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Relative Quirks

No matter what you think of your relatives or your family reunion, they can't be as bad as this. Can they?

by Erica L. Merrill

"Hee hee hee heeee!" Cousin Glenn cackled. He jumped up and down, up and down, so many times I thought his head would crack open. He flipped upside down, stood on it and grew purple. His eyes met mine and he grinned. I giggled. Then, as suddenly, he toppled, popped back up and was off, speeding in chortling circles around our family reunion in the park.

On this warm and windless day, he created our breeze for us. The balloons waved and the bees whined. Meanwhile, the food was quietly rotting.

"Burton, make him stop!" Aunty May wheezed from her lawn chair. She placed a bandaged hand over her eyes, moaning. Not that she could see Cousin Glenn, anyways. She'd wrapped gauze across her eyes, too, and all around her head. Small white wispies stuck out at odd angles, like a porcupine. Aunty May never moved without getting hurt.

It was because of this, I reasoned, that our sunny picnic had become so dismal. Aunty May had stepped on a bee. I knelt by her side and applied another wart bandage to the growing pattern spotting her raw white feet. After the first bee, every blade of grass was another bee to her. I propped her feet up on a picnic bench and patted the thin white blanket around them.

"That will keep the breeze off, Aunty May." I kissed her cheek.

"I'm going to die," she wailed.

The cake was getting warm. The frosting glistened. It oozed slightly at the edges. The fried chicken was getting cold. It also oozed.

The box of bandages was empty. I tried to show Uncle Burton. He was boldly coughing up his lung. His eyepatch hung at an odd angle, dangling off his ear from such violent shaking. Uncle Burton waved his arm back and forth and shook his head. I sighed and turned to Uncle Drake.

Uncle Drake was sobbing. When Aunty May had stepped on the bee its stinger had lodged in her foot and it died. Uncle Drake accused her of being an animal hater and a murderess. It took all my might to push his frail advancing body to the side enough to keep him from whacking her with his cane.

"She didn't kill it," I yelled. "It died protecting its nest." I steered him to his chair and took away his cane. He didn't try to get back up. He crossed his arms over his head in a ball and rocked back and forth, blubbering.

The coleslaw fermented in its plastic container. The lid was askew and a bee crawled down the spoon handle to feast. At least something dared. It would probably die of indigestion, like the Aunts complained.

I was suddenly quite sure that the original bee had tried to bite Aunty May before it got squished. What it didn't know is that Aunts cause indigestion.

Aunty Louise thwacked her cane on her wheelchair. "Jessee!" she screeched. "I'm feeling the wind, come fix my wrapping!"

I sighed again a little harder. Aunty Louise's sharp senses picked it up.

"If you knew what it was like to have a condition like us," she barked, "you wouldn't sigh so." Her cane pounded the ground. "You are a stupid girl. Your disobedient thoughts show on your face. Come here at once and help your Aunt."

I flinched. I do have a condition, I thought. You're it.

"I need more bandages for Aunty May, Aunty Louise," I said meekly. I stepped forward. Something touched my shoulder and I looked back.

Cousin Glenn held a finger to his wide lips. He pulled my hand with the empty bandage box quickly behind my back and slipped something gently inside it. His fingers guided mine to the object's stem. The box began to buzz. My eyes met his and we smiled. Then he flipped backward, whooping.

"Bring me the box, Jessee," Aunty Louise commanded.

"Yes, Aunty Louise."

"That's better." She smiled, satisfied, and raised her cane to welcome me. I ran forward and her cane cracked down on the ground behind me. I poured the contents of the box down the front of her dress.

Aunty Louise shrieked. I bolted. Cousin Glenn's smooth hand enfolded mine and we ran for the woods, howling with the bees.