Family-Dinner ~ part ONE (By Stephán Amery McKenzie)


I hate flying home. And I really hate flying home for Family-Dinner. I did not bother to ask my Mother what ‘the event’ that was bringing us together to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on me. I figured I would take the approach of the poor fools in horror movies that go into the haunted basement by themselves to see what is making all the weird noises, even though they hear something whisper, “Go back,” and their flashlights coincidentally stop working as they proceed to their bloody demise. Or, as our Sign-holding Bible verse displaying neighbor across the street says, “It’s God’s will.” And if Faker (my amnesia-Tourette-faking grandfather) was anywhere in earshot he would shout at the top of his lungs, “Your momma’s ugly. Your momma’s ugly. God hates your momma because she’s ugly!”

​Before I open the front door to our modest one-story house, I do my best to mentally prepare for the onslaught of dementia praecox. But I know that is insanity in itself. I cannot stop what will happen once I open this door the same way I cannot stop the Transformers franchise from persisting. Shrugging my shoulders, I say out-loud, “Next time I am going to ask to get water-boarded. It will be less painful,” and walk inside the house.

​Hammer (my ball-busting, hammer-carrying, crazy sister) sits in the corner coloring one of her literature rejection letters. And when I say coloring I mean she writes death threats to the publishers with crude drawings of dismembered body parts (disembodies?) next to the publishers’ names. “Why won’t someone explain to me why all my stories have to do with me drowning and my obsession with masturbation?” Of course, no one answers. So, she jumps up, grabs her hammer off the coffee table—next to her glass of Mother’s infamous lemonade—and hits the big purple safe—which for some strange reason is no longer green—that is still next to Suey’s (my suicidal, quote-spouting, older brother) trophies on the mantel. Wow. He has gotten two more trophies. I shake my head.

​PRU (my proudly racist uncle) notices me. “Did those butt-chocolate eating Puffs out in Cal-i-forn-i-a get you to lick trough before the Coloreds got you believe’n in the white devil and gang-banging? You know why Coloreds like jail? They miss those chains!” He howls in laughter. I think to myself, “In a past life I must have been drinking with Zeng Gongliang, Ding Du and Yang Weide and mentioned something about black powder and ‘works of fire’ in a joke and now I am paying for it.”  PRU, still howling, prompts Suey to stand up. “The trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. Hannah Arendt,” he says, then sits back down to continue perfecting his suicide letter.

​Something metal drops in the adjacent room. I hear a female’s voice, “Hmm,” I investigate; anything to get out of the current room. PAG (my penis-admiring grandmother) tries to fix the projector. “Grandmother, what is wrong with the projector?” “If I knew that Green Lantern I wouldn’t be tryin’ to fix it.” PAG has this strange need to use superhero names in place of real names ever since she hit her head while watching the seventies Superfriends cartoon on the television. She also does an uncanny good job pairing up the superhero with whatever the situation is about. Projector— Green Lantern. She is demented but she is clever. Observing the cap is still on the projector I remove it. Radiant white light hits the opposite wall. “By Krypton, you did it Northstar!” She taps the remote to see if it works. “You finally found the family pictures?” I must have had a momentary lucid moment and thought I was at ‘normal’ family gathering in a ‘normal’ family home. The first slide pops up. It is a flaccid penis. The second slide pops up. Take a guess. I move on.

I walk into the kitchen just in time to watch my Mother take the store-bought food out of their containers and put them in her dishware. Every year she pretends she is slaving away in the kitchen. It is really easy to do since no one goes into the kitchen if they think there is work to be done and they might have to do it. The kitchen basically becomes her woman-cave. I startle her. Like I said, no one ever enters. “Shit. Why do you insist on scaring me every time you’re home? You know no one ever comes in here while I’m breaking my back getting dinner ready. I need a time-out.” Time-outs mean she needs to freshen up her drink and rapid fire a string of B&H (Benson & Hedges) cigarettes. “Since you’re here make yourself useful,” she orders, handing me her extra tall plastic tumbler. I make her a stiff drink. “Stop being stingy with the vodka and the rum! I told you, you got your brother’s light foot.” Apparently, not stiff enough. “Mother, why is the safe purple?” “So many questions. Don’t you see I’m taking a time-out?” I sit on the counter waiting for her to--. “Where’s your drink?” There she goes. If anyone grabs a drink before my Mother offers it…let me just say there is nothing on planet earth that my Mother loves more than her time-outs, not even her own life. Also, that is the only way she will tell you what you want to know— if you are drinking with her. I hop down from the counter and make myself a cocktail. “If you’re not going to make a real drink then go look at cocks with your grandmother.” That is my Mother, always flowing with compliments and never attacking my manhood. I increase the tequila content while throwing in gin for good measure. “Next time do it right from the get-go. I told you life does not deliver second chances,” my Mother offers. In case you did not catch that, my mother just said good job. “If you must know,” she continues. “Your grandpa began crying out The Implausible Hulk every time your sister pounded the damn thing. Of course, riling up your grandmother, who kept hollering, “It is The Incredible Hulk”. Then your uncle would spout off with…what was the last thing he said? Oh, that Hulk was the best results for retards and the handicapped if we legalized human experiments. Then your brother—” “I got it, thank you,” I blurted out before I knew I said it. I instantly regretted my outburst. “Don’t ask me another got-damn question if you don’t want the got-damn answer! Shit.” She was incensed. That cannot be the end of it? Or can it? She drank her drink. I exhaled. “Another thing,” she perks up. I knew that was too easy. “The next time you run off to better yourself because you've become too good for the same folk who made you who you are, don’t come back. I told you your father’s genes would come back to haunt me,” she says with a humph. “Now make me another drink and don’t fuck it up.” I make her drink, the way I know will calm her down. I promptly slip out of the kitchen before she notices I have gone. Not that she cares.