Katie: A Short Story

I’m looking over my grandma’s shoulder. Everyone is buzzing around us: carrying on conversations—the kind that have the occasional outbursts of laughter, running after children, and paging through the Black Friday ads scattering the carpet. On the dining room table, there’s a card game happening between my aunt and her daughter-in-law. Grandpa’s in his La-Z-Boy chair that sits next to Grandma’s, complaining bitterly about something, as usual. Surprisingly, no one looks too drowsy, even though we’ve all stuffed ourselves with my mom’s delicious, twenty-pound turkey. My dad, the most at risk of falling victim to a turkey-induced coma, is sitting, content and quiet, at Mom’s side on the ugly, boxy, moss green sofa.

The heat of the lamp I’m standing next to is making me sweat. I swear, my grandparents have their heat constantly cranked up to 100 degrees. My three cousins and I all take turns sneaking over to the thermostat to turn it down to a non-life-threatening temperature. This only gets us so far. Grandpa turns it back up every time he goes on his many expeditions to the bathroom.

I focus back on my grandma. She’s pointing out the section of newspaper she spotted me in this morning. She always does this. It’s a proud grandparent thing. Pretty adorable if you ask me. There’s my face in the basketball team picture. In grainy black and white, my teammates and I all kind of look the same, but it doesn't take long for either of us to pick out my 5 foot, 10 inch-tall body in the posed photo.

I’m telling Grandma how my first season on the team is going. She’s happily taking it all in, when my eyes trail to another section on the page, and. . . .

Oh, no. My eyes dart up to my family. Mom and Dad are still side by side. They’ve switched places on the sofa so Dad can talk to Uncle Bernie. No doubt they’re discussing the grain yields for the year and how the week’s weather forecast is shaping up. The cousins are all spread out on the couch and onto the floor. One’s got a baby balanced on his knee, another is sipping her glass of water, and the last, Robert, is leaned over, talking to our grandpa. Robert’s nearly twenty years older than me, but you’d never know it. He’s incredibly boyish looking, with his puppyish brown eyes and matching disarray of wavy hair.

Robert is the one we’ve all been worried about. I’m honestly a bit surprised he’s even here. His wife "couldn’t make it tonight," he claimed when he arrived alone a few hours ago. Said she had to work. She’s a nurse, you see. But most of us know better. Poor guy. He can’t even attend a family holiday without fear of his own grandparents disowning him over something he never asked for. He’s doing a great job of hiding the nerves I’m sure he’s suffering from. He has a laid-back air about him. His long legs are stretched out in front of him as he sits in the chair he dragged over from the dining room table to get a spot closer to Grandpa.

Every single one of us knows. Everyone except Grandma, that is. But, oh boy, it looks like she’s going to be enlightened real quick.

Well, maybe she won’t notice. Robert somehow got lucky when Grandma failed to find out about the split two years ago. And apparently she didn’t notice the announcement this morning when she was reading the paper. If she had, we would have heard about it, I’m sure. I really wish Grandpa would have chucked the newspaper in the recycling bin this morning so this wouldn’t be happening right now.

My eyes are back down to the words. To the section entitled ‘Marriages’. Please, no, I think. I’m opening my mouth to say some dumb distracting thing about my basketball team, while simultaneously shooting my parents a distressed look. My dad is the only person in the world who can dissolve my grandparents’ arguments and woes, no matter how crabby they get. Dad looks up and smiles at my little cousin, who is currently causing a ruckus by tossing some glossy advertisement pages into the air with a gleeful squeal. Lucky kid. He’s completely oblivious to the drama unfolding.

Grandma says my grandpa’s name, suddenly, quietly. . . “Gus.”

He doesn’t hear her, but her voice somehow captures almost everyone else’s attention, away from the toddler’s rain of ads. Family members glance over, but most think nothing is out of the ordinary. Some return to their conversations. Dad, however, has seen the expression on my face. His faded blue eyes look at me questioningly. I clue him in by glancing down at the newspaper in Grandma’s lap. I can tell by the look on his face that he gets the memo, but it’s too late.

Grandma says, much louder this time, her gray, permed head turned in Robert’s direction, “Who’s Katie?”