Sunday March 13th, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: a friend of the family.

The clocks went ahead by an hour here today. Somehow, now that I have a toddler around, this feels less disruptive than when the clocks go back in the fall. Probably something to do with the expectation of losing sleep regardless of what else is going on.

I'm pretty sure mine is going long, if what was running through my head while I did the dishes is any indication, so I'll just get to it.


"You find Reed at the back door," Kelly told me. "You tell him you're a friend of the family."

"He'll break my neck!"

"He'll do no such thing," Kelly said with a smile that was anything but reassuring. "Reed will ask you what a scrawny, ugly little kid like you knows about the family."

"He'll say that?" I'd seen Reed around. I was pretty sure that wasn't how he talked.

"Well, he'll toss in a few words your mother don't want to hear coming outta yer mouth," Kelly said, laughing. "But that'll be the general message."

"So what am I supposed to say to that?"

"You say, Who? Me? I don't know nothing about the family."

"What, that's it?" I realized I was getting dangerously close to shouting and forced myself to speak more calmly. "That'll get me in?"

"That will get you in the door. You'll do great. Yer a smart kid, it won't take them long to figure that out."

"You're sure? Wouldn't it be easier to just say that you sent me?"

"Things don't work like that, kiddo." I'd learn later - much later - that he didn't want his name on my lips in case I didn't work out. Just a precaution, nothing personal. I've often wondered since whether he would have told me to use his name if he'd been more sure about me. Probably not, I suppose.

"So what do I do if he wants some kind of proof?" I asked, still unconvinced. "Is there a secret handshake? Maybe a code word? A phone number I can give him to call?"

"That's always been your biggest problem," Kelly said, patting me on the cheek before fishing a packet of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket. He tapped one out, stuck it between his lips, and lit it with a match with practiced ease. He turned to walk away, calling over his shoulder, "You think too much."

That only made me think even more.


morganna said...

He's in and out of the house
Helping here, helping there
Always useful, never quite one of us
The friend of the family.

Greg said...

@Morganna: that could easily be the theme tune to a tv show called Friend of the Family. It's wonderful, really clever, and I can practically whistle it :) And I'm sure the tv show would be a comedy too... probably a semi-dysfunctional but they-love-each-other-really family with the Friend being ultimately wiser than them all but still pulling pratfalls every episode.

@Marc: time goes forward here at the end of the month, so I'm pretending you're early :) It is interesting that having a toddler changes your perception like that. I found with dogs that since they don't use clocks they don't care, so they're slightly more disruptive when the clocks go back because they still want to get up at their usual time....
Reed seems like an interesting guy, and I admit that I thought Kelly was a girl until you clarified things. The dialogue works well here, so well that the last couple of paragraphs where we slip into Reed's thoughts distracted me a little because I expected him to be speaking then as well. Oh, and you should add this to your to-be-continued list :)

Friend of the family
"My, who are in all these photographs?" The vicar had stopped by unexpectedly and was stopping mum from getting on with the washing and making tea and vaccuuming the garage. She believed in keeping busy. The photographs that the vicar was looking at had just been dusted, and they covered the sideboard where the good china was kept.
"Oh, they were just friends of the family," said mum. There was an edge in her voice like the one she got when receptionists kept her waiting or the grocer wasn't fast enough weighing out flour and sugar.
"Were?" The vicar affected a faint laugh. "Aren't they friends any longer?"
"Oh come now, they can't all have stopped being friends." The vicar was smiling but mum's animosity was starting to break through. She pointed at the first picture.
"Dave," she said. "Fell down the back stairs helping carry a bookcase and broke his neck. Dead. Kevin. Electrocuted himself trying to fix the bathroom light. Dead. Merv. Got trapped in an old fridge that was taken to the dump and found dead four days later by some kids."
The vicar swallowed. "Well, misfortunes happen everywhere," he said. "God's plan does involve a death for everyone, after all." He forced a smile.
"Peter," said mum, pointing again. "Drowned while cleaning the septic tank out back. Another David, crushed to death by the tree he was cutting down in the back yard. Graham, run over by the paper-boy. Dead."
"I thought paper-boys drove bikes." The vicar seemed mesmerized by the litany.
"This one drove a motor-bike," said mum. "Shame really, he was the best paper-boy we'd had."
"How about this picture?" You could tell the vicar was just asking now out of politeness and didn't want to hear the answer.
"Neal," said mum. "He ate the first slice of birthday cake."
"Ah," said the vicar, smiling again. "So he's not dead, just ostracized!"
"He's dead," said mum.

Marc said...

Morganna - hah, now that Greg's pointed out the theme song potential, I can't get that image out of my head. Regardless, this is a fun, quick take on the prompt.

Greg - well, Reed is the guy at the back door that my narrator is told to speak to, and I never leave the narrator's point of view. I may have let things get confusing somewhere in there, but I'm not sure where.

If I was your vicar, I'd have already found an excuse to leave long before he'd reached the picture of Neal. I hope that he's still able to escape now that he's heard that story!