Labor Day with the Family

By Dick Johnson

The food smelled delightful and everyone was there; even Uncle Fred.  Nobody talked to him or even went around him. You’d think he’d get the hint, but apparently not.

It was Labor Day. Everybody was drinking and the music was playing, just like all our family functions. It was a party, and it’s a miracle we ever got the BBQ cooked. But, it happens every year, and somehow the family pulls it together, despite all us hoodlums.

I was trying to interest some of my cousins in purchasing stolen property. I had gone to several locations, and visited people’s houses, taking pics of items I thought someone would like. Then, I’d show the buyer the pic and tell them how much I’ll sell it for. When they agree, I go steal it and sell it to them.

It’s kind of my side hustle when I’m not tending bar at the Iron Horse. Anyway, none of them were biting. They knew it was stolen goods, and didn’t want none of it. But, Aunt Jessica knew Christmas was coming, so she said she wanted the game system, which was at the Peterson’s house. She didn’t know it was at the Peterson’s but I doubt she cared. She was having a hard time making ends meet with Uncle Joe locked up.

The baseball game was on and I had bets on my favorite team. So, I sat down in the living room to watch the game on one of the TV’s that were set up around Grandpa’s house.

I looked out the front window and saw Uncle John arguing with Aunt Sally. This was not going to go well. I could see it before it even happened.

So, I walked to the back of the house and out to the garage where the old guys were running the grill.

“I’m gonna get some money from someone today.” I said, as I came through the big open door.

“You ain’t gettin shit.” Great Uncle Danny said.

“You watch. I’m gonna snatch it right outta your wallet.” I said.

“You need to quit that stealin, and gambling.” Cousin Lester, the wannabe preacher said.

I didn’t respond. Sometimes it’s just best to ignore folks for the greater good. But, I sure wasn’t going to stay out there and put up with that kind of negativity.

So, I went back into the house and went up to the bathroom, where I saw Uncle Fred sitting in Grandpa’s bedroom watching the game.

“Hey Fred, why you up here hiding?” I said.

“I’m not hiding. I got every right to be here, and I will be here if I want.” He said.

“I didn’t mean it like that, I was just wondering why you’re up here.” I said.

“I’m just staying on the down low.” He said.

“Ok. I got you. How about betting on the Baseball game?” I said.

“Sure, but I got the Cardinals.” He said.

“Ok” I answered. “25 bucks sound good?”

“That’ll work. You better pay me, or I’ll come find you. I don’t play games with that shit.” He said.

“I’ll pay. But, I won’t lose.” I said.

He went back to watching the game and I went on down the hall to the bathroom. I went inside and locked the door. There was a bottle of Wild Turkey and a shot glass sitting on the back of the toilet. So, I poured and slammed a quick shot, then finished my business.

The toilet shot was an old family tradition. The bathroom upstairs was for the partakers, while the bathroom down stairs was for the kids and the wannabe preachers. I always wondered whether it was wise to have the drunks going up and down the stairs, but I think it was entertaining as the day wore on. Besides, at a certain point, all the guys just pissed behind the garage anyway.

I came out of the bathroom, and heard Grandma yell,

“Foods on!”

I stopped back in the room where Fred was sitting. We watched the game and neither of us moved. The men never moved. We waited till the kids and the women, and Cousin Julius, got out of the way. Cousin Julius had problems. He wasn’t quite right and no one had patience for him. He was worse than a little kid. The men never went till we were yelled at a few times, and then warned it was going to get cold. We didn’t care. We had beer.

Anyway, I don’t remember too much of what happened last year except that Uncle Fred decided He was going to get Aunt Sally high. It was after we ate and the two of them were nowhere to be found.

Finally, little Kevin went into one of the bedrooms and found Sally on her knees taking care of Fred, in a very vigorous manner. Well, 12 year old Kevin, barely got out of the way before Uncle John, Sally’s husband came barging in and tried to kill Fred. It was amazing that Fred escaped without getting punched or bit.

Well, that was last year.

This year was the first time John and Fred were in the same room together since last Thanksgiving.

I stood against the wall waiting to see what would happen as the men came in to the kitchen to fill their plates. Sally was also watching from the porch.

John had some BBQ on his plate and was dipping into the mashed potatoes, when he saw Fred come into the kitchen.

Fred grabbed one of the paper plates. Then, he went over to the stove to grab the tongs so he could get some corn on the cob out of the pot. That’s when John cold cocked and sent him falling into the fridge. Fred tried to get up but John was on him. John punched him a few times in the side of the face. Then Fred wrapped him up and they both went down to the kitchen floor wrestling around.

Sally was screaming, Aunt Julie was screaming, the kids were crying, and Julius was trying to kick John in the head.

It was crazy, till Grandpa came in and yelled.

“Get up! Quit fightin! Everybody has had a turn on Sally! That ain’t nothing new!”

It got real quiet… and that’s when the real trouble started.


(Bio: Dick Johnson is a writer from St. Louis, Mo.)

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