“There is no god!” Tyler exclaimed, standing at the kitchen table where previously he sat, staring at his mother whose mouth was agape with shock and disdain. Olivia, his fiancée sat next to him, her head buried in her hands. Even the dogs sitting in the corner of the dining room were painfully aware of the awkward situation, as they jumped to their feet at his quite loud declaration. Tyler looked from his aunt, to his mom to his fiancée before exiting the room embarrassed and angry.
He made his way quickly out the side door in the dining room to the carport and out to the oak tree that stood in the side yard. Leaning against the tree, Tyler pulled a cigarette from the pack in his pocket and lit it with a Zippo he pulled from the other. Olivia and his mother would not appreciate his current action, but after the scene in the dining room he needed this little release.
“I really hope you like my family,” Tyler said to Olivia as she sat next time him in the car, looking at her phone as he drove. “I mean, we already know that I love your family, and your family loves me, but my parents aren’t as open as yours. I’m sure you’ll see that tonight. They can be very argumentative and opinionated. Everything is personal. Don’t be surprised if Dad is quiet and doesn’t participate in most of the conversation, but Mom will talk and talk and talk. If Aunt Minnie is there it will be hard to get a word in edgewise.”
Tyler had wanted Olivia and his parents to meet for quite a while. Unfortunately, while they were going to school in Madison, WI they didn’t have the opportunity to travel, and while his parents had the means to travel they opted not to make the trip. Now, Tyler and Olivia lived in Nashville. Tyler had a job writing for The Nashville Tribune while Olivia worked at The Parthenon in Centennial Park. The closer proximity made a trip to Gainesville, FL a more sensible possibility for them.
“I see where you get it from,” Olivia said with a sarcastic smile on her face, not looking up from her phone.
“Get what from?” Tyler replied.
Olivia looked at him with that shit eating grin, “The ability to talk like you’ll never talk again.”
“I think from now on I’m going to call you Mayor Sass of Sassington!” They both laughed as Olivia kissed Tyler’s cheek. “I’m just nervous. I haven’t seen my parents in…what?...six years! Christ, it seems like forever! They haven’t met you yet, and we’ve been engaged for two of those years. I just want to make sure y’all like each other.”
“I’m sure it’s going to be fine,” Olivia said reaching over to stroke Tyler’s neck as she put her phone back in her open purse that sat in the floor board of the car.
“I hope so, things get so touchy sometimes,” Tyler leaned his head back into Olivia’s hand as she stroked his neck and the back of his head. “I mean, we didn’t talk for a year after you and I first started dating.”
Olivia nodded, but Tyler’s mind drifted back to the circumstances behind that lack of communication. It was a sore subject even now a few years after they began talking again. His parents loved his last girlfriend, Alicia. They had never met her, but she was the daughter of a preacher which automatically made her a saint in their eyes. They didn’t even care that she was a different denomination than they were; all they cared about was that she might put Tyler back on the straight and narrow. When Tyler broke up with her, they kept in contact with Alicia and practically cut off communications with their own son.
Alicia made herself look like a saint while talking about Tyler’s drinking habits. Since Alicia had the first word, he knew he had no chance to speak about her dark side to his parents. If he told them that Alicia was the girl that introduced him to cocaine and ecstasy, they would think that he was simply trying to make her look bad even though he was just telling the truth. As far as they were concerned, her position as a PK meant more than the demons banging around in her closet.
He had given up on being upset about Alicia’s actions; after all, it’s only natural that a scorned loved one would try to lash out in the most hurtful way possible. Tyler was still bothered by his parents’ ability to throw him away so easily. They made up shortly after he had started dating Olivia, and while they were civil enough to speak to her on occasion, they weren’t happy about the fact that he was dating a Catholic. A devout Catholic wasn’t the same thing in their mind as a devout Protestant. He loved Olivia and his parents though, so he tried to keep the peace with both.
“I’m still really excited though,” Tyler said to Olivia when the reverie was interrupted by a car cutting him off. “Fucking FIB! Learn how to fucking drive!” he shouted.
Olivia held on to the dashboard as he quickly jumped lanes and sped past the Illinois driver while flipping him the bird. She shot Tyler an exasperated look.
“What?! Come on, what I did wasn’t that bad!” he replied.
Olivia slowly leaned back in her seat acting scared by Tyler’s driving.
“Oh don’t be so dramatic!” Tyler said to her.
