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Smile If You're Happy

Hilariously Vengeful

By Sarah McDivittPublished 6 years ago 20 min read

The white blouse had been a bad choice. Barbara didn’t have to look down to see the dribble of ketchup that had fallen onto her stomach. Almost all of her shirts had the same stain due to her fondness of french fries. It was the one thing she couldn’t give up. Henry had suggested it, even pushed her many a time to let the habit die but so far it hadn’t and she wasn’t really planning on it.

Barbara reached into the center console and grabbed a handful of napkins that she stored there just for this purpose. She dabbed at the stain, being careful not to push the ketchup into the fabric. She tossed the used napkin in her purse, grabbed her tide pen, and worked on the stain until it could have been just a shadow or a trick of the light. She could feel Henry watching her as she cleaned up and stifled a sigh.

She held up the empty fry packet, shaking the salt around. “It was just a small.”

Henry smiled like he couldn’t be happier. “I noticed, honey pie, I’m so proud of you.”

She gave him her good girl smile and stuffed the packet to the bottom of her purse before she could decide to eat the salt too. She had lost 73 pounds in the last year. It had taken a lot of work. Mainly, sweat coupled with the DVD program Henry had bought her. She hated those DVD’s. The girl was always peppy and upbeat. Her voice sounded nasally and Barbara thought her eyes were too far apart. But maybe that’s just because she had stared at the same face every day for weeks and weeks. Maybe Henry’s eyes were too far apart too.

“Do you remember how important today is?” Henry looked at her, back at the road, then her again.

She glared at him. “I’m not five, Henry. I know what independence means ya bum hole.”

“No, no, no, not that per se.” He put his hand on her thigh. “This is the same day you decided to start your diet last year.”

Exactly the memory she didn’t want dredged up. She smiled at him with her lips pressed together but didn’t say anything. He was still a bum hole.

The Fourth of July had always been her favorite as a child. With hamburgers, hotdogs, watermelon, and grandma’s pudding she couldn’t have wished for more. But with Henry’s family, it was different, mostly because of Brooke. She was tall, she was blonde, she was skinny as hell, and Henry’s cousin. Barbara had assumed when she first met Brooke that she was certain to be the prettiest bitch Hell had ever let loose, which happened to be true. Last year she had complained so loudly about Barbara’s nutty butter brownies that Henry threw the whole pan out himself. “Wouldn’t want Brooke to swell up on the spot,” he had said, while dear fat Barbara held back her tears. She had gone through the rest of the evening eating her emotions which she later learned wasn’t healthy and ended puking it up all over Gammy Wilson (God rest her soul) who had just turned 92.

Henry pulled into the gravel drive and squeezed into the last spot on the edge by the front lawn. There was a line of cars parked along both sides of the driveway like sentries. Henry’s hand stalled on the ignition.

“Do you want me to drop you off?”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Her good girl smile was back but she doubted it would last.

Barbara had the tendency to move like she was still 73 pounds heavier. She lifted herself out of the car and sidled out from the doorway like she didn’t have enough room to turn. Henry popped the trunk and lifted the cooler to the ground. The wheels hardly worked on the gravel so Henry took one handle and she took the other. It wasn’t particularly heavy, but the gravel and the awkwardness made her stumble every few steps. Suddenly, the ketchup stain on her blouse felt like a beacon.

She heard the kids before she saw them. They were squealing and yelling and probably eating dirt, but they were dirty little pigs. Henry loved them but she could hardly stand them. In her mind, they were silent, polite little things with neat hair and clean jumpers. That image was the only thing that stopped her from yelling at them herself. The greasy one with the brown hair thudded into the cooler, reached out with a muddy hand to stunt his fall, and seized Barbara’s blouse right above the ketchup stain. The boy immediately let go as if he had been burned and rebounded the way he had come.

“You sack of dirt! Filthy little sack of dirt!” Barbara scrubbed at her blouse and dropped her end of the cooler to dig around for her tide pen. Henry thumped his own side down.

