“So you like mom’s designer tree?” Ryan, the baby brother, poked mom in the ribs. They had all gathered in the front room and were staring at an artificial tree in the corner next to a large, bay window which overlooked the hillside and the frozen lake across the highway.
“Oh stop it. The real ones just make a mess.”
“Yeah, well whatever happened to Christmas ornaments that are red and green? All peach and pastels now.”
“Oh, be quiet. I like it.” Mom was getting annoyed. “Sara likes it too, don’t you?”
“Yeah, well it’s different.” She HATED it. She rarely agreed with her brothers, but in this case it looked like something the Golden Girls would have put together.
“See?” Ryan poked her again. He had started losing his hair. He was still good-looking though. Mom had always said he got his looks from HER side of the family. She always said Sara looked like Aunty Kat. Aunty Kat was over two-hundred pounds and had two chins and badly-dyed platinum hair.
Ned poked his head around the kitchen corner. “I’m goin’.”
“You’re not staying for supper?”
“I’m making borscht.”
“Then I’m for sure not staying.”
Ned got a sneaky look on his face then motioned with his hand quickly for Sara to follow him. She grinned and quietly slipped out the front door then followed Ned’s lean frame up the hill towards the shed.
“How long’s it been since you had a toke?” he smiled as he shut the door to the shed and pulled a joint out from his pack of smokes.
“Quite a while.”
“Seen Kat and Wes yet?”
“No, mom says they’re in town doing some shopping.”
“She’s fuckin’ huge.”
“He still cracks me up though. Says to mom yesterday that the only person he wants to spend Christmas with is Lucky.”
“Who the Hell is lucky?”
“His damn dog.”
Sara inhaled. It was like fresh peapods. She closed her eyes letting the long-lost sensation tickle through her tissue.
“Good stuff, eh?”
“Yeah. So, when is Tiffany coming up?”
“As soon as her lazy bitch-of-a-mom brings her.”
“I take it you two are not on friendly terms.”
“You could say that. So, you ever hear from Blake?”
“Mom sends him e-mails you know.”
“She always leaves her e-mail open. I seen a couple messages from him.”
“Why the Hell is she in contact with him?”
“You know she always liked him.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m her daughter, and he’s an asshole.”
“Yeah. Well, you can have the rest of this,” he mumbled as he handed her the rest of the joint. “I’m takin’ off before Fat Kat gets back. She fuckin’ drives me nuts.”
“OK…well, see you tomorrow.”
“Yep. And dad is crazier than a bat now, so have fun.”
“Well, I asked your mom when your flight was leaving so that I could say a little prayer to keep you safe. And Jesus answered my prayers because here you are!” Aunty Kat had squeezed herself in next to Sara on the loveseat near the designer tree. She had managed to corner her after supper for a “girl-to-girl” chat. Her hair was still coiled up in a bouffant and a sweater with snowmen on it stretched across her massive bosom and belly. She smelled like borsht and roses.
“Your cousin Selina used to have hair like yours when she was in grade four. Of course she’s let her bangs grow out now. She always had such lovely hair. Well, yours is nice too…LUCKY! Lucky! Stop that! You stop that!” The foul-smelling pug was attacking one of the prune-coloured cushions in the front room.
“Wesley! WESLEY! Would you come here and do something about this dog!” She screeched at full volume.
A tall, bald man of seventy appeared at the bottom of the stairs that led down to the family room wearing a Texas-sized belt buckle.
“What now woman? Just give him a smack on the behind. LUCKY! You stop that!” The dog started raping the cushion. Sara finally stood and snatched the cushion from the dog’s crotch. It growled at her then ran downstairs.
“I just don’t know what to do about that dog. He is so stubborn. I pray so much for Jesus to give me patience, but honestly Sara, sometimes I just want to leave him on the side of the road. But then I realize he is one of God’s creatures and God loves all creatures great and small.”
Mom had avoided the “girls’ chat” by insisting on doing the dishes by herself. Ryan had left right after supper to do some Christmas shopping. Dad was down in Kelowna picking up Uncle Joe and “his friend” at the airport. Sara was stuck. There was no escape from Fat Kat’s clutches. Aunty Kat burped quietly before continuing one of her famous one-way conversations.
“Did you know that pugs come from Japan? Or maybe it’s China. I’m not sure. Wesley looked it up in the Witchipedia thing on the computer. Wesley? WESLEY?”
“Is it China or Japan?”
“What are you yapping about woman?”
“You know, pugs!”
“What the heck are you jabbering about? Honestly, you’re losing your mind.”
“Pugs, Wesley! Are they from China or Japan?”
“Why the Heck would I know something like that?”
“Anyway Sara, I thought since you lived there you might know. I just had no idea that pugs would shed so much. I have to carry around one of those sticky lint things in my purse. Oh, sounds like someone is here! Oh, look out the window. I think it’s your dad with Joe and Ting-Tong.”
“It’s Tak-Sin woman!” Wes shouted from the basement.
“Oh! Let’s go stand right at the front door and give them a surprise!” Kat hoisted herself from the loveseat and headed for the front door. “Come on Sara! WESLEY! Joe is here!”
“I have ears woman!”
“Yes?” mom shouted from the kitchen.
“Joe and Tak-Tin are here!”
“Oh for Pete’s sake! It is TAK-SIN!” Uncle Wes growled.
“You behave yourself Wesley!”
The door opened and Uncle Joe’s smiling, bespectacled face appeared. He was wrapped in a Burberry trench coat, and Tak-Sin stood behind him nervously shivering. Aunty Kat ploughed into Joe with hugs and kisses!
