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Suspense Mystery Funny

The day really gets off to a rough start when you over sleep. My wife, Sally, was shaking my shoulder. I could see her lips moving but my ears decided they were too important to wake up with the rest of me. I look at the clock on the nightstand and curse, throwing the covers off. I fly into the shower and fly out two minutes later.

I can hear the normal morning noises as I dress. I head down the stairs and Jessica is not a happy toddler this morning. I walk into the kitchen and Sally is packing lunches, I kiss her cheek as I reach for the coffee pot.

“Please be on time tonight, Rob. You know your dad will try to do it all himself,” she says.

“Yes General, Ma’am,” I say with a mocking salute. From the table, Jessica laughs and I go sit down with my coffee.

“Hey, you’re getting off easy today, Mister,” Sally starts. “I have to spend the day baking and roasting, waiting for deliveries and set-up,” she says grumpily. “With my mom AND your mom coming in this afternoon. With how much our mothers like each, we’ll be giggling and having champagne in no time,” She says a little hysterically.

“See! It’ll be fun! If food, or anything else, starts flying, get it on video. That’s something I’d pay to see.” I turn toward Jessica, “Pumpkin, will you help Mama, Gran and Mimi today?” I inquire. “We have a Barbeque to get ready for.”

“Okay Daddy! How much people will be at the bub-a-cue?” she asks, getting more apple sauce on her face than in her mouth.

“Well, there will be a lot people: from Daddy’s office, your Mimi and Pops, Gran and Gramps, aunts and uncles and cousins.” Sally says,

“Alright, Pumpkin, your sisters and I need to go to school and work. Have fun,” I say to Sally as I hit the door. “Sarah! Becca! The chariot awaits.” Becca and Sarah grab their lunches. Jessica laughs and Becca giggles at my antics. Sarah rolls her eyes as she continues to text. I haven’t been able to get a laugh out of her since she turned 13, almost a year ago.

We head into the garage, Becca trips on the rug on the stairs. She flings her arms out and catches herself on the water heater, which wobbles a little. Sarah turns quickly back to catch her.

“NO! Becca, that’s hot.” Sarah says, pulling Becca’s hands off the heater.

“I’m ok. And it wasn’t hot,” she says calmly.

“Are you hurt?” I ask.

“No, I’m fine Dad,” she reassures me.

“Okay, good,” I say, trying to get my heart to slow. “Now, off to school.”

Once I finally get to work, the elevators packed as usual. Unfortunately, I get on the same one as Bob, from accounting. He starts his tiresome antics.

“Rob, I’m glad I caught you,” he started in his obnoxious, nasally voice, adjusting his glasses for effect. “I need your report for this quarter. I cannot allocate funds if I don’t know where they need to go most urgently. I expected it on my desk before today.”

“Bob, I was sure I sent it over. I’ll check my records and send it to you forthwith,” I say, with an eye roll, worthy of Sarah, behind his back.

“Thank you,” Bob says in a stiff, uppity voice. At this, the rest of the elevator gave a collective eye roll.

Lunch finely rolls around and my boss, Shaun Michaelson, poked his head in my cubicle. We’ve been best friends since Kindergarten.

“Rob? I just got a call from Bob in accounting. He’s saying that you didn’t file the reports he was expecting and that you gave him grief about it. Why?” he asks, his face unreadable.

“Well, I did, in fact finish the reports” I start, a little testily, turning to my computer. “And emailed them at 2:37pm yester-” I trail off and look over at Shaun, who is lightly chuckling. I can see the mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Oh, I know you did it, Rob. You copied me on the freaking email. Bob can be insufferable most of the time, but at the end of the day, he’s a damn good accountant.”

“I don’t know, maybe,” I say.

“Yeah, well, don’t sweat it. He can’t do anything. The work was done, and emailed it to the proper departments,” Shaun says. “On another note, what are we having at this barbeque tomorrow?” he asks.