“Look what he’s done.” She held out her shirt in order to perfectly display the damage.

“On the bright side,” Henry patted his hair down. “Now, the ketchup stain isn’t nearly as noticeable.”

Barbara just pressed her lips together because to her the ketchup stain seemed even more pronounced.

“Let’s just get the food inside then I’m sure you’ll have a chance to clean up.”

Barbara shoved her tide pen back into her purse and heaved her side of the cooler up before Henry had even stooped to his. She hoisted the cooler down the driveway and up the deck, head down and shoulders forward like a freight train. Henry could hardly keep up and staggered up the deck and through the kitchen door all in one rocky movement.

“Oh, hello Barb, and you too Henry.” Henry’s sister, Allison, set down a hot pan of bread and quickly waved them forward with her potholders. “It’s been too long.” She ushered Barbara into a quick embrace, gently patted her on the back as if she didn’t want to mess up her hair.

“Oh, Barb! You look amazing!” She held Barbara at arm’s length and her eyes raked up and down like someone had hit fast forward and she was desperately trying to take it all in.

“Thank you.” Barbara gave a fraction of a smile. “I need to get to the restroom.” She detached herself from her sister in law’s embrace and with one hand covering the ketchup stain left for the bathroom.

The bathroom was so yellow it was almost blinding. Barbara ignored the decorative soap, grabbed the towel off the rack and ran it under cold water. She scrubbed at the muddy handprint until her arm ached. Children were devil spawns, she was sure of it. She tried to touch upon the ketchup stain as well and when she squinted her eyes it did look a little better. She scowled at her face in the mirror. She should never have worn the white blouse. She fanned her shirt to try and dry the wet spot but it was no use. She had a saggy see through smudge as big as Henry’s hand on the front of her stomach. She clenched her teeth and took a sharp inhale. She would just ignore it. She could do that, probably.

She plastered a nice smile to her face, only showing a little bit of teeth, and began a curtesy trip around the house to say hi to Henry’s family. Only because she had promised him she would do it. Henry couldn’t fool her though. She knew he just wanted everyone to see that she had lost some weight. That maybe she qualified as pretty now in the eyes of his relatives. As far as Barbara was concerned they were all sacks of dirt.

“Oh, Barb, you look magnificent.” Her mother in law said.

“Barbara! You are amazing.”

“Barb! How did you do it?”

Everyone seemed interested in her journey and success. Everyone except Brooke.

Barbara could see Brooke making her way over from across the room. Mojito in one hand she sauntered over in her red mini skirt and teensy white top. Her high heels clicked on the floor accentuating every step.

“Fall down, Barbie?” Brooke said it with a smile like it was supposed to be funny.

Barbara placed both of her hands around the faded stains. “Hello, Brooke.” She gave her one of her biggest smiles. Fake, but enormous. “Having a good holiday?”

“Lovely, I’m so glad you could make it. Even though it seems not all of you is there anymore.” Brooke laughed through her nose and her upper lip curled.

Barbara pressed her lips together. “Funny how people change.”

“Hilarious.” But Brooke’s eyes said anything but. “I hope you didn’t bring any of that nutty chocolate business this year.”

“Of course not, Brooke. I wouldn’t want you to cause a scene again.” She put big emphasis on again so Brooke’s face would turn red.

Brooke sneered, turned on her heel, and clipped away shaking her bright red ass in Barbara’s face. Barbara made the sign of the cross as she watched her walk away and turned for the kitchen. She unpacked the majority of the cooler and slid the veggie trays onto the counter.

“These are perfect!” Allison arranged the trays next to the fruit in the serving line. “I’m so glad you came. On behalf of everyone I think we are all sorry about last year.” Her smile was so sweet it was like she truly meant it. No one would let Barbara forget about that horrific day but she said thanks anyway.

