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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

November 25: Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving at the Castarelli household. Per usual, Grandma Castarelli turned the Head Cook position into an appointed U.S. Army command post, barking orders at mom and censuring me for my lackadaisical attitude toward the kitchen. Dad went downstairs to “work on his computer,” a.k.a. evacuate the premises. Grandpa C went outside to rake leaves. My brother Rico was nowhere to be found. And this year’s most significant cameo, Uncle Randy, was the exact opposite. He was ubiquitous.

I guess most families have some form of an Uncle Randy. He pulled up right before noon in his dilapidated RV, which was yoked to the back of a rusty pick-up truck. His horn sounded like a foghorn—AAH-OOH-GA! He dished out a few sloppy hugs and loud salutations, a cigarette dangling from his lips like it had a life of its own. “Looks like you’re growin’ into a woman,” he said to me, a dubious compliment at best. He spent a protracted moment trying to convince dad that he had been abstemious for months, despite his blatant beer-breath to the contrary. When Rico and his little skateboarding friends materialized in the driveway, he tried to join in and ended up flat on his butt.

A half hour or so before the turkey hit the table, Uncle Randy finished off the last of the potables in his Winnebago. He made a beeline for our liquor cabinet, muttering his rationalization that he “only drank on special occasions.” Experience has taught us that when he switches from beer to whiskey the results are cataclysmic, and this year was no exception. It started with an utterly inappropriate anecdote about an experience he had in Guadalajara. Say what you want about him, but Uncle Randy’s a great raconteur. Still, the story got a little racy, and my grandparents weren’t much amused.

Then came the momentous Dumping of the Mashed Potatoes. Luckily for him, they blended in well with the beige carpet in our living room. The climax came when Grandma called Uncle Randy a drunken lout under her breath. He rebutted by calling her a “senile fascist,” and that was his death knell. Mom gave Dad “the look,” and Dad asked Randy if he could talk to him outside. I heard Randy offering to rescind the comment, but it was too late. He spent the rest of the evening out in the Winnebago, listening to country music.

Thanksgiving went back to the family comfort-fest that it’s supposed to be, so I retreated to my room, where I decided to write a letter to Luke, inspired by the crazy behavior of all my loony relatives.

Dear Luke,
I just wanted to let you know that if your little campaign was directed at me, even obliquely, then it was rude and indecorous. You have already made your opinion about student politics known, so this extra smear campaign was flat-out unwarranted. The only reason I can imagine for you to mock something I take seriously in such a public and defamatory way is that you deliberately wanted to hurt my feelings.
  What did I do to you? It is one thing to flaunt your iconoclastic views to the school to show how much cooler you are than the peons who campaign in hopes of making a difference. But it is another thing altogether to single me out for ridicule (the fact that both “Vice” and “President” are in your fabricated title cannot, after all, be a coincidence), simply to amuse yourself. You think you’re such a renegade, such a nonconformist. I thought I was—heretofore—your friend. But needless to say, I am, hereafter and forevermore, not. Your friend, that is. But thanks for sharing your (rather paltry) verbal knowledge, and good luck in the rest of your (completely worthless) life.
                      Yours in infinite enmity,
                        I am,
                      Francesca Castarelli
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