"And so when Jerry's afternoon guest opened the closet to get a robe, there's Millie - big as life- hanging from the closet rod. The naked lady said she was so shocked she screamed and when Jerry saw his dead wife's corpse, he passed out cold on the floor," Jeff informed his captive audience around the dinner table. "She thought Jerry was dead, so she called the police department and asked Libby to send Danny out, instead of calling 911."
"She really thought he was dead?" Uncle Jimmy asked.
"Well, that's her story and she's sticking to it," Jeff answered. "When Danny got there, he checked Jerry out and called 911. When he finally realized who the lady was, he called me. This just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Can I have some more chili?"
"At least we know this particular lady friend isn't the one who dug Millie up," I said, putting butter on my last chunk of still warm cornbread.
"She still might have done it the first time," Aunt Rob observed. "She does have a penchant for designer shoes."
He was right - Her Honor might have been the original grave robber. "Did they put Millie back right away - after the first incident?"
"Yeah," Jeff said. "But she was interred in a crypt - it was fairly easy to get her out the first time. It would have been just as easy this time."
"I just think it's gross," Taylor chimed in. "Who'd even want to touch a dead body?"
"I would!" Jake said. "Just so I could tell people I did."
"You're gross," his sister replied. "Completely disgusting."
"I know it," Jake answered. "Gross is good. Daddy is gross sometimes. Mommy said so."
"Guilty as charged," Jeff admitted, and all the male members of the family at the table laughed. "It's a guy thing."
"The chili was great," I told Aunt Rob and started to stack up the empty bowls. "You cooked, we'll clean up."
"Oh no, honey. It's not a big deal. Let's just have dessert. That cake looks divine - and I have vanilla custard from Sweet Berries to go with it. Just bring the empty bowls to the kitchen for me."
I followed him into the kitchen and put the bowls in the sink. "Do you think someone is just trying to scare Mr. Maguire or are they trying to scare him to death?"
"You know, I've been wondering the same thing. He's never been a particularly likeable person and I've known him for years and years. He was never nice to Millie and since she passed, their children will have nothing to do with him. I can't imagine that any of these women he consorts with actually really like Jerry. But I may be wrong."
We carried the dessert plates, cake and ice cream into the dining room only to find Jake in the middle of entertaining the group by burping the alphabet. I know who taught him that, because the same person taught me and Jeff when we were about twelve. Jake was surprisingly good at it; I might have to rethink just how much quality time Jake was allowed to spend with Uncle Jimmy. At the age of six and learning socially unacceptable behavior at this accelerated rate, Jeff and I would never be able to marry this kid off.
"Thank you, Jake. Show's over," I said. I lifted him off his feet and sat him back down in his chair.
"I'll be here all week," he quipped, clearly enjoying the laughter that ensued. God help us.
"Mom, will you make gourmet beanie weenies this weekend?" Taylor asked. "You'll like them, Uncle Jimmy."
"How, may I ask, do you make beanie weenies gourmet?" he asked.
Jeff grinned. "It's an anniversary tradition," he explained. "We were living in California the first year we were married. We were completely broke because Dr. Ryan here was still in school and we were still paying rent and living in that apartment off base."
"I wanted to make Jeff a nice dinner, but the budget didn't include even buying ground beef for hamburgers," I continued. "Hot dogs were really cheap and I decided to buy some beans. I stood there in the grocery store looking the all the different kinds of beans and I thought, well - I can at least make beans and weenies pretty to look at. So I bought one can each of light kidney beans, dark kidney beans, cannelloni beans, pinto beans - you name it. I even bought a can of black beans. Of course, I also realized we'd be eating beans for a week."
"Dinner was really good. But it wasn't pretty," Jeff said. I smacked him on the arm and continued the story.
"I drained all the beans before I put them in the pot, along with the hot dogs, some chili powder and some barbecue sauce. What I didn't realize was that I ought to have rinsed the black beans. The whole pot of beans turned an ugly grey. Not appetizing at all."
"But it was good," Jeff insisted. "Anyway, the evening wasn't a total loss."
"Did you have dessert?" Jake asked.
"In a manner of speaking," his father answered. "Now let's have some cake."