A few minutes later, Allison called everyone to the deck for the prayer before supper. Henry stood to Barbara’s left which in this instance was a good thing because she only had to hold one other hand. She knew it wouldn’t be one of the dirty little brats because they were afraid of her. Jimmy, Henry’s uncle sidled up to her and licked his lips. He was bald and had the beer belly to beat all. She hadn’t said a word to him when she had first arrived and she wasn’t planning to start now. He was crass and cruel and didn’t know when to shut up. Barbara thought everyone really should know when to shut up, especially old hogs like Jimmy.

“Pretty blouse.” He winked at her like she could take that compliment right to the bank and cash it in for a million bucks.

Barbara smiled with her cheeks sucked in and looked straight ahead. He was trash covered in mud.

“Gammy Wilson, why don’t you say grace.” Allison looked down upon her grandmother like she was an angel from heaven but all Barbara could see was her vomit all over her. Gammy Wilson acted surprised but only for a minute. Allison always asked her to pray every year.

Gammy prayed and prayed and prayed. Barbara thought this was a good thing because Lord knew these people needed Jesus. The kids shuffled and snickered and Barbara shot them evil looks through slotted eyes. They really should know better. Jimmy caressed the back of her hand like it was a diamond. Her skin crawled all over but she kept still if only for The Lord.

When the prayer was over she jerked her hand away and turned to Henry before Jimmy could engage her in conversation.

“Having a good time?” His eyes searched her face for an answer. A good answer.

“Allison was pleased with the veggie trays.”

“See, I told you that would be a good choice.”

Barbara let loose her good girl smile. Sometimes Henry could be right.

“I know for a fact everyone thinks you look amazing.” He whispered in her ear. “I know I do.” He winked at her and her tight smile was back and the stains on her blouse were blaring.

Everyone shuffled through the patio doors and through the kitchen in a line where no one really cared who went first. Barbara was modest with her plate. One burger, a small portion of chips, a few spoonful’s of watermelon, and plenty of veggies with her own homemade dip.

“Over here, Barb!” Allison waved her over to the nicest table in the yard. The one with an umbrella for shade. She smiled and relaxed into her chair. She compared her plate to Allison’s and it wasn’t much different. Not too much, not too little, normal. She smiled. Julie and Shannon were at the table too, Jimmy’s children. Unlike their father, Barbara had no reason to dislike them. They had always been cordial and Julie had only complimented Barbara on her figure once before moving on to a new topic.

She downed the watermelon first before the gnats showed up. She was very careful to eat directly over her plate. Her mouth bulged from a large bite when she saw Brooke across the yard dragging a chair toward them. She immediately wished she could take up the rest of the space at the table even if it meant gaining her 73 pounds back, but Allison smiled and scooted right over. Brooke perched on the edge of her chair like a cat ready to pounce and pierced her own slice of watermelon.

Due to the close quarters Barbara’s elbow was consequently touching Brooke’s now that Allison had let her in the middle. She held her breath, sucked her belly in, and tucked her elbows into her sides. She might have looked like a T-rex trying to use silverware but she didn’t care. Not one inch of her body would touch Brooke. Ever.

Brooke took a fat carrot and swathed it in Barbara’s homemade dip. “This dip is something.” She coughed through the whole sentenced like it was poison.

Barbara smiled with her lips pressed against her teeth. “It’s a very clean recipe. One of Henry’s favorites.”

“I’m sure. Henry must have a tongue of concrete.” She was still coughing.

“I think it’s delicious.” Allison came to Barbara’s rescue.

Barbara stuffed a bite of burger into her mouth so she wouldn’t have to say anything. The tension around the table was like a chain that linked them all together. Shannon led the conversation away from food and toward her children. Barbara bit her tongue to keep from sighing. Those brats where hopeless little devils just like the rest of them but she commended Shannon on their virtue anyway.

Brooke picked at the rest of her plate like a squirrel. Barbara rolled her eyes. Good food should never be wasted. That had been her motto for years and had been her mother’s motto before her. Brooke gentled dabbed her mouth with a napkin and slid her chair back to be excused. Barbara couldn’t help but smile a little. The less of Brooke the better.

