“Try and avoid the good hors d’oeuvres, those are for blood kin, and If anyone asks you’re great uncle Torkel’s weird stepkids. Nobody has met them and he’s so fucked no one will question why you are…they way you are. Oh, you will have to be brother and sister though, so don’t make out until the booze starts flowing” said May.
May wasn’t drunk, but she wasn’t sober. The tasteful black dress was a surprise, but her trademark frog socks and combat boots let me know she was still in there. Claire, my plus one, was also dressed well, but deeply uncomfortable.
“It’s very nice to meet you, May, but I am not pretending incest on a first date” said Claire.
May was unused to people saying no, but it wasn’t the venue to properly argue. She split the difference.
“More of a third date thing” May countered.
Claire gave the comment the silence it deserved. May tried to put her hands in pockets that did not exist, finished my drink, then resigned herself to graciousness.
“Fine, you can just say that you knew Yngvar from his charity work. And thanks for taking one for the team, Claire. Isaac doesn’t get a lot of dates because of his bad personality and you are a solid seven in that dress. It’s nice to see something red and sexy.” said May.
Claire smoothed the skirt of her flowery red dress. She also had no pockets, but that wasn’t the main issue.
“Thank you, but if I’d known we were going to a funeral I would have worn something more muted.” said Claire.
May nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, that’s why I didn’t tell you. All of this samey samey black and grey bullshit is bumming me out. And this really is more of a remembrance than a funeral. Although they will be burning the body” said May.
‘Is that legal? Claire asked.
May held her hands up. I couldn’t tell if she was confused about the law, or the idea that it would matter either way.
“It’s not like we stole him, he’s our uncle”.
Claire was learning and let the point go. I decided to break the impasse.
“Yo, where is your date? I thought you were bringing Eilene?” I asked.
May sighed softly, decided it was insufficient, and the re-sighed to properly convey the degree to which she had been wronged.
“We broke up yesterday. She was sexually very present, but she has trust issues and when she found out about my job she got super weird. I had to cut her off.” said May.
Claire was kind, and inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m sorry to hear that, May. Why did she have an issue with your job?” asked Claire.
May dropped a bomb that forced an actual spit take from me.
“I am an accountant.”
I’d had a lot of theories about May’s employment: Dog thief, trust fund kid, drug dealer, but accountant was way down the list.
“You’re an accountant? Holy shit that is hilarious. For who, Pornhub?” I said.
A strange mix of embarrassment, pride, and annoyance stiffened May’s voice.
“Sloate, Crensley, and Haversham. We’re a top 100 firm internationally. I am a junior associate, but I’m told my work shows real promise.” said May.
Claire, who had no expectations of May either way, returned to the original point.
“Wait, why didn’t she like you being an accountant.” asked Claire.
She didn’t seem guilty, but May momentarily seemed less proud.
“Eileen’s sister, Celia, works at the same firm as me, it made Eileen uncomfortable. Bubbles merging and all that. Plus one time she came to visit and Celia and I were getting it on in the break room. Then she got super weird. Because of her trust issues.” explained May.
Claire asked the obvious question.
“How is that a trust issue? You were making out with her sister?”.
“Yeah, which she trusted me not to do, despite there being several red flags which suggested to the contrary. That is a huge issue” said May.
Claire sighed, just the once, and then glared at her watch. I had apologised, repeatedly, but she said she was fine with staying. She didn’t seem fine, but May was our ride so I figured I’d hang in and try to salvage things on the way home. We stood there in silence until May gently took one of Claire’s hands in hers.
“Hey, it’s been great getting to know each other, but can I borrow Isaac for a second? I need him to take a look at something. Um, there are a lot of weirdos here so try and keep to yourself.” said May.
Claire shrugged in a way that wasn’t a hard no. May lightly kissed the hand she’d confiscated, grabbed me by the arm, and led me from the reception area to the back room where they were staging the body. The funeral director nodded at May and left. May opened the coffin, repositioned a floor lamp to better light the corpse, and asked a question I could not answer.