“Baby brother! Wow, don’t you look GREAT! What a nice coat too! And you still have most of your hair! Aren’t you just a dandy! Oh! Tak-Spin! DO YOU REMEMBER ME? I AM KAT! I AM JOE’S OLDER SISTER!”
“YES, IT IS VERY COLD IN CANADA! NOT LIKE IN YOUR COUNTRY. HA-HA!”
Wes appeared at the top of the stairs. “Tone it down, woman! They can hear you in Timbuktu, and the boy speaks English for God’s sake.”
“Hello boys.” Wes gave the new arrivals one of his death-grip American handshakes.
“Hey Wes. Well, we’re hardly boys anymore, but thanks anyway. Whoa! Is that my favourite niece?”
“Hi Uncle Joe.” Sara came over and gave him a hug, then hugged the terrified looking Thai man cowering behind him. “Hi Tak-Sin.”
Dad brought in the bags while Joe and Tak-Sin did the hug routine again with mom. Soon enough, everyone had a mug of hot chocolate and was sitting in the front room in the glow of the “designer” tree. Wes took Lucky back to the motor home after he pissed on mom’s antique curio cabinet. Dad, as per usual, escaped downstairs to the hockey game. Kat had squeezed herself in between Joe and Tak-Sin on the couch. Sara sat on the floor leaning up against the chair Colleen was sitting on, and let her mom play with her hair. Sara had always loved mom playing with her hair.
“DO THEY CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS IN YOUR RELIGION?” Kat set her paw onto Tak-Sin’s skinny knee.
“Um, yeah.” Tak-Sin mumbled shyly.
“REALLY? I THOUGHT BUDDHISTS WORSHIPPED IDOLS.”
“Actually, my family is Catholic,” Tak-Sin replied nonchalantly.
Dead silence fell about the room. Everyone suddenly avoided Tak-Sin’s gaze, and he suddenly realized that he must have made some grievous faux-pas. Mom stepped in and veered the conversation away from “Catholics.”
“Well, I thought Ryan would bring Rupa by to say hello. Guess she must have been tired. It was her last day of work today.”
“Is he still with that girl?” Kat scrunched up her double chins.
“Yes, they’re engaged now, you know.”
“Really? Well, don’t tell dad about that when he gets here. You know how he feels about those Asian people…NO OFFENSE TOK-TING…DO YOU UNDERSTAND ‘NO OFFENSE’?” Sara watched Uncle Joe reach his hand behind Aunty Kat and grab onto Tak-Sin’s shoulder as if to say “she’s an ignorant bitch…just let it go.”
“Well, he’s going to have to get used to it, ya know,” Uncle Joe quietly muttered.
“Thank God mother isn’t around to see it. She was worse than him, ya know. Mixed marriages are very difficult, I mean, look at poor Sara!”
Sara felt her spine go rigid. She could feel her mom’s fingers press firmly into her shoulders as if to say “she’s an ignorant bitch, just let it go.”
“Actually, Aunty Kat, Blake was English,” Sara calmly said with a smile.
“That’s what I mean. I mean, there are all these cultural differences. Marriage is hard enough. I just hope that Ryan and Rupa learn to get past that and pray together for the Lord’s guidance.”
Uncle Joe took one of his long, deep breaths. That only meant one thing with Uncle Joe…someone was gonna get it!
“Kat, Rupa was born in this country. She’s never even BEEN to India. And what are you talking about? You married some yank from Texas! Sara did not get a divorce because of CULTURAL differences, she got divorced because her HUSBAND couldn’t keep his fly shut.”
Kat set her chubby paw on Joe’s shoulder. “Honey, you just don’t understand. You’ve never been married. Oops…I think I need to use the little girl’s room.” Kat grunted herself to her feet, and then waddled her way down the hall to the bathroom.
“Can you believe her, Colleen? Honestly, some people never change,” Joe whispered as soon as he heard the bathroom door click shut. Mom rolled her eyes and made the international gesture for “she’s as nutty as a royal nut-bar” with her index finger at the right side of her head.
A crash suddenly broke the tension as dad raced up the family room stairs, knocking over an umbrella stand in his rush.
“Oh no! It’s real bad this time…”
“Herb! Your pants! We have guests!” Mom shouted as Herb’s full frame appeared, pants already unbuttoned and creeping their way down toward his knees, bow-leggedly running towards the bathroom.
“Hon? There’s someone…”
“AAAAAH!!!” Kat’s shriek was heard all the way to Timbuktu.
“Well, next time LOCK THE DOOR!” Everyone watched as Herb raced back down the hall and up the stairs, now with his underpants halfway to his knees, and a shit dribble running down his left thigh.
“Sorry!” he hollered as he raced up the stairs.
“Oh honestly!” mom shouted.
“COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE COME AND SHUT THE DOOR?” Aunty Kat’s voice echoed through the house.
Colleen rushed off and the rest of them burst into laughter. Tears were spilling down Uncle Joe’s face by the time mom was back.
“You guys! Stop it! That’s not nice…” but Colleen couldn’t contain herself either and tried choking back her cackles. Kat soon reappeared and sheepishly scowled at everyone’s amusement.
“You are all a bunch of immature kids!” she scolded.
“You get a good look at Herb’s dick, or was it the other way around?” Joe teased his sister. Everyone cracked up again, and Kat looked at her brother and shouted “You…you are a PERVERT!” She then stomped down the hall and headed straight out the front door. They looked out the window as she waddled down to the motor home bawling.