A blue banner with bright red text greeted guests and made them a bit dizzy. “Connor Family Cookout” the sign read. An annual affair that brought a certain branch of a certain family together at a certain time and place to share in smoked meats and burned beans. Children ran about, adults chided one another over sports team preferences and sitting at a table nursing a drink that was long ago flat, Owen watched the events of the day unfold.
“Hey, sport,” Uncle Frank said taking a seat next to Owen.
“Uncle Frank! How’s it going?” Owen asked. He feigned enthusiasm.
“I’m good. Hey, remember last year when your mom had to run me to the ER?” Uncle Frank laughed and slapped Owen’s shoulder, nearly knocking Owen to the ground.
“I remember. That Pepsi can did not want to yield to your skull did it?” Owen laughed.
“I showed it though. Well, that’s what your dad told me any way. Most of the day is a blur,” Uncle Frank took a long sip of his drink and looked beyond the crowd lost in thought. Uncle Frank did this quite often; likely a result of years of smashing aluminum cans against his head.
“Kiddo, what are you doing for work these days?” Uncle Frank asked as he snapped back to reality.
“Same stuff as last year,” Owen answered. This question was the reason he sat alone under the covered patio.
“Oh right, the funny cat pictures?” Uncle Frank chuckled.
“Not all of the internet is dedicated to funny cat pictures. I mean, the good part of the internet is, but I work with the not cat portion,” Owen explained.
“Did you see the one with the cat playing the key-tar? The cat had a top hat! That was funny,” Uncle Frank said.
“I missed that one,” Owen said.
“Hey, you think I can smash this can against my head?” Uncle Frank changed topics.
“I would really advise against that,” Owen backed away from his Uncle.
“Here we go!” Uncle Frank lined up head and can, skipped his customary count down and screamed. The can won the day.
“Mom!” Owen called out, “he did it again!”
The entire family, from Grandpa Ted to a five year old Owen was pretty sure just showed up at the park, ran to the patio to watch Uncle Frank writhe in pain.
“Every friggin’ year, Frank. Someone get a towel. I’m not having you bleed all over my seats,” Owen’s mom was pretty tired of Frank’s stuff.
Owen watched the familiar scene of his Uncle being carted away to the hospital while his mother fretted over their station wagon. Uncle Frank’s head would recover and next year they would all be back here again waiting for Frank to injure himself and avoiding the ‘what do you do for work’ question. The Connor Family Cookout was nothing if not predictable.
Thanks for reading!