(It’s been awhile since I posted a story. Here’s my most recent rejectee. Hope you like it more than the acquisition editors! Note: the following is a work of fiction.)
(100 Days of Blogging: Post 010 of 100)
I’d situated myself in my spot high up the live oak tree when I heard Uncle Dale bust out laughing and knew he’d gotten another one of his ideas.
My uncle Dale gets ideas. They are not good ideas. Mostly they are dangerous ideas. Dale thinks they are funny ideas. In the year 2020, the year of Covid, we all gathered at Granny’s for Thanksgiving. I don’t come from the sort of family that lets something like a global pandemic get in the way of a family gathering. Or even hanging out and drinking a couple of beers.
Dale’s ideas start with a joint, a shot of Jim Beam, and a couple of PBR tallboys, which then leads to — I have an idea. Sometimes he’s giggling so much we can barely understand him, but we’ve heard it so many times before we say the sentence for him.
On Thanksgiving morning his idea was to have our very own parade, complete with balloons. A Fuck Covid parade he called it.
My kin barely tolerate Dale, but Granny loves him and dotes on him. He’s been living with her since he got out of the hospital. She shares his sense of humor.
Thanksgiving is always at Granny’s farm. She inherited the farm and the Thanksgiving tradition from her mother who inherited the farm and tradition from her mother.
The farm was originally a shack in the middle of Florida. Granny’s grandparents built a house for themselves, and their son (her daddy) built a house for his family. The houses are close enough that Granny stretched a roof between the two houses, and that’s where we set the tables when we gather. It’s ramshackle but solid.
By lunchtime about seventy of us peppered the kitchens and the space between the houses and the porches. The place was as lively as an ant bed doused in kerosene when Dale got his idea.
My family drove up from Hialeah the weekend before Thanksgiving. I didn’t really hang out with Uncle Dale, he was grown and I was still a kid, but I hung out near him that week because he was funny. He was also sometimes sad or angry, and I steered clear when that happened.
Thanksgiving morning Granny nearly fell in the bustle of the kitchen but Uncle Carter caught her, so she ended up sitting on the porch with the other old folks watching the kids run around like little beasts.
Dale disappeared. Not that anyone noticed. I played tag with the kids and didn’t think about Dale and his idea again until he drove up in his raggedy green pickup with all the helium tanks and about a million balloons. Balloons of every color ever invented. I wondered where Dale got that stuff on Thanksgiving, but didn’t ask anyone. I figured he probably stole it.
Dale’s parade never worked since he couldn’t get anyone organized, but we had a ball and laughed so much blowing up balloons and sucking helium. Even Granny got in on the fun and hugged Dale and thanked him for making her laugh. The closest we got to a parade was all the littlest kids holding handfuls of balloons and marching around the horseshoe pit. Dale lost interest when Bubba and Merle showed up. They all vanished into the barn and Dale forgot about the parade.
The next morning we found Granny dead. She’d strapped a hose from the helium tank to a plastic mask she’d cobbled together and breathed it until she died. My dad found her behind the barn, and said at first he’d thought she’d fallen asleep in a lawn chair. Until he saw that she’d fixed that plastic mask to her face. Aunt Prossy read her note aloud, and we called the coroner, and everyone felt sad or angry or both. The note said she loved everyone and wanted to die with her family around her, and that her spells had been getting worse and it was time to go.
No one else heard him, but I heard Dale say softly, “I have an idea.” Mama told me to watch the little kids, but I followed Dale outside and climbed the oak to watch him. He carried the balloons and the helium tanks into the barn.
Perhaps the family should have been paying closer attention, but it was pure chaos as usual and no one realized Dale had gotten another one of his ideas until they saw Granny’s body tied to a bunch of colorful balloons and floating up above the house. Dale had removed the mask, and I could have sworn Granny was grinning. We watched until she was just a cluster of candy-colored dots poked through the top of the cornflower sky.