Seated around the dining room table were Fred and his sister Claudette, their spouses, and Fred and Claudette’s cousins Alexander, Marianne and Scott with their spouses. The last of the funeral guests had left minutes before, and the exhausted cousins sat quietly contemplating the day’s events. The low growl of a digitized race car and the uproar from their children playing video games in the basement den were the only sounds now filling in the house.
“Weddings and funerals,” Fred said.
“Weddings and funerals,” Alexander agreed, giving his cousin a sympathetic pat on the hand.
“More coffee? Anyone?” Claudette asked. All murmured their answers of yes please no but thanks. Claudette stood up. “I’ll start a new pot. Won’t be a minute. Jeff?” she said, turning to her husband with a please-help-me look. Her husband followed her into the kitchen and the group returned to their thoughtful repose.
Scott was the first to speak. “I didn’t get to share my favorite Uncle Ted story.”
“What story is that?” his sister Marianne asked.
“The one about the monsters, and how he would tell us they were under the bed because they were there to protect us, but only if we got into bed, turned out the light, shut the door and went to sleep.”
All the cousins chuckled. “You guys were always suckers for that one,” Claudette called out from the kitchen.
Simultaneous protests rose from the table, “Except me!” “Not Alexander!”
“I never bought it,” Alexander concluded.
“You’d argue with him, I remember,” Fred said. “I was always amazed, you standing up to him, the way you did.”
“A defense attorney in the making,” Alexander’s wife joshed.
“What was the argument, again?” Marianne asked.
Alexander said, “I told Uncle Ted that monsters are mean, vicious and out to get you, otherwise they weren’t monsters. If they were protecting us, they were guardian angels, and if they were guardian angels, they wouldn’t be hiding under the bed, they’d be flying above us in plain sight.”
“Yeah, thanks for that,” Scott scoffed. “I mean, I bought it! I couldn’t see angels overhead, so I knew, because my big brother said so, there were monsters under the bed. Never could sleep in this house.”
Marianne tilted her head back and gave it a little shake. “I never thought much about it then, but looking back, especially now, as a mother, I am in awe of how he managed, with all he had going on, how he raised you two on his own.”
All nodded. “The monster story was one among many he used to keep us in line,” Fred said.
“Of course, that’s why we spent so much time at your home, Mari” Claudette called out again. “Both houses, this and your folks’, are my homes, you know? It’ll be devastating when it comes time to sell either one.”
“Which will have to be soon, ‘Dettie,” Fred admonished his sister. “We can’t afford to keep this place up.”
Alexander said, “Yeah, so, on that note, not sure if you guys know mom and dad decided to buy into that assisted living place. They’ll be selling their house end of the year.”
“No!” Claudette called out. “Wow,” Fred replied. “Yep, true,” Scott confirmed. “Time’s come,” Marianne agreed.
Scott cleared his throat, and asked, “Fred, did you guys ever find out what happened to your mom?”
“No, never did,” Claudette replied as she and her husband returned from the kitchen with coffee. Fred nodded, then added, “Actually, I did try looking for her again. A few years ago.”
His sister stopped refilling cups and stared at him. “You didn’t say.” Her tone was unmistakably scornful.
Fred shrugged, “Because nothing came of it, and if I had said I wanted to try again, you’d have been adamant I forget about it. I didn’t want to. Still don’t.”
An abrupt, loud yell from the children in the basement, followed by peals of laughter, swept away the tension.
Fred stood up and leaned over the table. “Ya know, they have the right idea. Let’s play a game.”
Amused and slightly confused, everyone looked to one another for clarification.
“Like, what? Charades?” Marianne asked.
“God, no,” Fred said, to the relief of most. “Dad’s got all these board games…”
Fred walked into the living room and opened the built-in cupboard. On the bottom shelf were stacks of board games, a poker chip carousel, a box of dominoes, decks of cards and two leather dice cups. Fred held out the dice cups.
“Didn’t we give him these?” he asked his wife.
She nodded, “Actually, they were a regift. Do they have those dice with the extra-large dots?”
Fred poured large, bright yellow dice with large black dots onto the table. “Yep! Where’d we get these?”
Fred’s wife gave him a weary smile. “From Chris and those guys? For your Over-the-Hill 50th?”
“Let’s play Yahtzee!” Scott gleefully declared. “Uncle Ted loved Yahtzee.”
The prompts in the story are in bold. UnOfficial Online Writers Guild prompt: https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/olwg-70-just-look-at-this-place/
btw…I don’t write a story in only 25 minutes. I edit and tweak over the course of the morning, but in keeping with the guidelines, I do make an effort to get the premise and 1st draft down within 25 minutes.