“Can you tell if this guy is cursed?” asked May.
This was my first time meeting uncle Ingvar, but there were some clear irregularities. I didn’t know his age but he looked old, a hard eighty at least. His upper body was whole, but everything from the waist down was shrunken and desiccated. More peculiar were the four inch black horns protruding from just above each temple.
“Yeah, I don’t know. Did he have horns and withered legs like that before?” I said.
May gave me her I can’t tell if you are stupid or an asshole look.
“No, he was a regular guy. If he always looked like this, why would I think he was cursed?”
May paused and closed one eye, a sign she was wandering her mind palace. I waited, it was a big palace and she had difficulty distinguishing between complicated lies and legitimate memories.
“Wait, he did have a recumbent bike accident a few years ago so the withered legs could be legit. I haven’t seen him since. The horns are definitely new and wack. “ said May.
“Oh, well there is something going on here then.” I said.
“Seriously, that is your expert analysis? Isn’t there some sort of magic guy test you can do?” said May.
This was an ongoing conversation between us. I had let enough slip over the past couple of years that May had pieced together large parts of my childhood. Despite this she was convinced I was holding the good stuff back and was intent on me reaching my full potential. This was equal parts mostly false, and a catastrophically poor idea, but I could never convince her of either.
“I am not a magic guy, I’m a magic-guy, weird shit happens to me, not because of me. I don’t have, like…protocols for something like this ” I said.
“If you don’t try I’ll call Lyle and see if he can figure it out. He’s cursed, I bet he has some insight.” said May.
‘Ok, first off, Lyle is not cursed, he is a curse. Those are very different things. Secondly, You don’t want to owe him a favour.” I said,
“I do lots of things for him and he teaches me shit all of the time. Unlike you he respects women and doesn’t see them as stupid and incapable.” May said.
“Don’t try and make this a gender thing, I am attempting to not contaminate your life even more than I already have. The more you become aware of things, the more things become aware of you…and you do not want that. Or maybe you do, but I don’t want that for you” I said.
May held up her phone, the address book entry COOL LYLE was highlighted.
“I get that you are not great at this, and if it doesn’t work…fine, but could you at least try.” May said.
I nodded and she put her phone back in her pocket. I wasn’t lying when I said I had no training of any sort. Growing up I saw the edges of things, and understood that I existed differently in the world than most, but the few times I tried to do something it was intuition and trial and error. It had never worked out to my benefit so I didn’t try often. I took a deep breath, placed my right hand in my pocket, and slowly traced that outline of my birthmark, it was as close to a focus for my otherness as I had. May recoiled in horror.
“Are you jacking it to my dead and deformed uncle? How is this your thing? Who gets hard to zombie Mr. Tumnus.” said May.
I tried to quiet her.
“Can you shut they fuck up, I’ll trying get in the zone.”
May grimaced and resigned herself to the dark necessity occurring before her.
“Ok, do what you have to do, but a genie better shoot out the end of that thing or we are not friends anymore.” said May.
I am not particularly self conscious, but I felt the need to dispel the narrative that was forming. I turned to face May and pulled my suit pants down to expose my upper thigh. There was a reddish birthmark roughly the shape of a goat with more than the usual allotment of legs.
“I am not jacking it, I am touching my birthmark because it helps me focus” I said.
May took a step back, still disgusted.
“Alright, but I can still see the bulge of your weird dick.”
I was wearing boxers that concealed things pretty well, but the criticism still stung.
“I don’t have a weird dick, it’s regular and fine. Maybe it bends a little to the left, but I am stone-cold flaccid right now so there is no way you could tell that.”
The funeral director took two steps into the room, turned, and walked back out. I pulled up my pants and wondered if there was any chance Claire wouldn’t hear about this. May closed the casket in a huff.
“Great, thanks Isaac. Now he thinks we’re dating.”
Continued in Part Seven
Continued from Part Five