Restart Story

[[Written for the Choosatron|http://choosatron.com/stories-to-play/]]
You close your eyes and lean your head against the valley between the door and window. The rumbling of the road lulls you to sleep. .oO You're sailing in a sky ship with a fleet of elephants barreling toward you through the clouds, trunk flaring, the noise becoming deafening! Oo.\n[[Tie their trunks into a knot.|2A]]\n[[Scold them for their noise.|2B]]\n
The day you've dreaded has finally come. The rumbling of the car on the road does little to comfort you as your fiance slowly navigates you through the brown, desolate fields of Iowa to have Thanksgiving with her family whom you are terrified of meeting for the first time. The monotony is starting to get to you.\n[[Take a nap.|1A]]\n[[Talk to your fiance.|1B]]\n
You ask your fiance more questions about her family. She smiles, "You shouldn't be nervous, they'll love you." You wish you felt as confident as her. "Can't think of much else...my mother is allergic to rhubarb and my brother has a tattoo you definitely should NOT bring up." she adds. You smirk, "Did he get it drunk with his buddies?" "Something like that.", she places her hand on your leg, the touch comforting. "Try and relax, it's just a couple more hours."\n[[Turn on some music.|2C]]\n[[Take a nap afterall.|1A]]\n
The twangy, yet charming sound of the banjo seeps through the old car speakers. You both tap your hands to the rhythm on the doors to the car and enjoy the remainder of the drive to Des Moines.\n[[3A]]
There's a bit of talk about local elections, a family of very organized raccoons causing a ruckus, and then a story about a how big box stores are running out the "Mom & Pop"s in Des Moines. After one is mentioned your fiance gets a stricken look, "That's my parents store, why haven't they told me?"\n[[Comfort her.|4C]]\n[[Explain that it's for the best.|4D]]\n
He looks confused, "Why?" You try to explain that it just isn't your thing, but he's obviously bored so you concede, "Maybe later." He leads you inside and wanders off to get himself a beer. Moments later your fiance enter with the bags and excitedly gives her brother a hug. The brother picks her up for a moment the drops, "He made you carry everything huh?" She wears a wry look, "Be nice." Her parents enter and hug their daughter. Her mom turns to you, "We're so glad to finally get to meet you!"\n[[Speak from your heart.|6A]]\n[[Present them with your strawberry rhubarb pie.|6B]]\n
Finally, you pull up a driveway to a modest house and the cars stops. "We're here!" your fiance chirps happily.\n[["Do you want to grab our things?"|4A]]\n[["Or run up ahead and let them know?"|4B]]\n
He raises a brow, "That's funny, I meant because she's such a light packer. Why don't I grab 'her' bag for you." He takes it and walks toward the house. You follow him inside where your fiance and her parents are already hugging. "Hey sis, he tried to convince me 'this' was your bag." She looks to you, "Oh really hunny, don't put your packing insecurities on me." Everyone gives a good chuckle as you wish for invisibility. Her mother speaks up, "Oh hush all of you. We're so glad to finally meet you."\n[[Speak from your heart.|6A]]\n[[Present them with your surprise pie.|6B]]\n
He gives you a slap on the back and leads you in. It's a nice, but simple home; full of knick-knacks, and eerie religious icons including an unsettling picture of a grinning Jesus with a fishing pole. Suddenly a cold beer is thrust into your hand and you're able to break free of Jesus' gaze. Your fiance enters with the bags and excitedly gives her brother a hug. Her parents enter and hug their daughter. Her mom turns to you, hugs and says softly, "We're so glad you're here with us."\n[[Speak from your heart.|6C]]\n[[Present them with your strawberry rhubarb pie.|6B]]\n[[Ask to use the restroom.|6D]]\n
He smiles, "I know. She's a pretty light packer. You'll be fine. It's nice to finally meet you." He shakes your hand and walks up to the house with you. Inside your fiance and parents are hugging. "Hey, look what I found?" Her parents beam and rush over, the mother hugging immediately and father giving a firm hangshake. "We're so glad you're here with us." she says in a soft voice.\n[[Speak from your heart.|6C]]\n[[Present them with your strawberry rhubarb pie.|6B]]\n[[Ask to use the restroom.|6D]]\n
You slip outside and light a cigarette. You haven't actually smoked in a while, but figured they might come in handy with the stress of all this. You are startled by the voice of the father, who evidently took ninja stealth classes. "How are ya doin'? A little nervous? Why don't you let me have one of those..." You offer, relieved, and light him up. "Look. My daughter has never been so happy as the last couple years with you. That's enough for me, ok?" You smile and nod as he puts his hand on your shoulder. "Keep the smoking between us." he smirks. You head in as dinner is getting set, and have a lovely day with your family-to-be.
