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Get Well Soon


by Christopher Gould


On a cloudless July-sort-of-day, George Martian, on something of a whim, interrupted his sister Annabelle's sweet sixteen party by passing out cold.  He'd been standing to Annabelle's immediate right, and was about to help her blow out the candles of her birthday cake, when guest, Evelyn Shatraw, suddenly became the victim of a rather furious nosebleed.  Evelyn, a monumentally unhealthy girl, and thus accustomed to impromptu nosebleeds, managed to pinch the thing off, but not before a thin, unwavering stream of type O positive raced down her cheek.  George, for whom the mere sight of blood caused him to lose consciousness, proceeded to go chin-first into Annabelle's double-layer, vanilla-frosted birthday cake, smearing out both the “1” and the “6” as he narrowly missed hitting the edge of the Martian family picnic table.

 

The “stunt” as Annabelle termed it, inspired, what was at best, mixed curiosity among the girls in attendance.  For despite being among the preferred trade at Prosper Valley High, they too had long grown tired of little Georgie Martian's exploits: the night prior he eavesdropped on the girls as they played truth or dare, where from the interior of a clothes hamper he overhead Cynthia Haversack discuss a make-out session with one Roy Tarney, captain of the football team, before being discovered; at the breakfast table George repeatedly passed gas (toxic in both odor and volume) causing his mother to send him to his room, “pancakes be damned.”  And only hours ago, as the girls prepared for a post-breakfast swim (the Martian's, by most upward-mobility standards, had a rather extravagant in ground pool) he'd been caught sneaking a look as the girls changed into their bathing suits (it should be noted that George, age 11 had only a vague idea of what he was supposed to be looking for).

 

Presently, George lay semi-prone on a poolside deckchair-a damp, periwinkle washcloth draped over his eyes.  Sitting opposite him, was his mother-a breathtakingly domesticated woman of forty-one, who at moment, was looking him over with an air of parental detachment.

“Georgie?  You all right?  Georgie?”

From under the washcloth came a groan, “Ma?”

“Honest to God George, I don't know what were going to do with you.”

The boy lay silent for a moment, listening to the youth-quake of splashes and giggles that filled the pool.  He would have liked to ogle the winsome beautes, the ‘girleens' as he liked to call them, but seeing as how his mother was present, not to mention already being in the proverbial “doghouse” he dared not take the chance.

“So George, what do you have to say for yourself?  I mean really. Because I'd love to know. . .”

Adjusting the washcloth, George ignored his mother's

 

question altogether, “Where's dad?”

 

Mrs. Martian spoke now in the post-menopausal voice

 

of a mother fed up with her one of her children,

 

“Where do you think he is?”  And then, as she

 

adjusted the strap of her espadrille, “Getting a

 

ANOTHER cake!”

“Oh.”

“Oh is right. I mean really George.  This has got to stop!”

Pulling the washcloth from his face, George sat up a bit, still looking a little pale, “I'm sorry mom.  Really.  I didn't meant to-“

“You didn't' me to?  You never mean to.  Do you any idea how long we've been planning this party?”

George stared back his mother as his eyes adjusted to the midday sun, “Listen Ma, the other things were my fault.  But I couldn't help passing out.  You know I'm no good around blood.”

 

Mrs. Martian abruptly rose to her feet as though conceding this particular point.  “Nonetheless George,” she said with asperity, “there's going to have be some wholesale changes on your part.”  Then, almost as an afterthought, she added, “Oh, and you're going to have to apologize to your sister.” Seconds later, she stormed off.

 

As George sat listlessly, bikini-clad girls frolicked about in a kind of PG-13 movie reel loop, and whatever guilt the boy may have only seconds ago harbored, quickly vanished into pool of hormonal ecstasy. Over the next ten odd minutes, a panorama of girleen flesh overwhelmed him, so much so that very often he did not know where to look. At times he was partial to Elaine McCaffrey in Polka dots, and other times it was Donna Grasso in stripes-but on the whole, the twelve-odd girls were a photogenic, swimsuit-pretty bunch, and with exception to his sister, would forever be picture-framed into the archives of the boy's mind.

