change - dinner was served.
In a brief but meaningful bout with insanity, my wife and I thought it would be ‘nice’ to have everyone sit at the same table. To this end, I had manufactured an extension to our existing dining table and all dozen people had room at it.
We were about to see who was most effective in clinches. My head was already spinning just trying not to be a witness at what seemed an inevitable murder trial. There were years of backbiting and mistrust as the appetizers on that table and none of it was going down easy. I felt like an arsonist when I said, “Everybody have enough to drink?”
But not to worry this fire needed no additional fuel. With the roaring going on and getting louder I nearly called the fire department.
Then all at once, everything went silent. The only sounds were the clicking of utensils and chewing. My wife’s good cooking had stifled the fray. I knew the worst of it was over and soon the combatants would be leaving. The joy of hope filled my heart as I waved goodbye to each of them. The next obligatory gathering was months away.
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