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Perhaps the liveliest of Mcdonald's recent books, though the multiple domestic crises never do grow together—you can just see Mcdonald ticking them off as he wraps each one up and soldiers on to the next.
"And so we won't have to see him very much?"
Calder asked happily.
"This will be his home away from home," Lacey pronounced. "Your father and Skylar's father are brothers. As your father so pointedly insists upon reminding us. Which is why he brought up the topic of Skylar's arrival at this juncture."
The look of mutual curiosity, with which the children were well familiar, passed between husband and wife.
"Should we get some fleas and ticks and scatter them around the yard to make him feel at home?" Ginny asked. "How about placing a few cow flops artfully on the lawn? We could start a trend. New En gland Taste might feature Paxton Landing again."
"We should import some copperhead and cotton mouth snakes, too," Jon said. "Rattlers. Wolves, coyotes. And don't forget wrapadangs."
"What's a wrapadang?" Ginny asked.
"Oh, you never want to come across a wrapadang," Jon warned her.
"I don't think it's fair for you to be prejudiced against the South," Wayne said. "Or Southerners. Your father is a Southerner. Are you prejudiced against me? Especially since Calder, with prejudice, just hypothesized Skylar is a racist. You don't know that he is. Do you consider me a racist?"
"'Hypothesized'?" Ginny frowned. "I wonder if Louise Uglythorpe can spell that one."
"Why did you leave the South?" Calder asked her father.
"There weren't many opportunities there, at that time. When I left."
"You've never been back," Lacey said.
"No," Wayne said. "Ihaven't."
Ginny asked Jon, "What's Skylar really like?"
"Well, he's nine feet tall, has two heads, feet that are a meter long—"
"Good," Ginny said. "He won't need to borrow our skis." Jon sighed. "I doubt you'll ever see Skylar Whitfield on skis. That boy slows down walkin' on wetgrass."
"Good!" Calder said. "We won't have to invite him for Christmas in Vail."
"Actually, he can be quite charming," Jon said. "At least the ladies seem to like him. Rather too much, I'd say. And he can play the trumpet like you've never heard it played before."
"Sure," Calder said. "But I've already heard 'When the Saints Go Marching In.' "
Lacey said, "I surely hope young Skylar does not think our annual Labor Day formal party Saturday is in his honor."
"Aunt Monica and Uncle Dan gave me a big welcoming party."
"Never," said Lacey, "would I dare imitate Southern manners. Whatever they are."
"They are difficult to comprehend," Jon muttered. "In the South, you can hit someone upside the head, but you're supposed to do so only in a kindly manner, and with the best of intentions."
"Closer to my definition of a gentleman," Wayne said.
His wife said: "Of course."
"What I'm trying to say," Wayne said, "is that there is no reason to be prejudiced against your cousin Skylar. You don't even know him."
"Are you saying we have to wait until after we know Skylar to be prejudiced against him?" Calder asked.
"But, Wayne," Lacey said, "you've ignored your nephew all his life."
"Guilty as charged," Wayne admitted. "My brother's family hasn't been much of a factor in our lives."
"I'm not prejudiced against him." Ginny took her fifth piece of pizza. "I liked Dufus. He was funny. Of course, I didn't understand much of what he said."
"That may be all for the best," Calder said. "I understood a bit of what he said."
Lacey asked, "Wayne, tomorrow will you stop by the bank, please, and pick up my tiara rig for the party?"
"Not that old thing again." Calder smiled.
"Sure," Wayne said.
"I'm wearing that rather regal gown I ordered in London in June."
"It arrived?" Calder asked.
"You never showed us," Calder complained.
"Show us after supper?" Ginny asked.
"If you ever stop eating," her mother said.
Wayne said to his son, "The arrival of a gown is of more interest than the arrival of a blood relative."
"I suppose we'll have to have Alex Broadbent to the party." Lacey sighed. "The Broadbent flotilla."
"Unavoidable," Wayne said, "as long as he lives in our boathouse."
Lacey said, "His entourage are like vermin."
Wayne said, "I think mostly he feeds his entourage appetizers provided by others."
Calder said, "Alex is brilliant. He interests people. Everybody reads his column in The Star."
"Then why," Lacey asked patiently, "do people have to see him? Him and his utterly boring wife? Especially when people are coming here supposedly to see us, not them? I rather wish we'd leased the boathouse to someone far less interesting. A mass murderer or something. Well, maybe he'll arrive late, as usual."
Wayne chuckled. "He'll still arrive like the Seventh Fleet."
"He'll apologize to me, saying he just can't get rid of people."
Ginny said, "He can't."
Wayne stood up from the round table and stretched his arms over his head, something he never would do with servants in the house. "I, for one, look forward to meeting my nephew. It should be amusing."
"Skylar is amusing, all right," Jon said. "About as amusing as a cricket in your shorts."
Copyright ) 1997 by Gregory McDonald