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10 January 2011 @ 03:11 pm
My first challenge ficlet!

Title/Prompt - #92: Thanksgiving
Author - marycontraria
Word count - 1,163
Rating - PG for very mild language and allusion to sex
Summary - Around the Thanksgiving dinner table, Mallory's parents make a surprising announcement.
Link to table - HERE!
Author's note - POV character: Mallory // timeline: November 1999

My favourite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the space in between the main course and dessert. For as long as I can remember, my family has had a tradition of sitting around the table at this time, and talking about the things we are thankful for. When my siblings and I were little, it was usually not a very deep conversation. “I'm thankful for robots!” (Adam, famously, still quoted often in my family); “I'm thankful for bubble baths!” (Claire, aged three); “I'm thankful for classic literature!” ...okay, so we're kind of a nerdy family. But you see my point.

The past couple of years, though, it's gotten a lot better – now that even Claire is nine and perfectly capable of maintaining a dialogue for more than three minutes at a time. (Actually, that's not fair to Claire, who has been disconcertingly adult in her conversation for a few years now. It's generally Margo who has trouble sitting still for longer than it takes to say “I'm thankful for the pets! Can I go now?”)

So we were all sitting around the table, twelve of us: me, my parents, all seven of my younger siblings (an increasing rarity these days, for all ten of us to sit down for a meal at the same time), and Stacey and her mom (joining us as they often do for holiday dinners, since they live just across our backyard and they're good friends and they have no other family in town). We had just cleared the dinner dishes and seated ourselves again, ready for the Thankful Talk. I was still trying to decide what I was most thankful for: the fact that people really do eventually change (I've been back in Stoneybrook full-time for a year and a half now, and through a full year-and-a-bit of high school, and so far not a single person has revived the Spaz Girl fiasco), or the fact that sometimes they don't (it had poured rain the day before, and Jessi and I had spent our entire free period holed up in the SHS library hunting down new reads). Maybe both, I thought. I figured if I picked my words right, I could make the whole thing into a succinct little gem. Being a writer is still a life goal of mine, and I tend to see everything – even the annual Thankful Talk – as an opportunity to practice my craft.

As the oldest Pike kid, I usually go first in the Thankful Talk. But this year before I even opened my mouth to begin, Dad tapped a spoon against his water glass and cleared his throat. We all looked at him, a bit puzzled. He shifted in his seat and placed his hands on the table, palms down, as though he were smoothing the tablecloth. He cleared his throat again and glanced at my mom. He actually seemed... nervous.

I was suddenly, horribly reminded of the time Dad got laid off from his law firm. I mean, he got a new job before too long, but that's when my mom started working part-time and things were kind of scary for awhile. Dad had looked nervous on the day he had to tell us about that, too, and I felt my stomach clench as he cleared his throat a third time.

Byron had obviously thought of the same thing I did, because he said “Is this about your job, Dad?”

It was Mom who laughed and reassured us. “No, it's nothing like that. Although,” she continued, smiling at Dad and resting a hand on her stomach, “I may have to give up my job for a little while, come July.”

Claire and Jordan were the first to realize what she meant, and they said it at practically the same time: “Baby.”

And then all hell broke loose.

Claire flew around the table to tackle my parents in a double hug, shrieking “I won't be the youngest forever!!” Byron, Jordan and I weren't too far behind, although we were very slightly calmer.

Stacey and her mom offered excited congratulations, and Vanessa smiled dreamily and quoted some line of poetry about babies being a great blessing. We all ignored her, so she gave up on the poetry and came to join us in our pile-up.

Margo squealed “Ewww, that means that you guys had to... you know... ewww!!” and Adam made a disgusted face, but Jordan poked Margo and Byron poked Adam and they both got up to give Mom a hug, too. Mom and Dad had the good grace to look a little bit sheepish, and Mom even blushed.

