Third Person Tuesday:
When we last we saw Al, he was observing his neighbor, George, get ready for a camping trip to Maine. His father, ever the diplomat, proclaimed the neighbor an idiot. Before burning his eyebrows off while lighting the grill.
We now rejoin Al and his family for the "Mal Penwasser Independence Day Barbecue."
“He’s sure got a friggin’ voice, don’t he?”
Stationed at the hibachi where he incinerated hot dogs, my father punched the channel select before cranking up the volume on his 8-track player. What was once the soulful Love Me Tender distorted into the garbled Hound Dog. Much to our dismay, he gyrated his hips until his cut-offs threatened to drop to his ankles.
“You like Elvis, don’t you, Jim?”
His head buried in the cooler, the shirtless Uncle Jim (who really wasn’t our uncle; we were kids, he was an adult, end of story) answered, “Yeah, sure. Hey, any Schlitz left?”
“Keep looking. It should be under the kids’ sodas.”
“Well, I don’t-hey! Here we go.”
Uncle Jim stood up with a cold can of beer. His wild hair stood up in a riot of black and grey, his gut shadowed his bare feet, and his cheeks were flushed from too many trips to the cooler. But, he couldn’t be any happier if he discovered the cure for cancer. With a flourish, he popped the top and flung the ring tab to his feet.
My mother frowned. “Don’t throw those on the ground, Jim. The kids don’t have shoes on.”
He burped and looked in the direction of his toss, “Oops, sorry, Jan,” he sheepishly said. “I never know what to do with those things.”
Jim’s wife, a middle-aged frump named Sally, scolded from a lounge chair, “Yeah, watch what you’re doing, Jim. You got no more sense than that?”
The “chef” turned around, a can of Schlitz also held in his hand. “Hey, Jim, here’s what you do.” He tilted the can in his direction. “Just pop the top inside when you open it. No cut feet, no problem.”
Jim studied the can. “But, what happens if you swallow the tab?”
“That’s only a problem if you’re an idiot.” He held a cinder aloft with his barbecue fork. “Hot dog, anyone?”
Dusk fell on the annual Mal Penwasser Fourth of July barbecue. As the sun dipped behind the evergreen tree that we used as a play spaceship, the adults retreated to the lawn chairs ringing the picnic table.
Dinner went well. The only problem was trying to choke down hot dogs disguised as tubular ash. But, we discovered that, if you slathered enough ketchup, mustard, and relish on them, they slid down pretty easily. Plus, our father rather pompously told us, “carbon is good for your teeth.”
Between belches, Jim piped in, “Yeah, and it helps your indigestion, too.”
Golly thanks, Doctor Jim.
A crisis was averted when my little brother, Gary, complained he didn’t like raisins in his cole slaw. My mother didn’t have the heart to tell them they weren’t raisins. Without a word, she discreetly covered the platter with the fly net.
As Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass filled the growing darkness with The Lonely Bull, my father blearily opined, “He’s sure got a friggin’ voice, don’t he?”
My mom looked at Aunt Sally who looked at a confused Uncle Jim. “Uh, Malcolm, nobody’s singing. It's an instrumental.”
My father snapped, “Well, of course nobody’s singing! I mean, if he was, he’d have a helluva voice.” He wobbled over to the cooler and dug out the last can of Schlitz.
He was still yapping at my mother as he pulled the pop top. He dropped the tab inside the can and took a long pull of his beer.
Suddenly, he gulped and his eyes bugged out. “Uh, oh.”
My mom sat up, “What?”
“I think I swallowed the pull tab.”
Jim hooted. “Only an idiot, huh?”
Mom jumped up, prepared to wail away on her husband’s back in some sort of Heimlich maneuver. “What do we do?”
Dad swallowed again. He paused, looking as if he expected to double up. “Hmm, doesn’t hurt.” He laughed, “Don’t see a problem here.”
Suddenly, I heard Phil shouting, “C’mon, girl, let’s go!” as he dashed down the side of the house, our dog following in hot pursuit.
My other brother, Phil, danced up and down, laughing. He held something in his hand that looked like a stick, but I couldn’t be sure. Well, whatever it was, it was something Duke very much wanted.
As he got closer, I saw that it wasn’t a stick at all. It was our sister’s Donny Osmond doll. Phil whistled, “Here, Mickey, catch!”
Duke tracked the doll as it flew through the air. She abruptly left Phil and skidded to a stop in front of me. Lowering herself to the ground, she wagged her tail merrily and barked, her tongue a pink carpet soaking the grass.
A shriek cut the air, “Phil!”
Kathy flew through the back door and jumped at Phil. Several inches taller than he, she grabbed him by the collar and shook him. “What did you do with it?”
Unable to speak, he pointed at me.
Kathy swiveled her head and fixed me with a murderous glare. Even though I was bigger, I still didn’t want to be pummeled by my little sister. How lame would that be?
I tossed Donny Osmond across the yard.
Duke barked and wheeled around. In a flash of dog fur and shower of saliva, she lunged after the miniature teen idol.
Dropping Phil like a sack of coal, Kathy dashed after her doll. But, it was no contest.
Snatching it by the head before it hit the ground, Duke spirited Donny away to the front of the house. Kathy groaned and pursued dog and doll. Thinking the girl’s cries of anger were squeals of joy, the shepherd dashed into our front bushes, hoping Kathy would follow.
Phil and I collapsed in laughter as Kathy scrambled deep into the bushes.
"Hey, guys! Look at these!"
Next: The conclusion-Me, and You, and a Dog Named Duke