“I’m not; I’m just appreciating my life.”
He scowled at her as much as he could while driving. “I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but mom looks like Harriet Winslow from Family Matters. It’s really weird because looking through her old yearbooks she actually looked like Kelly back in the day. Dad looks like Professor Lasky from Saved by the Bell: The College Years.”
“I think you can introduce me to your dad first, yum!”
“Disgusting, and I’ll keep you as far away from him as I can,” Tyler said before he had to practically slam the brakes on for the slow moving car in front of him. “Get out of the way, asshole, the speed limit’s 65 not 40! Fuck!!”
“Hopefully I get to meet your dad today…rather than die in a fiery car accident…”
Tyler shot her a frustrated glance as she pulled out a copy of Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues from the floor board of the car next to her purse.
They arrived in Gainesville just in time for dinner. As they pulled up, Tyler’s dad was setting up sprinklers on the lawn and eyed the car suspiciously.
“I flew here last time so he doesn’t recognize my car,” Tyler giggled.
“And he doesn’t know we’re coming?” asked Olivia.
“I thought I told you about that!” he replied. “No, his birthday is tomorrow, so Mom thought it would be a great surprise for him.
“Awww!” Olivia said in that extremely girlish way that made Tyler glad his complexion kept the red in his cheeks from being seen.
His dad slowly walked over to the car, trying to look through the windows as he made his way to the driver side of the car. Finally, just before his dad made it to the driver side window, Tyler opened the door and stepped out of the car. His dad took a step back and reached for his chest as if he wasn’t quite ready for this shock.
“T…Ty?” Tyler’s dad asked as he stumbled backwards.
“Hey dad,” Tyler responded. His dad laughed loudly gripping his chest as Tyler and Olivia exchanged pleased glances. Tyler motioned for Olivia to get out of the car and she complied. “This is Olivia, my fiancée.”
Tyler’s dad laughed heartily as he walked to her, “I’m Bruce, Ty’s dad.” He chuckled more to himself, “Well, I s’pose you already knew that!” He reached out to shake her hand, but then shook his head and gave her a hug instead.
Tyler felt the sting of possible tears in his eyes and blinked a couple of times to hold them back. “Happy birthday, dad!”
Bruce laughed hysterically and wiped tears from his eyes, “How…how did you...?”
“I don’t know if Mom told you,” Tyler said, “but we moved to Nashville a couple weeks ago, and back when we found out that we were making the move we decided to come down for a visit. Besides you had to meet my future bride!” Tyler motioned for Olivia to come to him. She came up and took his hand. “And it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen y’all.”
“Six years by my count,” Bruce responds. “It’s good to see ya, son!” He walks over to Tyler and gives him a hug. “Your mom should be home in ‘bout an hour and a half. We’ve done some stuff to the house, let me give ya a look ‘round.” With that, Bruce led Tyler and Olivia through the carport and into the dining room through the side door.
Bruce showed Tyler and Olivia around the house, most of which hadn’t changed since Tyler lived there with the exception of his room which had been switched to something of a library. The biggest surprise for Tyler was the back yard. The place he used to target practice with his BB gun had been changed to a pond over the last several years. Tyler would have felt bad about the loss of his history, but the pond was used as a home for red ear sliders he had caught as a kid that had become too big for the aquariums in the house.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that Tyler’s mom got home, and both Tyler and Olivia were surprised to see Tyler’s Aunt Minnie with his mom. He always had fond memories of Aunt Minnie, and explained to Olivia that she got her nickname Minnie because she was a huge fan of Minnie from Mickey Mouse that her brothers and sisters started calling her Minnie and it just stuck. She had an interesting since of humor as well, that Tyler fondly remembered. When she saw the abbreviation for things like Boulevard, she pronounced it as it appeared. Tyler had been a big fan of classical music growing up, and when he spoke of Beethoven, Aunt Minnie would pronounce the name Beet-ho-ven rather than the typical pronunciation of Bay-toe-ven.
It had been so long that Tyler had seen her, though, that he considered Minnie as an ironic name. Upon seeing her again he thought he ought to rethink the irony of her name. Last she had seen her she was quite large, but now as she entered his former home she was quite thin. He found her appearance somewhat awkward because she looked like a small woman on a large frame. Of course, he felt himself a large man on a small frame, and Aunt Minnie made sure to acknowledge that in their first meeting in years as he had made sure to bring up her new and improved appearance.