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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)

TITLE: Friendless Family Thornbush
By Josiah Kane


Jack stared at the printout in his hand. He had been up past midnight sorting an interminable list of names and relationships into something resembling a family tree. There had been three divorces within two generations, so he had four parents and eight grandparents (half of whom had their own families). To tangle the web still further, his aunt (first cousin once removed through his mother) had managed to wed the younger brother of his stepfather! The product of that particular liaison was Bess, seated in an uncompromising position, battling off the suits of not one but two older cousins. Jack thought of trying to help, but she would doubtless interpret him as a third suitor.

It took half an hour for the 47 relations to arrive and check through the door. The farthest relation was a third step cousin twice removed, the son of an absent military officer. About two-thirds of the visiting mothers trailed off toward the kitchen, where a din and an argument soon ensued. The adult males diffused through the room, and then beer, sociability and sheer boredom banded them into tiny pockets around the various sofas and tables.

Had they been blessed with a similar helping of common sense, the youngsters should have done the same. But the officer's son wanted a great band of joyous children playing with the efficiency of a boot camp. What was more, he was very happy to be the boot. After ten minutes of rigorous drilling, Jack's younger brother drew his own little cluster. Jack had to admire Dave's irresistible magnetism. He was convinced that if the friendly, adventurous boy ever crashed on Mars, Dave would tame the green-faced paraworlders with a joke, a smile and a football, long before he featured on their "Specials" menu.

With the under-tens drawn into football, the only remaining uneasy silence was found among the teens. Any honest attempt to start something was met with embarrassed looks from the relative-strangers. At this stage Jack would normally lose himself in cyberspace, a book, his homework, or spying on everyone else. But such ignoring was against the rules. He trotted inconspicuously over to his father, and hissed "Is this what you call family?"
His father stuck his hand into a pocket, and yanked out an entry stolen from Jack's diary that bemoaned his lack of companionship: "How would you know?"

Jack wandered back, just as disconsolately, to a band unchanged from when he left it. He rejoined the general occupation of "wait for conversation." The trooper’s son was far too infatuated with Bess (together with the other two) to try bossing people around. An instant later the girl cracked. "Pull it together people" she shouted. "I don't know what you lot like to do, but I'd bet my house it isn't nothing. Why don't we join in with the football or something?"

Finally the last remnant of disunity broke down, and they moved off to the younger kids with bowed heads. The game had shifted to a water fight and the newcomers were all for massacring the youngsters with super loaded pulses. Then Dave, in his craze for total bedlam, broke it into four bands and a happy constant splashing ensued. It actually remained happy, except for one incident when a mum slipped on slick tile and dropped a plate of spinach. At last the family disunion began, and people were actually asking to get together again some time. "Yep" thought Dave in a slightly warmer, less disinterested manner than usual. "You call this family."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sara Harricharan 05/29/08
Hmmm, lots going on here. I'm not sure I follwed everything, since it seemed like there was more than one story going on here-as in more than meets the eye. Nice setting though, I could 'see' it clearly. ^_^
Marlene Austin05/30/08
Realistic descriptions. Nice job. :)