Ian’s hoped-for Thanksgiving assimilation into the family of Kaitlin, his girlfriend of nine months, wasn’t going so well. He’d first insulted her aging hippie dad Gus (gray ponytail, tie-dye shirt) by not only refusing a hit off the doobie he’d fired up (“doobie” was Gus’s term), but by guessing that the LP he was playing, “Get High,” by the Sons of Champlin, was Chicago.
Sheila, Kaitlin’s mom, looked like “Norma Rae”-era Sally Field and gave off the wholesome aura of June Cleaver. Still, there was something about her that didn’t seem quite right, but Ian couldn’t put his finger on it.
That is until Sheila secretly put all her fingers on his upper thigh under the table at dinner and squeezed, which startled him. Ian then asked if he could switch seats with Kaitlin’s sister Miriam so he could sit next to his girlfriend.
Miriam, five years Kaitlin’s junior, nodded and switched. She said nothing because she had joined a cult called The Chosen, whose charismatic leader had ordered her to take a six-month vow of silence to purify her potty mouth. She was in month four of not uttering a word.
At 34, Kaitlin was the oldest of Gus and Sheila Pruitt’s offspring and she and Miriam had a baby brother Kevin, 24, who was doing four years on a counterfeiting conviction at Ragsdale Federal Penitentiary. He was due to call, so Sheila had the speakerphone on the table in anticipation.
Kaitlin’s Uncle Sherwood took the stereotypical “crazy uncle” to new heights. From the moment he arrived, he spun detailed conspiracy theories about being a Cold War KGB spy, about how the CIA performed mind experiments on him and that he still received coded messages by playing certain albums backward, such as funk band Parliament’s 1977 record “Funketelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome.”
His yarns were nutty, but he spun them with panache and punctuated them with wonderful sound effects like that guy in the horrible “Police Academy” movies.
Besides Uncle Sherwood’s ravings, there was his appearance. He wore a flak jacket and Kevlar helmet complete with a bulletproof glass face-shield at all times. KGB-trained assassins could be anyone, he explained.
Seeing the sweet, demure woman he had fallen in love with in the context of her outrageous family was jarring for Ian. The only frame of reference he had was Marilyn from “The Munsters,” who was the weirdo simply because she was normal.
As they were eating, the phone rang and it was Kaitlin’s jailbird brother. Sheila turned up the volume on the speakerphone, but the connection was poor and faded in and out.
Just then Uncle Sherwood noticed the telltale redness of the new tattoo peeking out from the sleeve of Ian’s shirt and asked to see it. Ian rolled up his sleeve and revealed an ankh. Uncle Sherwood’s sudden inhalation of breath caused everyone to stop eating. He launched into a crazed spiel about how the ankh was the Egyptian hieroglyphic for life and was so passionate Ian didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d only gotten it at Kaitlin’s urging because the 1976 movie “Logan’s Run,” where the symbol figured into the plot, was her all-time favorite.
Uncle Sherwood said the ankh must be the signal he’d been waiting for since 1983 when he had one branded on the back of his head. Ian asked to see his brand and Uncle Sherwood promptly pulled off his helmet.
With catlike agility, Kaitlin leapt onto the table, her chestnut Uggs boots knocking over the gravy boat and cranberry sauce, and she fired three shots into Uncle Sherwood’s forehead with a small pistol fitted with a silencer. Before Uncle Sherwood’s head landed in his mashed potatoes, she’d leapt off the table, said something into her cellphone in Russian and headed quickly for the door. She turned briefly, gave Ian a half shrug, then ran to a waiting black Cadillac that sped off, and he never saw her again.
Gus sat stoned and stupefied. Sheila fainted. Miriam broke her vow of silence by repeatedly screaming the f-word.
In between Miriam’s screams, Kevin’s voice came through the speakerphone: “Hey! Anyone there? Happy Thanksgiving!”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.