A RELATIVE PROBLEM OF RELATIVES
by Gayla Erickson
Copyright 2010; author retains all rights to the story. Please do not use without author's permission.
An undercurrent of noise had disturbed my peaceful slumber. Had a flock of magpies perched outside my window? No, there were other invasive sounds. Shadows flitted across the window screen. Still bleary with sleep, I stumbled towards the window. To my horror, the lawns were covered with people, noisy, chattering people who seemed in a festive mood as if for a picnic. Strangely, they seemed to be searching for something as they were lifting lawn chairs, tipping over flower urns, examining everything minutely.
Several people passed by on the veranda. I recognized them! They were relatives-----cousins and other assorted offspring of my maternal progenitor. What were they doing here? As a rule, I avoided interaction with any of them.
I was living in the home of my grandmother as caretaker until such day as her complicated will could be sorted out by the courts. And I had, by my reclusive behavior and reticence, achieved a degree of isolation that I treasured. My needs were simple and did not include the gregarious character of my extended family. Silence was golden; I adored the quietude here, interrupted only by the sounds of nature.
Mystified by the strange happenings, I became aware of sounds outside my bedroom, furniture scudding across floors, doors banging, people talking. I was being invaded! My domain was no longer sacrosanct!
I glanced outside again. Two younger cousins, Vernice and Bertha, chatting animatedly, turned the doorknob without so much as a knock. Overcome with curiosity and a degree of fright and unease, I darted from hall to hall, trying to keep them in sight.
But there were others in the house too. That bulky Neanderthal ransacking the kitchen must be Buster, though the last time I had seen him, he was merely an obnoxious boy of 12. Bile arose in my throat! The nerve of him! I glanced back at the cousins. They were opening drawers, turning over linens, holding up silverware for inspection, myopic in their vision. There was Helen, running her fingers over the velvety back of the antique sofa. And Margaret, caressing the gold-plated trim on the Dresden china.
These were my possessions----well, mine and my grandmother’s. But they were under my stewardship. I knew that probate had not been settled. I had checked with the lawyers only days before. So why were these creatures taking such liberties in my house----okay, a qualified “My House”. What gave them the right to snoop so unabashedly through all of my belongings? I stepped into view. Cousin Albert nearly knocked me over in his haste to access the stairway. I stared after him, stunned.
Some little heathen, probably the offspring of Lawrence judging from the rodent-like proboscis of the scrawny runt, knelt by the fireplace. He was jabbing the poker into the burnt logs, sending ashes flying over the Persian carpets. My mouth dropped open and then snapped shut in rage.
As I stormed over, I was distracted by yet another horror. Another young ruffian waved a crystal vase wildly, laughing as bursts of rainbow danced across the walls. His mother reached out to restrain him before I had a chance to decapitate him myself. But she had the audacity not to apologize nor even offer any sort of conciliatory gesture to me. Instead, she just resumed rummaging through the china closet.
My eyes darted around the room, seeking some semblance of explanation. So intent on their rampage were they that these invaders seemed not even aware of my presence nor that I was ready to explode like Vesuvius. I shouted or at least tried to. What actually issued from my throat was more like the strangled sound from a chicken on the cutting block.
Since speech eluded me, I needed to try something else to get their attention. I grabbed a common ceramic vase and thrust it to the floor. The resulting crash caused the multitude to look my direction but only with a look of curiosity; they immediately renewed plundering my valuables. I charged across the room, snatching a Lladro from a sticky-fingered lad with a snot-smeared face. He howled at being relieved of his treasure but his mother merely said, “Andrew, quit teasing your brother,” without even looking up.
Reaching over her shoulder, I pulled a silver-framed portrait from her fingers and replaced it on the piano. She looked startled, glanced around, and then scuttled across the room to examine the contents of the china closet with the other woman.
This was absolutely too much! I shrieked, “GET OUT!!” I grabbed an antique warming pan. With all the force I could muster, I slammed it against the floor. It skittered out of my hands and crashed into a planter. With that racket, heads turned towards the sound. They stared at the dented warming pan and then glanced around. They did not look at me. How strange! I yelled again, “LEAVE THIS HOUSE!” I stomped on the floor. Now some of the intruders looked a bit uneasy. But no one acknowledged me. I raised my fists, shaking them violently and accidentally knocked over a large porcelain figurine.
A few of the women appeared frightened and that nasty little imbecile Andrew started to wail. But still no one said anything to me. Slowly, an uncomfortable thought edged into my consciousness, “ . . . If they do not react to me, cannot see or hear me, then maybe, though it seems impossible, I must no longer be part of their world. . .”
But I must be!! I can still see, hear, and touch things! I will not be denied what is rightfully mine! This is my house! These are MY things! “GET OUT!! GET OUT!! GET OUT!!!” And I threw the broken figurine at the cousin nearest me.
“POLTERGEIST!” someone screamed.
Miraculously, instantaneously, the house emptied.
Fine. One way or another, I would claim my own.