“Meat. And a lot of it. I’m using my smoker,” I say with a grin. “The only thing you need to do is remember the potato salad this time.”

He lets out a bark of a laugh as he leaves my cubical. I turn to get back to work, but my phone catches my eye. It’s a text, from Sally.

Just a few things: the hot water doesn’t seem to be as hot as normal. The beer and wine for the BBQ was delivered. Our dad’s should be here by 6. Maybe you can be a little bit early? I might need you to get stuff on your way home. See you tonight. XO

I read the text and smile a little. I answer her:  

    Will do. I’ll check the hot water when I get home, too.

At half past four, I save my work and head toward to the elevator. When I get to my car I text Sally:

    On my way home. Is Pop there yet?

She replies:

Yes. Both our dad’s got here about 45 min ago. Can you pick up more blue cocktail napkins, toothpicks, cheddar Goldfish and some mixed nuts or something like it on your way?

I reply:

Yes. Are you sure you don’t need me to pick up an extra kitchen sink?

Sally:

    Ha. Ha. No, the one we have is enough!

When I get home, I drop the bags in the kitchen. I hear talking coming from the living room. I tip-toe past, wanting to get out of my work clothes before anyone saw me, when Sarah comes around the corner.

There I was in mid-tip-toe, like a cartoon character and we look at each other for a beat. We both burst out laughing. (there’s that laugh I missed!) This of course makes everyone in the living room come to see what was happening. And, of course, seeing their curious looks only make Sarah and I laugh even harder.

“Well, what’s so funny?” my Mother asks.

“Tell me! Tell me!” Jessica asks, she runs up to Sarah’s side, tugging on here shirt with a big toothy grin.

“Dad was just being silly tip-toeing, trying to sneak past the living room like a cartoon character. Like this—” She stands holding her left leg up, arms in front of her and her neck scrunched down with wide, wild eyes.

Everyone laughs at her reenactment. I sigh and say “I’m going to change and I’ll report for duty in 10 minutes.” I give Sally kiss as I pass.

When I leave the bedroom twenty minutes later, in my at-home-wear, I noticed that Sarah was in her room. I peer into the room and she’s rummaging in her closet.

“Did I miss the announcement? Are we having a fashion show?” I ask, startling her. She drops a box at my feet. It bursts open and stuffed animals spring out. “Let me change my guess to ‘garage sale’”

“Ha, ha,” she laughs in a very sarcastic tone. “No, I’m trying to find my electric heating pad for Mimi.” She says while straining to reach a box on the top shelf.

“Oh, let me help, Princess.” I say.

I pull the box down and open it.

“Ha! I got it! And the cord,” she says in triumph.

“Wow, I remember this,” I say in awe. “Mimi should recognize it too. I think it was her mother’s.”

“I didn’t know it was that old. Mom gave it to me last year for... something or... other.” She says awkwardly.

“What something?” I ask. She fidgets and won’t meet my eyes. Then it hits me. “Ah.” I say, I can feel my cheeks get warm. “Well, I’m... um... glad it... uh... has a purpose. Go bring it downstairs. You know,” I say, looking around her room. “Mom’s gonna be mad when she sees your room like this,”

Sarah’s smile become mischievous as she looks back at the mess she made. “Maybe. But I have you as a witness to say it was for a good cause,” she says and runs to the stairs.

I chuckle and put my hands in my pockets. She jogs down the stairs and I pause, realizing my little girl isn’t so little any more. After a few deep breaths, I head down too.

I walk into the kitchen and Sally is sorting the items I picked up into piles. I walk over and give her a kiss. Our Moms walk into the kitchen conversing, when they spot me.

“Oh, there you are,” my mother, Liz, says. “We thought you managed to weasel out of helping.”

“How are you, Mom?” I ask. “Helen, you’re as beautiful as ever.” I say. As I head to the living room, I give them both a kiss on the cheek.

“We’ll be eating in about 30 minutes,” Sally calls after me.