You sit in the other room and have a nice conversation about a sailing trip you took early in the summer, but are cut short when you hear your fiance screaming and run into the room, "Mom's having a reaction, she can't breath! Dad, get the epipen quick!" He jumps up like a shot, and in no time he punctures her thigh, epinephrine seeping into her veins and easing the swelling in her throat. Your fiance pulls you aside, "Why didn't you TELL me you were bringing that pie? Rhubarb could kill her you know." Sheepishly you reply, "It was a surprise pie...I'm sorry." She sighs, "No I'm sorry. It's not your fault. Let's have a nice dinner, and you just promise not to try and kill my mom again." You hug and go enjoy an awkward dinner.
You follow the ladies into the kitchen. They move around the kitchen, almost like a dance, preparing as they talk about their lives recently. You start feeling out of place as whenever you try to help it appears you are in fact Doing-It-Wrong. "I might just have a quick taste of this pie you brought!" She does, and quickly after complains of trouble breathing. You fiance looks to you, "What kind of pie is that?" Suddenly a sinking feeling, "Strawberry rhubarb..." "Rhubarb?!". She is out of the room like a shot. You help her mother sit and comfort her until moments later the father enters, epipen in hand, and sticks her in the thigh. Soon after she is feeling find again, "Glad we caught that so quickly!" Dinner is fine after, though you can't help feeling guilty the rest of the day.
You follow the ladies into the kitchen. They move around the kitchen, almost like a dance, preparing as they talk about their lives recently. You start feeling out of place not knowing how to help.\n[[Offer to set the table.|8E]]\n[[Sneak a taste of the gravy.|8F]]\n
You join the guys in the other room with a beer in hand. The three of you cheers to family and what is sure to be an amazing feast. You observe the father and son, wondering what it will be like to be family to them, who they are. Your fiance has told you about the "Mom & Pop" store they own, though her brother is more of a mystery. You did notice part of a tattoo on his lower back when he sat.\n[[Ask about his tattoo.|8A]]\n[[Ask about their store.|8C]]\n[[Ask about your fiance growing up.|8D]]\n
You sit in the other room with the guys and smile, unsure what to talk about. When the brother sits, you noticed part of a tattoo on his lower back, but can't quite make it out. You observe the father and son, wondering what it will be like to be family to them, who they are. Why is it so hard to think of something to ask?\n[[Ask about his tattoo.|8A]]\n[[Ask about your fiance growing up.|8B]]\n
The father's eyes dim a bit. "Yes, just fine. We're doing fine. Thank you for asking." You nod, and the brother pipes in, "It's still a good shop you know. It just...maybe needs to update a bit, to keep up with the times." The father gives his son a look. After a minute or two of uncomfortable silence dinner is called and you all sit down to eat. Once the food starts the mood lifts and you all have a lovely dinner together.
The father pauses for a moment, but lets out a sigh. "Well, to be perfectly honest it isn't. The big box stores are taking all the customers and we are running out of money." You listen to him talk about the store for a little while, the brother filling in with his own thoughts as well. Having worked in finance for a while you get a number of ideas that could really help them save money on their loans that seem to make him more hopeful. The brother has great ideas for updating the shop, and with your help is able to come up with a plan that will keep it from losing it's history and charm in the process. The discussion flows into the meal, and by the end of the feast everyone is full, and hopeful about turning things around. As you and your fiance leave, the father gives you a final handshake, eyes a little watery than normal. "Thank you son."
Thanksgiving of Despair
.oO Using the knot tying skills you learned as a sailor you quickly quiet the armada of pachyderms. Your ship sails serenly off into the clouds. Oo. The dream fades away and you remember where you are.\n[[3A]]
.oO Your scolding is unheard through the noise and the armada of pachyderms tear your ship apart, then turn on you! The pain is excrutiating... Oo. You awake with a scream, startling your fiance and swerving off the road into a ditch. You're both ok, but the car won't start. It takes hours to finally get towed into a nearby town, and will take at least a day to repair. Thanksgiving will be missed this year. Neither of you speak much in the crummy motel that night.
You fiddle with the radio dial, trying to find a signal in this wasteland. All you can find is a bluegrass station and talk radio.\n[[I do love me some banjo.|3B]]\n[[I'd rather catch up on current events.|3C]]\n
You explain how stores like theirs closing is inevitable, and really, they should have seen this coming. Her eyes darken, dagger tips beginning to form, "What the HELL is wrong with you?". You try to backpeddle but somehow only dig yourself deeper. Finally, she stops the car and points at the door, "You are NOT meeting my family acting like this. Get out." You comply, and watch the car disappear down the road.
