It’s Tradition

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Lila yanked on the handbrake of her 2001 Pontiac Sunfire, and very nearly got the car to stop before she tapped the bumper of the Mercedes SLS. Todd gasped, but Lila merely rolled her eyes. “Whatever. It’s my sister’s car.”

“Have you ever thought about maybe getting your breaks fixed?” Todd said, cradling the wine he’d purchased at the Stop-n-Go earlier in the day as he climbed out of the coupe.

“Of course,” Lila replied. “But then I remember I’m slipping down the gaping maw of poverty, and I move on with my day.”

She raised her knuckles to knock, but the door opened and a serpentine woman with long black hair and a slinky dress looked Lila up and down and hissed, “You’ve gained weight,” before sticking her finger with a lancet and depositing a drop of blood on a test strip. “Who’s the dork?” she asked without looking up from her meter.

“Todd,” Lila replied, stepping past the woman into the foyer. “Todd, this is my sister Hailey who’s so stupid even her kidneys can’t function without help.”

Hailey studied Todd’s shoes and then his hair before cocking her head to one side. “Let me guess – middle school science teacher?”

Todd’s jaw dropped open. “How did you know?”

Hailey smirked right as her meter beeped. She frowned at it, then glared at Lila. “My blood sugar’s low. We should be eating now. The sun went down half an hour ago.”

“So? Eat a snack.”

Hailey picked a piece of cat fur off her shoulder. “I did.” She smiled and her red lips peeled back to reveal perfectly white teeth. “I’ll tell Mom and Dad we can sit down now.” She turned away, her stiletto heels clacking on the tile floor.

Todd followed Lila into the kitchen. She grabbed an expensive-looking bottle and filled a goblet with a deep, thick red. She drank greedily, then gestured to Todd’s $5 screw-top bottle. “Help yourself.”

Todd futilely looked around for a glass before finding a Solo cup behind the toaster. He poured himself a cupful of something that called itself wine but tasted like acetone. He hoped Lila’s family knew how to cook a good turkey. But he didn’t smell any turkey roasting and it occurred to him that there weren’t any food dishes anywhere, as one would expect there to be at a Thanksgiving dinner. His stomach grumbled and he began to worry that perhaps Lila’s family was not the sort who actually cooked, but rather ordered out for Chinese, or even worse, set up a platter of Subway sandwiches.

“This way,” Lila said, and Todd shuffled behind her down a short hallway. Lila’s family was already seated at the table. There was one empty chair at the head.

“Oh,” whispered Todd to Lila. “Should I go get another seat?”

But before she answered, an older man with distinguished gray flocks at his temple stood and gestured to the seat.

“Family tradition,” he said, smiling. “Whoever brings dinner gets the good chair.”

Todd felt his cheeks burn. “Oh, I’m sorry sir, uh, Lila’s dad. I—we, uh, I don’t think we knew that we were supposed to bring dinner.”

Lila put her lips close to his ear. “I did,” she whispered and sank her fangs into his neck.

***

“Oh my god, Lila,” Hailey said, wiping her mouth on her napkin, “Seriously? What kind of crap is this? Where did you even find this guy? He tastes rancid.”

“Hailey, let’s watch our manners, shall we?” Lila’s mother reprimanded. She picked up her fork and paused, staring thoughtfully at it. “Although, I’m curious, too, Lila. Where did you two meet?”

Lila sighed. “He came into the library to do some research,” she said. Then, under her breath, she muttered, “He was googling 12-year old girls in bathing suits.”

“Damnit, Lila!” All around the table, her family spat out Todd.

Hailey wiped her tongue across her napkin, her red eyes flashing. “You know perverts are rotten! Why would you bring us one?”

Lila threw her hands up. “I’m sorry! It was a last-minute decision! I was going to bring someone from the reference department, but he got a girlfriend last week and went over to her place. This was the best I could do!” She looked around the table at her family. “I’m really sorry.”

Hailey’s monitor beeped and she looked up from her blood strip, scowling. “You’ve ruined Thanksgiving. And now I’m probably going to die. Happy now?”

“Not till there’s a stake in your heart.”

“Girls!” Lila’s dad pounded his fist on the table and they fell silent. “I think perhaps it’s time we do away with this tradition of bringing dinner to the table.”

“What do you mean, Daddy?” Lila said.

Her father grinned. “I say we go back to the old ways.”

Lila gasped and clapped her hands. “You mean, go hunting?”

Lila’s father shrugged his shoulders. “Why not? Traditions change. How about it? Everyone ready for a little nighttime family hunting party?”

Lila pushed her plate of Todd away from her and stood up. “Let’s go!”

Faster than a human eye could detect, the whole family flew out the front door into the moon-lit night. And amongst all the flutterings and whirlings, a shrill voice could be heard screeching out, “Hey! You dented my bumper!”

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