by Gail Farrelly
Enjoy the first of many Christmas short stories that we will be posting over the next week. This one has just a bit of a mystery twist to it.
In her 64 years of life, my aunt, Gertrude Shannon, has never met a hot fudge sundae she liked or a stalk of celery she didn’t. She’s a health nut who always brags about eating right. Her menu is packed full of items that are non-fat and non-fun. She constantly lectures anyone and everyone about having good eating habits and guarding against obesity. It doesn’t matter if people want to hear the lecture or not. She insists on providing it. What a bore.
You’d think she’d give it a rest on Christmas–not! A food-centered holiday (that’s what Christmas is in our family; but to be honest, all holidays are food-centered for us) is too perfect a setting for her crusade. Her performance at yesterday’s family Christmas dinner really “topped” them all though: literally. You’ll see what I mean when you get to the end of my story, but first, some background.
We’re a pretty congenial extended family group of twenty or so, give or take a few members. We get along well, because for the most part, we adopt the philosophy of “live and let live” and we don’t criticize each other. Not Aunt Gertie, though. She always feels it’s her duty to monitor, comment, embarrass and harass.
I’m 34 years old and vacillate between a size 12 and a size 14. I guess you’d call me “pleasantly plump,” but I’ve long ago come to terms with that. I’m happy and my hubby is happy. That’s all that counts, right? I read somewhere that my size is pretty typical for the average woman. Once I pointed that out to Aunt Gertie and her answer was, “So? That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.” Ya can’t win with that woman!
You’re probably thinking that my family is a bunch of wimps to have put up with her behavior for such a long time. Believe me, we’ve tried to get her to shut up. Occasionally someone will tell her to mind her own business, but that doesn’t work. She argues that she’s just thinking of the welfare of others. Ha! She acts hurt and pouts for a few minutes, but the silence doesn’t last. Rotten luck. Within a short time, she’s back to her old bossy ways.
Yesterday, Aunt Gertie was being particularly annoying. We hadn’t even had dinner yet and she was already into her old tricks. Yep, she started her carping during the drinks-and-hors d’oeuvres course. Jovial and portly Uncle Gene was advised not to “smother” his crackers with “gobs and gobs of cheese spread.” Addressing him as if he were a pig in a trough, she advised him, “Really, Gene, a little dab’ll do ya.” She had no shame at all in borrowing Brylcreem’s advertising slogan.
Even those who were slim were not spared Aunt Gertie’s harsh tongue. Cousin Toni was told that, if she wanted to keep her trim figure, she should lay off the pigs in a blanket–she didn’t need all the fat and unhealthy fillers, according to Gertie–and head for the veggie tray.
The worst was when Leah, a chubby 16-year-old second cousin, went to pour herself a Pepsi and Aunt Gertie, staring at her hips, advised her to make it a Diet Pepsi. To Leah’s credit, she just shrugged, said nothing, and went ahead and poured herself a regular Pepsi. Yes! Good for her. You go, girl. Leah is a gutsy teenager; and in her case, there didn’t seem to be any harm done. But who would be the next target and would he or she be as resilient as Leah?
As we sat down to dinner, I was thinking how nice it would be if Gertie just weren’t around anymore. Sad to say, I see in her the face of intolerance and bossiness, the two characteristics I dislike most. I’ve never understood, and frankly don’t want to, people who just can’t leave the rest of us alone to live our lives the way we want to.
As my cousin Carol led us in a prayer before our meal, I’m ashamed to say that I looked at Gertie, sitting to my right and had some murderous daydreams about wringing her scrawny neck or giving her skinny ass a swift kick a little bit later as she was walking down the stairs. Better still, sprinkling a little anti-freeze (it’s deadly, y’know) on her food. Perfect, because almost everything Gertie eats is green or greenish. She’d never notice a little more green, would she?
Anyway, once the prayer was finished, we all dug in and ate heartily. A little while later, reaching for a second helping of our hostess’s spectacular candied sweet potatoes, I sighed with contentment, looked to the head of the table, smiled at my cousin, and said, “Carol, you’ve done a great job. Everything is perfect, just perfect.”
Not quite. Before I could grab the sweet potatoes, Gertie tugged at my elbow and said, “I’d lay off those sweet potatoes if I were you.Too many calories.” Then she pointed at the bowl of string beans to my left and added, “Pass that down here, please. Greens are good for us. I’m going to fill up on them.”
I was angry, but told myself not to create a scene. It was after all Christmas, the season of good cheer. I took a deep breath and reached for the bowl of string beans to pass along to Aunt Gertie.
That was when it happened. How, exactly, I honestly don’t know. One minute I had the bowl upright in my hands, the next minute I didn’t. You see, my cousin’s dog Buster gave my foot a nudge (I didn’t realize he was under the table) and that caused me to jump out of my chair and lose control of the bowl. Somehow (don’t look at me, it wasn’t my fault!) the string beans ended up on Aunt Gertie’s head. Who knows? Maybe my subconscious was working overtime.
Gertie wanted greens and she sure got ‘em!
Okay, I admit it. To see her startled expression and watch the gooey mass of string beans slowly drip down her face was priceless, just priceless. I guess I’m a bad person, but it really DID make my day. Merry Christmas to me!
To her credit, my cousin Sue jumped into action and assisted Gertie by grabbing some napkins, cleaning up her face a bit and then escorting her to the bathroom for a more thorough cleanup. Sue was barely able to stop from laughing. At one point, she couldn’t suppress a giggle, so she transformed it into a cough, but I saw through it.
I was engaged in a good deed too, sneaking off to the kitchen to grab a couple of special holiday dog biscuits for Buster. Good doggie!
The bonus was that we had the opportunity, in Aunt Gertie’s absence, to eat as much as we wanted. In record time, we gobbled down the rest of the main part of our meal and then jumped to the dessert course. It was heavenly to eat as much pie and ice cream as we wanted without being reminded of calorie counts. I guess we were all thinking: Life is good.
All’s well that ends well, so they say, at least until the next holiday when we’ll have to deal with Gertie again. I think we should be sure to have Buster on standby, or if he’s not available, maybe I’ll bring that anti-freeze along. Just as a precaution; it’s always good to be prepared. At least that’s what the Boy Scouts say.
I didn’t give in to a murderous temptation this time. No guarantees for the next holiday though. I can’t help but think of the words of Rita Mae Brown: “Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.”
More of Gail’s short stories, and many others, can be found in our Terrific Tales section.
You always deliver, Gail. Another very entertaining story.
A fun story, Gail. I think every family has at least one member who needs a green beans shower.
To Earl and Barry,
Thanks so much for your nice comments. I sent the story to my six nieces and nephews and told them, “If you are ever angry with me, just think: IT COULD BE WORSE!”
I got a kick out of this story!!!
Thanks for sharing! I always enjoy reading these. I’m very lucky that I don’t have any aunts who resemble Aunt Gertie’s personality 🙂
Thanks so much for commenting. Yes, we’re lucky not to have any Aunt Gerties in the family! At least not yet. LOL
Thanks for telling us about your Mermaid Parade post. I loved it, especially the photos! For me, it took the chill out of a cold winter day.