The Barbecue

“Yoohoo!” A flash from the corner of the yard was the orange and yellow sun-dresses of the Bunting sisters, competing with the flowers for brightness and color. May had her hair in a crimped halo around her head, and bright geometric shapes on her accessories, looking like she walked off of MTV. Maggie looked a little more tasteful, but her bright colors still clashed for attention against the subdued, neutral tones of Betty’s guests.

Party crashers. Time to show what she’s made of. The pair of them might be gaudy, but who better to spread word-of-mouth than gossips? If she couldn’t make it on her own soon, maybe she could resort to catering neighborhood parties. She grabbed two flutes of champagne and headed over. “I’m so glad you decided to join us.”

“How kind of you, but we prefer not to be associated with scandal.” Scandal? This was a business launch, not a drunken frat party. The sisters smiled at her confusion.

A sudden metallic screech squirmed up her spine. She turned to see a woman sauntering alongside her shiny new catering van, a woman who idolized Madonna, in a black corset with a lace skirt, with her hair styled like Marilyn Monroe and holding a riding crop. Betty was so astonished, it took her a minute to realize that noise was the woman dragging a key in looping spirals across her van’s new logo. All chatter stopped as the guests held their breath.

The woman strode into her lawn, greeted by the roses as they sighed the last of their withering scent into the heat. She walked to a tray of barbecue themed appetizers. Weenies skewered with festive toothpicks were carefully arranged on an ebony tray garnished with swirls of condiments patterned like fireworks. She ran a lazy finger through the designs, smearing them. While while the well-mannered crowd watched in amazement, she sensually sucked her finger clean.

“What are you doing?” Betty’s voice was loud and frantic, her heels grabbed at the lawn and threatened to sprain her ankle as she rushed toward the invader.

The woman held her head high, and her walk was straight, but her breath smelled of brandy and there was a lazy swagger to her pace. “Oh, I see you’re having a party. How fun. I’m just here to talk to my boyfriend.”

For a moment Betty felt like a mannequin, frozen in a pose that was a parody of relaxation, stiff limbed with a strained smile. “I’m afraid you have the wrong house. The man who lives here is my husband, and all of my guests have families.”

“Yes, your husband, my boyfriend. That one.” She smiled, the shade of a nearby tree showering her with flashes of sunlight, the contrast between light and shadow across her face was nauseating, dizzying. “You do know, right? I know they knew.” The horrible woman pointed to the sisters, now doubling over with laughter.

They knew? Oh. They were gossips. But about her? But they knew? What this woman was claiming? They knew this was true, and they hid it from her? Their families had lived next door to each other through two generations, they grew up together. She flashed cold and weak, her focus and clarity fading in and out, as she struggled to understand the implications of what was going on.

“They didn’t tell you? I’m so sorry. I thought people liked you. I mean, how can you start a party business if people don’t like you?” Maggie and May finger-waved at her together while the horrible woman sneered. Betty knows this has to do with her son. This must be about her son, they were always out to get him, so spiteful to a child. Horrible people. Where is he? Was he seeing all this?

Her eyes scanned the small crowd, she felt herself blush at the expression on her guests’ faces. She saw a small figure dart from behind the bushes by the front of the house into the cargo door of the van. Was that David? What was he doing?

The music video reject in front of her tapped her whip against her thigh playfully. “Such a shame you don’t know how to show love to your family properly. If you can’t keep a hold of your man, I’m here to take care of him for you. He can come with me, and won’t be your problem anymore.”

It hurts, but still sounds like she could be talking about a different family. And she’s nuts anyway, calling herself a good better person while she’s crashing a party holding a whip. Maybe that’s why the sisters were laughing. There was no way Jim was into this woman and her drama. Where was Jim? He would clear this up.

He’s right where he’s supposed to be, tending the grill, one hand absently holding a pair of tongs with a hot dog grabbed between them, another holding an open bun, his mouth agape. She starts walking toward him. Behind her she heard the van start up, and she turned toward the sound to find it moving, her son at the wheel, his eyes wide in delight and his mouth open in laughter she could see but not hear, crashing through her roses, the appetizers, and the bizarre woman herself, her body bouncing from impact, only to fall under the still moving wheels, her hairdo frozen into place as a growing pool of crimson spilled beneath her.

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P.S. – So that a weekly post won’t distract me from my current focus, this is an excerpt from a larger project. Probably a flash novella. It was inspired by my first reading with my nifty new Housewives’ Tarot, using a spread that came in the booklet.

And with that, I’m a little bored of constraining my characters to tarot archetypes. After this project I’ll allow more sources of inspiration, though naturally I’ll still play with my decks occasionally.

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