Things got a little...strange for my family after mom left.
Dad's a pastor, mom...decided she didn't like religion, ran off with a `bad boy,' ended up having his kid.
Dad, well...he got married to Bonbon.
The woman clearly came from outer space. Her nose and mouth made me think of that eighties Beauty and the Beast TV show, a kind of freakish animal harelip and muzzle-nose, big mouse ears, green eyes with a goat's slotted pupils.
She had fur, a long opossum tail, and wore the most outlandish outfits this side of Lucasfilm's wardrobe department.
I don't know what Dad was thinking. Before the wedding happened, he'd always said that aliens were Nephilim, evil angels, or a myth invented by atheists, but afterwards he started talking about how Genesis 1:27 referred to the spiritual likeness of God, meaning that things other than people can bear His image, or, alternately, that "Not being made in God's image doesn't mean you shouldn't love them," quoting the verse from Matthew about how even dogs eat scraps from the Master's table. None of this did anything to help his church's flagging attendance.
I thought it bizarre enough that he married The Thing from Outer Space, but she had her own kids.
This Thanksgiving, Dad told me not to stare, to be polite, to not ask too many personal questions related to species. Oh, and no photographs.
It didn't quite work.
Dad lived in a big tone house off Brookside, Kansas City. Yuppie neighborhood. I don't know where Bonbon got the money, but it had to be her paying the mortgage. Dad only got so much from salary and his side job as a guitar store clerk. He said Bonbon had "Government contracts." That must have been it, I guess.
The house looked nice with all that fancy furniture and the grand piano, but it was damn drafty, and he always tried to take my coat whenever I came in. The warmest place was the modern kitchen. I spent a lot of time next to the two fireplaces. I wished he'd spent a little more time insulating the building than making those custom guitars he hung everywhere.
It only smelled halfway like Thanksgiving when I came in for dinner. The turkey was there, I detected bread and pumpkin pie, but that other shit...
Some of it had a curried scent. Some of it reminded me of manure, or a car with serious engine trouble.
Instead of Dad at the door taking my coat, I got greeted by a hunched over, midget sized version of Bonbon, with crazy Marty Feldman eyes and a dragging club foot. The blue dress made its gender indeterminate.
The creature smiled. Its teeth would look good on a horse. "It's so nice to meet you." The voice sounded male, deranged. "Your father has told me so much about you. My name is Jad." He offered a hand, humanoid, but bent like a claw.
I really didn't want to shake it, or even associate with the creep, but I shook his hand anyway. "N-nice to meet you." I shuddered at his oily touch, resisting the urge to wipe my hands on my jeans.
The guy limped off into the dining room.
I noticed a curious lack of dog noises. Ordinarily they would bay when I ringed the doorbell, but when I came in, I heard no barks, no scampering, the polished hardwood devoid of dog toys, bowls and other accoutrements, the dog bed missing.
The dining room contained family heirlooms, a solid oak China cabinet with hammered tin door pieces, a cedar chest, an antique rolltop desk, silhouette portraits on China plates. My brother, Dad's sister and my cousins sat at the long table, amidst strangers that seemed to belong to the Star Wars Cantina crowd.
Before I could get a good look at anyone, the flaps on a slimy green egg near a wooden buffet popped open, and a huge pink one eyed spider thing jumped out, latching onto my face, its tail wrapping around my neck.
I screamed, thinking it intended to deposit an egg, but instead found a weird tongue, like the leg on a mussel, slurping me in the face.
"Down, Marbowa!" Dad shouted, pulling the thing off me by its tail. It climbed up his arm and perched there, tail dangling loose around his throat as its red eye blinked at me.
Dad had on a sparkly red-white Power Ranger-ish jumpsuit, probably something his wife picked out. "Sorry about that. He's really affectionate, but it takes some getting used to." He offered me an empty seat, next to a stumpy creature that seemed to be nothing but hair and lion teeth.
I didn't want to sit down, but I was hungry and didn't want to be rude, so I plopped down in front of a glowing sort of table decoration combining the facets of a squid and a menorah. A single eyed purple monster with enormous cat ears leered at me from the other side, the long digits of its three fingered hand scooping a handful of Chex Mix between its mandibles.
