There was a menorah in the center of the table, which was meant to honour Jay’s mother, even though she was just a secular Jew. Still it was surprisingly thoughtful of Aunt and Uncle Clueless to think of her.
“You think you have it bad in
? That’s nothing!” Montreal
It was so irritating the way everyone outside of
Quebec pronounced the O in . Montreal
“How can you even complain about traffic?”
“I don’t like sweet potatoes!”
“Do you know how long I sit in traffic every day?”
“And you’re complaining about a half-hour commute?”
“Try an hour!”
“They’re like carrots!”
“There’s always construction!”
“There’s always construction everywhere!”
Jay and Amy ate their turkey in silence, mindful not to respond to any of the chatter around them, lest they get sucked into an inane conversation.
“I want normal potatoes!”
“It takes me two hours to get to work every day!”
“So have normal potatoes then, god!”
“The potholes alone.”
Jay waited for Amy to take a long drink of her milk and before she could swallow he pointed to his cousins and made a funny face. Amy spit out her milk as she burst out laughing. Awesome.
Ok, so that cottage cheese had gone bad. Everything in the whole kitchen had gone bad or was never good in the first place. Karine sighed and picked up the phone. She had a pizza place on speed dial.
Shauna’s hand was dangling out her window. It was snowing lightly and she was mesmerized by the sight of snowflakes landing on her cigarette and instantly melting away. She wondered if the cigarette would ever be extinguished, like maybe if it snowed harder. She heard her mother yelling for her from downstairs but ignored her. She called again, saying dinner was ready. Shauna let the cigarette drop out of her fingers and fall to the snowbank below.
“Dinner’s ready, freak.”
Shauna turned to see that her brother had barged into her room.
“I’m coming!” she said in irritation, closing the window.
“So get off your fucking ass then!” He was about to leave but then smelled the air. “Were you smoking in here?”
“No, fuck off!”
Shauna knew for a fact that Malcolm was a smoker too so where the hell did he get off accusing her of doing it?
“What did you fucking say to me?”
Malcolm strode across the room and grabbed Shauna by her hair, yanking her away from the window. She ran to keep up with him as he dragged her downstairs, releasing her only when they were about to enter the dining room.
Terry would always choose his mother over his father but he still preferred spending time at John’s house. For one thing he liked Vicky a lot better than Rémi and he loved
. His little sister sat at the dinner table between him and Vicky, while his brothers sat across from them. John was at the head of the table, which Terry resented because of the hierarchical implications. Brittany
Joey was playing with his PSP and John had to tell him about forty times to put it away and finally just ripped it out of his hands. Vicky was trying to talk to John about New Year’s, trying to convince him to go to a party at one of her friends’ houses but he wasn’t into it since all her friends made him feel old. Terry didn’t bother mentioning that this was because John was old.
Every once in a while Terry stuffed some food in his mouth but he was mostly concentrating on feeding Britt. She was old enough to feed herself but she still tended to get more crap on her face than in her mouth so he had to watch her to make sure she actually ate. She had a good appetite though and if he kept piling food on her plate she’d keep eating it so he also had to be careful not to give her too much. She was only two but it was already clear that she was going to grow up to be tall and strong. She was also pretty fearless, just like he’d been at that age. There was no doubt in Terry’s mind that she could be a hockey player one day. Not that he’d force her into it the way he’d been. But she was a girl so she’d never have to face the sort of athletic pressure he did. In about a year he’d teach her to skate and if she liked it then he’d teach her to play. By the time she was a teenager he’d be an old man and he could coach for her team. If she was on a team. She could do whatever she wanted. Even if she turned out super girly and not into sports at all that’d be cool too.
She was smooshing her hands into her mashed potatoes and Terry was trying to get her to put a bit into her mouth when Vicky chuckled in amusement and stroked her daughter’s hair.
“You’re so good with her,” she said to Terry. “You know she looks like you.”
“Yeah, you both look like little girls,” snarked Evan.
Terry sneered at his brother and returned his attention to his sister. It was true, they did sort of look alike. They both had hazel eyes and blonde hair. Evan and Joey looked more like their mother, with dark hair and brown eyes. It was nice to look like someone in the family other than his dad. Growing up he’d always been told he was the spitting image of his father. Gross.
They were all surprised when they heard John’s cellphone ring. Terry glanced over at Vicky and she was clearly upset, though trying to hide it.
“Who calls on Christmas?” asked Evan.
Terry glared at his father as he wordlessly scooped his phone out of his pocket and left the room to take the call. What a colossal fucking prick.
“I’m in the backyard. Over,” Jay spoke into his walkie-talkie.
It was super warm out and the kids had decided to play a game of spy. He and Amy were the spies and they had to coordinate their efforts to locate all the targets, consisting of their younger cousins. It was basically hide and go seek with walkie-talkies.
“Roger that. I’m in the neighbour’s yard. Over.”
“I thought the neighbour’s yard was off limits. Over.”
“I think you’re the only one playing this game by the rules, Jay. Over.”
“Roger that. I’m on my way. Over.”
Jay stood up and looked around suspiciously. He crouched down and covertly crossed the yard. He did a gratuitous somersault to enter the neighbour’s yard and ducked behind some bushes. He could hear giggling not too far off.
“I think I’ve spied a target. Over.”
Angela wasn’t much of a cook but vegetarian lasagna was one of her staples. So when Julie poked the dish and asked what it was, she was clearly beign snotty on purpose.
“It’s vegetarian lasagna, Julie,” Angela sighed.
“We had turkey yesterday. And André is a vegetarian.”
Angela’s boyfriend was over for dinner. It was rather disturbing to think of her mother as having a boyfriend but Cerise had to acknowledge that parents were people too. As gross as that was.
“My daughter Trista is a vegan,” said André.
