UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
How to Tell Your Aunt and Uncle You Want to Marry Their Daughter
Be prepared to die.
Know it has happened before and for a whole lot less. Understand that what you’re asking them to
So to summarize, what you’re doing takes lots of balls and lots more stupidity.
Pray you’ve got the right combination of both.
On the night this is to go down, their daughter (and since two Tuesdays from last Monday, your fiancée) Devin—WILL. NOT. BE. THERE.
Take a second. Maybe two. Repeat this line. Maybe twice.
Devin will be in the Motel 6 near the State Line, sweating and pacing and gnawing her fingernails to the forearm. In most situations where “young -- man -- asks -- father -- for -- younger -- daughter’s -- hand -- in -- marriage,” it is beneficial, even wise, for her to be present, for: A.) Emotional, mental, and possibly physical support. And: B.) So they can witness that glazed-over look of love in her eyes.
Here, that’s just not going to fly.
Them seeing their daughter wrap her hand around your knee will only crystallize the horror already forming in their minds, and it has nothing to do with love. It has to do with
Memorize those letters. Now forget them.
Wear your police uniform. Your shirt and trousers should be crisp and hand-pressed to a pleat. Shoes buffed. Studies have shown an officer’s uniform’s paramilitary appearance has a strong psychological influence in the minds of civilians. It conveys power and authority, yet safety. But more importantly to you, it tends to curb most illegal and dubious behavior.
Take the police cruiser. Wear your weapon belt.
Think about stopping off for an expensive bottle of wine, but don’t. They know you’re not a classy wine guy. The small bulb of gut pushing your shirt out shows you’re a cheap beer man through and through. Plus, you don’t want to give this man and his wife alcohol to wash down what you’re about to tell them.
Equation: Alcohol + Incest x Nam Flashbacks = Very Bad Things².
Pull up to their house and kill time. When delivering bad news of accidents to unsuspecting parents, police procedure states an officer should turn on his or her flashers and make plenty of noise on the way to the front door. Let them see you, let the images do some of the work so they can ease into the shock of what they’re about to hear. So they sort of know what’s coming without knowing.
Follow this advice.
Before you ring the doorbell, call Devin and tell her you’re about to go in. Say, “I’ll call you when it’s over.” Blow her a kiss through the phone. “It’s okay,” say. Say, “I loved you.”
Take a deep breath, ring the bell, and hope it’s not an omen that you said “loved” past perfect, instead of “love” present tense.
When your aunt lets you in, they know something’s up. She puts her hand to her mouth and says, “What’s happened?”
Wave your hand and say, “No, no. Nothing’s happened.” Think about thinking about what happened twice last night and once this morning.
Kiss her on the cheek and shake his good hand firm, never breaking eye contact. Show him you’re a stand-up guy. Ready to protect and to serve. Not the skinny snot-nosed nephew they’ve come to know and shrug off.
Take your shoes off at the door. You don’t want to stain their carpet. You’re already staining enough.
When they ask if you want some water or a soda, say, “Please, thank you.” Usually, drinking from their cup would be a negative and metaphorically redundant, but you’ll need something to keep your throat from drying up. Your voice has to be strong and unwavering. Plus, props are nice. However, sip it slow. You don’t want to have to piss in the middle of all this.
“What can we do for you, officer?” your aunt says, smiling that smile she smiles when she doesn’t feel like smiling. She cups her coffee with both hands and leans forward on the sofa. Your uncle kicks back in his old recliner and grimaces. Try not to stare at his swollen leg, where the Agent Orange has turned it blue. To your dismay, he’s drinking from a bottle of Wild Turkey. Notice the level’s below the label.
Deep breath. Find your center.
Lean forward like her, say, “I’m here to ask permission to marry Devin,” and lean back, lacing your fingers in your lap.
Let the silence hang.
Continue to let the silence hang.
Sip your water to wet your lips. Think about speaking. Decide to wait. Bite down until your jaw pops and angles off. Feel helium-headed and slimy-palmed, what could only be either unbridled fear or giddy excitement. Clear your throat and ignore the pearl of sweat sliding over the ridges of your ribs. Stare at your uncle’s bottle of liquor. Quiver at the thought of a drink.
Your aunt palms her throat and doesn’t blink.
Your uncle takes a drink and doesn’t blink.
They stare at each other, speaking but not.
And this is where all the planning and the planning to plan and the planning to plan the plan pays off—you know exactly what will happen next, as if you are clairvoyant.
