While skimming through AD 22/23 a few days ago, I came across the story “Custody” by Mary-Lou Brokett Devine. Part of why I enjoyed reading the story is because it reminded me of my own family, although my family was never a collector of pets.
Like the narrator’s ex-husband Drift, an uncle of mine had an affinity for calling people shithead. I remember he would call me and my older sister this when we were kids, in what I assume was an attempt to assert and maintain dominance. I think part of his fault was not only in his aggression, but his hubris in that aggression. Maybe he was too demanding at the wrong time.
That’s what happened to Drift too, not the aggression, but the demanding. My uncle’s and Drift’s motivations were obviously different, but their dysfunctions are comparable. While Drift ends up leaving his wife (don’t worry, this isn’t actually a spoiler), my uncle was put in jail for threatening a cop.
I know it sounds bleak, but there may just be a silver lining. I won’t talk about what happens to Drift (that would be a spoiler) but I think my uncle has found some sort of peace. Perhaps his and Drift’s shift in perspective from their own “life choices” might help them in some way, but I find that speculating about a fictional character’s life after the story has ended is an enterprise as iffy as trying to predict whether a “bad news” relative will ever really change.
And really, the most I’m hoping for when my uncle gets out of jail is that he will stop calling me shithead.
Stay cool, pal.
—autumn, Editorial Asst.—