Narrator: Joshua Penningway
And so it began. 6:32 PM. Two buzzings of the doorbell, one rhythmic set of knocks upon the door and three boisterous shouts of "Hello, hello!" through the door.
"Michelle," I muttered under my breath with an amused smile. I wasn't finished with my hair. I walked out of the bathroom, comb in hand, and ran down the stairs.
The front hall, not yet fully decorated, was open to the living room, where my older brother sat with his feet on a stool and his back in the leather recliner.
He lowered his gorey graphic novel, to show the exaggerated gaping expression on his face that her harassment of the door had elicited. Then again, with my brother, there were other ways to interpret such faces.
I opened the door, hoping for no more yells again until our prized and personal court jester was inside, so that the neighbours would not report a domestic disturbance.
At my eye-level, staring back at me, were the bulbous eyes of her green, frog-faced umbrella. I looked down, making eye contact. Yes, just one little person had made all that noise.
She tilted her chin to one side and grinned in an exaggerated way that subtly bobbed her head. Under one arm, was a canine plushie, a very down-sized Saint Bernard.
I put on a fake British accent, made it condescending, and said, "Come in, come in, brave sir! We shan't be sending a knight out on a dog like that."
She stepped through the doorway, without even slightly cracking up, as I closed the door behind her and turned on the front lights.
I looked at Kieth, whose face was hidden behind his graphic novel, but whose eyes I suspected were rolling.
"Squire Kieth!" she pointed sternly at him. A much better accent than mine. "Come, shed me of my armour at once."
I laughed as he groaned and rose to his feet. He took her dripping wet coat and put it in the closet, which he left open. I could tell that he was struggling not to laugh.
"Am I early?" she asked, in her normal voice. She knew she was. "I thought I'd come and help with decorations. Where are the folks?"
"The old man is taking her out on the town," I said.
"Please tell me Kiethy-Wiethy is staying for the party?" she asked, completely serious, only looking sad after the question was asked at which point she cocked her head to one side.
"Am I?" Kieth asked me. "I mean... will they mind?"
"None of them are..." homophobes. "We don't befriend... umm..." I was blundering on again. "They're your kind of people," I finally blurted.
"I don't think that's quite what you meant to say, Joshua," Michelle mused. "Trust us, nobody will mind," she assured him, just before muttering something conditional about hitting Brent.
I yawned, wondering how I could pausibly be tired already.
Then Michelle turned her head to me, lightning quick, "CJ?"
I shrugged, "I don't have gadar."
"What's this?" Kieth asked from the recliner.
"Nothing," she answered, as I stuttered.
When I stutter, it's somehow attractive. Or so they tell me. I've seen Kieth stutter, and I beg to differ.
"You're the chaperon, Kieth," I reminded him.
Then again, he's not me. Longer face, taller body, Dad's hair, and Mom's fondness of men. If you ask me, he got the looks. Tall, dark and handsome, where as I was from the shallow end of the gene pool. No -- wait, is that a reference to inbreeding? Nevermind.
We began to decorate the house. Several minutes later, still just the three of us, Michelle complimented my hair. I wasn't sure what to make of it until I saw the mirror on the basement wall.
I had never finished gelling and spiking the front of my hair. I sprinted to the bathroom, upstairs, where I'd been when Michelle had arrived. Then, I ran back downstairs and picked up the comb from where I'd left it in the front hall.
That was when the doorbell rang again. 6:49 PM.