- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
With the arrival of his Uncle Alex, who his mother always said was dead, fourteen-year-old Elvin learns some important truths about his family and himself.
Who are you?
How do you figure?
How are you supposed to know anything, really, but specifically, how are you supposed to know who you are?
Who am I, and what am I, and if I think I have worked that out, what happens if something new falls into the gumbo and changes it? Does that make me something new entirely? Should I get new clothes?
I found my mother sitting on the footboard of my bed with her back to me. It was an unsettling thing to wake up to, and I knew she hadn't come to tell me there were no blueberries for my pancakes.
"Elvin, have we ever talked about your father's brother Alex?"
The simple questions are always the worst. If you think you know the answer right off, then for God's sake dive into your laundry hamper. If you're completely lost, you're probably okay.
"Ya. The one who died in the plane crash, right?"
A brief, buzzy silence.
"Oh. So I did say that, then."
Should a mother really have to check and see what she has told you in the past? I'd have to say no.
"Um, ya, you did say that. Ma. Because he died. In a plane crash."
Because her back was to me, I was reading her shoulders. They slumped. They slumped and gradually sort of folded forward in a gesture of deceit and shame and awfulness before she finally stood and, keeping her back to me, said, "Except that he didn't, die in a plane crash. He is, more specifically, on the couch having a cup of tea and an English muffin with marmalade. Would you like an English muffin with some marmalade?"
Well then. What does one say?
"Not dead, you say?" is what I said.
Her sorry shoulders shrugged. But at least she turned around to face me. "It was really for your own good, Elvin."
"I know, and I'll understand someday, and I'll thank you when I'm older, and you had always intended to tell me when the time was right, but the time was never right, blah blah -- "
"Oh God, no, I was never going to tell if you didn't catch me."
Sometimes her refreshing honesty really bunches me up. Especially when it's woven with great, whopping lies.
All this and I wasn't even out of bed yet. It was a wonder I ever woke up at all. Someday, I figured, I just wouldn't. Possibly tomorrow, if it's not really sunny.
"You know, Ma, stuff like this is the reason I'm fat and mental."
"You are not mental; you're just big boned. Put on your bathrobe, because your uncle is waiting to meet you."
Just the words. Just the thought and the words banged up together like that, about my father having a brother, and his brother having an English muffin. Right downstairs. Waiting for me. Wanting to see me. What could he want from me? I had a ghost uncle, and he was waiting for me. It was like a total Shakespeare tragedy.
And I was no tragic hero.
My uncle. All my father's people were gone, and most of my mother's, apart from a few distant stragglers clinging to the rocks of our family history. I thought we were all we had, and you know, I had gotten okay with us being all we had. I even liked being all we had.
I was told that by my mother. You hear something like that from your mother, you have to think you've got it from a fairly reliable source. But that would be your mother; this was my mother.
So if she made up the plane crash . . . what else wasn't true? How many other dead people were out there roaming the landscape waiting to come sit on our couch? Could I be infested with all kinds of grandparents and cousins and things that I never knew I had and that, frankly, I didn't want?
When something is too much to contemplate, there is only one rational way to go. I would not contemplate it. The story of the plane crash that killed my father's brother Alex was true. It was tragic and romantic and didn't hurt me one little bit. There was no Alex anymore.
"Who are you?" was my icebreaker before I was even all the way down the stairs.
"Hi, Elvin, I'm Alex," he said when I walked through the living room door. He sprinted to me and started pumping my hand wildly. His hand was marmalade sticky.
"No, you're not," I said, pulling my hand back gradually.
The guy turned back toward the couch, where my mother was now sitting with a cup of tea. She shrugged.
"I told you he'd say something like that," she said.
"Why are you letting yourself be conned?" I demanded of my normally fabulously skeptical mother. "He's a fake. He probably just wants our money."
"We don't have any money, Elvin."
"Really? Still?" the guy said. He had concern, both on his face and in his voice. He was nearly convincing. "Well, maybe I can help you all out with that, too."
"Oh . . . jeez, Ma, look what you did now. You embarrassed us in front of the con man."
"I am not a con man. And you have no reason to be embarrassed in front of me."
As if she heard that as an invitation, or a challenge, or her cue, my dog came slouching into the room. Grog.
"Oh mercy," the guy said. "What have we got here?"
"Grog is what we have here. That's our idea of a dog. So you see, we wouldn't have anything you'd be interested in."
He recovered quickly, and I had to give him points for actually crouching down to pet her. Most people just pull their hands up into their sleeves. "Don't believe I've ever seen a breed like him before. What is he?"
"He's a she, that's what he is."
"No offense, but I think I know a penis when I see one."
"That's not a penis. We're not sure what it is, but we are sure she has had puppies. They're not here anymore. The Smithsonian took most of them, and Roswell has the rest."
Still crouching, still politely stroking the hairy slab of mystery meat that was Grog, he turned once more back toward Ma.
"Why is he doing this?"
Excerpted from Me, Dead Dad, & Alcatraz by Chris Lynch Copyright © 2005 by Chris Lynch.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 16, 2008
Elvin Bishop was told by his Mom that his Uncle Alex died in a plane crash. But one day he wakes up and finds his Uncle Alex sitting on his couch, eating a muffin and drinking tea. Elvin does not believe this and still thinks this is a lie and that his Uncle is really dead. Over the course of the next week though, Elvin finally has a chance to get to know his long lost Uncle. He hears stories and learns secrets about his dead father, family money, and illnesses that no one else ever shared with him. Just as getting out of jail brought his Uncle freedom, so too did this knowledge unlock a new kind of confidence and acceptance for Elvin.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.