Grahame Taskill was sitting at his Grandmother’s kitchen table; he was rubbing his left eye to stop it from twitching.
Grahame’s eye always began to twitch a full week before he went home to see his family for his annual week long visit and for the entire visit his eye never stopped twitching for longer than a few minutes.
He spent so much time rubbing his left eye that he would have nightmares about it popping out of its socket and running down his face where horror upon horror it would run into his mouth and when he woke up he would practically break his neck ( he had already broken his big toe ) because for some strange reason when he would dream about his runny eye he would run straight for his bathroom to get a towel to put on his face to keep his other eye from popping and without fail in a desperate effort to save his eyes he always ran into the wall right next to the bathroom door.
“So Nan, you want this ghost guy-“
“ His name is Mr Bibas and he’s a very talented psychic Grahame, he can actually reach ghosts. They understand him. They listen to him.”
“Okay. You want this psychic to come out here on Saturday to talk to Aunt Leatha “
” Because she refuses to talk to you now. “
Grahame took his finger away from his eye and it actually stopped twitching, for about an entire minute. “Uh-huh. Nan, you and Aunt Leatha never really talked when she was alive. So. I’m just wondering why you want to talk to her now. If I remember right you put a bird bath up next to her grave.”
“ Wasn’t she deathly afraid of birds?”
Nan was the picture of innocence itself. “ You’re acting like I danced on her grave Grahame.”
“ I’m thinking the only reason you haven’t done that is because of the poison ivy that’s growing all over it. It’s funny Nan, nobody can figure out where it came from. Nobody remembered there ever being poison ivy up here until it showed up on Aunt Leatha’s grave.”
“ You don’t say.”
“ I just did.”
“ Well. I just want her to know that we need to let all this silliness between us go. The entire family will be up this weekend and I think it would be good for everyone to see me and Leatha bury the hatchet-“
Grahame ignored the way his Grandmother forced herself to keep from grinning when she mentioned her sister and the word ” hatchet” .
“ It really is as simple as that Crackers.” She said calling Grahame by his childhood nickname.
“ Let it go Nan, let her go. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s bad enough you and Aunt Leatha hated each other, but you two enjoyed hating each other way too much. Does it bother you even just a little that most of us know how to poison, dismember and hide a body because of the way the two of you used to talk about each other? “
Nan nodded . A wave of gentle sympathy and empathy showed up on her face and too bad they didn’t bring a map and a camera because , as Grahame would tell you, Nan’s face was unfamiliar territory to those two particular emotions.
“ It was a disgrace the way me and Leatha carried on in life. Besides, look at what that did to you kids. You’re all a bunch of twitching eyes and stutterers and when the family gets together the pharmacy in town runs out of antacids and I have a sneaky feeling I know where it’s all going.”
“ So. Mr. Bibas is going to come out on Friday night and have dinner with us and after desert he’s going to hold a little séance in the library and me and Leatha are going to patch things up.”
“ There is nothing to patch up. She has moved beyond this stuff and you should too. “
” Mr Bibas knows what he’s doing. He talks to ghosts all the time and they listen to him. ” Nan argued.
To emphasize her point, she slammed her hand on the kitchen table. In the old days Nan could have made he plates and cups dance, but of course all her hand did now was pass through the table.
“ Forget it. “ Aunt Leatha said from the hallway as she strolled by the kitchen door and through the wall next to it to the dining room . ” Tell your Nan I have nothing to say to her.”
Both of Grahame’s eyes began to twitch uncontrollably.
I wasn’t the sharpest 6 year old in the world, so when my parents tried to teach me how to play board games I could never catch on because strategy was not one of my strong points.
I could climb trees, I was fearless on the Jungle Gym, I used to ride my little bike across Aurora- or otherwise known on the maps as Highway 99, and at 6 years I was reading almost two grades about my age group.
But games. Nope. Couldn’t figure them out.
But then one day my friend Lori got this great game called ” Barrel of Monkeys ” and I loved it because all you had to do was dip your monkey into the barrel and try to catch other monkeys and if you did it right, you ended up with a chain of monkeys and guess what
I ACED THAT BABY. I became the Barrel of Monkeys Champion of 68th Street.
So for my birthday the only thing I asked for was that game, A Barrel of Monkeys.
My Mom didn’t get why I begged like crazy for this game when she knew I wanted a new bike, a puppy and new Snoopy toys and I had been talking about them right after Christmas.
And then…oh yes there is a ” and then ” we went to a relatives house for dinner.
The topic of what I wanted for my birthday came up and I, of course went into my pitch for A Barrel of Monkeys.
And then…and then… one of my Dad’s relatives pointed out that maybe my Mom didn’t want a ‘ Barrel of Monkeys ‘ when she already had a Screeching Monkey like me running around under foot.
This particular relative had taken to calling me a screeching monkey over the holidays. And no, there was no affection in that and yes it was a racial slam and she kept it for a little while- I’m pretty sure my Great Grandmother- who was not a person to Eff with, made her stop.
Before we left that evening, probably in a gesture of good will- or to much sherry my relative asks me, ” So, it’s a Barrel of Monkeys for our Screeching Monkey! ”
I was putting on my jacket and I said, ” I change my mind. I don’t want a Barrel of Monkeys ”
I saw my Mom grit her teeth because she had probably already bought it at that point. ” Then what DO you want?”
” A Creepy Crawley Thing Maker. You can make bugs. Poisonous ones. ”
My Mom looked from me to my relative and said, ” You heard her. She want’s a poisonous bug maker.”
I got one.
From my Great Grandmother.
I also never got called a Screeching Monkey after that too.