Jansen Family Tradition

Original work of short fiction by M. Garcés

I bit my lip as the chair I was standing on wobbled beneath me. Carefully I reached for a martini glass, my anxiety subsiding when returning to the ground without breaking anything. My family was loudly moving around upstairs, suitcases being banged and zipped. The fridge was always full of supplies. Making a martini was an effortless task; I’d been making them for my dad since the age of seven. Gin. Vermouth. Ice. Shake. Strain. Pour. Olive. But today was different.

“Daaaaaaaaaaaad! It’s ready!” I walked over to the foot of the stairs.

Papa Jansen leaned over the banister to look at me. “You saved the leftovers?” he asked me with his oh so typical stern red face. A sigh of exasperation came out of my mouth as I lifted my other hand to show him the half full shaker.“Good girl.” he raced down the stairs, his enormous belly doing a dance with every thuddy step he took. He gave me a pat on the head after taking his first sip.

Calmly I glanced at his watch. “We should leave for the airport soon.”

He grabbed the shaker and downed it. “Don’t be a smart ass Ana. Now be good and make me a stronger one this time while I get your mother out of bed,” I watched him run up the stairs, creating this odd seasick sensation within me. It was like his weight could move the entire house with every movement made. “Boys you better be finished or else!”

An hour later, I was honking the horn and my dad was loading the luggage. “Come on guys!! We’re going to be late!”

“I’m so sick of this shit,” dad muttered, pushing me to the side and slamming his hand on the horn for a good minute. He kept saying things under his breath, blubbering on about money and how hard he worked for us all to go on a family vacation.

Immediately the rest of the family piled out of the house. Samson already had his headphones on, Gabe was (as usual) wearing gym attire, my mom was perfectly coiffed, and Felix was (still) saying goodbye to his boyfriend.

“Derek darling, have you taken your pills?”

Dad reached inside his coat, retrieving a bottle of prescription Valium and shaking it for us all to see. “Took six already dear… Christ, you wanna count them Lily?”

She made a little laugh, “Why would I need to? I trust you.”

All of us looked at each other with the same smirks. If only my mother knew that her subtexts weren’t so subtle. For years we had watched her monitor his behavior.

Once in the car, Gabe nudged and whispered to me, “Dad’s totally tweekin. I’ve seen him soak through two shirts already.”

Quickly I looked over at my dad, his neck splattered with pebbles of sweat on his skin. It was hard not to wander off and imagine them forming weird shapes.

“Gabe, did you pack an extra shirt in your carry-on?”

“Dammit ma I’m 23 years old, I think I can fuckin dress myself!”

“Umm, ok love you byeeeee!” I heard Felix flick his phone off in the background, undoubtedly already sensing disaster.

My dad pulled over almost as soon as the words came out. His seatbelt became unbuckled. “Watch your fucking language when you speak to your mother!” he smacked Gabe on the side of his head.

“Derek please…”

“No! I’m sick of this kid!” he shouted, moving his body so he could put his face in Gabe’s. “You shouldn’t let him speak to you that way,” he added, sitting back to normal and looking back at my mom. He reached inside his coat pocket to get out his pills and flask. The prescriptions rattled as he dished out three pills. Beside me, Gabe kept punching into his other fist, making unnecessary noise with his breathing, as if it somehow proved he was a badass.

Mom made a little sniff. “Gabe, if you don’t have a shirt in your carry on, get in your luggage and add it immediately.”

Gabe exited the van, swearing incessantly as he opened the back where all the suitcases were stored.

Felix tapped on my shoulder, mouthing a WHAT-THE-FUCK? I shrugged my shoulders, slightly annoyed that everyday my brother seemed to get gayer and gayer. Of course Samson the Mute just continued nodding his head to the music as if nothing had happened.

When GabeRoid returned, he just said, “s’all gravy” and everyone pretended as if nothing had happened. Which is pretty typical. My family has this habit of blowing things ridiculously out of proportion and then, when all the chaos and profanity is done with, we continue on, happier than ever.

When we arrived to the airport, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was really happening. We were all finally going to The Netherlands to see our ancestral roots. The only person who didn’t move or die was my great-uncle, who’d been begging my father for years to come visit. Ever since I was a little girl I had wanted to go. Europe was this glamorous destination that had this ridiculous fairytale spirit in my memory. As a child, my grandmother used to tell me these fabulous stories of Holland, where good always conquered evil. Of course, I’m not delusional. I know she made them all up. But still. I’m sentimental.

