Two Uncles: A Fairy Tale
Here is the good uncle, everyone’s favorite uncle, studious former all-star big man on campus, the kind of guy who picks up leaves one at a time until the lawn is a green carpet, uninterrupted by flecks of dead matter. Now the good uncle is telling a joke or passing around barbecue-flavored potato chips, but later he will be in front of the television set, forehead wrinkled in concentration while he tells children who aren’t his own to be quiet because St. Pete Rose is up to bat and man this is going to be one hell of a game. One of two things will happen next: either the good uncle will eat his dinner on a tippy TV tray, or he will eat at the table with the family; either way, he will have special vegetables because he doesn’t like 1. Peas 2. Spinach. 3. Broccoli. Basically, he likes brown things and hates green things, which is odd since he spends his non-working hours clearing brown from green. But that’s only outside. This uncle does not care much for singing.
Here is the bad uncle, the ne’er-do-well pipe-dreaming draft-dodger who builds houses with borrowed money he will never repay, who sings This Land is Your Land over and over and over. Then he sings it again, but only the first verse. Now the bad uncle has hijacked our Thanksgiving dinner with an Amway easel and is flipping pages while twelve people stare into their mashed potatoes. It’s like he’s Judas or something, odd man out, the man we all wish would go away and build some new failure: a motel, a logging company, a maple syrup venture. Do you know how many sugar maples are needed to produce one pint of syrup? The bad uncle isn’t sure, either, but he’ll pour his heart into it.
Here is the good uncle, who has an incredibly lucrative job: he flies around on corporate jets closing down companies. He fires people whose names he doesn’t know. Also, he owns several electronic devices, but none of them seems to receive email. He is much too busy and important to travel or attend weddings or send Christmas cards. He has a wife who is very much like him, just not as fat.
Here is the bad uncle, now the father of one, although he used to be the father of two. When he calls, you can hear an older man’s voice in his. Sometimes he cries. This uncle doesn’t attend weddings, either. His absence may be correlated to one of three facts: 1. Missionary work in Nigeria.
2. Poverty. 3. Depression. The bad uncle never ends a phone call without saying ‘I love you.’
Here are two uncles, the good and the bad, in a bright room filled with flowers and cards and the hiss of an oxygen tank. Both are old, but not as old as the woman who will occupy this room for the next three days. Here is one uncle, singing softly and holding a hand after he kisses us hello; here is another uncle, the once-upon-a-time favorite uncle, standing square-jawed with his wife, telling everyone to get the hell out because this is a time for mourning. Death will happen in the old woman’s room, but this passing will have nothing to do with her.
Christina Dalcher weaves words and mixes morphemes from her home in the American South. Recognitions include The Bath Flash Award’s Short List, nominations for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions, and second place in Bartleby Snopes’ Dialogue-Only Contest. Laura Bradford represents Christina’s novels, which feature a sassy and stubborn linguist. You can read additional short work here or follow @CVDalcher.