A dark and dusty cabin that sits atop a lonely hill. Filled with cobwebs and death. Some of the dead things are animals that were stuffed and posed for display, some just crawled in and found it a suitable place to die. Morbid, dank, ghoulish, and creepy, it’s the perfect setting for a weird occultic ritual, or in your case: the big family Christmas party.
They’re all there: Grandmother, aunts and uncles, cousins, second cousins, Cousin It, that cousin that everyone thinks is a hobbit, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, not so great-grandchildren, in-laws, outlaws, felons, those still awaiting their court date, significant others, insignificant others, and that weird guy with the eye-patch that doesn’t seem to belong to any particular family, but who always seems to be there.
Upon arrival you must approach your grandmother and “kiss the ring” before doing anything else. One year your cousin Bucky went to get a Coke before “kissing the ring.” His family now refers to that year as the year of tears.
Grandmother sits on her throne, peering down over her kingdom like Yertle the Turtle, but without the Seussian whimsy.
“I see you’ve decided to grace us with your presence this year,” she says, her voice filled with reptilian cold-bloodedness.
“Yeah, sorry about not making it last year, but I was in a fairly severe accident,” you defend yourself.
“So severe you couldn’t be here?”
“I had several broken bones and a puncture lung.”
“Just one punctured lung–you have two of them don’t you? Anyway, you should be more careful.”
“The other guy ran a stoplight.”
“Don’t try to blame someone else for your carelessness.”
“He was a serial killer trying to evade the police.”
“I’ll bet he at least spent time with his family.”
“I’m sure he did,” you respond, “it takes time to chop people up and bury them in the backyard.”
You decide to move on as she gives you her look of glaring disapproval–it’s a look you know well.
As you approach the refreshment table you overhear your cousin Beatrice talking to your aunt Mitsy. “How has the Wednesday night book club been going?” Beatrice asks Mitsy.
“Book club?” you say confusedly as you interrupt, “I thought you got together on Wednesday nights to sacrifice small animals, and put curses on those who have disappointed you over the course of the week.”
“We talk about books too,” Mitsy yells defensively.
As this is happening your Uncle Finster and Aunt Sally arrive with their two children, Ignorance and Want.
Note: yes, Ignorance and Want are horrible names for children. Sally read A Christmas Carol one year and badly misinterpreted that part…she’s an imbecile.
As Finster exits the car, an avalanche of empty Coors Light cans spill to the ground.
“Should you be doing that after what happened on Thanksgiving,” Cousin Bucky asks Finster.
Finster stops and reflects for a moment, “I don’t remember Thanksgiving.”
“He doesn’t remember November,” Sally says tersely.
The in-laws are out at the gun range, slugging down vodka, firing weapons into the air, and ruing their life choices. You decide to avoid that.
Your cousin Philippa, the vegan, arrives and regards the various moose and deer heads mounted on the walls with a sense of disgust. “The air in here is rife with the foul stench of death,” she says.
“That’s your Aunt Sally’s three bean salad,” Uncle Finster replies as he unsuccessfully tries to take a swig from an already empty and crumpled Coors Light can, “it could also be your Aunt Sally,” he says with resignation. “I hate my @$#%ing life.”
You suddenly feel a chill that penetrates to your soul. You turn to see your aunt Jackal approaching.
“I see you’re here this year,” her voice drips with disdain, “we missed you last year.”
You know she didn’t miss you the way one human being misses another human being, but more the way a poisonous snake strikes at a bunny rabbit, but misses.
In your mind you play out the possible scenarios for the course this conversation could take. Then you decide screw it. “You are a hideous intolerable bitch and I don’t want your shrill voice piercing my eardrums.” As you walk away you mutter to yourself, “that one is going to cost me big at next Wednesday’s “book club” meeting.”
As you sit and gnaw on dry turkey and three bean salad, (the three bean salad really is shit) you watch a gaggle of your aunts in the corner scheming and peering in your direction. You watch as Sally screams at Ignorance for pulling Want’s hair. You watch in amusement as Finster urinates in the fireplace. He won’t remember December either, you think to yourself.
As you attempt to cut a piece of turkey with your fork, (knives haven’t been allowed at family functions since the stabbing incident of 2009) you watch as one of the in-laws limps in with a fresh gunshot wound. It’s Uncle Gabe–you win the pool.
It’s just another big family Christmas at the fish and gun club.