The trip was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time. We all were in our own ways. My mother in her infinite goodness wanted us to connect with my father’s family, Samson was a fan of the underground euro music scene, Felix was all in a tizzy over their gay friendly attitude, and Gabe… well he was just excited about the legal weed. The only person who wasn’t excited was my dad. For years we heard excuses—the euro, the Netherlands weren’t even that great, too many commies, Gabe would never return, and my personal favorite, “my family never loved me that much anyway.” Pathetic. But Mama Jansen stood her ground. All that was left of my father’s nice side of the family was in the Dutch countryside, and it was time to go.

“I’ve gotta piss, you talk to those people,” my dad waved off, marching towards the men’s bathroom.

“Come on kids,” my mom said, urging us to scrunch closer in the line. She took a quick glance around, with this odd paranoid look on her face. “I’m so worried about your father,” she admitted.

“Ah no worries ma, we’ll roll out fine… Pops sucha fat ass it won’t even hit his system,” Gabe rolled his eyes. I have no idea why, but ever since he discovered Tupac he’s been convinced that he was black. Come to think of it, he thinks he’s a lot of things. Jamaican. Mexican. Anything BUT white. We quit taking road trips years ago because every time we got in the car he started playing Bob Marley and then there was also that whole we-need-to-get-dad- drunk-so-he-can-drive-over-a-bridge thing… but oh god… the way he sang-a- long was just unbearable. To this day I can’t listen to Jah Live without cringing.

“I don’t know why you let him take his flask, people DIE,” Felix told my mom as if he were lecturing her.

“But… It’s like Gabe said, he’s so fat, and your father, oh your father drinks so much anyways… It’ll be fine. It will be fine.” I watched her, looking at her like she was some sort of weird science experiment. Her eyes wild, she continued talking to herself, saying over and over that things would be fine. My whole life my mother had always been this figure of poise and tranquility. She handled everything in such a cool handed manner. Nothing fazed her. Gabe got kicked out of football for doing steroids? Send him to military school. I am telling you, she was like a super mom robot. Eventually she broke out of her little trance to talk to the ticket and baggage lady.

When it was time to go through the security conveyor belt thing, my dad had returned from his long trip to the bathroom. He was loopy and hugging us all. “I love you all so muh… Dyoo know that?” he told us, once he put his leather messenger bag on the thingy.

“Derek,” my mom whispered, “PLEASE try to act normal.”

“Do you have any sharp objects? Firearms? Any medications?” the security officer droned, looking bored out of his mind.

“Yes… my husband has a fear of heights… his doctor prescribed him medication. Here’s the doctor’s note,” my mom calmly told the officer, handing it over.

He barely looked at it. “Alright. Move along.”

We passed through, and as soon as we were at our designated gate we all sat down, as close to it as possible. My mom turned to my father and said, “The worst part is over baby. As soon as we get on the plane, you just sleep. Just like Doctor Gruel said.”

Puzzled, I looked at my father, his eyes already drooping. Slobber collecting on his chin. “Lil… I’m jus gun close m’eyes k? Jusa secon,” he slurred, his head dropping on her shoulder.

Gabe was laughing. Samson, still with headphones, moved away from us. Felix tugged my sleeve. “This is crazy.”

“I know…” I said, looking at my dad like he was a pathetic animal ready to be put out of its misery.

“Gabe quit laughing,” my mother said in her calm voice, “I need you and Samson to… Samson? Get over here!” She waved her hand at him. He looked at her annoyed for a second, then begrudgingly walked over. “Take the headphones off… off, I said,” he obeyed. My mother reached in her purse to retrieve a Kleenex, she started wiping the drool off my dad’s face. “I’m going to need you two to help your father to his seat…”

“No fucking way,” Samson said in his low monotone voice, shaking his head.

“Well I can’t!” Felix cried, “And like hell Ana can… no offense sweetie, it’s just lately you’ve gotten on the heavy side…”

My jaw dropped. “You bitch!” I shoved him. The airport employee glanced over at us suspiciously, so I decided to keep the violence to a minimum.

“It’s okay. Christmas happens!” Felix said, trying to laugh it off.

