She recovered quickly.

“Schemes, Nephew?” she asked, scowling in disbelief. “Was that the word I heard you use?”

Whenever she calls me “Nephew” I know I should be on my way to the nearest root cellar with a month’s supply of gouda under my arm and a good, stout lock, the kind that won’t open if you shoot it dead center with a .45 from a foot away like they do on TV.

“I come merely to ask the smallest, most inconsequential favor from a dear relative I saved from the horrors of New Age summer camps where he was forced to spend his time crooning to crystals and taking classes in Aroma Therapy, and instead of expressing the natural joy engendered by being given the chance to repay my kindness by doing the tiniest, least troublesome of favors imaginable, you tar me with the epithet ‘schemer’? I am disappointed in you, Ponsie. Tres disappointed. My heart is heavy to see one whom I so cherished and admired turn into an ungrateful twit without an ounce of filial love or compassion for an aunt who has suffered the most ignominious of insults.“

Her heart didn’t look heavy to me. Judging by the high color of her cheeks, it was more likely to explode than to lay there like a lump. Something was indeed stirring her steely inner core into a molten mess of dudgeon and pique but I know better than to give in to curiosity when an aunt’s tormented soul is loaded for bear. Not for me to blurt out a thoughtless inquiry as to what manner of “insult” she had suffered and thus loose the demons of her tortured spirit. Her tortured spirit could go spit for all I cared. Me for the desperate charge to the rear.

“Auntie,” I said, “I’d love to but I’m due in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow and I simply must pack.”

Chances of This Working: 0-1.5 Good enough.

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