Sunday, January 17, 2010

Family Reunion

Maybe I watch too much CSI, but i didn't like the looks of these people that were now congregated on my front lawn. It was yesterday, and I was dusting the grandfather clock when i heard the loud pop followed by several obscenities. I thought Carl would go for his gun, but instead he put on his hat and went to the porch, "Howdy Strangers! Sounds like you just blew your transmission eh? You just come inside, my wife's near done with lunch, us men can look at that beast after our bellies are full. Come on in, I insist." Carl didn't have to insist because they were half way to the kitchen before Carl even offered up our safe and cozy home. There were three strangers, a tall gangly man with a PBR hat on and a flannel shirt with ash marks decorating the side of each collar. His name was Owen, and he towered over his meek looking wife, Sue Anne. Sue Anne was plainly dressed and haggard, she stood with her arm around John Paul, their son, JP for short, was dressed in an almost identical flannel to his father's and wore jeans that had a faded ring in the back left pocket where he kept his chewing tobacco. Owen, Sue Anne, and JP were from Roanoke heading to Minnesota for a family reunion, just passing through Iowa to see the World's Largest Truck Stop and the World's Largest Frying Pan. JP wants to be a trucker someday, so I guess it was a sort of college visit, and Sue Anne wanted to see the frying pan. Sue Anne hadn't said a thing until that pan was brought up, "How many eggs you think can fry in a pan that large?" This seemed to be something she cared quite a bit about, and I wasn't going to be the one to tell her that this was not an actual pan for frying but a large rusty metal imposter off the high way. I offered up that if they ever decided to vacation here in Iowa there was also a large strawberry, and a 10-ft tall rotating ear of corn, they seemed excited by that.

After lunch we all went out to look at the truck. It was a red beater with rust all over it, Owen called the rust marks cancer, and the rust around the headlights breast cancer, they all got a chuckle out of that. To me, this truck was pure comedy, a true embodiment of their lifestyle. Inside the seats were covered with a navajo style throw and an air freshener in the shape of a dying deer. On the back bumper of the truck there were several bumper stickers, "NRA for Bush," a cartoon drawing of a little boy peeing on a chevy logo, and "I'd rather be fly fishin.'" After awhile we all dispersed accordingly, Sue Anne went with Mimi, Owen stayed with Carl, and young JP followed me around like a sad puppy just been weened. I went to the living room to do a little light reading and JP sat across from me and stared for awhile. "You got a TV? he says," "YES, I practically screamed it because the staring was starting to get distracting and I knew once I could sit him in front of the TV I surely would not have to see him for hours. I was near done with my book when I heard Owen scream "HOT DOG!" and Uncle Carl insisted that they stay for dinner, and slam a few beers before they hit the road. Of course Carl needn't insist, for Owen had heard the word beer. At dinner Owen spoke of his family and I found myself wishing I could be a fly on the greasy walls at this family reunion. "Yep Yep Yep, it's a whole weekend thing, some of us camp out in the lawn and some of us just sleep wherever we pass out, you know?" Uncle Carl laughed real big at that one, and I felt embarrassed for him. "Yep, it's a real good time. I get to pal around with my brothers and we go down fishin' during the day and set up the empty beer cans from the night before and let the young ones practice shootin'. JP's been doing that for the last 8 years now, that's how come he's got such a dead on shot, ain't it JP?" "Yuuup." Owen and Carl slammed a few back as promised, and though I couldn't wait for these creatures to leave, I was really starting to feel bad for Carl. He didn't have many friends, besides the guys from the Rut, and I was starting to feel like he was going to miss Owen. After awhile they left, and Carl invited them to stay on their way back to Roanoke, and Mimi and I cringed. Owen seemed to think that sounded nice, and told Mimi her friend chicken had to be the best in the whole midwest, but probably not the south because that's where fried chicken is from and it is most likely better there, hell they just do everything better in the south. JP gave me a wink and a nod and called me sugar, and jumped up into the cab to drive away... hopefully forever. Just as those tail lights faded into little glowing candles in the distance I swear I saw a tear shimmy down Carl's cheek. "I sure hope they do come back, what nice folks," Carl said. I just hope they find that giant frying pan.

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