“Pop, Alan, what’s the task before us?” I say. Alan gives me a firm handshake and half a hug.

“Hey Son,” my Dad, Josh, says and slaps me on the back. “Your Mother just said we get in the way and ruin everything. She told us to leave things to her. So, we’re having a beer and watching the game.”

“Of course you are.” I say. At this, Alan laughs.

“Girls!” I call from the bottom of the stairs. “Come set the table please!”

“We’re coming!” Sarah calls back. I grab a beer and sit on the couch.

“Okay, let’s eat,” Sally says, calling our clan to dinner.

After dinner, Alan, Pop and I head out back to get the smoker going. It’s my pride and joy. We built a big one in the backyard.

“Okay, let’s get this puppy started,” Pop says, rubbing his hands together.

“Wow!” Alan exclaims. “You built a beauty”

“Thanks. It was Pop’s plan. We build it together. With help from Sarah and Becca.” I say as I see them and Jessica walking toward us.

“What about me and Becca?” Sarah asks.

“Your Dad and Pops were telling me how you helped build this thing.” Alan says.

“Yeah,” Sarah beams. “but it was a lot more work than we thought.”

“Yeah, it us took forever.” Becca adds.

“Mom says it bed time. We just came out to say good night.” Sarah mumbles.

“Well, good night.” I hug and kiss each of them, “Princess, Ladybug, Pumpkin.” I say as I kiss them each goodnight. “We’re going to have lots of fun tomorrow.” I say. I turn to Pop, “I’m going to steal Alan, get him going on the booze.”

“Booze?” The men perk up and ask together.

“Yeah, I had a whole bunch delivered today. I want to organize it tonight. Some of it will need to go in the fridge in the garage.”

“Well, I think Alan and I could manage that.” Pop says, getting up.

“You bet!” Alan agrees.

“We’ll handle it.” Pop says as he and Alan walk away. “You get the smoker going.”

“Sure thing,” I say, shaking my head at their enthusiasm. I head to the kitchen to grab the meat. I pulled out the brisket, ribs, pork shoulder and thick Pork chops. My dad and Alan find me in the back about to put the meat in

“Wow, Son!” my dad exclaims, “That is a great looking pork loin. And the brisket! Ooh, I’ll need an air lift outta here tomorrow,” Pop says.

Once we get the meat in and the smoker fired up, Sally comes out.

“Mom and Liz went up to bed.” Sally says.

“I’d better turn in, too.” Alan says. He kisses Sally on the head on his way in.

“Good night, Dad.” She calls after him.

“Becca’s in with Sarah and Jessica just went down. Now, I set alarms on Alexa every two and a half hours to ring by you chair,” she mentions.

“You really are the best,” I say.

“I am, aren’t I?” She continues. “I’ll probably be up at 7. I’ll need some of your help setting the tables up. People’ll start coming at 12:30 or 1:00. Please be careful, Honey,” she says with a wary eye toward the smoker.

“Don’t you worry, Sally. I’ll keep an eye on him. Gotta be extra careful. Now get some sleep.” Pop says.

“See you in the morning.” She says as walk toward the house.

Around 2am Pop went up to bed. After that, 7am came a lot faster than I thought it would. I didn’t get much sleep but the meat will be fantastic. I hear bangs in the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” I ask, watching Sally run around the kitchen.

“I’m just making breakfast. I also need to make cookies and brownies.” She says distractedly. “Need to get them done before the baked potatoes need to go in”

“What’s for breakfast?” I ask, as my stomach growls.

“Eggs, toast, home fries, sausage. Nothing too hard,” she says.

“Let me help.” I say.

“No, you need to focus on the smoker,” she claims.

“Well, I already did and I have nothing else to do for a few hours.” I reply.

“Okay, if you could start coffee and get the home fries in the oven.”

“Roger,” I say.

Helen comes into the kitchen. “Did someone say coffee?” she asks.

“Morning,” I say. “I'm just starting a pot.”

