The Gunches usually have Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law Gloriosa’s, seeing as she has the biggest house.
Now, even though she’s a perfectionist and wound pretty tight, Thanksgiving is pretty easy on her. Her house is always clean, so she just has to set the table.
Her brothers Lurch and Leech always get there early and go out back and deep fry the turkeys; my mother-in-law Ms. Larda makes the oyster stuffing; my sister-in-law Larva brings the potatoes; my daughter Gumdrop brings the salad; my gentleman friend Lust brings the liquid refreshments, and the rest of us bring homemade pies that we won’t share the recipes to because they are from Walmart.
Gloriosa always politely invites her in-laws, old Mr. Proteus and Ms. Sarcophaga, who live next door, but they always politely decline, ever since Ms. Sarcophaga ate Glorioda’s potpourri and had to be rushed to the hospital.
Instead, Ms. Sarcophaga invites some lah-dee-da socialite friends and serves them vegetables with fake butter and cold smoked turkey and dry stuffing. But she won’t serve potpourri like SOME people. She mentions this every year, even though she knows it was an accident. It is a shame she had to get her stomach pumped, but even so, her breath smelled great for weeks.
Last year, she decided she wants Proteus and Gloriosa to go over there for dessert with their kids, and meet her fancy friends. That means Gloriosa will have to leave us with all that pie, whilst she eats Ms. Sarcophaga’s dessert— probably diet Jell-O with prunes.
“What could be worse?” she wails to me on the phone the night before.
She soon finds out.
She gets a text from the school.
Her kids have lice.
It happens in the best of families.
Next morning she yanks all three kids, Momus, Comus and even baby Flambeau, out of bed at dawn; scrubs their heads with anti-lice shampoo, goes through their hair with a nit comb, and then she and her husband Proteus pick through each other’s hair like a couple of monkeys on the Nature Channel; strips the beds; washes the sheets in HOT water, and sprays all the furniture with Death to Lice.
She is still twitching when we all come trooping up the walk, and little Momus gives us a big hello, “Happy Thanksgiving! We don’t have lice no more!”
All of us suddenly got itchy heads.
So Gloriosa has to explain how she rushed to the all-night Walgreens for whatever gets rid of lice (they make it smell nice now, with lavendar) and how she picked and scrubbed and sprayed, so we can rest easy that everything is lice-free.
We listen, and we all sit on the edges of our chairs and try not to scratch our heads.
But after Lust breaks out the drinks, and we get football roaring on all the TVs (they got three, all huge) we gradually relax and forget about it and eat everything in sight, like usual.
When we are just about to slice the pies for dessert, Ms. Sarcophaga summons.
We tell them to go ahead; we’ll still be here when they get back; maybe there’ll be some pie left.
So off they all go, feet dragging. Gloriosa uses the walk between the houses to inform Comus and Momus that they are absolutely NOT to mention or even whisper the word “lice” during this visit.
Ms. Sarcophaga introduces them around, sweet as saccharin. She actually scoops up Flambeau, like a loving grandmother.
She’ll never do that again.
They are all standing around, making polite talk, and Flambeau starts rooting through Ms. Sarcophaga’s hair with her fat little fingers.
“Aren’t you sweet,” Ms. Sarcophaga says, “patting Grandmother’s hair.”
But Flambeau ain’t patting, she is examining.
Sarcophaga tries to put her down, but not quick enough.
“LICE!” Flambeau sings out, with her hand still in Sarcophaga’s hair.
Gloriosa tries to cover it up. “She’s saying ‘nice’!… Grandmother has nice hair, Flambeau? ”
“LLLLICE!” yells Flambeau.
The visit breaks up pretty quick after that, and Gloriosa’s little family gets back home before the pie’s gone.
Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you didn’t lose your appetite.