TKnC welcomes back William with his...
Jimmy Jensen was looking forward to meeting Cathy Calloway’s family like he was looking forward to a bad case of the gout. The two had been dating for a year and Jimmy knew this would eventually happen when they got “serious.”
Cathy was seven years his junior and Jensen was 35. He was looking to settle down, raise a family. He had enough of his late night partying and usual games of phone tag with women he encountered throughout the evenings. Oh, what a wretched existence singleness is.
Cathy was a relatively emotionally stable girl from an upstanding family as far he knew. He hadn’t met the family yet and then Sunday came around. Time for meatballs and Sunday gravy and football. And talks with Big Daddy Calloway and Cathy’s two brothers and selected spouses.
When Jensen entered the house he smelt the aroma of tomato sauce. The men were on the couch cheering their team. The women were hovered around the sauce pot talking.
“Oh, here they are,” said Mrs. Calloway, a robust and full-bodied woman. She embraced Jensen. Mr. Calloway got up from the couch and reached over to shake Jensen’s hand.
“Jimmy,” said Jensen, “it’s nice to meet you Mr. Calloway.”
“Likewise. Cathy has told us so much about you.”
“Thanks,” said Jensen.
Methodically and systematically Jensen made his way down the line. He noticed something collectively about all the people he had met. They were so nice and ordinary.
Not like the demonized ogres he fantasized about them being. A brother who is a mammoth baboon and worked in a chop shop. A father overbearing and judgmental. A neurotic mother. These people were way too nice and well adjusted to be those characters he conjured up.
They had spaghetti and meatballs. Garlic bread. Red Wine. Caesar salad with dressing made from scratch. The conversation was light and fluffy. They talked of sports. Of Jimmy’s teaching the 9th grade at St. Thomas’s. They talked of Cathy being transferred to the eighth grade and how she much preferred the younger grades.
They talked about how Cathy had a crush on Jimmy when he first started at the school. They talked movies. Black Swan. The King’s Speech. They talked of Oscar winners. Jimmy noticed something when the peach melba was served for the dessert. He noticed how welcoming and wholesome Cathy’s family were. How much they made him feel at home.
Needless to say, Jimmy’s mind was at ease.
“Hal,” said Mrs. Calloway to her husband, “I think it is time.”
“Time. Already?” said Mr. Calloway.
“Oh, Dad can’t we forget that silly tradition just once?” said Cathy.
Mr. Calloway said, “Now Cathy, you know we can’t do that.” Cathy’s mom left and came back from the kitchen. Jensen saw a glint of metal from the corner of his eye. To his horror and confirming his split-second suspicions, Cathy’s mom placed a small butcher’s meat-clever and a small cutting board in front of Mr. Calloway.
“Time to gather round,” said Cathy’s dad. The brothers and sister-in-laws excitedly stood around Jensen. Jensen’s heart beat fast.
“The first one doesn’t even hurt,” said Ellen, the youngest son, Joey’s wife.
“Just wrap a towel round it and go sit somewhere until the pain leaves,” said Marion the first son, Tommy’s wife.
“It’s the only way to be sure,” said Mr. Calloway, “a blood oath and offering to this family.”
Jensen sat with his mouth agape and his expression aghast. His heart beat a mile a minute. He thought of blood, the pain, the agony. Then he thought of the commitment, the love he had for Cathy. His eyes scanned the crowded, smiling faces of the Calloways. They stood there nodding in slow motion.
“Now c’mon, Jimmy,” said Mr. Calloway, “Don’t let us down,” as he pushed the cutting block toward him.
In an instant, it was over. The hot blood and bone hacked off and a bit of minor spurting. He grabbed the towel and retched in pain. He clenched his eyes shut in agony.
He nearly passed out.
When the pain subsided a bit and the clapping and comments came to a halt, Jimmy took a moment to survey his surroundings. His blurred vision returned.
Ellen held her hand up, “Welcome to the Calloways, Jimmy. We are looking to more future commitments as you and Cathy have children and buy a house. Ellen and Marion had two fingers left on their right hand.
Mrs. Calloway put the jar on the table. Like little Gherkin pickles, the fingers floated around in the liquid.