She cocks her head, eyes sparkling in the dusk light, "You really are excited to meet them. This is going to be great. I'll be up in a minute!" You jog up to the house, her brother opens the door to greet you. "You guys made it! Hey it's great to finally meet you. Let's get you a beer and you can meet our folks."\n[["I'd love one, thanks."|5C]]\n[["No thanks, I don't drink."|5D]]\n
You tell her it's going to be ok. The family will all be together and we can talk to them to see if there is anything we can do to help. Her eyes tear up slightly, thankfully followed by a smile, a ray of sunshine through the clouds. "Thank you. I love you."\n[[3A]]
"Thanks!", she pecks you on lips and leaps out of the car. You grab the disproportionately sized bags from the trunk. "So much for the stereotype", you think heaving your overpacked duffel. You were nervous and didn't want to be left idle, but now feel embarrased. Walking up the driveway her brother approaches you. He grins, "My sister knows how to pack huh?"\n[["No kidding, what does she need all this for anyway?"|5A]]\n[["Actually, the big one's mine. Was nervous I guess."|5B]]\n
You take a breath and speak, "Thank you. As you know I love your daughter very much, and it's very important to me that I get to know all of you. I've heard so many great things about all of you, and I hope I'll be worthy of joining this family." The mother smirks, "That is the sappiest thing I've heard in a long time, but you're very sweet.\n[[7A]]
You grin and open your large duffel, pulling out a tupperware containing a strawberry rhubarb pie. Everyone smiles and the mother grabs it, "I'll make sure to have this ready for our desert! Now why doesn't everyone except my lovely daughter go relax, while we prepare supper."\n[[Follow her brother and father.|7F]]\n[[Offer to help as well.|7E]]\n
"Thank you." you reply, "I'm really happy to finally meet you all. I hope I have what it takes to be a part of this family when the time comes!" The father nods, "You'll do fine son." Suddenly the mother seems full of purpose, "Now! No more standing around. How about everyone except my lovely daughter go relax, while we prepare supper."\n[[Follow her brother and father.|7B]]\n[[Offer to help as well.|7C]]\n
"I'm glad I'm here. Could you show me where the restroom is? It was kind'of a long drive." The mother giggles, "Of course hun. It's just down the hall there." You close the bathroom door behind you and take a deep breath. So far, so good, you think. The counter is filled with random toiletries, and an epipen that briefly catches your attention. You finish and wash your hands. The guys are in the other room drinking beer and chatting, the girls in the kitchen busy with dinner.\n[[Join the guys.|7A]]\n[[Sneak out for a smoke.|7G]]\n
"Oh, she could be a real brat sometimes, but we got along ok..." offers her brother. "She was a good girl, worked hard in school..." adds her father. You nod and smile as they tell you a handful of generic stories until dinnertime. The meal is lovely and conversation nice. Your fiance is happy with how it all turned out, though you get the feeling they were being a bit reserved around you.
"How many years now have you guys own that story of yours?" The father looks up, "Oh, that's about 35 years now." "I remember running around that place with sis when I was a kid...had a lot of fun there." the brother quietly adds.\n[["Sounds like you guys are doing great!"|9A]]\n[["I hear it's not going so great."|9B]]\n
"Hey", you ask brightly, "what's the tattoo there on your lower back? Can I see it?" His expression turns dark, and the father mouths 'oh boy'. "I get it...my sister said something didn't she? Thought it would be cute to point it out and have a good laugh huh?" Your mouth opens a bit, stunned, "Uh, no...I-" but he stops you, "Save it. Let's just get through this." After poking quite a nerve with her brother, the tension in the air doesn't leave until he decides to hit a bar later. Unfortunately, it's only replaced with disappointment.
When you think they aren't paying attention, you grab a spoon and slurp up some of the steaming gravy. It tastes incredible! You spend a moment too long enjoying it, however, and the mother gently slaps your hand. She laughs, "This is why I don't let men in the kitchen! You just can't help yourself. You go on and join the boys."\n[[7B]]
Sipping your beer, you ask what your fiance was like as a girl; what her quirks were. Her brother starts to explain how she was a brat, but then his face lights up a bit. "Actually, she used to design these crazy mazes on graph paper when we were little, and we'd go out to the fields and stamp everything down to go through them. We decided to charge our friends a quarter to go through it, then just go blow it all on taffy!" After that, they both started telling all sorts of stories you wouldn't have even imagined about your wife-to-be.
"That would be very helpful dear, thank you." You carefully take out the fine turkey printed china and set the table quietly by yourself. Soon after the food is brought in, and everybody washes up to eat. It's a lovely meal and a nice day, but you feel like maybe you should have tried to socialize a bit more.
by Jerry Belich\n[[@choosatron|http://twitter.com/choosatron]]