That afternoon, Daddy drove us to the dollar store; while Cousin Ray stayed home with Miss Carla to plan the picnic. At the dollar store, Daddy gave us some money to buy a gift for Ray.
“Now, I don’t want you three to spend this money on anything foolish,” Daddy reminded us. “T.R., Jordan, you follow your sister and stay close to her. Don’t get lost, Ray and Miss Carla are waiting for us back at the house. I will meet you three by the front door in about an hour.”
After Daddy settled the matter, he left to get the fireworks. We kids were on our own in the store.
My siblings and I scanned around the store to search the treasure that was a gift for Cousin Ray. The first thing that caught Jordan’s eye was a china-blue conch shell. “Wow! Ray will like this,” Jordan said. Jordan picked up the shell and placed it in the shopping basket.
In the next aisle, there were bouquets of real, fresh flowers on display. T.R. saw a bouquet of sunflowers that made her smile. T.R. was enchanted by the bright flowers, so she took them from the rack and placed the flowers in the shopping basket.
I thought I would never find a gift for Cousin Ray. My brother and sister found a card for Cousin Ray that made them laugh. I took the card from my sister. On the front of the card were two squirrels on top of a tree. Below the tree on the card were the captions:
Cousin to Cousin
We will always be special friends from the same family tree.
I opened the card and found out what made them laugh. Inside were the words:
Just like a squirrel, you sometimes drive me nuts!
Have a wonderful day!
We all decided to get the ‘birthday card’ for Cousin Ray.
Walking down the aisle, My siblings and I came to the stationery section. On the self were books of different shapes and sizes. I picked up a book that had two cherub angels looking up at the heavens on the front cover. I opened the book and examined the pages from cover to cover. Every page from the first to the last was wordless and blank. I scanned the sign above the books:
Makes a great gift in a recession world!
I knew that I had found the perfect gift for Ray.
Later on, Daddy drove us kids to the park. And sure enough, it was raining like a waterfall. Seeing Miss Carla and Cousin Mike under the canopy, we made a dash for it. Cousin Mike is Cousin Ray’s brother. Mike was born in South Korea but was adopted by Ray’s parents. When Cousin Ray’s parents went back to Canada for good, Cousin Mike stayed behind with his brother. They have a little sister from China named Ruby Grace. I haven’t met my cousin Ruby Grace. She too left with Ray and Mike’s parents to Canada. I saw her picture once with her life partner with the words written in her handwriting, ‘I wish I could meet you, guys! OXOXO! R.G.! Remember the night of crystals.’
“Hey, Butterfly! Could you give us a hand?” Cousin Mike called. I raced over to help.
As I helped Cousin Mike and Miss Carla set the table, I spotted Cousin Ray with a young woman dashing to the canopy. When Cousin Ray and the woman made it out of the rain, they sat down on the bench together. I saw the woman. She wore a pale, ice cream pink sundress and open toe sandals on her feet. Her fingernails and toes were painted bright purple. On her head was a white hat with a red ribbon wrapped around it.
The woman knew that I was looking at her. The woman took off her hat and turned her gaze toward me. Her eyes were hazel brown, as was her hair; and she was half-Caucasian and half-Asian. I could tell you how lovely she was as a model in a Vogue magazine. Cousin Ray looked my way and introduced the woman to me.
“Butterfly, this is my co-worker and associate, Mindy Smith. Mindy, this is my cousin, Butterfly Taylor.”
“Please to meet you, ma’am.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Butterfly,” Mindy replied with a smile. “But you don’t have to call me ‘ma’am’, it just makes me feel old.”
Jordan and T.R. saw Mindy and got a chance to talk to her.
“You look like a doll,” Jordan told Mindy. “Are you from Japan?”
T.R. and I double backhanded our brother on the back of the head for the question.
Mindy laughed it off and told him that her mother was Chinese and her father was from England. “I have a little brother that was just like yours,” Mindy told us girls with a wink in her eye. We kids talked to Mindy for a long time and became friends with her.
Daddy called everyone to the picnic table to sing ‘Happy Birthday’. We gather around Cousin Ray and sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ After the song was over, Cousin Ray blew out all thirty of the candles on the cake. After the fest of food and cake, it was time for Cousin Ray to open up his presents. In my family’s ritual, the member of the family with a birthday has to open up a present from the youngest member of the family.
Cousin Ray opened up Jordan’s present and fell in love with the seashell. Cousin Ray thanked Jordan as T.R. handed over her bouquet of sunflowers. Cousin Ray took the bouquet and smelt them. “T.R., I love sunflowers. Thank you, my dear.”
Next, came my turn.
Cousin Ray unwrapped my gift. When my cousin saw the journal, he almost choked up with emotion. My cousin reached over and side-hugged me. “Thank you, my honey.” he said.
After the picnic ended at dusk, we drove over to a vacant parking lot behind a middle school. Placing the vehicles on park, we got out. Along the way, I spotted a video camera attached onto the side of the building. I saw Daddy carrying the firework under his arm. The firework was red and octagon-shaped.
Daddy motioned Cousin Ray to come over. Cousin Ray walked over to my daddy, carrying a lighter in his hand. Everyone made a semi-circle as Cousin Ray lit the fuse. As the fuse sparked, we moved far back. There were showers of multi-colored sparks bursting into the air like a volcano, along with an ear-splitting whistling sound that could wake up Sleeping Beauty.
We all panicked.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Daddy cried, pulling T.R. by the arm.
“Screw this, I’m out of here,” Mike said, running to his van.
I pulled Jordan and threw him into the car. Everyone jumped into their vehicles and closed the doors. With the firework still blasting into the air, we drove like mad out of the parking lot and never looked back.
To Be Continued/Stayed Tuned!