Dad opened the mahogany door leading to the sitting room. It made its signature moan that reminded his all too well of the struggles of being a father and also of abandoned dreams. The sitting room was rowdy, he knew this even while in his room. In fact, he left his room for the purpose of arresting their restlessness, and also for dinner. As he came in, he saw John, one of his sons, bouncing on the sofa as though it were an inflatable castle. He had felt it for a while that taking John to the bouncing castle the weekend before was a big mistake because everything in John’s path was to become a bouncing castle afterwards. From where he stood, dad felt like giving John a dirty slap. ‘How dare he ruin the sofa so, does he have an idea how much I bought it?’ dad thought. For some reason, James was at the foot of the sofa, rather dour, but dad couldn’t care less. Their sister, Patricia was sitting comfortably and watching her favourite show on Disney. She was always the smartest, taking the spoils while her brothers wreaked havoc.
“John! Would you get down from there?” dad cautioned. John trampled and fell on the prickly carpet. “I have warned you never to bounce on everything you see,” dad paused, “the next time I catch you bouncing on the sofa, I will bounce on you, and I mean it.”
Patricia giggled. Dad turned his attention to her. “What’s funny?” she fell silent instantly.
“Honey, is the food ready? I’m famished,” father called to mother. The aroma from the kitchen had filled the sitting room and caused mouths to salivate.
“Just a moment, dear,” mum replied.
“James,” dad called. It was now that dad had time for him. “Yes dad,” he replied.
“What is wrong with you, is everything alright?”
“John pushed him and he fell!” Patricia chipped in, rather fussily.
“Hmm, I see,” dad retorted, “Come to the table, all,” dad ordered.
On cue, mother came in with two ceramic bowls of simmering food.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting, my lovelies,” she uttered.
She placed the bowls at the center of the table and everyone took their seats.
“Let’s pray,” dad said, “God we bless you for this food given to us out of your merciful love, we pray that this food nourishes our body, and we hunger always for the food that will nourish our souls. Amen,” everyone at the table opened their eyes, “Please let’s eat. James,” father called.
“Yes, dad,” James replied.
“You must eat. Now wipe that frown off your face. John,” dad called.
“Yes, dad,” John replied.
“Let this be the last time you push your elder brother. Now let’s eat, please.”
The family began digging in. Half into the meal, dad had something enticing he had to tell his children.
“I have great and exciting news to tell you all,” dad broke the routine.
Everyone looked up to dad. It was unlike him to break meals for anything. In fact, if anyone dared talk during a meal, dad would preach to the person on table etiquettes for hours while meal was suspended, and nobody wanted that.
“Uncle Pat is coming to spend a month with us. He has a project around here that will take about a month, which means he will be coming in two days.”
The whole house fell silent. If a pin were to drop, one could hear the sound.
“I’m so happy and delighted!” dad exclaimed, “it has been ages since I saw your Uncle, Pat.”
James wondered in what planet ages measured to mere months. John went pallid. Patricia’s spoon fell and made a distasteful clanking sound. That is what the mere mention of Uncle Pat’s name could do to them.
Uncle Pat looked nothing like his elder brother, John’s father. His face was rotund, fatter, and so was the rest of his body. His stomach was so big that Patricia feared on many occasions the sheer size would uproot the buttons of his shirt. ‘Why did he even bother suiting up for work?’ was one of the unsolved mysteries about Uncle Pat. Besides the fact that Uncle Pat was always getting into conversations that didn’t invite him, James hated that he panted at every little form of exercise, and he detested the sound. John just hated Uncle Pat for no exact reason, probably because his siblings did. Patricia’s hatred for her Uncle was the worst because their names bore similarity, and her brothers taunted her with it.
“I know you guys are too excited to say something,” dad continued, “You’re busy imagining how much swell time you’d have with your Uncle.”
Patricia looked at dad in disbelief. She felt like jumping on his head, tying his hair and pooping on it like a rocket, however that felt. John was agape, lost in space and time at all that ensued at the table. James was fixated at the glass top of the table, he felt like breaking it with one swoop of his hand and stabbing everything with the shards.
“Okay guys, enough excitement. I need you guys to go arrange the guest room, make sure all is set for Uncle Pat.”
This was the part that they loved, setting the guest room for Uncle Pat, not because they actually loved it, but because they could make the room a living hell for him.
Night came and morning came the next day. It was time to clean up the guest room after breakfast.
The guest room was very dusty, it had not been used for months. In fact, the last person that lived in it was the despicable Uncle Pat. Patricia remembered the last time Uncle Pat visited all too well. He came in with a box that had seen better days, looking haggard and unkempt. She despised him instantly, especially so when he patted her hair in familiarity. “Just look at my bubbles, growing so fast!” he exclaimed. Patricia wondered if she and her brothers looked anything like bubbles.