is blasting on the boombox. Sister, Mother, Auntie, and Grandma cheer Elvis on as he thrusts his gyrating hips smack into my face. He rips off his velcro bellbottoms with an exaggerated flick of the wrist, a shower of confetti sprays from his crotch. Elvis picks me up. My cheeks flush like cherries. He spins me round and round all rhinestone cape, chiseled buttocks and size-enhancing jock, while my family squeals. A bridal shower bow hat sails off my head.

WTF! The last thing I said to maid of honor, Sister, was No Strippers! I spin escape plans as motion blurs of Sister doling out dollars whiz by. Dollars in her hands. Dollars in her cleavage. Dollars in the flasher’s G. He drops me in a flash when he catches sight of the voluptuous Auntie. She shimmies towards him with the swiveling hips of an exotic dancer. He lifts her into the air like he’s Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Her head hits the ceiling. Hard.

The squeals turn to “Ohs…” but they are short-lived because Grandma is waving him over with dollars in her mouth. Then his crotch is in her face, and she is laughing like a schoolgirl that’s just peeked at her first nudie magazine. He picks her up, but his Rocky Balboa biceps buckle under her girth, and she sinks like a stone back onto the couch.

Mother is running around with a video camera. Elvis turns his attention back to me. I try to get behind Sister, who is still flooding the airwaves with dollars, but Mother shouts, “Dance with him!” It’s more of an order, and I feel like I am twelve years old again. I try to dance, tripping on my feet, while Sister pretend-grinds Elvis from behind. It’s a peanut butter sandwich gone bananas.

Elvis ditches the cape and becomes the swarthy mustachioed guy in Hall & Oats. His 80’s rockband hair is flinging sweat across my face, and all I can think of is, I can’t go for that.

The doorbell rings, and my face lights up. It’s my fiancé, Mike, who’s shown up early but right on time. Mr. Hall & Oats turns off the boombox and slips on his flasher raincoat. I wonder how far he’ll get in the neighborhood wearing a getup like that. Auntie blows him a kiss, and Cha-Cha’s out of the kitchen, balancing a cake in the palm of her hand. Grandma shakes her finger, mumbling.

Grandma talks to herself a lot these days, and nobody listens. But Grandma keeps pointing, so I follow her gaze. Sister’s five-year-old daughter is reaching towards Auntie, fixated on the chocolate penis cake-topper—and it’s a big one. She stands on her tippy toes, and snatches it like a sugar-crazed bandit, then pops it in her mouth. Mother keels over, roaring with laughter. She pulls Sister aside, and they sneak into the bedroom like ninjas.

WTF! I follow them. Mike follows me. We wander in like cats, just as Mother is queuing the video. The picture is blurry, so Mike leans in for a closer look. The stripper’s bare glistening ass fills the screen. Mike’s head snaps back, his eyebrows all scrunchy.

Mother starts to sing, “There’s gonna be a fight tonight,” to the tune of West Side Story. The room is getting crowded, others chime in.

Mike fake laughs. My cheeks flame red hots.

Grandma pulls a flask from the pocket of her housedress. She hands it to Mike who takes a good long swig. He hands it to me, and I knock it back.

Karen Crawford grew up in the vibrant neighborhood of East Harlem in New York City. She currently lives in the City of Angels where she writes to exorcise those pesky demons around her and within her. Twitter: @KarenCrawford_

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