Too many of us

Never been much good at writing fiction, but always wanted to give it a ride, and now I'm writing fiction, I guess.

Mom always wants to know every detail about everything I do. She always asks a hundred questions about all aspects of my existence, from where I lived in Wisconsin to my flatmates here in Seattle and how can I possibly be getting around on the terrifying buses?

Always at least several of her questions are about where I work and what I do there and every little detail of that.

But any facts she obtains about me are filed away for future interrogations and guilt, so as a defense strategy, I say as little as possible about me. Admittedly, part of the appeal is that the less I say, the more it drives her nuts.

So, having run out of stories about working at the Post Office, and eager not to tell her I'm working at Haugen & Dahl, I've invented a sandwich shop in Oak Harbor, where I'm now working.

It's not a permanent job, though. A friend of a friend owns the place, and needed a fill-in for a worker who had a medical or mental emergency. I'll only be working there for a week or so, and then I'll be back to Seattle.

Oak Harbor is a beautiful town, or so I've heard and told Mom, but I wouldn't know. Never been there, and I certainly don't work there.

Next week I plan to be selling knickerbockers at a haberdashery. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

At breakfast with the family this morning, my pal Leon had told me he was coming, and unlike everyone else he was on time (a few minutes early, actually) so he and I had time for a genuine conversation. Ten minutes late, my mom and sister and sister's friend Adelle came in, and before they sat down Mom said we'd need a bigger table because my nephew Michael was coming, with his two little kids.

And at that moment my mood soured. Nothing against the nephew — I don't know him well, but he's funny and smart and I like him, and his kids are old enough that they seem human but young enough they're not yet annoying, and he never brings his wife the anti-vaxxer, which is fine with me.

What's annoying is that Michael never tells me when they're coming, and I would really prefer advance warning. Like I've said before — to you, dear reader, and more importantly to him, to all of them — a head's up is appreciated, because I'm anti-social and need to get into a different headspace for breakfast with eight than for breakfast with three or four.

I hadn't said anything yet, but Mom volunteered, "We thought about telling you Michael and the kids were coming, and we decided not to," and that snapped me. She hadn't merely forgotten to tell me, though I've said several times to please tell me. Nope, she knew and decided not to tell me.

"Jesus," I said, taking her Lord's name in vain, "I have said several times, Please Tell Me If Anyone Else Is Coming," and Mom just smiled her biggest smile, and stood at an empty but bigger table, instead of the table when Leon and I were seated.

"We should sit over here," she said. "We'll need the bigger table." I resisted, nay refused, for several minutes, but then Michael and his kids walked in. There really was no arguing the point, so Leon and I got up and moved to the bigger table, and the eight of us gathered elbow-to-elbow and started yakking.

I was trying to be a nice old man instead of the grumpy old man I was, and then Dick and Young-sook walked in — Dick, my chronically ill brother, and Young-sook, his kooky Korean wife who doesn't really speak English.

Now we were ten people, an all-time breakfast record, and more than any table at the diner could seat. All the tables are round, so they can't really be dragged together, so Dick and Young-sook settled into an adjacent booth.

Ah, jeez, I knew I was gonna hate this. We'd all be yelling, but still unable to hear each other, because other than Michael and his kids we're all old and hard of hearing.

And the yelling started right away, because I'd repeated my mantra, "Text me if you're coming please," and Dick wasn't happy with my tone of voice. He was right about that, because my tone of voice sure as heck wasn't "happy to see you."

Yeah, I know I'm a putz about all this, but my putzhood is no secret. I have said it before — Please Text Me If You're Coming To Breakfast. Leon and my sister were the only ones who'd texted me that they were coming, so Leon, Katrina, Mom, and Adelle were all I'd expected...

And then came the biggest surprise of the morning, when my nephew John walked into the diner. Haven't seen him since last summer, because he lives in Texas. He's some kind of high-power software security guy, and his employer had sent him to Seattle on a business trip, so he decided to surprise me and show up for breakfast.

Eleven of us. Ah, jeez. I eyed the door, considering an escape and also to see if anyone else would be unexpectedly joining us. Where's my brother Clay, and his wife? Where's my sister Hazel? Where's my stoner nephew George?

Nobody else came, but with our crowd spread across two tables, breakfast became a blinding blur. It was only an hour ago, but I don't remember much of the rest of it.

Here's the damnedest thing, though: In spite of all the high-volume conversation with people I hadn't expected to see… jeez, I hate saying this, but… I think we had a pretty good time. At least, I don't remember getting angry again.

There was only a little conversation with each of them, and with so many people my "week in Oak Harbor" was barely mentioned in passing, which made that lie easier to tell and sell.

And it was honestly nice seeing John.

And Dick for once didn't complain about having too much ice in his Coke.

And Young-sook kept her hands out of my food.

And Mom's attention was divided all around the two tables, so she didn't have time to drive me nuts.

And Michael and Katrina and Leon and Adelle were funny.

And Michael's kids were so cute, it's hard to believe they're genetically related to me.

And my omelet was yummy, and when Michael started snapping pictures, the waitress volunteered to take a group photo with everyone in it.

And in the picture we're all smiling, and I wasn't faking it.

It was the biggest and best Saturday breakfast with the family yet, but again I pleaded as the party started breaking up, I hate surprises, so next time please text me so I know you're coming.


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