FAMILY SECRET

By Stuart Parks II

"Sit down, Chris" his father indicated with the vodka bottle.  "We have to talk."

"Sure, dad.  What's up?" he asked, sitting at his Aunt Gloria’s narrow kitchen table.  The late afternoon sun bathed the room with a fading orange glow, and the bodies outside the window mingled aimless and reserved as they had done all day.
  

His father got a glass from the cabinet and sat it down on the table with the bottle.  The glasses thudded, flat and hollow.
 

"Fucking reunions," he sighed as he sat down.
 

His father always tried to distance himself from his side of the family.  They were awkward and stiff people, who rarely spoke to each other.  They got together for just one reunion every five years.  A reunion his parents always dreaded, and which always bored him to death.
 

His father unscrewed the red and white bottle and poured a generous amount in the glass.
 

"Whoa, hey old man!  What's going on?" Chris asked.  
 

"You’re twenty-five now.  Family secret time, Chris.  You're gonna need this."
 

"Where’s yours?" 
 

His father waved him off.  "It's gonna be hard to hear it.  It's gonna be worse to tell it.  You're gonna need this more than me."
 

Chris laughed nervously.  "I can take bad news.  I didn't need a drink when you and mom told me you were having Carrie.  Or Dianna."
 

His father smiled sadly.  "You were 5 and 9.  This is different."  He waved at the glass. "Sooner you start, the sooner we can get this over with."
 

Chris picked up the glass and swirled the clear liquid.  "You know I'm more of a rum fan."
 

"Aunt Glory's house.  Aunt Glory's liquor."
 

He brought the glass up to his lips.  "No chaser?"
 

"Chasers are for pussies,” his father laughed at their old joke.  It was empty.  Forced.
 

He downed the drink with a grimace.  His dad’s attitude was getting to him.  And his Aunt Glory bought cheap vodka.
 

His father poured him some more.
 

"What the hell?"

"Just getting you set up," his father replied.  "This is gonna get weird."
 

"Well, I've done my part, start talking."
 

His father sighed again, rubbing his face with his hands, visibly psyching himself up.  "Okay.  You know we typically don't have these reunions that often."
 

"Yeah."
 

"And we...typically don't stay in much contact outside of these reunions."
 

"Yeah."

"Well...there's a reason for that."  His father stopped, staring at his hands as they grasped and clutched themselves on the table.
 

"Becauses your family’s a buncha dicks?"
 

His father laughed loudly before catching himself.  "Well," he said, sheepishly, “there is that."
 

"Secret's out!" Chris laughed, and tossed back the second drink with little effort.  "Now, let's go eat some fried chicken, hear about everyone's new car, and go home."
 

His father poured him another drink.
 

"There's more than that."
 

The warm numbness of the vodka washed over him, but he felt cold and nervous.  His father was never this serious.
 

"What's going on, dad?" he said.  "Just tell me."
 

The vodka bottle came down on the table with a thud.
 

"Son.  You know, we don't get together often, and-"
 

"We covered that.  What's going on?"
 

Another sigh, and a nervous tremble that he had never seen in his father before.
 

"Well, we, that is, my side of the family, we’re a very old family.  We can trace our history back for over a millenia.  And, there has always been a considerable amount of family wealth, even though we never really talk or spend much time together."
 

"Oh my god," Chris whispered, reaching for the glass.  "Are we in the mafia?"
 

Another nervous laugh, sadder this time.  "No.  We're not in the mafia.
 

“Dammit,” Chris muttered sarcastically, and drank down the vodka.  It was hitting harder and faster than he was used to.  His father was going to have to sum this up or he wouldn’t be standing for the rest of the reunion.
 

“We...we are an old family,” his father continued.  “And we are a rich family. And that is because we...have a benefactor."  His father poured another shot.
 

Chris shook his head at the liquor.  "We have a rich old guy that writes us checks?"
 

"Something like that.  Only she's a woman."
 

"So?  That's not a big deal.  What, was she a Silent Age porn star or something?"
 

"No." His father said.  "She's very old.”
 

“So?  How old?"
 

“Very old.”
 

“How old?”
 

His father rubbed his temples, slowly.  "One thousand, three hundred, and fifty seven years."
 

Chris leaned back in his chair and laughed.  "Geez, dad!  What the hell?  You had me with this one."
 

His father pushed the glass over. "I'm not joking."
 

Chris pushed the glass back.  "Sure you are.  I’m as bored as you are, but if you wanted to drink your way through today, you should have just told me.  I would have played along."
 

His father pushed the glass back.  "I'm not joking."
 

Chris stopped.  Swayed.  The effects of several shots of vodka washing over him, numbing him, making him dizzy.  Sleepy.
 

“That's impossible," he slurred.  "Is she a vampire or something?"   
 

"Something very much like that, yes."
 

"Bullshit," Chris slurred.
 

The old man shook his head.  "I'm afraid not, Chris.  It's very true.  And very serious.  She keeps our family wealthy and strong.  She watches over us.  She's our family secret.  And we take care of her.  She only awakens once every five years.”
 

His father looked down at the table, and stared into his hands.  “Tonight, you get to meet her."
 

Chris's head felt heavy on his neck, and the darkening room spun and swelled around him.  He laughed at his father and reached for the vodka. His arm was heavy.  Numb. "Well, if I'm meeting the vampire queen of the family, I might as well have another for good luck."  
 

His father pulled the glass away from him, and looked up.  Tears ran down his cheeks in the waning light.. 
 

"No, son.  You’ve had enough."

© 2020 by Travelin' Tim
 

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