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By Brett Paesel

When Pat asked me to marry him in the middle of a hot Chicago night, we grabbed onto each other and giggled like we'd just gotten away with something. I thought about the usual stuff-the years we would laugh through, cry through-and the children we would have. But I didn't think about the day I would have to meet his extended family. The part that wasn't incarcerated.

When the day came I approached it with dread and determination.

I decided on a conservative beige sleeveless dress. In the bathroom I carefully curled the ends of my hair under. Pat came in and banged around looking for some after-shave.

"So it's your Aunt Jo Anne, and there's Dee-Dee, your cousin, and George, and then David-right?"

"Yup," said Pat, finding the Lagerfeld and loading it on. "Aunt Jo won't be wearing her teeth. So don't keep looking at her funny."

"Right." I got the mascara out of my make-up bag, shook it, and removed the wand. "Now, David," I said, brushing black on my lashes. "David is the one who threatened to kill his brother when he found out he was gay."

"Right," said Pat.

"And Dee-Dee has the glandular condition, that makes her unable to stop eating and that's why there are locks on the cupboards and the refrigerator?"


I screwed the wand back in the mascara bottle, looked in the mirror and practiced my neutral smile.
'Good," I said. "I think I'll be fine."

"Sure," said Pat, "just remember I'm right there with you. I'll take over and do the talking if things dry up."


"One more thing," Pat said as we left the bathroom, "David…"

"The killer," I said.

"Yeah, well, he has a toupee that snaps on to a snap that is surgically imbedded in his forehead."

In the car I went over the names and relationships in my head.

"Now the toupee," I said, "actually snaps onto his head? Is it just one snap, or several?"

"Don't think about it," Pat said, taking an exit.

"No, I think I should be prepared."

"I think it's just the one snap in front," he said.

"Did he have an operation to put the snap in his head?"

"I don't think you should think too much about this Brett," he said. "If you think about it too much, something bad is going to happen. You're going to say something. Or start laughing."

"Pat, look, it's pretty unusual. I need to know what I'm in for."

"Frankly, I think the lock on the refrigerator is much stranger," he said, turning into a housing complex. All the houses looked like fake tiny log cabins.

"No, the snap on the head is worse," I said. "I think it's worse because it's a choice."

"Maybe he won't even have the toupee on," said Pat, turning into a driveway.

"You mean he could just be sitting there with an exposed snap?"

"No, of course not," said Pat, opening his door, "Sometimes he snaps on a cap instead of the rug."

The inside of Aunt Jo's log cabin bungalow was dark. Hundreds of porcelain pigs sat on every inch of available shelf or cabinet top. Pigs doing things like skiing, shooting hoops, and peeing. Pigs from different backgrounds: A Chinese Pig, an Eskimo Pig, and a Pig doing the Hula.

Aunt Jo materialized in front of the pigs.

"Beer?" Jo asked, sucking in air through her flapping, denture-less mouth.

"No thanks," I said, sitting on the edge of the couch.

"Coke?" she asked, sucking.

"Sure." I looked at Pat.

The person who was Pat had shrunk and hidden in a corner of his mind. Representing Pat was a kind of moving wax facsimile of himself. I had seen this transformation before. Once when I had drunkenly stripped in front of his co-workers, and invited them to throw damp quarters at my nipples to see if they would stick. And more recently, when he'd gone to a family reunion of mine and was forced by my cousins to sing, "Oh, Mandy," into a pool cue that was being used as a fake microphone.

The wax Pat said, "I'll have a coke."

Jo ambled off to the kitchen. I looked at a Pencil Sharpener Pig. Pat stared out the window blankly.

"Oh, here's David," I heard from the kitchen.

I looked up and saw David coming toward me. I fixed my face and looked directly into his eyes.

Don't look at it. Don't look at it.

"Hi David," I said, standing.

We shook hands. My eyes wanted to travel north but I willed them to lock onto David's eyes.

I sat down again and threw a glance to Pat, who was rocking ever so slightly at the window.

Don't look at it. Don't look at it.

David sank into the lazy boy opposite me, moved a Dutch Girl Pig on the end table next to him, and lay down a jackknife.

My eyes hurt. I closed them for a moment. Paused and breathed. Then I opened them and right there, right in front of my eyes was a black hairy thing affixed to a dent in the center of David's forehead.

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