As if you could just see—
Your uncle will throw his head back to toss off the whiskey in a couple pumps of the throat. Your aunt will start to cry and tremble and place the back of her hand to her forehead, then topple down like a dropped dishrag. Your uncle will wiggle and shimmy in his recliner, mumbling, “Little shit. Little bastard. Little…” You will hold your hands up to invisibly Etch-A-Sketch explanations that fire off like pistol blasts: “We love each other. Have for years. She wanted to be here, but was afraid you wouldn’t understand…” Your aunt will howl, “My baby, my girl, God help her!” and her eyes will flutter and roll back in her head. And your uncle: “Cocksucker. Motherfucker. Son of a bitch…” And you: “Love knows no bounds. The Blue Bloods kept it in the family. The Greeks were freaks and just look at their legacy…!” And you’ll regret using the word ‘freak,’ but it’ll be too late. Your aunt will twitch and tremor and seizure like boiling water, and your uncle’ll finally make it out of the chair. You’ll stand to meet him, hand resting on the butt of your firearm. He’ll head down the hall, screaming: “Dick-lick, sperm-spitting, testicle-tasting…” And you’ll come to the conclusion he’s not going to grab a wedding gift, so you’ll bolt. Out the door, to the police cruiser. In the rearview, he’ll burst out, shotgun in one hand, flipper flipping, limping and screaming under the porch light. You’ll go left at the stop sign and head to the freeway. To the Motel Six. You’ll call Devin and yell: “Plan B! Plan B!” She’ll meet you in the parking lot, two suitcases under her arms. She’ll be crying when you leave the cruiser and take your civilian jeep. You’ll head west. Head to Vegas. Get married in the WE IN A HURRY wedding chapel. Continue on. You’ll hit L.A. and Santa Cruz, the sun glowing. Hit Crescent City and cross the state line into Oregon, through the walls of redwoods. Stop off at a place called Coos Bay. You’ll both love it and decide to make it your home. After a year of financial difficulty, you’ll get a job as the local deputy. She’ll go back to college. You’ll buy a small house on the beach. Fix it up and make it “home.” Have three beautiful kids. Name them: Kaden, Alex, and Varian. Kaden and Alex will grow up to be quarterback brothers in the NFL. Varian will be a District Attorney with her grandfather’s eyes and her grandmother’s sense of melodrama. You and Devin will sip Mai Tais, then V8, then coffee on the porch, and watch your grandchildren play in the yard. You’ll walk hand-in-hand along the beach, your hair as white as the sand, and watch the waves roll and foam around your feet, then slide silver back into the ocean. And—
“You have our blessing,” your aunt says, still palming her throat.
Blink a few times. Realize where you are. What you’re doing. “I’m sorry? I what?”
“She said,” he says, “go for it. What makes her happy, makes us happy.” He takes a drink. “But you hurt her, I hurt you. Cop be damned. Nephew double-damned.”
Say, “Yessir.” Say, “Understood.” Then, pointing at the bottle, say, “Spare a shot?”
Walk out into the dark silence. Look around. Feel what you felt when you saw your first overrated meteor shower. Got laid the first over-hyped time. When the Apocalyptic Armageddon of Y2K finally arrived, and not a damn thing happened.
Walk to your cruiser and get in. Feel the vibration of your cell phone against your leg. See it light up blue inside your pocket.
It rings again.
Still don’t answer.
Turn it off. Toss it in the seat.
Drive to the stop sign and look left. See the glowing freeway that meanders and paves off to everywhere else. Stretches out and on to where you will never go. To places and people and things you will never see. Vegas. L.A. and Santa Cruz. Up the coast, where the sun deflates into the ocean. Through the redwoods reaching up and old into infinity. Think about corners you’ll never disappear around. Hills you’ll never crest. Deputies you’ll never be and colleges she won’t go back to. Picture the house you won’t buy and fix up, and the kids you won’t conceive. Sons who won’t grow to be quarterbacks. No District Attorney daughter. Mai Tais then V8 then coffee you’ll never drink, your arm around your wife, watching grandchildren play in the yard. Think about the beach you and Devin won’t walk hand-in-hand on, the surf you won’t see rush white as your hair around your feet and slide metallic back into the ocean. The waves you will never hear, hissing and bursting like plans, like dreams against the jagged rocks.Kevin Brown has had work published in over seventy journals and was nominated for a 2007 Journey Award and a Pushcart Prize. His first book Ink On Wood is scheduled to be published in the summer of 2010. His website is: www.InvisibleBodies.com
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