Monday, December 7, 2020

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus


Don't get me wrong - I'm all for personal freedom and making your own choices and all that crap, but when it comes to having cousins, take it from me, don't bother. And if you don't have the option of making that choice for yourself, just stay away. When I was a kid, I had a shit ton of cousins around all the time, and while I can say that they certainly shaped my world view, the world doesn't look that great when seen through the bottom of an outhouse seat. And yes, by that I mean that they literally stuffed me down through the outdoor shitter on my uncle's farm.

When I was a kid, this town was so small that I could put some bacon on, go buy eggs at the market on the far end of town, and be back before the bacon burned. And God damn, how I hate it when people overcook bacon! If I had a dollar for every time my useless son-in-law served me bacon that would have been better used as charcoal, I wouldn't have had to list my extra pair of dentures on Ebay (thank you Jackson, by the way, for your help with that). It's just not that hard to cook bacon, people! Nowadays, people are so inept and scared of the fat that they think to make it taste good you have to smoke it on applewood or make it out or turkey or some shit. Idiots! But if I start listing all the ways life was better when I was a kid, I'm going to trigger my arthritis before I even get to the invention of Taco Bell.

So anyway, my parents and my two uncles all had adjacent land with some woods and a creek in between, close enough to carry someone home if they got injured but far enough away that no one was going to hear anything if the older cousins (hypothetically, of course) killed a skunk and put it in my sleeping bag, rubbed honey on my face and dragged me toward a nest of ground bees, or tried to raise me up the makeshift flagpole by my skivvies. And that was just the tame stuff! Some things I can't write about because I'm not sure about the statute of limitations.

There was only one rule when we were together: Keep It In The Family. Which meant that if I were to ask my father for help with the abuse I was getting, his answer was going to be "Well get back out there and sort it out!" or "Why did you let him do that to you?" I mean, I don't know, Dad, maybe because he's fifteen and I weigh 47 pounds? But god forbid one of the neighbors heard enough to ask questions, because then it was the belt for everyone, whether you were at the bottom of the flagpole or the top.

But here's the crazy thing. This gang of sadistic monsters somehow wove their way into normal adult society! One became a teacher; others included a farmer, a dentist (ok, he was still sadistic), a nurse, a middle manager, etc. Which just goes to show that as you go through your daily lives, there are remorseless sociopaths hiding everywhere in plain sight. Have a nice day. And so, I guess my point is that while the cousins in this book are not perfect (some worse than others - no spoilers), on the whole, they're not that bad.

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