Only Nicky was still quiet. As the rest of us gradually stopped jumping and hugging and yelling and went back to our seats, he finally spoke up.

“Can we name the baby after Uncle Joe?”

This was the first Thanksgiving in a few years that Uncle Joe hadn't been with us. Although his Alzheimer's has been getting worse, he still has lucid days – but this year just before Thanksgiving there was a mild flu outbreak at Stoneybrook Manor and the whole place was quarantined to keep it from getting worse, so we weren't allowed to sign him out for the day like we usually do.

“Nicky... you know that Uncle Joe might still be with us for a number of years, don't you?” Mom said gently.

“Yeah, but we don't know how much longer he's going to be Uncle Joe for,” Nicky replied. He's the one who goes to visit Uncle Joe at the Manor more often than the rest of us put together, I think. On good days, Uncle Joe still teaches him magic tricks and tells him stories, and wants to hear about how all of the rest of us are doing. “And I think that he would like to have our baby named after him while he can still sometimes understand what's going on.”

I could see Dad blinking back tears. Okay, let's be honest: by that point I think a lot of us were blinking back tears, I know I was. “I think that's a fine idea, Nick,” said Dad, “and if your mother has no objections...”

Mom didn't, so we all agreed on Joseph-or-Josephine.

Finally, Dad turned to me. “Mallory, I'm sorry to have stolen your thunder there. We've been keeping this news under wraps for a month, we just couldn't wait another minute! But now let's talk about what else we're thankful for – why don't you start us off?”

Everybody laughed, of course. They all knew how impossible it would be to follow that announcement. I cast around in my head for any of the pretty words I'd been thinking of just fifteen minutes earlier, and came up with nothing.

“Oh screw it,” I said finally. “I'm thankful for robots. Let's have dessert.”
Jenjennigan on January 10th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)
The last line made this whole story awesome. It was pretty good all the way through, and it was the last line that did it for me. Love how you've portrayed the slightly-older Pikes, and awwww, Nicky.
Leithmarycontraria on January 10th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
Ha, thanks! I struggle with endings. I get to the end of whatever I want the vignette to cover and then I get stuck... so I'm always glad when people like my last lines! :)
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?: mallorymizzmarvel on January 11th, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)
Aw, this is cute! I'm always a sucker for a new Pike baby.
Leithmarycontraria on January 17th, 2011 03:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks for commenting! I'm always a sucker for a new Pike baby, too. :)
lucida: sweater in winterlucida on January 11th, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC)
Aww, Nicky! :( The part where he asked to name the baby after Uncle Joe was so bittersweet!

Fantastic job on the rest of the story, as well. I think you managed to capture the chaos of the Pikes' house, but also their togetherness. And I love Mallory's last lines. :)
Leithmarycontraria on January 17th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I know, aww, Nicky. One of the reasons I love the Pikes so much is their togetherness. :)
Taritariana on January 12th, 2011 05:16 am (UTC)
Very nice! I really think you did a good job with the whole chaos of the Pike family but also how calm they are in the middle of it all. And another baby -- wow!
Leithmarycontraria on January 17th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I love the Pikes. I think they really are kind of calm in the middle of the chaos. :)
LuxKen27: BSC - 1992luxken27 on January 16th, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)
Wow, this is a wonderful story! I love everything - the composition, the characterization, the rise and fall of the action ~ its really great! Its nice to see that Mallory was able to return to normal life (good or bad though it may be), that the Pikes invite the McGills over for holidays, and that they have their own, esoteric traditions.

Beautiful work - definitely one of my favorite stories at the comm so far, and it's definitely going to have a place on my rec list! :) Thanks so much for sharing!
Leithmarycontraria on January 17th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
Wow, high praise... thank you so much!! :)
Takeitha: Bridget/Jeremy: Danceraisingirl99 on January 31st, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
Aw, Nicky is so sweet, and I absolutely love the ending. What an absolutely adorable fic.
Leithmarycontraria on January 31st, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)