American Funny Holiday

“Thanks a lot,” Nadia said in her squeaky cartoon character voice. “This lovely spread wouldn’t be so grand without all your contributions.”

Or my dad’s mansion surrounding it all, you shrew.

Nadia’s silicone smile froze halfway across her cheeks as she gestured toward our brimming table. My dad nodded and kissed her cheek, forcing me to suppress my gag reflex. All twelve of us—several of whom should not be present—sat down to Thanksgiving dinner.

Plates and silverware clinked as dishes of sweet and savory offerings paraded around the table. The aroma of smoked turkey should have punched me in the salvatory glands. Instead, my focus impaled the man across from the cranberries and stuffing.

I passed the bowl of overcooked green beans without breaking eye contact with him: my ex-boyfriend, Cam.

The hell is he doing here?

Cam sat next to Nadia’s youngest daughter, Evelyn. His eyes were pinched and lips pressed together in a skinny line. He’d given me that same stupefied expression when I told him I knew he was cheating on me two months ago.

What a wretched surprise to discover who replaced me. Not only was Nadia’s family a barrier to my dad, apparently I’m supposed to share my men, too.

The fact that Cam was every bit as blindsided by this ridiculous twist of fate didn’t save him from my brimming wrath.

Though my stepsister, Evelyn, was a vapid waste of brain cells, she exhibited the posture and manners of an English royal. In short, she was a skinnier version of me. She and I shared the same straight brown hair, light dusting of freckles, and baby blue eyes. Inside, she had less substance than instant mashed potatoes.

Evelyn prattled on about all her many blessings—Cam being among her list along with the wealth she didn’t earn—and passed the “What I’m thankful for” task along to him.

Cam stuttered over his response to the traditional question. I was too busy fantasizing about dumping gravy down the back of his shirt to hear.

This gathering was supposed to be my grand opportunity to start fresh with my dad’s new family. Dad married Nadia several years back, too soon after Mom left him for a man who understood the proper way to reload a toilet paper roll.

Yes, that was one of Mom and Dad’s venomous arguments. I had to duck under it in a mad dash to class one day.

I stabbed a piece of turkey when the plate came my way, popping it in my mouth. While I chewed, I reveled in how Cam squirmed under my gaze: ruffling his napkin and darting eyes away. No one sensed the invisible friction leaping over the table and slicing through audible words. I heaped more food on my plate, guiding it in place with my peripheral vision.

The pretentious thankfulness continued.

My aunt and uncle were grateful for a good year at their accounting firm, and Evelyn’s sister, Carly, stated her gratitude for modern conveniences—which also included enjoying my dad’s money to the fullest.

To my left, my brother belted out his good fortune with his mouth full. “Grateful to have my dog, Bucky, and that I met a new girl last week. Not sure if she’s wife material, but we’ll see.” A piece of a green bean shot from his mouth onto a salt shaker and stuck. He nudged me in the side. “Your go, Lori.”

Blessed man, he’d abandoned his manners. That was my cue to do the same.

My brain worked through multiple delicious scenarios, aided by the smoky protein on my tongue. I could rat Cam out to Evelyn, or tell one of his secrets only he and I knew. Even if no one else made the connection to our past, he and I know. That would be enough.

When Cam reached hesitant fingers for the plate of pumpkin bread I made, I’d had enough. He was not allowed to taste my cooking again—not after cheating on me with Evelyn.

I scooted my chair back on the polished marble and stood, projecting a smile worthy of my stepmother. “This year, I have more to be thankful for than ever.” All attention was on me. I lifted my wine glass. “As of last week, I’m another year wiser, and I get my bachelor’s in web design next semester.”

Everyone besides Cam reached for their wine and held it aloft. Evelyn whispered to him and pointed to his glass. He scrambled to grab it, a drop of red landing on the pristine white tablecloth. Nadia’s eyebrow twitched. I counted that as the first of many victories to come.

He knew what was coming. He also knew he was powerless to stop me when I latched onto a goal.

This is my element, Cam. Welcome to the untimely end of your new relationship.

“Also,” I continued, “I feel I have gained a true understanding of what it means to be thankful, happy, and faithful to those I care about.”

Cam’s shoulders stiffened. I went on.

“I know I haven’t kept in touch as much as I should have, but I plan to remedy that in this coming year.”

Nadia brightened, her tone lifting like a true charlatan. “Oh, honey, that would be lovely.”

I was willing to bet no one else picked up on that catch in her voice, just before her second use of the word “lovely.”

Dad said, “Glad to hear it, Lori. See? We can all be one big, happy family if we stay open-minded.”

