By Daniel Cadogan
I never killed a man before and I didn’t plan to when I woke up on the seventeenth of June, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. I woke up that morning with every intention of going to my first ever family reunion and having a nice time getting absolutely plastered, yelling at the fat bitch who identified herself as “Auntie Carole”, and making some horrible mistakes regarding my genitalia and a distant cousin or two.
I dragged myself out of bed the morning before and got in the shower with a bottle of Guinness to loosen myself up. Everyone needs a little pre-game before the super bowl, right? I dragged myself to my closet and picked out a decent outfit for the day. I rummaged past Armani suits and tuxedoes for every occasion. I tossed aside thousand dollar loafers and managed to find a pair of oxfords I didn’t mind getting a little dirty. The click-clack of the sole against my hardwood floors made my heart flutter. I checked my phone and saw 37 missed calls from my business partner about an increase in our investments and I just smiled while he was probably running circles around his house screaming at the top of lungs about the extra five hundred thousand we made off with. Chump change if you ask me.
I’d never been to a family reunion before even though we had them yearly. My family consisted of good decent country folk and backwoods hicks alike. I liked the country folk, I hated the hicks. But this year was the first year we’d have a reunion without a grandpa and I felt it would only be respectful for me to show up at least.
I would catch my flight at 12:30 and then drive into the countryside from there. My bags had been packed the night before by Julia and everything was in order. I grabbed the last bit of paperwork and stuffed it into my carry-on bag alongside a couple notebooks and a deck of cards. I walked downstairs and Julia greeted me as she was cleaning.
“Calvin, everything is ready to go. I left your suitcase by the door last night so you can grab it on your way out,” she said. Her eyes twinkled in the morning light. Julia had been staying with me for two years as a live-in maid and she is an absolute angel. Her cooking is fit for kings, she never leaves a spot of dust anywhere in the house, and on occasion, she puts out. But this morning I didn’t have the time to spare for a quickie on the kitchen counter.
“Thank you, Julia, I’ll be back in four days. The house is all yours until then. Live like a queen,” I said. I kissed her on the cheek and she giggled. I ran out the door and into my car and drove to the airport, mentally preparing myself to see my family in just a few hours.
“Look here, the safety’s on the right side, just above the trigger. Just click it in and you’re ready to fire. You see red on the safety? You’re good to shoot,” Jimmy said, showing me his brand new 1911 pistol.
“Sure is something, Jimmy. How she shoot?” I replied. Home for just a couple hours and my backwoods drawl was coming back to me already.
“Shoots just fine, especially for a handgun. Nailed a bowling pin at 50 yards. You really like her, huh?” Jimmy said with a smile across his face.
“Yeah, it’s a beautiful gun. You’re almost getting me back into my old fascination for them again.”
“Well,” Jimmy started, “I missed your birthday last year and I was just thinking about how you and me used to go hunting up on pap’s old land in the hills and, well, I got you one just like it.” Jimmy reached back onto the couch behind him and pulled out a box and opened it. Inside was an identical gun with a belt holster just like his.
“My god Jimmy, you really didn’t have to do this. This had to cost a fortune.”
“Hey, it ain’t nothing. After pap died, I was just thinking about how we haven’t really talked much in a while and I thought it might be a good way open that door again.” I almost started tearing up.
“Thanks Jimmy. This really means a lot to me.” I strapped the holster to my belt and shoved the gun inside. “So, how’s it look on me?”
“Pretty damn weird. Not many people around here are carrying a handgun in their dress slacks and a nice tie.” Jimmy started laughing. “Man, we have to work this rich boy shit out of your system by the time you head back home.” Some of my family seemed to resent me for leaving our hometown and actually making something of myself, but Jimmy was always proud of me. He was my older cousin by three years and he always looked after me.
The next day we went out to the farmhouse about two miles away where grandma was living and we would meet up with the rest of the family there. I had my new gun strapped to my hip, just like Jimmy. When we arrived, I saw all the usual people there. Aunts, uncles, cousins, all sorts of people I never really cared about. And arriving a little late to the party was a man with graying hair and a younger girl about mine and Jimmy’s age.
