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."
said Pat, "just remember I'm right there with you. I'll take over and do
the talking if things dry up."
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."
the car I went over the names and relationships in my head.
the toupee," I said, "actually snaps onto his head? Is it just one snap,
"Don't think about it," Pat said, taking an
"No, I think I should be prepared."
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
"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.
mean he could just be sitting there with an exposed snap?"
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
"Beer?" Jo asked, sucking in air through her flapping,
"No thanks," I said, sitting on the edge
of the couch.
"Coke?" she asked, sucking.
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
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
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