I lost my family long ago. Some to the ground…some to major forks in the road. The ones in the ground I visit as often as time allows. The others…those who are still alive but have conveniently moved on, I have blessed and released. That is what we do these days when we have no interest in working through conflict.
You see, my relatives are a diehard band of boozers and if you know anything about drunks, they have a tendency to hash over the small shit. Then in the morning, pretend nothing happened. We’d pass the flapjacks…pour the maple syrup…and smile through heartache and hangover while offered a second cup of coffee. There could be one or more of us pressing raw red meat to swollen black eyes, and not a soul would ask who threw the sucker punch.
I’ve been known to fill the tank in my ‘74 Dodge Dart and drive to Desperation Point. There is a convenient store about 2 miles from the graveyard where my family is planted. The same hairy dude with a couple of serpent tattoos is behind the counter. He rings up a corndog, curly fries, and two fifths of vodka…one for my relatives and one for me. It’s a tradition. Much like some folks hide Easter eggs or decorate their Christmas tree with homespun ornaments…I take a couple bottles of Popov to the cemetery and drink all of us into a loving family again.
The first healthy swig is mine, but then I douse the graves of Grandma Iris and Mama with a good pour, and toss a stiff belt Mike’s way. There are a few other relatives residing there, like old Grandpa Earl and my mama’s baby sister Becky who died before I was born. Considering they came from our stock I pour a little on them too. I watch the alcohol slowly seep into the earth’s porous landscape, and imagine that the trail blazed by the 100 proof rotgut will be preserved throughout eternity. I visualize my relatives smiling as the nectar drips through the plywood caskets. I can almost imagine those dearly departed offering up thanks… forgiving every unkind word spoken, or hook and jab I’d landed.
By most standards these family reunions are easy. My ancestors take up little space in the big scheme of things and ask for nothing, save the hooch. Never an argument reignited. Not a peep out of them, even when the grass needs mowing or when the creek water overflows leaving the ground soggy days after baking in the sun. Hell, you’ll hear more bitching from me every time I sit on Grandma Iris’s crusty old Navajo blanket that I traditionally plopped graveside, stiff with mold and stinking of her “Eau de Toilet.”
Recently things have changed. I fell upon some trouble when I stopped by one day to check in on the subterranean kin and quench a biting thirst. I quickly finished my bottle of Popov and started in on theirs. As the night progressed I was feeling overly sentimental and made the unfortunate decision to rescue the whole bunch of them. I know it was wrong, but we were getting along so well, and they seemed to concur that it was only right I set them free. It was late…pitch dark mind you, but I managed to find my gardening shovel in the trunk of the car and repositioned the Dart so that her headlights illuminated the graves. Then I began to dig. I think I was halfway there, clods of dirt flying out of the hole, when brighter lights appeared. Two police officers with some sort of high-powered beam asked me to step out of the trench and put my hands behind my back.
I hardly recall the ride to the police station, nor do I remember the mug shot or strip search, but my recollection became crystal clear the next day when I found myself sharing space with an industrial strength angry gang-banger chick.
Safe to say I don’t remember vomiting in the cell or throwing a punch. Who would… for god sakes after finishing a petrified corn dog and more than a fifth? But that bitch was sticking it to me. I spent three days in close quarters with her filling my every orifice with her displeasure until my court date finally arrived. The judge slapped a restraining order on me, and as the ruling goes, I am no longer allowed family bone yard visitation.
Set free, the first thing I did was flip off my cell sister. As the steel door slammed, locking her on the other side of that hell pen we shared, I taunted her ugly ass as only someone with a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card can do.
“I have half a mind to get back in there and give you a 50-yard cunt punt,” I hissed. She was frothing at the mouth…rattling the bars in an attempt to King Kong-bend metal, and suck out my vital organs.
In direct defiance of my court order I set out walking east from the prison gates toward the graveyard. Arriving at the convenient store I picked out the best looking corndog in the incubator, some curly fries, and two fifths of Popov before making the 2-mile trek to the family plot.
I knew they’d be concerned about my incarceration and after knocking back a few, I was more than willing to give them the juicy details. All I can say is my ancestral dead-and-goners must have been looking after me in the slammer because that gang-banging bitch had a fresh black eye from a punch I was totally incapable of delivering.