 

The remainder of afternoon may well have passed in the same vein, if not for Annabelle Martian, who came bounding towards her brother at light-speed.  She wore a one-piece tartan number (a sore spot for Annabelle as Mrs. Martian had not yet deemed her to be of bikini-wearing age).  She was roughly ten steps away when George spotted her.  Thinking quickly, he placed the now semi-dry washcloth over his face and played dead.

 

Annabelle stood over her brother with her arms folded in an unrelaxing pose.  Then, with great suddenness, she reached down and threw the washcloth that covered his face to the ground.

     "Quit gawking you little creep!  Haven't you done enough?”

     George lurched forward in the deckchair, pretending to rub sleep from his eyes, all the while knowing full well he was sunk, "Huh?  What?"

     As Annabelle clenched both hands into fists, she spoke at an unprecedented volume: "Quit it George! Just quit it!"  She then nodded in the direction of the pool, "We all know what you were doing!"

     As George stared absently at his sister, he wondered what was taking his father so long.  A cake, even one on short notice, couldn't possibly be that hard to find.  He couldn't say why exactly, but of late his father was the only one who seemed to ever to take his side of things.  As this thought, and others, swirled inside his head, he suddenly realized the entire pool party was collectively awaiting a response.  He then announced, to anyone and no one in particular: "Well I have to look somewhere, don't know I?"

 

At length, Mrs. Martian appeared coming from the direction of a recently repaired sliding glass door (a week ago while playing catch with his father, George had put a baseball through it). She held a tray of cookies in one hand and a jug of punch in the other.  Her short, brittle hair was tucked behind her ears and as she walked, the makings of varicose veins could be seen by all.  As she set the items down on a nearby table, she seemed to have regained her trademark composure.  She looked at one of her children and then the other, coming away with the impression, they weren't-at least at the moment, on speaking terms.  She proceeded to clear her throat and then employed her best kindergarten voice, "George? Did you say you were sorry?"

     The boy looked up defiantly, “Sorry for what?  Passing out?  Gee whiz! Yeah, sorry about that.  I mean yeah, guess I should've been a bit more considerate-“

Mrs. Martian gritted her teeth, showing off a small, but noticeable tobacco stain, “George Martian you stop that!  I don't like sarcasm.”

Annabelle snorted in disgust.  “See mom, that's what I mean.  He always such a...a-"

Looking as though she were about to rescind all present and future birthday celebrations Mrs. Martian pointed her finger wildly at her daughter.  "Annabelle Marie, don't you even think about finishing that sentence.  Don't you dare.”

As Annabelle bowed her head obediently, Mrs. Martian turned her attention to George.  She then reached over and using her thumb and forefinger grabbed him by the chin.  “Now you say you're sorry.  You here?”

“All right, all right” George said loudly, as though attempting to give himself the upper hand.  “I'm sorry.  There, I said it.”  He then looked at his sister coldly, “Satisfied?”

Sensing this was the best she was going to get Mrs. Martian said, "Alright then Annabelle, move long."

     Annabelle looked at her mother incredulously.  "Move along?  That's it?  He didn't even mean it. Besides he was gawking...at the girls..."

     Mrs. Martian raised her hand dismissively, "Enough Annabelle.” 

“But-“

“ENOUGH!  She then checked her watch, “Besides, your father will be home soon."

 

As all parties retreated to their respective corners, order was in due course restored: the girls sunbathed, George napped, Mrs. Martian chain-smoked.  Roughly one half hour later, the sliding glass door clicked open. Mr. Martin Martian then appeared, decked out in his poolside best: he wore an untucked gun-metal grey polo shirt (buttoned to the top) and a pair of beltless cargo shorts.  In his hands, was a cake.