He was a slow talker. Everything he said took about fourteen years to come out of his mouth. It was super annoying.
“Ok,” said Julie, expertly conveying her lack of interest in the subject of André’s daughter.
“What are you studying at school, Simone?” André asked Cerise.
“I’m Cerise,” she replied as politely as possible.
“I’m Simone,” Simone smiled tightly. “I’m in Creative Arts at John Abbott.”
“Oh. Trista is in Fine Arts at John Abbott.”
“Do you know her? Trista Barber.”
“She’s a very talented sculptor. Do you sculpt?”
“Trista paints too. But she’s concentrating on sculpture at the moment since it’s a much more tactile medium. So sensual.”
Simone exchanged a look with Cerise, letting her know that she too thought it was repulsive that this dude had just used the word ‘sensual’ when speaking about his daughter.
“Trista is your age, Cerise,” offered Angela.
“Yes. She graduated from high school a year early. She’s very bright,” nodded André as though in some sort of slow-talking trance.
“Cool,” smiled Cerise.
Julie was chewing her lasagna loudly with her mouth open, looking at André as though he’d just fallen off the short bus. Cerise would never act so rudely but she was pleased that Julie had the guts to do it. This guy was a serious wanker.
Classical music wafted out of the stereo while Shauna and her family ate Christmas dinner. The table was decorated with poinsettias and two candelabras. Shauna was forced to wear another dress even though there was no one here except her parents and brother.
“Lovely wine,” said her mother.
It was the first thing anyone had said in over fifteen minutes.
“1993,” said her father, reading the wine label.
Shauna cursed herself for not going to the bathroom before dinner. She really had to pee but they weren’t allowed to leave the table until their parents were finished eating. She wished her father would stop blathering about the loveliness of the wine and finish his stupid meal. It wouldn’t be so bad if she was allowed to have wine. Shauna didn’t particularly like the taste but it was better than nothing.
The family was gathered in front of the TV and Vicky was passing out After Eight mints. For some reason it was tradition that they could only eat After Eights on Christmas. Britt eagerly reached for the chocolate mints and stuffed one in her mouth but then made a face and brown goop dribbled down her chin.
“Disgusting,” laughed Terry as he cleaned her face with a Kleenex.
“Ugh, speaking of disgusting,” said Evan.
Terry turned to see Vicky and John kissing.
“Ewww,” agreed Joey, momentarily looking up from his PSP.
“Would you guys?” Terry asked in annoyance.
“I can’t help it if I love your father,” smiled Vicky.
Terry really liked his step-mother a lot but it was seriously pathetic the way she hung all over his father like some schoolgirl with a crush. Especially considering how badly he treated her.
“Shall we go make Britt a little brother?” smarmed John.
Vicky laughed and Terry and his brothers gagged in horror.
“Sick!” yelled Terry.
“Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” Joey covered his face with his PSP.
“Trauma, trauma! Life in the ER!” said Evan.
“Twauma!” screeched Britt, bouncing on Terry’s knee.
Terry covered Britt’s eyes, counselling her not to look at her parents, lest she go blind.
Karine sighed when she saw Steve’s name on her cell phone. She put down her Midsummer Night’s script and answered the phone. His Christmas was going well, he wished her well, she wished him well, said she was doing well, everything was hunky-dory. As he went on she picked up her script and went over her lines.
“Yes I’m listening, god what do you think?”
She flipped the page.
“Ok, love you too. Bye.”
She snapped her phone shut and closed her eyes, reciting her lines aloud from memory.
“Trista is very active in the environmental committee at John Abbott. Are you Simone?”
“Oh no? Are you concerned about the environment?”
“Right now they’re protesting genetically engineered foods.”
Simone couldn’t help sighing heavily but she’d managed not to roll her eyes, which made her stronger than Cerise, who was literally clutching her hair with her left hand in an effort not to scream.
“It’s horrible how the government is so willing to play with our health so haphazardly.”
“The spinach in this lasagna is organic!” announced Angela.
“That’s why it tastes so good,” nodded the slow-talker. “Although it could use more garlic.”
“Oh, I just followed the recipe,” said Angela sadly.
It did not need more garlic! Angela needed to smack this loser in the face for daring to say so! Where the hell did he get off criticizing her cooking? Sure, she wasn’t exactly Julia Child but there was nothing wrong with her lasagna.
“You know the whole organic food industry is a scam, right?” said Simone, clearly trying to suppress her irritation. “They still use pesticides and non-organic fertilizers. There isn’t that much difference between organic and regular food, I mean besides price.”
“Which is why it’s so important to have stricter health regulations on what we eat. All this genetic engineering…”
Simone didn’t have the patience to let him finish. “Genetically modified foods aren’t that different from foods that have been grown through breeding. You do realize that everything we eat has been bred selectively. GM-ing is just the next step. Look, I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but don’t assume that just because something has been achieved through technological means it’s automatically evil. Nor is something natural automatically good.”
“I don’t think André is saying that,” Angela gently pointed out.
“Well actually, our society is growing increasingly dependant on technology. Soon we won’t know where the machine ends and the human begins.”
“Oh my god, I think I’m getting flashbacks to the BSG finale,” said Cerise and Simone giggled.
“You know, André used to live in a self-sustained community where they didn’t have any electricity.”
“Why doesn’t he go back?” asked Julie.
“Trista is making an installation of rotting food to protest genetic engineering.”
They all looked at André in confusion.
“After all, we all know what happened to Dolly,” he concluded.
“Dolly Parton?” asked Julie, stunned.
Simone blinked in disbelief. “I think he means Dolly the sheep, although I’m at a loss to see how cloning is relevant to the current discussion.”
Cerise gripped her seat tightly and reminded herself that if her mother ever married this man, she could always escape through suicide.