Gabe burst out laughing and then slapped hands with Felix, who was utterly confused by how the whole slapping hands thing works. Samson just slumped down into the seat next to my mother.

“I hate you both,” I growled.

“Focus children!” Our attention returned to dad. “Felix and Ana aren’t as strong, so you two will have to help dad along… It should be one of those big planes… It will all be fine, once we lift off it will ALL be fine.”

“K,” Gabe said, snapping his fingers incessantly. Samson just made a loud Uggh noise.

“You are SO stupid,” I commented, annoyed as hell with him.

“Quit playa hatin’!”

“You ARE kinda ridiculous,” Felix laughed, looking at his nails. “Look, even Sam agrees!” He giggled, pointing over to Samson, who was making the classic sorry-bro face at Gabe. The kicker was that dad was half awake the entire time and trying to laugh, but spit kept getting all over his face and on my mom. Gabe scoffed and walked over to the huge window.

They had already started boarding throughout our little conversation. My mom had told us to go last so dad couldn’t fall on people.

Which, of course, happened.

As instructed, my brothers walked on opposite sides of my dad, their arms permanently attached to his. It seemed to go pretty well at first. I pretended like I was combing his hair with my fingers from behind him, when I was really just using them to hold his head up. “Baaahh!!” he roared, once we reached the plane’s final entrance. The flight attendant that was there to greet us looked frightened and confused all at once. My mom just laughed it off, saying something about him being able to watch the game on TiVo.

As we walked onto the plane, our strategy went out the window. Dad was too fat. There was no way we could help him down the aisle. I watched in horror as he tripped (on nothing) and fell over, on top of a first class passenger.

“What the fuck?!” He shouted at my dad.

“Soooo sorry,” He laughed, stumbling and fumbling around to get up. And then I saw it. His satchel had become open somehow in the fall. It felt like I was in some B movie, when the main character goes noooooo and everything becomes slow motion as they try to stop some world ending disaster. Except in this case, it was a small Svedka bottle, and I was too late to stop it.

A loud and crisp ‘pah’ noise sounded as the bottle hit the same passenger on the head. Luckily it didn’t break. I couldn’t move. My mother pushed me aside and whisked up the bottle, apologizing quickly, and then proceeded to push my father along the aisle.

My dad used skymiles, so we were all separated. Disaster. Luckily my mother managed to convince someone to switch seats, I’m sure it didn’t take much explanation with his idiotic face.

It’s done, I told myself, sitting down in my seat and decidedly forgetting about my family. My thoughts drifted towards happier things. European architecture. Modern technology. Bikes. Wooden shoes. Cows. Haute Couture. Beautiful men I’d pine over. Beautiful women I’d be jealous of. An old man who would become the grandfather I never had.

“What’s taking so long?” the woman complained next to me. A flight attendant walked past us.

I shrugged, “They’re just making sure the plane’s in order I guess.” From the corner of my eye, I saw Samson a few rows ahead of me on the other aisle. His gaze was one of terror, fixated towards the back of the plane. I closed my eyes, silently praying ‘please make this plane go please make this plane go’, but there was only so long I could concentrate on Jesus time. My eyes opened and I saw that another flight attendant walked past me. I didn’t want to look. All I could do was look at Samson. Slowly I stood up; only brave enough to find my other brothers. Gabe was chatting away with some sexy yet nasty looking girl. When I found Felix, his face said it all.

F-U-C-K.

I have no idea why, but I was so nervous I felt as if I was about to pee my pants. It was like that one time in 4th grade when I’d been selected to sing in front of the whole school, the infamous pants wetting moment that my peers (or my brothers for that matter) would never let me forget. Anyways, it came back. Only this time I was sixteen and pissing my pants was an invitation to suicide and just fucking ridiculous.

Quickly I undid my seatbelt, my cheeks burning red as I did the pee pee walk. My lips trembled, embarrassed that I had to cross my legs and hop to the bathroom. Luckily I was too self-involved to notice the people I had to pass along the way. There were flight attendants blocking the restroom on my aisle. I glanced over at the other side of the plane. There was no way I could make it. It was like a freaking dam was about to break loose down there and any detours would sure as hell make that shit pour. “P-pp-lease let me through,” I begged grabbing my crotch with one hand (yes I was that desperate) and tapping the flight attendant’s back.