Brooke smiled down at Barbara and casually bumped into her chair. Barbara scooted over to give her more room to maneuver her way out but Brooke bumped into her again. She fell across Barbara’s open lap and sent her plate and its remainders all over her white blouse.

“Oh! Barbie! I’m so sorry.” Brooke squatted in her high heels with her hands over her mouth but her eyes twinkled like stars on a clear night.

Barbara clenched her teeth and stood up slowly, watermelon and dip falling from her to the ground in squishy lumps. She clenched her teeth together to suppress a scream. Her face was as red as a fresh ketchup stain. She flicked bits of dip to the floor. She felt like the whole yard had turned to watch her. Allison jumped up and began scooping the food off the ground and into her napkin. Brooke sauntered inside without looking back.

“You’re the Devil.” Barbara bit her lip so it sounded like a mumble. When she unclenched her teeth she could taste blood.

“Why don’t you go inside and look for a spare shirt in my closet. I’m sure there’s something that will suit you.” Allison gestured to the house with her hands full of dirty watermelon and Barbara’s icky dip.

Barbara sucked her cheeks in and walked toward the house.

“You alright, honey pie?” She heard Henry call from across the yard but she didn’t even look his way. She plastered her hands over her blouse like it was a dead body she didn’t want discovered.

Back in the bathroom that made her want to vomit a little piece of her broke. Brooke was ruining her life. She gripped the sides of the sink for support and let the cool porcelain dry her sweaty hands. Her makeup was hanging on by a thread and she dabbed at her eyes with caution. Her face was still red and snot threatened to smear across her lip. She sucked the snot up and bit her lip to keep from crying. Her blouse was hopeless so she didn’t even try to fix it up. This was too big, even for her tide pen.

She opened the door very slowly and stuck her head out at an odd angle. Looked right then left, then peeled away to Allison’s room. She didn’t want to be too snoopy so she grabbed the first t-shirt she saw, locked the door, and pulled off the dirty blouse. She considered throwing it in the bin but thought maybe she should just burn it instead. She slipped the t-shirt on without much fuss. It was a little tight but not too bad. It had a big fat advertisement for a 5-K event on the front.

She could hardly bear to walk back out the door. Everyone would know. Everyone would be looking at her, even those nasty kids. Brooke would end up in Hell for this and she prayed to The Lord to make it so. There was a small tap on the door and Barbara unlocked it hesitantly. Allison and Henry were standing side by side like they were posing for a family photo but someone had just farted.

“Everything okay, honey pie?” Henry looked like a sad puppy.

Barbara plastered a smile across her face. “I’m just fine.”

Allison looked like she was ready to kill but mushed her features together in an encouraging smile anyway. “Brooke’s a bitch.” She whispered in Barbara’s ear.

Henry’s eyes bulged. “You shouldn’t say-”

But Allison’s glare shut Henry up and she took Barbara’s hand and led her back to the kitchen. Henry headed back outside and moments later Jimmy stuck his head through the door. “FIREWORKS! T-MINUS TEN MINUTES!” Barbara shuddered at his voice.

Allison stuck her own head out the door and bellowed, “DESERT! T-MINUES TEN MINUTES!”

Barbara couldn’t help but smile for real.

“I’m gonna clean up outside. Could you go ahead and cut the cake?” Barbara couldn’t resist so she just nodded. She would hold her breath around the sugar. “Oh, and the ice-cream’s in the freezer. Thanks!”

The kitchen was eerily silent. Allison’s big personality was gone and everyone else was outside. The whole house was still but Barbara didn’t mind. She let out a big sigh and took a gigantic mouthful of air like she had been underwater for too long and had just finally surfaced.

She cut the cake into delicious chocolate chunks and doled out the ice-cream with a warm spoon. It was when she put the ice-cream back in the freezer that she started to hum “It is well with my soul”.