I nodded, my gaze settling back on Cam. “This marks day one of using all my new knowledge from my mistakes this year. Never again will I get back at an ex-boyfriend by exposing his personal information online.”

Cam shifted in his seat. Evelyn frowned at him while her mother’s frozen smile slipped at one edge.

I took a sip of wine. “Never again will I be dishonest with my sexual health history.”

My dad bounced his eyes around the table, landing his bewildered expression on me. “Sweetie, that might be a little personal—”

“I’m not done,” I said in a chipper tone prompted by what I believed was a trickle of sweat trailing down Cam’s cheek. “Never again will I spread secrets to people’s coworkers after they wrong me. Such a nasty habit.”

My aunt hid her smile behind a napkin. I knew she would be my ally here, ever the fun member of the family. My brother was oblivious, but Aunty Midge went to extreme lengths to crimp Nadia’s corn syrup smile as well.

Nadia shot up from her seat. “Well! Let’s hear it for Lori’s lovely change of heart, shall we?”

Oh, no. She did not get to cut me off—especially not with her third iteration of “lovely.”

I cleared my throat. “One more, Mom, then I’m done.”

I had never called her “Mom,” but my dad asked me to try it many times. Nadia crinkled her eyes into a motherly expression worthy of a Tim Burton film, but I knew she was fuming inside. How often could I make a scene in front of both her and my no-good ex-boyfriend?

I dumped the remainder of my wine down my throat, then set down the glass. “Never again will I waste a perfectly good pie on a cheating ex-boyfriend.”

The apple pie was in my hands before anyone could react. I thrust the dish in Cam’s direction, keeping hold of the edges. The pie freed itself and sailed over the table, slapping Cam in the chest with a delicious plop. A portion of it fell onto his spoon, launching cranberries at my uncle’s Abraham beard. He jumped and flicked at the maroon clumps dripping onto his flannel shirt.

Evelyn screamed and leaned her Gucci sweater away. Nadia’s mouth was open wide enough to fit her fist. My dad had a hand over his face while my brother laughed water out of his nose.

My aunt’s cackling laughter rose above it all. “‘Bout time someone lightened up this stuffy gathering. My turn!”

She lobbed a scoop of sweet potatoes toward the end of the table. They splatted into Nadia’s shoulder, a delightful splash of orange on her cream, boutique blouse. Evelyn dashed out of the dining room, sniveling into her hands. My brother returned fire to my aunt with his green beans. She chucked them right back, pulling her arm away from my uncle when he tried to stop her. My twin cousins joined in.

My dad yelled for order. No one listened.

I set down the empty pie dish and stood back, basking in the genuine chaos I created. For once, I instigated the inevitable feud. I’d always wanted to do that.

All the colors of Thanksgiving littered the tablecloth in every texture from lumpy to runny. Cam never broke his statue stance, just blinked when food particles drifted near his face. The pie slid a sticky trail down his front.

My aunt leaned over to him. “Gonna eat that, sonny?” She snatched a fistful of crust and shoved it between her chubby cheeks. If I turned out just like her, my life would be complete.

Nadia yelled, “Do something,” to my dad, but he continued eating his meal as if food wasn’t still sailing in every direction. His plate was covered in bits of each flavor on the table. A green bean smacked him in the forehead. Ignoring problems was his specialty.

Sorry, Dad, but rebellion is inevitable when issues hover under the surface.

Retribution? Check.

Sending a clear message of how far we are from becoming “one big, happy family?” Check.

Nadia’s broken perfect stepmother facade? Checkmate.

I said, “Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.”

Just before I turned, I caught the glower on Nadia’s face, directed straight at me.

Bring it on, “honey.” Daddy and all his millions are listening.

She didn’t say a word. Smart golddigger.

With a wide grin, I grabbed my keys and sauntered to the door. Next Thanksgiving was three hundred and sixty-four days away. For the first time, I would count each one until I could try to one-up myself.

If you can’t beat the underlying infection, squeeze the pimple.

November 26, 2021 01:57

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15:37 Dec 16, 2021

Great story! I loved the way you narrate things (a very detailed description). Well done!


Lydi B
23:38 Dec 17, 2021

Thanks for the encouragement. So glad you enjoyed the story :)


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Kara Heisler
22:48 Dec 01, 2021

I must say, it was really satisfying when Lori exposed Cam. Also, I loved the line "Inside, she had less substance than instant mashed potatoes."


Lydi B
23:17 Dec 06, 2021

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the story. It was fun to write family chaos even worse than my own, hah.


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