The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
Uncle Warren and Aunt Edie
“I’ll have a second helping of that,” said my Uncle Warren.
My mother put another pile of beef stroganoff on his plate. She knew this was his favorite and that’s why she’d made it. Uncle Warren had been invited to this dinner because my father wanted to ask him for a favor.
Uncle Warren, my father’s older brother by a few years, was the success of the family. He was one of the officers of a financial company in Sacramento. My father had been considered a modest success, that is, until last year, when the Recession had forced him to close down the small advertising agency he’d formed. He hadn’t been able to find a regular job since so I guess that maybe now he’d be looked upon as a failure. I’m not sure how my Aunt Edie, the younger sister, was viewed, not as a great success; she was a schoolteacher in Sacramento and, now in her mid-forties, an old maid.
Uncle Warren finally finished eating, the table was cleared and my father led him outside to the patio. It was time to ask for the favor. I ran back up to my room, which was almost directly over the patio. I opened the window and listened. “You know we’ve been stretched pretty thin since I had to close the agency,” my father said.
“You haven’t been able to find anything since then?”
“The ad business isn’t big in Sacramento. I‘ve had a few consulting jobs; in fact, I have a pretty good one now. They’ve helped. But no, nothing on a regular basis. It’s not that we’re broke, but Ken’s ready for college this fall and we just don’t have enough to pay for it.”
Ken? That was me. I didn’t know I was the subject of this favor. I’d been accepted to UC Berkeley. My father hadn’t discussed this with me but I knew UC Berkeley, even though it was a public university, had gotten pretty expensive. I wish he’d spoken to me. I was ready to go to our local community college. I knew times were tough.
“UC Berkeley, right?” said Uncle Warren. “That’s a good school.”
“I know. It’s also expensive. I need a loan. I’d pay it back as soon as I could, of course.”
“I wish I could give you something, but I’m pretty strapped myself. Don’t let this get around but the firm isn’t in that good a shape. This damn Recession. It doesn’t look as if it’ll ever go away.”
“Oh. I thought you were doing okay. I’m sorry I asked.”
“That’s all right. I wish I could help.”
I closed my window. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for my father and I felt Uncle Warren could have helped if he wanted.
So that was that. During that week, I did talk with my father about what would happen in the fall. I told him I was ready to go to our community college. I also went around to the local fast food places and put in applications. My father said he still hoped to find a job, things were bound to get better.
That Saturday afternoon my father and I were watching a Cal football game on TV. The doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” I said. It was my Aunt Edie. She usually came over once or twice a month but always called first. What was up?
“I’m sorry to drop in without calling,” said Aunt Edie, “but I just talked to your Uncle Warren and thought I’d come over. Is your father in?”
I led her into the living room. “Edie! What a surprise! A pleasant one.”
I liked my Aunt Edie. She might have been plain-looking but she had a nice smile. She’d always been interested in what I was doing and talked to me as if I was a grown-up, not just a kid. “I’ll come to the point. I’ve heard Ken might not be able to go to UC Berkeley. That would be a shame. He think he has a promising future.” She reached into her handbag and handed a piece of paper to my father. It was a check; from the way my father looked at it a large check. “I don’t know what to say?” my father exclaimed.
“Then don’t say anything.
“But can you afford this?”
“If I couldn’t I wouldn’t be giving it to you.”
“But you’re just a …” my father stopped.
“Yes, just a schoolteacher. But I have a good head for money. That’s why I never listened to what Warren advised. I made some good investments, and now I’ve made another one, in Kenneth.” She looked at her watch. “I have to use your bathroom. I’ve asked someone to meet me here. If he comes, can you let him in?”
“Sure,” said my father. He looked at me. “Well, your Aunt Edie is full of surprises. I think there’s a lot we don’t know about her.
In a few minutes, Aunt Edie was back. I saw she’s put on some make-up, lipstick and rouge, and had loosened her hair. I’d never seen her like that before and she looked almost pretty. “You look very nice, Aunt Edie,” I told her.
The doorbell rang. “Oh,” Aunt Edie said. “That must be Nelson. I asked him to meet me here. We’re going to an early dinner and then to a concert.”
“Nelson?” my father said.
“Yes, Nelson, my friend. Do let him in.”
I snapped out of my trance and ran to the door. Nelson was an imposing gentleman of about fifty. He had a broad, handsome face, ruddy, with gray hair and a gray moustache. He came in and Aunt Edie gave him a quick hug. She introduced us, then said they must be going. My father looked as if he’d been struck by a thunderbolt. “Well,” he said, after they’d gone. “There’s another surprise.”
So that’s how I came to be attending UC Berkeley this fall. I worked at a MacDonald’s over the summer so had enough money to buy Aunt Edie a nice present when she announced she and Nelson were getting married. Oh, yes, the company my father was doing the consulting job for hired him as advertising manager so our family’s personal recession was over.
© Martin Green July 2012
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