“Ooh, what are these?” Helen asks.

“They’re home fries,” I say, only to get a confused look from Helen.

“They’re like hash browns.” Sally answers when she sees her mother’s face.

“Oh,” is all she says.

“How’s the meat?” is what my father substituted for ‘good morning’.

“Josh say good morning, like a normal person with manners,” my Mother admonishes. “Where are the girls, Rob?”

“I don’t think they’re up yet,” I say.

“Well, I’ll go get them up,” she huffs.

Alan comes in. “How’s the meat,” he says. Sally, Pop and I start to laugh as Helen swats his shoulder. “What!?” he exclaims.

“Um... that’s how Pop said good morning too. I say, unable to stop laughing. And this makes Alan laugh as the girls come in.

“What’s funny?” Sarah asks. Looking around at us all.

“Nothing Princess. Both of your grandpa’s just asked how the meat it the smoker was doing rather than saying good morning.”

“Alright, breakfast’s up,” Sally says “Come get your plate before you sit. The table is too small for all of us AND the food.”

“You did the hard part, son. Watching the meat overnight. Josh and I could take over so you can get some shut-eye.” Alan offers.

“Oh, yeah. You look beat son,” my dad says. “You have time before everyone gets here.”

“Go, your Dad’s right,” Sally says.

“Alright,” I concede, “I’ll go. But get me up by noon,” I say, pointing at Pop.

“You bet,” he says.

By 11:45, Sally is shaking my shoulder.

“Okay, okay. I’m up” I say groggily.

“I need you to help with the table setup. Shaun and Mary just got here, maybe he will help.” She says.

“Hmm, getting to boss my boss around?” I say thoughtfully. “That’s an opportunity that doesn’t come up often. I’ll be down in ten minutes,” I say as Sally leaves the room.

I head down and I see Shaun sitting with the guys watching the game with a beer in his hand. Then he spots me.

“Hey! Sleeping Beauty, I'm glad you could join us,” he says with a big grin.

“Hey, Man,” I say. “I'm gonna need a hand moving the tables around the yard.”

“Let’s do it,” he says enthusiastically, then Sarah comes running in.

“Uncle Shaun!” she says, running to hug him.

“Sarah-bo-barah!” he exclaims. “Or are you too old for nicknames?”

“I’ve missed you,” she says. She comes over to hug me too. “Hey, I thought you were going to take a nap, Dad? You look awful,” she says with a critical look. This comment sets the whole room off. Shaun hoots with laughter.

“Sugar, your Dad just got up from a nap,” Pops says, laughing.

“Oh, sorry Dad.” She says.

“Let’s go out back and see what tables need to be moved.” Shaun says, wiping the tears out of his eyes. “Your Dad is too weak and frail to do it alone,” he says.

“Hardy-har-har, watch it Bub. You may be my boss but today I am yours,” I say with snap of an imaginary whip.

“We’ll come too,” Alan says.

As more people arrive, more food comes too. At around two Sally asks me to take the baked potatoes out of the oven. I head into the kitchen, right when I walked in Mary, Shaun’s wife, drops two bottles of wine and get a serious cut on her hand.

This, readers, is where I messed up. When I got distracted helping Mary, I forgot the potatoes in the oven. We will later learn that around 4:45, they had burst and by 6, they’d caught fire. With everyone in the back, no one saw the fire start in the kitchen. It had already gotten out of control when Sarah saw the flames in the living room.

We got everyone out of the back yard. And the first responders came. I don’t know who called them, but I’m grateful. All we could do was stand there, in the street, and watch the house burn.

August 28, 2021 03:17

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1 comment

Keya J.
07:50 Sep 11, 2021

Wow! Excellent Work Belle! How beautifully you described the everyday life of a common man with a pinch of family love and gathering. It really felt like I am one of them. Great Work, the pacing was just perfect! As for a critique, I think more descriptions in the last, when the house catches fire, would make this story even more charming. Overall, nice job!

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