Harmless Drunk Uncle Will Not Leave Hungry This Year

This year at Thanksgiving, Harmless Drunk Uncle doesn’t pretend not to realize he’s brushed against his sister-in-law’s ass on his way to refrigerator. Instead, he cups her and says she’s getting a little soft there, might want to get back to those yoga classes. His laughter infects the cutlery drawer.

Harmless Drunk Uncle leers at his niece’s neckline, speculates she’ll be knocked up this time next year if she keeps dressing like that.

At the table, Harmless Drunk Uncle refuses a glass for his beer, sets his Budweiser bottle directly on the lace tablecloth, turns the crowned logo outward to be sure it’s recognizable in photos so nobody can ever say he was drinking an Un-American brand.

Harmless Drunk Uncle says, “Why don’t you make yourself useful there, Paco, and cut me a slice of that bread.” The niece’s boyfriend has a name, and it is not Paco, and he does not reach for the loaf.

Harmless Drunk Uncle tells his nephew if he thinks his limp wrist can lift the gravy boat, to hand it over, and then he launches into the same joke he always tells.

Harmless Drunk Uncle shoves a deviled egg into his mouth and while still chewing it, he proclaims there is only one day to vote. That’s why it’s called election day, not election week or election month. And anybody who doesn’t like it, can get the hell out of his country. He swallows, licks his teeth.

Harmless Drunk Uncle says if his brother doesn’t hurry the hell up with that turkey, he’s going to have to eat some of that store-bought pie to keep from starving to death.

Harmless Drunk Uncle cracks open another beer from the cooler that he’s refused to put in the kitchen, belches, and revels in his authenticity.

Niece tucks her napkin into her neckline.

BoyfriendNotNamedPaco rotates the bread knife until his fingers lock onto the handle.

Nephew clenches and releases his hand next to his plate, lets capable wrist mentor fist.

Sister-in-law slams her wine glass against the iced tea pitcher. She holds what remains of it—a jagged stem—with her pinky still elegantly extended. 

From under the table, a dog begins to growl while another licks his chops. Hunger permeates the air.

BrotherFatherHusband slides the edge of his blade down the honing steel, and it cuts through the din of Harmless Drunk Uncle’s never-ending monologue like a weak scream.

BrotherFatherHusband says, “We’re not having turkey this year.”


Shelli Cornelison lives in Austin where she is basically/sort of/almost coping totally fine these days. She has a large extended family that includes many uncles. Her short fiction has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Smokelong Quarterly, The Forge Literary Magazine, and New World Writing.

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