Ben, my plump faced cousin, ordinarily smiling and jovial at these types of gatherings, had this uncomfortable look on his face like he were trapped between two homeless people on a bus. His brown hair had been mussed with purple ooze, likely from the cyclops.
To his left sat a creature reminding me of a Sid and Marty Krofft creation, if Sigmund had let it breed with Gumby. Waxen, celery shaped limbs and head, glassy unblinking fish eyes, ropey green tentacles, a heavy mantle of seaweed substance growing from its body like hair. From time to time, when its tentacles flopped near his wineglass, Ben would unthinkingly move it away, and the monster would gurgle excuse me.
My cousin Laura, generally sour faced most the time anyway, now wore a permanent frown. Her brown eyes had a weary, somewhat annoyed look to them, but they kept darting back and forth as if she expected someone to steal her purse at any moment.
She had a model's body, and tended to dress the part, but today her fancy turtleneck appeared to have been clawed by an animal, with little splotches of something black and mossy growing from the threads. One high cheekbone sported a bandage.
Ben slipped his cel phone out of his pocket, sneakily poking the camera eye above the level of the tablecloth to get a recording.
A split second later, a pink tail whipped out from under the table, sending the phone sailing through the glass window.
The cyclops crossed its arms indignantly, as if the spider beast had done the right thing, but Bonbon rushed up to it and shouted, "Marbowa no! Go to your egg!"
The creature responded like a dog being shown its own poop, retreating into its goopy little home.
Dad brought the turkey out of the kitchen, Bonbon following with a tray of some purple polka dotted thing - I'd compare it to genital lice someone shot with an enlarging ray to make it lobster sized. Its aroma, burning tires and skunk, did not blend well with the Thanksgiving gobbler.
Dad set the turkey down, leading us in grace. A huge mantis faced cockroach thing next to me donned a little red flowerpot hat and crossed its claws. Cousin Laura rolled her eyes and humored dad, trying to ignore a tentacle helping itself to a plate of multicolored insects near her plate.
I can't imagine what that thing thought of us eating potatoes.
The repast got distributed. I took a couple rolls, passed the plate to the squatty hairball.
The table was dead silent for awhile. I and my cousins had nothing to say to our weird guests, and our weird guests only made quacking squirrel noises to each other.
"So, Robert..." Dad nonchalantly broke into his piece of alien lice with a lobster cracker. "How's work?"
I forked some turkey onto my plate, garnished it with cranberry sauce. "Uh, same as usual."
"He works for a credit card company," Dad muttered to his wife.
Bonbon nodded approvingly.
Dad slurped meat out of the cracked `crustacean' leg.
I frowned at my turkey. "Dad, what's in this sauce?"
"Oh?" he swallowed another bite. "Blue Pija. It's very tart. Goes well with the cranberries, I think."
It actually did not...and the smell reminded me of CLR Multipurpose Cleaner. Out of politeness, I bit my tongue and did not mention how the Pija tasted like clumps of raw baking soda. At least the turkey was normal.
You know that menorah thing in front of me? That did happen to be an alien religious artifact. Halfway through the meal (I gave most the entrees a hard pass), Dad lit one of its quivering lamp fronds, then took out his guitar, thrumming seemingly random notes. It made me think he forgot how to play, but the aliens all recognized the tune, humming along.
And then he sang with the squirrel sounds the aliens had been making. They seemed to know this too.
Ben had a look on his face like, `Please let this end quickly.' Laura, likewise, appeared to be thinking, `I'd rather listen to nails on a chalkboard.'
Alien Gumby took out a beaded wampum, uttering a string of syllables that made me think he had a hairball caught in his throat. At some point, all the aliens had their appendage folded in prayer again. I marched into the kitchen to refill my 7-Up.
A red-purple pig eared cyclops thing flipper hands bent over the open stove, flipper hands checking the temperature on something in an aluminum tray. A long tongue licked its buckteeth in eager anticipation.
When I noticed a dog collar dangling from a gap in the oven rack, I changed my mind about sampling `the roast.'