 

He was no sooner on the patio, when he was nearly swallowed by a throng of sixteen-year-old girls, who not only happened to be at a birthday party, but had thus far been denied cake.

 

It should be noted that Martin Martian, was by all accounts, a swell guy-the sort of good-natured chap who could play kickball with is children by the hour, feed his neighbor's cats while they were on vacation, and then, depending on certain events that were far outside his control, make tantric-like sex to his wife of nineteen years.  But if ever there was a person to foul up errand running (even when given a list) Mr. Martian was undoubtedly the man.

 

It was never a question of intellect or Walter Mitty type absentmindedness, but rather that while standing at the checkout line, he would arbitrarily decide that the product in hand was inferior to something else that remained on the shelf, and then, after several seconds of shoegazing, he would bolt from the line, exchange products, and inevitably arrive home with the wrong item. 

 

At six four and three-quarters, Martin Martian towered over the partygoers, smiling at them almost majestically.  He held the cake at his chest, and as such, no one outside of him could see the lettering.  One by one-and sometimes in groups of twos, threes and fours, assorted guests attempted to peak at the cake (tippy-toe style), but Martin Martian only pulled it higher.

 

Annabelle stood nearest her father with a canary-yellow towel wrapped about her waist.  While she was not generally thought of as a demanding child, the late-arriving cake had caused to her to feel as though she'd been denied a central part of the modern-day-birthday-party-type celebration:

“What took you so long dad?”

     Martin Martian smiled at his daughter and noticed that while she stood dead center, George and his wife remained at the back.  “Well I had to have it decorated,” he announced flatly. 

     No longer able to contain herself, Annabelle reached for the cake, “Let me see!   Let me see!” 

     “Wait,” her father replied good naturedly, as he pulled the cake higher.  Then with a broad, uninhibited smile he said:  “I want Georgie up here.”

 

As Annabelle turned at the waist to face her brother, she expelled low, just-get-on-with-it sigh.  Seconds later, from a point just beyond her right shoulder, came her father's voice once more:

“George?  Would you come up here?  George?”

 

The boy stood on the slight downgrade of the patio with his mother at his side.  Moments ago, she informed him (rather unpleasantly) that he would be a non-participant in the birthday cake proceedings.  When he'd argued, she'd gone on to say that the second cake (aka the stand-in)) had heard about the fate of its predecessor, and had, in essence, issued a restraining order against him.

 

With this very thought in mind, George gave his mother, a quizzical what-am-I-supposed-to-do look.  As Mrs. Martian two-fingered her cigarette, she studied her husband's bullet-shaped face and through a kind of connubial premonition came away with the impression he was about to foul things up.  She then replied weakly, "Go ahead George."  The boy then moved forward, almost fictively, all the while wondering what his father could possibly want.

 

“Hey George.  How ya feelin' sport? his father asked as he patted him on the head.

 

Conscious of the cold stares his sister (he was standing at her elbow) and the other girl-women were giving him, George nodded sheepishly, “Yeah, I guess.”

 

“Good George.  Good.” his father said.  “You just gotta take it easy is all. . . maybe lie down-“

 

Annabelle, whose patience had been dwindling by the second, abruptly nudged her brother out of the way:

 

“Um. . .Dad?  The cake?”

 

Turning his attention to his eldest child Mr. Martian, with an air of seriousness cleared his throat:

“Apologies Annabelle.  Apologies.”  He then adjusted the cake between his hands and looked his daughter squarely in the eye:

“I know it's your birthday and all Annabelle, but I thought with your brother being ill and all, we might make an exception.”

 

"An exception?"

 

"What I'm trying to say Annabelle, is. . .well. . . maybe I'd better just show you..."

 

 

As Martin Martian angled the cake for all to see, one of his children broke out into wide smile, while the other frowned and ran off in the direction of the pool house.  For instead of reading Happy Birthday Annabelle, or some like-minded sentiment, it read, George-get well soon.

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