Holiday 2014 — THE POTOMAC

Nipple Knows Best

  Jennifer Juneau

               When Mark Nipple woke in his bed one Sunday morning he found himself transformed into a gigantic insect. No, wait, that's wrong. Mark Nipple stood outside in his backyard on a Sunday afternoon transformed into a gigantic insect. It was the first BBQ of the season and his wife Anita wanted to host a summer themed costume party for their neighbors. Therefore, the yard was littered with life-size flowers and life-size exotic vacations ambling about.
               Nipple stood at the grill attempting to flip burgers while nursing a Dos Equis.
               "Good God," Anita said, flopping over in green flippers worn to resemble petals, "how are you going to flip burgers with those shellfish claws?" She wore a spiky pink wig and Nipple guessed she was dressed up as a tulip but he'd better not question that for fear he'd a.) Be seen as the idiot he is or b.) Become the butt of Anita's jokes in front of their guests the entire day. He put on oven mitts and held his hands up. A spatula between them did the trick.
               "Do insects even have claws?" his son Aubrey said, moseying over dressed as a band member, which he was.
               "No, of course not," his mother mocked. "Where is your band setting up?"
               Maybe I should have dressed like a schmuck, Nipple thought to himself. But he knew best. Houseflies have claws. His inspiration for the costume came from The Fly which aired the other night on the Syfy channel. But Anita had a point, his claws looked more like lobster claws and if you didn't catch The Fly the other night, well.
               "We're performing in the garage," Aubrey said and shrugged.
Anita sighed. "Oh, Aubrey, really? Inside?" She looked up at the overcast sky. "But it's such a beautiful day."
               Nipple was assaulted by a neighbor who snuck up from behind in the form of a pineapple palm tree. Nipple high-fived him with his mitt.
               "Where's Sam?" the palm asked, too enthusiastically, regarding Nipple's daughter Samantha. Friends joked behind Nipple's back that she escaped from the Nipple household in Pittsburgh, as if it were run by fascists, or morons, for college in sunny California. The subject of Samantha was a sore spot for Nipple. She hardly kept in touch. He suspected she didn't like him much. She had flown in for a short break to catch up with old friends. Nipple hadn't seen her since he picked her up from the airport.
               "Sammy had other plans," he said, turning a burger.
               "Life's a bitch," the palm tree said. "Later Nip." He smacked Nipple on the back and headed for the cooler. The burger slipped from Nipple's grasp and fell through the grid. The screech of an electric guitar screamed through an amp. He took a sip of beer through a straw.
               Nipple removed his oven mitt and with his claw latched onto the fallen burger and brought it back to the surface. "Who's ready for a burger?" he yelled. "I've got one al dente," he joked. Nobody laughed. They were too hungry. No wonder people thought he was such a jerk.
It was difficult to be fastidious with claws. Nipple grew tired of being a sucker and suddenly it was Anita's fault. A dark cloud hovered in the distance. Nipple prayed it would make its way to the BBQ and explode over the day like a gray water balloon that had been punctured. Then again, Anita would make him flip burgers in the rain.
               "Testing one-two-three, testing one-two-three," rang out of a microphone then Aubrey's band broke into a rendition of The Police song Message in a Bottle. The band didn't sound half bad. They sounded completely bad. This coming from a man who established his own bad band back in his day. Flowers and exotic vacations huddled in front of the open garage door clutching bottles of beer. The rain cloud inched toward the Nipple residence at a snail's pace. Nipple was desperate for a storm now. Even if it meant getting his mitts wet.
                A year has passed since I wrote my note… came banging out of tune from the lead singer's mouth.
               A tap on the shoulder brought Nipple hope. He was hankering for conversation. Or maybe to complain about costume parties. A straw hut stood with an unopened beer.
               "Hey Nipple, could you lend me a hand?"
               Nipple removed a mitt and his claw transformed into a bottle cap opener. At least he was good for something. The hut took a sip through a door of a mouth and headed toward the garage. The hut's roof turned around, held up the bottle and said, "Thanks a lot."
               Anita came over. "Isn't Aubrey's band amazing!" she said, totally cocked. 'Amazing' was her favorite word lately. "Come support him," she said, taking Nipple by his hairy fly arm. He wore a black ski mask over his head and two ping pong balls were pasted where his eyebrows were to mimic bug eyes.
               "In a minute." Nipple was adamant about getting the burgers perfect, not because he wanted his friends to enjoy them, he did, but he'd rather prove that he could grill good burgers dressed as a gigantic fly. "The burgers are almost ready."
               "It'll just take a second. Let Aubrey see that you are interested."
               Sending out an SOS. Sending out an SOS. Sending out an SOS. Sending out an SOS…
               Sandwiched between a marigold and a cruise ship Nipple hung loose and started to actually enjoy himself. He bobbed his head to the beat and tapped his foot. Then the marigold leaned into him and said, "Nipple is a drip, don't you think? I came here today because I didn't feel like cooking and my husband wanted free beer."
               The smell of burnt meat came from the direction of the grill. Smoke billowed over and filled everyone's nostrils. The guests swung their heads toward their sullied lunch. The smoke moved in sync with the approaching rain cloud. The cloud glided faster and faster, until it stopped right above Nipple, marking the spot.
               "Where's Nipple?" somebody said.
               He raised his arms above his head and braced himself for the inevitable downpour.

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