by Virginia Repka-Franco
Jenna carefully put the self-service nozzle back in the metal holster—she was all decked out and didn’t want to drip gasoline on her black patent pumps.
She slid back in the car and checked her phone. Two more texts from her Mother asking where she was and how soon she would be there—We are starting to worry, she wrote. In her dysfunctional family that’s code speak for: “You’re cutting it rather fine,” or more like “Don’t be late and embarrass me and your father like you always are like the time yada yada yada!”
Gee, everyone must have their manners on, Mom only texts instead of calls when she’s holding back and doesn’t want to have a screaming match. She must already be there.
“I won’t be late,” she tells the screen. Getting back on the highway, she mentally scans her family tree.
Her relations are a bunch of nutters alright—Grandma Betty who is a kleptomaniac (watch your purse), her brother Jeffrey, the sometimes recovering addict (watch your prescriptions in your purse as well as the bag), and Uncle Billy the letch (he’s gonna get a kick in the nether region this time). “Relax, breathe!” she said aloud to herself as she felt inside her purse for her trusty Xanax and steered with her knee for the seconds it took for her to pop the child safety lids. One quick gulp and she swishes them down with the dregs of cold take out coffee.
The thought of seeing him pushed her on to buying the dress, booking the rental car and driving up Route 84, a highway that allows semis to pass you in lanes hardly big enough for a Hyundai. She has several pictures of them from the old days to give to him.
Crossing the Putnam County Line, she knows she’s close. At the next rest stop she turns on the GPS, as she is directionally challenged—even in her former home town. Especially here, as Brewster, New York, has grown into a tiny metropolis and aside from the Metro North train station, she would be lost.
Jenna parks the car—lipstick check, run a brush through her hair, and she’s ready to go in. First one to greet her is good old Billy, who rubs her back while hugging her hello. She dodges his kiss and pulls out of that creeptastic encounter only to be met by her grandmother, who instead of embracing her shows her where to put her ‘things’—No thanks, light fingers, I’ll keep my coat, she wants to say, but just nods and breezes by her and the throng of familiar faces who are strangers to her.
She walks up to Bryan. To her surprise and pleasure, her cousin looks much the same. The wavy brown hair she used to pull during fights when they were little, frames his Greek god features. He’s looks great in a suit, he never liked dressing up but she guesses they made him this time—for this very special family occasion.
She carefully kisses his cheek and places the photos in his coffin. Everyone is staring. She is not going to fall apart—it’s not a ‘safe place’ as Bryan used to say. She pulls out her phone. I love you Bryan, Jenna types and hits ‘send’.
A text alert ping resounds from Grandma’s purple tote bag.
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Virginia’s fiction has appeared in Devolution Z Magazine, Aurora Wolf, Saturday Night Reader, and True Confessions Magazine. She lives in Florida with her husband, two dogs, and assorted cats.
9 thoughts on “Family Affair”
Good double twist at the end. The attempt at present tense narrative wobbles at several points. Probably the Xanax has only one lid. The “him” in the seventh paragraph is, perhaps intentionally ambiguous; I think it would be stronger to identify Bryan at that point. But you’ve got to hand it to Grandma, she doesn’t miss a trick! AGB
Very good points about my slippery tenses. That is something I need to work on to avoid shifts. I also see your point with the lids– unless that girls got more than one bottle–lol. Thanks!
Excellent story wonderful ending in all respects.
Very nice work, Virginia. A very strong main character. If you were to look up “aplomb” in the dictionary, there could be a picture of Jenna next to it.
What a family. Nice, surprising twists at the end. Particularly the last one was very good. I didn’t see it coming but should have.
A surprise ending with an unexpected laugh. Enjoyed it!
The ping in Grandma’s bag allowed me to uncurl my toes.
Very engaging. Loved the ending.
Wow, love the short stories and this one actually just about brought a tear to my eye