Monday, March 21, 2016

The Baker Family Reunion

The paring knife slipped off the tomato skin and cut a half-inch slice into Meg Baker’s thumb.

“Shit,” she hissed, sticking her thumb in her mouth.

Her boyfriend Sean called from the living room. "You okay?"

“No,” she mumbled, walking to the bathroom like an oversized toddler.

Sean stood in the doorway as she tried to bandage herself.  “This family reunion is driving you nuts. You haven’t gone to one in five years. You hate your family.  Why is this one any different?”

“My father is sick. We don’t know how long he has, but he was the only one who ever showed me a bit of love and kindness. I just want to see him before he…”

Sean watched Meg fumble with the bandage. “Here, let me help.”

Two weeks later, Meg found herself in the backseat of a cab heading toward her childhood home, the home where she spent the worst years of her life fighting with her parents, friends who tried to help, teachers and just about everyone else in her life.  She was going back to face the alcoholic mother who tried to have her committed when she was fifteen, the relatives who clucked and rolled their eyes at the mere mention of her name, and her dying father, not perfect, but the best of the lot.

Meg pushed the doorbell and within a few seconds she was facing her mother, Janet, who stood in the threshold scowling, eyes red and face flush from alcohol. “What are you doing here?” she asked. The air between them filled with wine fumes.

“I invited her,” called out Robert, Meg’s father, from the top of the stairs.

Without saying a word, Janet turned and walked back toward the kitchen. Don motioned for Meg to join him upstairs. He sat on the edge of the bed as Meg plopped into a chair in the corner.

“I’m really glad you made it, honey,” said Don, smiling.

“Yeah, so is Mom. She’s brimming with joy that I’m here.”

“Don’t let her get to you. She’s always cranky these days. You must be thirsty.” Don opened the door in his bedside table and pulled out a bottled water, holding it out to Meg. “Need to keep hydrated.”

“Thanks, but—“

“It’ll help with the jet lag.”

Meg took the water from her father and drank. “Okay. So how are you feeling?”

“Oh, I have good days and bad days. Today’s one of the better ones, mostly because you’re here.”

“Thanks.” Meg tugged at her collar. “Do you have the heat cranked up? Warm in here.”

“No. Are you okay?”

“Dizzy all of a sudden.  Can’t keep my eyes open…”

In what seemed like only a moment later, Meg was straining to bring the room into focus. Her head throbbed and her clothes felt strange, sticky. There was something in her right hand. With effort she raised her arm and saw her fingers clasped around a large butcher knife covered in blood. Her clothes were also covered in a sticky red goo. Heart thumping in her chest as lines started to converge, Meg forced herself up and out into the hallway.  She stopped at the top of the stairs. Lying motionless and face down in the entryway below her as if floating in a pool of blood was her mother. Meg sank to her knees and moaned.

“Ah, you’re up,” said Don, entering from the living room. The shock rendered Meg speechless. She opened her mouth but only emitted another groan. “You killed them all. Well, that’s what the police will believe. Mentally disturbed young woman comes home to a family reunion, there are arguments and…she snaps, murdering everyone except her father, who barely survived.” He held up an arm with bloodstains on his shirt. “I’ve been planning this since the day you left home. You’re wondering why. Why did he do this to me? Fact is, I hated everyone here as much, if not more, than you. A bunch of drunk, backstabbing hypocrites. Now they’re all out of my life and I can start fresh.”

“I thought you were the one who loved me,” whispered Meg.

“I do, baby, but real love is above all about honesty. I know this is hard to hear, but you’re damaged goods, Meg. It’s clear your life isn’t going anywhere and nothing constructive will come of it. On the other hand, I still have a lot to offer the world and a lot to accomplish. Thanks to you, my new life starts today. I know that at some point you’ll understand all of this and be happy for me.”

“You’re not dying?”

Police sirens grew louder. Don peeked out a small window in the door. “No, honey, I’m not dying. This is my rebirth. So, they’re here.” As he opened the front door, a heavy weight suddenly landed on Don’s back. The cops walking up the steps watched in horror as Meg’s knife cut a thin dark slit across her father’s neck, and the Baker family reunion officially came to an end.

No comments:

Post a Comment