She turned to look at me and said with annoyance, “Please return to your seat and buckle your seatbelt.”

“Nooo. Ahhh, I REAAALLY need to use your bathroom!! It’s an emergency!” I raised my voice, placing both hands on my crotch and crossing my legs even tighter.

“Ana?” I heard my mom’s voice.

Immediately I pushed/hopped past the attendant. I found my mother on her knees, crying softly while dabbing my father with a cocktail napkin. His eyes were rolling back, he was moaning, and basically he looked like an obese baby about to die. One employee was flashing a light in his eyes, shaking her head and saying that there was nothing they could do, that it would be illegal for them to allow him on the flight. The other was on the phone, glancing nervously over at my dad. Then she looked at me. Her eyes trailed from my face down to my body, her gaze turning to disgust. I frowned and looked down. Boom. No wonder I had felt like I didn’t need to pee anymore.

My mom put her head in her hands. Her head bounced up. “You should have listened to her! She has a problem when she gets nervous!” She was standing up now and I’d never seen her so pissed off in my life. They told her to calm down. [Side note: Why do they tell angry irrational people to calm down? It just provokes!] “Don’t tell me to calm down! He has a doctor’s note! And now my daughter has peed all over the damn airplane floor because you people DON’T LISTEN!”

Gabe and Felix appeared. “Oh SHIT!” Gabe laughed, pointing at me.

“Oh… shit,” Felix gasped, looking at my dad.

“Ma’m we need you and your family to get off the plane immediately. I’ve talked to my superior and I’m sorry, there is just no way we can keep you on this flight…”

“Come along children,” my mom barked, regaining her composure. Until she looked at my dad. “DEREK! Get up! You win! We aren’t going!”

“Mom I don’t think he’s—” Gabe began.
“You two help him up,” she commanded, “Ana, you too.”

When we exited the plane, we saw that Samson was already standing and waiting, headphones included. The pilot helped my father into a wheelchair, wished us luck and then shut the plane door.

Walking through the airport was perhaps even more humiliating than peeing my pants. Somehow I had been given the position of wheeling around my father, so I had to deal with my half-conscious dad and his constant drooling. The good thing was that I had a backpack to cover my back, and a huge fat ass of a father in the front.

People gave us sympathetic looks.

Occasionally my mother would stop her speedy stride, only to berate and yell at my father. “Derek, you’ve ruined EVERYTHING!”… “You selfish, selfish, bastard!”…“Why are you doing this to me?!” All in this whiny pissed off tone that made me sad and want to laugh all at the same time.

Eventually we stopped to take a break. Drunk and sedated people are heavy. My mother bought us all burgers, and for my dad, a 44 oz cup of water. No one sat next to me. We ate in silence, all of us too angry and in our own thoughts to put the energy into forming vocalized sentences.

My dad was barely there, but he managed to say, “Sorrry, I jus couldn.” Mom rolled her eyes and told him to just shut up and drink his water. But he couldn’t even do that.

An airport cafeteria worker was watching us as he picked up other people’s garbage. He walked over, grabbed the straw next to the cup and stuck it in. “You folks hang in there,” he told us, holding up the cup and placing the straw in my dad’s mouth. “Don’t lose hope. It just takes a little patience.” After saying this to us, he put the cup down, pulled out a clean rag to wipe off some saliva, and gave my dad a little pat on the back before walking off.

We all sat in silence for a few minutes, only to break it with laughter. Even my mom, as pissed off as she was, couldn’t stop laughing. “He thought— o oh my God!!” she said in between hysterical laughs.

“The retard and piss pants!!!” Gabe shrieked, raising his hands up like he was at church or something.

I frowned, but I couldn’t help laughing either.

“God you all are so humiliating to be around,” Samson sighed then chuckled, putting the hood of his hoodie over his head.

“Dad, haahha fuckin sneakin in those vodka bottles… GANGSTA!” Gabe laughed so hard it looked like he was about to cry, stomping his feet while he sat.

“Oh I KNOW… We are SUCH a fucked up family,” Felix stated matter of factly.

My mother reached into my dad’s satchel, retrieving the Svedka and twisting the top off. We all watched in confusion as she pulled off the lids to our cokes, proceeding to top them off with alcohol. “It’s tradition,” she smiled, lifting her cup for a toast.