Years later, Evan and Joe would recall fondly The Day Mom Took Jeannie Down.
The path was clear and well-marked on reflection, but at the time, no one was reading the signs. Audrey was trying desperately to disengage. She’d bitten her tongue a number of times during dinner: once while avoiding a fish bone, the rest while listening to Jeannie prattle on about about the price of Bordeaux in Bordeaux and the state of German opera and that tiresome volcano gumming up European airports—
“Abra-cadabra-yoo-hoo, that’s what we say on the continent. Not that it matters to you in your padded little corner of America. How do you keep yourselves occupied?”
Audrey kept her mouth full.
“Work,” Carl said.
“I meant the children. What about you, Evan?”
“School,” Evan said.
“Public high school, I presume? Well, it might not be too late for you if you go to university abroad. You’ll find the U.S.A. is not the center of the universe we Americans think it is.”
“Ow! Oh, now, the earth isn’t even the center of the universe,” Carl said. He rubbed his leg where Audrey’s fingernails dug into him. “What do you think, Matt? Are we contracting or expanding?”
Matt leaned back in his chair. “If you mean gettin’ shorter or wider, ah’d say both,” he said. The guys laughed at the only light remark of the evening.
Jeannie turned to Joe. “And what about you? What’s your field of study?”
“I’m a writer.”
Jeannie frowned. “What sort of writer?”
“Screenwriter. I’m writing screenplays.”
“Screenplays? For Hollywood? Well, talk about a foreign country. Good thing you don’t have any responsibilities. My second husband was a writer. Technical manuals or something equally dull. I told him he should murder someone and write about that.”
Audrey took a big gulp of wine.
“I guess he didn’t take your advice,” Carl said.
“And what about Tom? I suppose he dropped out of school, too?”
Audrey tried to swallow but her throat was dry as paper.
“You mean Todd?” Carl asked.
“Oh, I knew it started with a T. That’s how I remember them, J-E-T, the jet set. Which is perfectly ridiculous—”
Audrey shot to her feet, knocking over her chair. “You pompous bag of Botox! Dinner is over.”
“Well! Mother always said you were a bitchy little hothead.”
Dishes, forks and raspberry cheesecake went flying as Audrey took Jeannie to the floor. She went for the woman’s throat but sudden thoughts of prison food caused her to grab the clavicles instead. She clamped down and shook as Jeannie chortled, “Sto-o-o-o-p!!!”
Carl had a heck of a time pulling his wife off her half-sister. Matt was useless trying to calm his screeching spouse, so he poured himself another glass of the house red. Evan and Joe whipped out their camera-phones to document the festivities and sent it all to their brother in Japan.
The Pullets pointed the visitors toward Vancouver and shut the door.
©2010 Pam Wells