The Legend of Aunt Annie
Every family has one—she’s above the daily fray.
She’s excessive in her grooming—perfect in every way.
Her complexion is unblemished. She is seamless, smooth and pale.
She dare not lift a finger, lest she break a fingernail.
But her understated elegance had galvanized our wishes
that for one time in our lives, we’d see her do the dishes—
put on a kitchen apron over her silken ruffles
and rid sticky hors d’ oeuvre plates of anchovy paste and truffles.
It was our New Year’s resolution to see sweat upon her brow,
so at our family gathering, we made it our vow
to extract some elbow grease from languid Auntie Annie
by urging her to heft herself up off her dainty fanny
to assist us in the cleaning up, for though we all just loved her,
we would not be satisfied until we’d rubber gloved her!
Before the clock struck midnight on this New Year’s Eve,
we’d create a family legend no one absent would believe.
We’d get her drunk on cordial and execute our plot.
We installed her on the sofa and brought her her first shot.
Then we began our web of lies as we spun out the story
of a family legend as old as it was gory
of a New Year’s curse found on parchment cracked and old
stuck in the family Bible, caked with a crust of mold.
It told of an ancient act too lurid to retell—
so vile its perpetrator was consigned to Hell
and forever afterwards, this family had been cursed.
(By what I just had to ad lib, for we had not rehearsed
the details of the story, so off-the-cuff I said
that gone unatoned by midnight, one of us would be dead.)
The family roiled and tutted and feigned a great duress.
Meanwhile, dear Aunt Annie smoothed the wrinkles from her dress
and held her small glass out for another wee small taste,
lest the remaining cordial should simply go to waste.
The rest of us continued with our impromptu telling
of the misdeed and the cursing and the dying and the Helling.
“If every one of us does not atone by midnight,” I then said,
“by the final toll of midnight, our eldest will be dead!!!
Someone jabbed Aunt Annie with an elbow to point out
that she, indeed, was eldest, without a single doubt.
“Quick, Auntie, to the kitchen. You must wash your hands of blame!”
shouted all of us, complicit in this New Year’s game.
“And while you are at it, perhaps you could wash some dishes,”
said the youngest one of us, expressing all our wishes.
Whereupon our auntie heaved herself up to her feet,
strolled into the kitchen, and without missing a beat,
put her plate under the faucet, swabbed it with a sponge,
and the oil of fish and mushroom managed to expunge.
Then she dried her hands and turned around, the best to face us all.
drew her lips into a line, her fists into a ball,
and told us that for years now she’d been longing for just this—
to wash her hands of all of us, and with a final hiss,
she turned upon her heel and marched out of the front door
got in her car and drove away–straight into family lore!
We don’t know what became of her but ever since that night
whenever, at clan gatherings, the kids begin to fight
about who should do the dishes, you can bet someone will tell
the story of how Annie escaped the jaws of Hell
by taking her turn at dishes, and it’s true that not a kid
believes the story any more than our Aunt Annie did!