Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Award

Every year, my family had a get-together in Ipswich. This year, they had chosen to have a picnic in the leafy suburban park just down the road from my parents' home; they were elderly and couldn't travel very far, and a lot of my siblings lived nearby.
We were a reasonably large family; I had three sisters and four brothers so our yearly reunions were usually a torrid affair, catching up on what each other were doing, how our kids were doing at school or work (my eldest brother was fourty-four and his kids were in their twenties), and the usual arguments about childhood memories always reared their ugly heads. So far this year, none of the usual fights and disagreements had developed and it had been a very pleasant afternoon.
Unfortunately, on returning to my folks place, I learned that my brother had organised a mock award for one of the family members. As soon as he started his spiel I could tell where it was going and I tried not to make eye contact with him or the rest of the family members who all seemed to be in on the joke.
" this year's award is called The Insensitive Bastard Of The Year, and it goes to - drum roll please - Robbie."
I rolled my eyes, sighed and stood up to go and receive my trophy. The family were clapping and cheering, yelling for me to make a speech. I had no intention of doing anything of the sort until my sister, Anita, yelled out that I should have won it every year since we were kids. I looked her in the eyes and let loose.
"Well, thanks a fucking lot, you mob of ungrateful and selfish bastards. You take one incident from the whole year and label me insensitive. What about you, Karen? You treat people like crap every day of the week at Social Security, not giving a shit about their circumstances, not having a bone of caring in your whole entire fat-ass body."
I swung my gaze from her to my youngest brother, Dave.
"And how about you, Dave? You are one of the most influential people in the state government and yet our schools, hospitals, and transport systems are falling to pieces but yet you are quite happy to receive your six-figure income, not caring one iota if the people of this state can't spell, can't get to see a doctor, or if employees are losing their jobs as they are constantly late because of your train system. And you have the hide to call me insensitive."
I could see that my parents were shocked at my outburst, and try as I might to settle down, a snicker from another brother kept me going.
"Oh, yes, you can laugh, you stupid prick. When are you going to do something about the price of fuel so regular people can afford to drive to work, rather than relying on this state's crap public transport system? The price of oil has dropped remarkably but yet the price of fuel is still astronomical. What's the matter? Are you afraid that if you reduce the cost of fuel, you won't get your substantial bonus at the end of the year? You and your schmuck mates are more insensitive than me....why didn't you get this award?"
I stopped, out of breath, when my little sister took a video tape off the bookshelf and inserted it into the player. I wasn't sure what this was about, but I could tell it probably wouldn't be good for me.
The tape started to roll. My family were watching me intently for any sign of understanding, maybe even a sign of remorse, but once the tape got to the interview, I knew exactly what it was.
"...and in late breaking news, a man has been seriously injured after being thrown down eight flights of stairs. The perpetrator is here, willing to speak about the incident on his way to the police station."
"Tell me, Sir, what possessed you to throw a man down those stairs?"
"He cut in line," I heard my reply. The interviewer looked intently at the camera before continuing, as if inviting the viewers to get ready for the punchline. How little he knew at the time...
"And, may I ask, why was that such a terrible thing?" The newsman looked at the camera again, trying for the sympathy vote. He didn't get any from me.
"Man, look, I am not gonna stand here and justify myself to you. I had been in line for fourty five minutes, then shuffled from department to department for another half an hour, and then, when there were only two people in front, this guy and his mate cut in line. It was hot, I was really pissed off, and he bore the brunt of my frustration."
"Sir," the interviewer continued, "this man did not deserve this treatment. He was a war veteran, had seen terrible action in World War Two and Korea, and you thought that this was an appropriate action?"
"For god's sake, I didn't know he was a veteran so stop trying to make me look bad. The man cut in line, and I didn't like it. End of story."
I knew these final two lines that were coming and I cringed internally.
"But, Sir, the man was in a wheelchair."
"Well, what more fucking damage could I have done?"

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eager To Please

For fourteen years, I was imprisoned for a crime I did not commit. For fourteen years, I had been denied the opportunity to watch my only daughter, Kelley, grow up. During that time, I had been resigned to watching her develop from photographs supplied to my by her adopted parents - Mark and Gina, my brother-in-law and his wife, the man I believed then, as I do now, was responsible for pulling the trigger that ended the life of my beloved husband.

Later, upon my release, my daughter, who has protested my innocence on a regular basis, had decided that she no longer wished to live with her uncle - she wanted to live with me. I agreed instantly; a chance to make up for lost time, a chance to get to know Kelley, her dreams, her wishes, her life as she has seen it for nearly a decade and a half, a chance to make amends to the only thread of my life before. I remember her coming to my home for the first time, cautious about her position in my life, until she presented me with the still-dripping severed head of her uncle, my brother-in-law. Kelley also believed in his guilt and had brought me a peace offering...I love my daughter.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Holiday Cards

"Let me get this right: You are the Easter Bunny, yet you don't want to give out Easter eggs any more, you want to give out...those things. Right so far?"

Ok, I knew going in that I was going to cop some flak for this idea but I had been doing this job for the last twenty-two years; turning up at shopping malls, pre-schools and hairdressers (I have no idea why I am sent there) and it is all starting to get just a little bit stale. So, what's an Easter bunny to do? You guessed it - create a new gift to share with all the little boys and girls. Hence, I have approached my boss at Holiday-Characters-R-Us, and presented my new idea.

"Yes, boss, that is the idea. Just picture it: all the boys and girls running around with these things, showing 'em off to each other, trading them...who knows, they may become more popular than the eggs."

"Oh, I know," replied my boss, "I know you must be out of your tree. Did it hurt when you landed? C'mon, Bill, you know this will never work. The printing costs alone will kill us, not to mention all the research that has to go into the details on these things. I can't say I agree with your idea."

And with that, the meeting was over. My boss had waved a dismissive hand at me and I picked up all my paraphenalia and made my way to the door. As I reached for the knob, inspiration hit me.
"Hey, how about religious Bobble-heads instead of Biblical Trading Cards?"

The look was enough for me to know that I had to carry that damn basket again this year. God, I wish they wouldn't put the pink ribbons on it.

Devestation On MySpace

Yesterday, one of my friends sent me a cryptic text message, giving me a web page to examine and very little else in the way of detail.
After logging in, I painstakingly typed in the address and, lo and behold – there was a picture of my sister, smiling back at me.
I hadn’t seen her for a number of years for a number of reasons – stubbornness being the major one. She and I hadn’t seen eye to eye for many years, stemming from my involvement in the break-up of her marriage.
One detail caught my eye: what she had listed under family; mother and father, two sisters, one dead brother. My heart broke, my eyes flooded and my soul was crushed, all at once, never to be the same again.