Allison rushed back in and beamed at the readied desert plates. “This is perfect!” She gave Barbara a squeezer hug. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Barbara just kept smiling. Both women double fisted the plates to the yard and suddenly, they were the center of attention. She held her breath for what seemed like a new world record as people collected their allotment of fat and sugar from her. It took several trips but finally there was only one plate left and only one person, Brooke. She stood at the edge of the social circle not looking anywhere. Too proud to ask and most certainly too proud to go into the kitchen and get it herself.

“Let me get hers.” Allison said. Always the perfect hostess.

But Barbara put her hand on her arm to stop her. “I think I need too.”

“Good for you.” But Allison didn’t smile. Maybe she wanted to spit on Brooke’s cake. The thought made Barbara want to laugh but she kept it in. She would save it for later. She walked back into the kitchen one last time and grabbed the last plate. She set her sights on Brooke before she could turn back and hoofed it to the edge of the yard.

“Here, Brooke.” She turned the plate so the fork was facing her.

“Kitchen duty tonight, Barbie?” She lifted the first bite of cake and ice-cream to her mouth and made a sound of enjoyment. “Surely you didn’t make this? Well, maybe it used to be a part of your ass.” Brooke snorted but Barbara just hummed and turned her back, ready for the show to start.

Jimmy lugged out an old radio and blasted patriotic music. Everyone was smiling when the fireworks started. They weren’t too big or impressive but the whole sky was lit up all across the horizon and their party added to the show.

The little heathens ran around the yard with sparkles while “America the Beautiful” played in the background. The boom of the explosions made Barbara’s ears ring but she was smiling anyway.

Suddenly, a hand grasped her shoulder from behind. It was Brooke. She looked terrible like maybe she was going to collapse. The fireworks were so loud no one else had noticed. Brooke’s face had swollen to the size of a lumpy basketball that very badly needed pumped. Her eyes looked too small compared to her cheeks which we slowly but surely expanding like a hot air balloon.

Brooke sat hard on the lawn with her knees drawn up and her hands trying to cover her face. “Peanut butter?!” But it came out all warbled because her lips were so swollen. Barbara pretended like she couldn’t make it out.

“Peanut butter!” But this time it was even worse.

“Do you need help, Brooke?” She spoke twice as loud and twice as slow. Brooke just moaned.

“Everything okay, honey pie?” Henry. Perfect.

“I’m not sure. She just collapsed out of nowhere.” Barbara bit her lip to keep from smiling.

“She’s having an allergic reaction!” Henry belted it like he was screaming eureka! “I think she needs to go to the hospital.” Henry’s face turned a delicate shade of white. “Allison! Allison! Allison!” Each time he called her name his voice got squeakier. Allison just looked at Henry with her eyebrows raised until she saw Brooke on the ground. She ran over and gave Barbara a look like “how did this happen?” and hauled Brooke up off the ground.

“Help me get her to the car, Henry.” With one arm around Allison and one arm around Henry, Brooke was carried off past the house and into the passenger’s seat of Allison’s Jeep.

All the while Allison was assuring Brooke that she hadn’t used nuts in anything. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had peanuts in the house. Barbara watched her face swell up bigger and bigger like magic.

“I should come!” Henry announced, like it wasn’t his first choice but had to be done none the less.

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll be fine.” Allison waved Henry back toward the yard. She hopped in the Jeep and revved it up before Henry could argue. The dust from the gravel rose and fell and both Henry and Barbara watched them leave.

“Strange isn’t it?” I mean I didn’t taste any peanut butter in anything.”

“Neither did I.” Barbara just shrugged like she was completely clueless, but in truth she knew there was a small scoop of peanut butter ice-cream missing from the forgotten carton in the back of the freezer. She had been careful to lace the chocolate with just enough peanut butter to be affective but not noticeable. Obviously successful.

Back in the yard Uncle Jimmy was hollering and holding two sparklers in each hand. Beer belly leading the way he blustered around the yard making up his own words to “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. Barbara helped herself to Brooke’s abandoned desert without missing a single bite."


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