A short story written by Siobahn Harris 7/4/2017
The sun washed over the large grassy backyard as smoke billowed out of the round grill on the patio. Pat’s eyes glanced from the old tree with the broken rope swing to the kiddy pool with faded fish on the side. The large yellow house behind him was decorated in streamers and banners.
“Sure smells good, Pat!” Gesturing towards the grill, a short man with a shaved head walked onto the back patio.
“Curtis! You made it! Happy 4th,” Pat jumped out of his plastic lawn chair, its legs bowed under his weight. His jeans were covered in old stains and holes, but his American Flag tank top was almost new, showing off his muscular arms but strategically hiding his bulging tummy beneath red and white stripes.
Curtis flashed a smile and leaned in for a one arm hug. Handing a large glass bowl to Pat, “Happy 4th of July! Sarah made some potato salad for the party.”
Pat sat the bowl next to the grill, “Thanks for that. All I’ve got is meat, so I’m hoping everyone brings something.”
“Mia didn’t force you to buy vegetables this year?” Curtis said with a chuckle.
Opening the grill and pushing the sausages around, Pat said, “N-no.. She um… No, not this year.”
Curtis rubbed the back of his neck and looks softly at Pat. “Look, man. Sarah and I heard that huge fight you guys had a few days ago. Everything okay?”
“You guys heard that?”
“I think the whole neighborhood heard it. I didn’t see her when I came in, she at the store?”
Putting down the tongs, Pat walked over to a cooler near the lawn chairs and grabbed two beers and flopped down into a chair. “No Curt, she… she left me. Well, she went to her mom’s.”
“Damn. I’m sorry to hear that. She take the kids?” Curtis sauntered over to the lawn chairs and slowly sat down.
“No. She was rambling on about needing her independence or something. I don’t know. I thought she would take the kids, considering how much she says I’m a shit dad.”
“You know that’s not true. She’s just mad. Who knows, maybe she’ll show up for the party. The fight was days ago, so maybe she’s cooled off by now.” Curtis shrugged as he plopped a hand down on Pat’s shoulder.
Pat stood up and muttered, “Oh I doubt that very much,” picking up the tongs he said, “Look, let’s just talk about something else, okay?”
“You got it.” Pointing to the grill with his beer bottle. “Let’s talk about how awesome those sausages smell!”
Pat let out a snigger. “Yeah? I’m actually proud of them this year.”
“Where’d you get ‘em?”
“Believe it or not, I made them myself!”
Curtis’s eyebrows jumped and his eyes locked onto Pat, “…Really?”
Poking Curtis in the chest with the tongs, “Yeah! You think I can’t make sausages?”
“I’m sure you can but these…you know… actually smell… good.”
Both men let out a laugh as four children ran into the yard and jumped into the kiddy pool. A woman with dark curly hair and a long flowing red dress came out and stood next to Curtis.
“Hey Pat, Happy 4th. I hope you don’t mind that we brought Tyler.”
Pat waved his hand as if he was swatting an invisible fly. “Not a chance. The kids and I are always happy to see him.”
Sarah ran her hand up and down Curtis’s back, “Great, so what are we talking about? Wait, where’s Mia?”
Curtis cut his eyes at Sarah, “Look, she’s not here right now, but we were talking about how Pat said he made these sausages himself. I’m finding that hard to believe.”
“Did you really, Pat? They smell great. What’s in them?”
Pat opens the grill and starts playing with the sausages, “It’s pork. They have been marinating for two days. I had to look up online to figure out what seasonings to put in them but thank God for YouTube, right?”
Curtis let out a laugh, “That’s what she did for the potato salad!”
Sarah’s face turned red as she popped Curtis on the back, “Hey!”
“It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone else.” Pat pretended to zip his mouth.
As the evening carried on, more neighbors began to fill the house. Pat giggled as he watched the children dance. Pat stood on a chair and looked down at the sea of red, white, and blue themed clothes throughout his home.
With his hands raised over his head he said, “Excuse me, everyone! Hi! I want to thank you all for coming to my annual 4th of July party. It wouldn’t be much of a party without all of you. And because you all were kind enough to bring sides and drinks, it’s become a real party! The sun has officially gone down, which means it’s about that time! If you make your way into the back yard, we can light this neighborhood up!”