I turned to Jimmy and said, “Hey man, who’s that? I know we got a big family, but I know I don’t recognize that guy.”
“Well,” he said, “you haven’t been home in a good while so you missed some things. The guy is apparently pap’s third cousin or something. Long lost for some reason, but he found out he was related to us and asked if he could meet us all. We welcomed him to the family. He’s a decent fellow if not a bit stuffy. Say, you might just get along with him great.” Jimmy laughed at his own wit and I couldn’t help but chuckle as well.
“So who’s the girl? His daughter? Granddaughter? Prostitute and he’s her sugar daddy?” I asked.
“Granddaughter, I think. They’re very religious folk, she’s supposed to go off to a convent next summer. Not sure if it’s true, but the rumor amongst kin is that he’s forcing her to go and she don’t want to.”
“You don’t say. She’s pretty. I’d go chat her up if she wasn’t my cousin.”
“Hey now, she’s your fifth cousin at best. Now, take this with a grain of salt as I am just some incestuous hick, but as far as I’m concerned, she’s fair game.”
“You’re right, you are an incestuous hick. But you make a good point.”
I walked over to introduce myself to our new family members. As I approached, the girl seemed to move back while her father sized me up and greeted me with a shit-eating grin.
“Well, I don’t think I’ve met you before,” he said, “my name’s Andy and this is my granddaughter Jessie.” Jessie reached out her hand and curtseyed like we were in the Antebellum South.
“Pleased to meet you two, my name’s Calvin. Always nice to have more family coming in.” Jessie eyed me from behind her father. He never lost that grin all night.
The rest of the party went well. We got drunk, we sang around a bonfire, I even found my old guitar in grandma’s attic and played some songs. And yes, at some point during the duration of the night, I yelled at Auntie Carole for being a lazy bitch with a disability check every month just because she’s fat. As the party was winding down, everyone seemed a bit too hammered to notice much of anything, but I noticed Jessie staring at me from across the fire. She was sitting next to Jimmy. She turned to him and whispered something in his ear. He smiled and she giggled. He stood up and walked over to me.
“Listen man,” Jimmy said, “Jessie says to meet her in the barn behind grandma’s house in five minutes. Don’t worry, her dad’s in the house bullshitting with the older guys. He won’t know a thing.”
“Keep him occupied if you can. I’ll make every second count.”
“You got it, Cal.” Jimmy walked toward the house to keep Andy inside. I waited for Jessie to slip away and I followed after. We ran into the barn and slid in through the doorway. We didn’t even exchange words and she pushed me onto a pile of hay and shoved her tongue in my mouth. She began unbuttoning her very conservative blouse as I tried to take off my shirt as well.
And then my phone rang. My goddamned phone rang. I grabbed it out my pocket. It was Julia. Before I even had a chance to answer, Jessie snatched it and threw it into the hay next to us and proceeded to act in a way that a prospective nun definitely should not. Just as she grabbed my pants, there was a pounding at the door.
“Jessie,” Andy said from the other side of the door, “you in there?” Jessie nearly jumped out of her skin and placed her hand on my mouth.
“Who the hell’s in there? I heard something and Jessie ain’t out by the fire.” The pounding grew heavier and more frantic. “Goddammit, you let me in right now.” Andy was shouting by this point. The door flew open and Andy stood there with a revolver in his hand.
“What the hell is going on here?” he said. He grabbed Jessie by her hair and threw her to the ground behind him. “I knew it, you’re a whore just like you’re goddamned mother.” He pointed the gun at me. “Kiss your ass goodbye, boy.” Andy cocked the revolver and walked closer to me and the barrel almost touched my forehead.
I didn’t even think about it. I pulled the 1911 out of the holster and shot Andy three times in the chest. He tumbled backwards, lifeless. Jessie began to sob uncontrollably. Smoke poured out of the end of my gun.