The crowd let out a cheer before slowly heading towards the sliding glass doors that led to the back yard. The front door opened and a woman in an American flag dress with a salt and peppered pony tail walked in.
A child in orange swim trunks ran over to her and threw his arms around her waist, “Grandma!”
The woman rubbed his back and said, “Hey sweetheart, where’s your brothers?”
The boy looked up at her without letting go, “They went outside, we’re about to shoot off fireworks!”
“Oh? Well, you don’t want to miss that, go on!” The woman nudged the boy towards the crowd of people. Her eyes began scanning the faces until she focused in on Curtis. “Hey! Curtis!”
Curtis stopped and turned. He flashed a large tipsy smile when he noticed the woman who called him, “Oliva! Hey! Did you bring Mia?”
A confused look washed over Oliva’s face, “Mia? No, she should be here. Why would I bring her?”
“Pat said that she was staying with you. They got in a big fight and she needed freedom from him and the kids or something.”
“What? No, she wouldn’t leave the kids if there was a fight. Curtis, I haven’t heard from Mia in days. I thought I could talk to her here. She isn’t here?”
Curtis placed his hands onto Oliva’s shoulders, his beer breath wafting towards her, “Don’t worry. Let me go talk to Pat and see what’s going on. Just wait here, I’ll be right back.” Curtis started pushing his way through the people. Once outside he could see Pat standing near the back fence surrounded by children.
Waving his hand over his head, he shouted, “Pat! Hey! Pat!”
Pat walked over towards him, “Hey Curt, could you do me a favor? I forgot to grab the sparklers from the garage for the kids.”
Curtis bobbed his head, “Hey, Oli- Sparklers? Yeah, I’ll grab those. Where in the garage?”
“There is a large rubber bin next to my work bench. You’ll see my meat grinder on the bench and the bin to the right of that will have the sparklers and decorations and crap. Got it?”
Walking away with his head still facing Pat, he slurred, “yeah yeah yeah. I need to ask you something when I get back, though.”
“Sure thing, man.” Pat turned back to the kids who were now chanting “sparklers.”
Opening the door to the garage was like going into another world. It was silent compared to the events outside and an odd stale smell filled the area. Curtis flipped the lights on and his eyes immediately clicked onto the meat grinder Pat talked about. He whispered, “You bastard, you really did make them yourself.” He stumbled over to the meat grinder and began playing with the crank, “This is an old thing.”
His eyes started looking around the area until he spotted two large bins under the work bench. “Shit. Did he said right or left? Um… Let’s go with left.” Curtis dragged the large heavy bin out from under the bench. He jumped at the sound of the fireworks popping outside. His hand grabbed a corner of the bin and he began opening it. The bin released a foul smell that Curtis had never smelled before. He quickly stepped back from the bin and held his shirt over his face, “What the hell? Maybe there is some water damage or something.” He began opening the lid again as the garage door opened behind him. Glancing back, he saw Pat walking in he finished opening the lid and noticed that Pat’s face went white.
His eyes still locked on Pat, he gestured down to the now open bin, “Hey man, I think your decorations have some water damage or mold or something, they stink! Look…” He turned and pointed into the bin and his mouth dropped open. Curtis’s eyes darted around the inside of the bin that was filled with blood, skin, bones, and hair. He then noticed a hand, still wearing a large diamond ring. Shaking he looked back at Pat.
Pat slammed the door behind him as he took a step forward, “I said, the bin on the right.”
Curtis scuffled back, “What the fuck man?!”
“Oh, is it a problem now, Curt?! It wasn’t a problem earlier!” Pat walked over and put the lid back on the bin.
Curtis quickly tucked away from Pat. “W-what are you talking about?”
Pat sat down on the bin. “Don’t act like you don’t know. ‘They smell so good!’ And apparently they tasted pretty good too because everyone just ate it up.”
Curtis began vomiting on the floor.
Pat rubbed the bin underneath him, “She wanted her independence. Well, Happy 4th of July, baby.”