LIFE GOES ON
By Kimberly T. (email: kimbertow at yahoo dot com)
Standard disclaimers and acknowledgments apply. I'm not making a dime off this, so please don't sue.
Thanksgiving in the Simmons and Printemps households, in New Haven, Connecticut, was nearly always a combined family affair. Mary Simmons and her best friend Madelyn Printemps could scarcely remember a major holiday that they hadn't celebrated together, and Thanksgiving was no exception. They knew it was because their mothers were best friends too, having emigrated to America together in 1971, and the two older ladies had long since worked out a system for holiday preparations: Maddie's mother decorated, while Mary's mother cooked. And afterwards, their husbands and children did the cleaning up.
The Printemps family had the larger house, so the main feast was generally held there. In years past, as the two families feasted together on turkey and all the usual trimmings (plus a few dishes that Mary's mother said were traditional back in Scotland), the conversation had revolved around an assortment of topics; Mrs. Printemps' latest art project, the latest foolish idea from Mr. Simmons' building contractor clients; Mary Simmons' latest project for making the world a better place, and Mary's nephew little Tommy Simmons' latest mischief. And most of that was discussed this year, but the main topic of conversation was definitely Mary and Maddie's newly founded organization, the People for Interspecies Tolerance (already nicknamed "The P.I.T. Crew") and the creatures that the organization had been founded for: the gargoyles.
Mary and Maddie were pleased to report that, just as Mary's mother had assured them from the legends she'd heard in her childhood, gargoyles were indeed intelligent! At least as intelligent and capable of speech as the average human. And it had just about been worth getting attacked by the Quarrymen, and having Maddie's glasses and a couple of Mary's bones broken, in order to come to the attention of the gargoyles themselves. So far they had met and spoken with three different gargoyles: a girl-gargoyle named Angela, and two guy-gargoyles named Brooklyn and Lexington. And all three of them had proven at least as intelligent as the average human; Lexington was even well-versed in cyberspace!
Yes, gargoyles were as intelligent as humans… and had the same capacity for good and evil. Mary soberly related what Brooklyn had told them, at the second meeting of the P.I.T., about the criminally insane gargoyle Demona. "Actually, it's surprising the newspapers haven't started screaming about her already, seeing as how she's to blame for the deaths of all those people during the Lost Nights. But I don't think any of the P.I.T. members have mentioned that to reporters yet; I know I sure haven't," Mary admitted.
Maddie gave an embarrassed shake of her head. "Neither have I. I guess we just don't want to admit that they could be bad at all; that the Quarrymen could be even partly right about them."
Mary's father sighed heavily. "If the Quarrymen are anything like that side of the family in Idaho that we are unfortunately related to, they'll use any excuse to justify their hatred, and the minute they heard about this—what'd you say the name was, Demonica?"
"Demona," Mary corrected her father.
"Demona, right. They'd make her their poster child for reasons to destroy the whole lot." Michael Simmons studied his folded hands in silence for a moment, then said, "Mary, and Maddie… I don't much like the fact that by doing this, you're essentially putting your lives at risk. You've already been attacked once by the Quarrymen…"
"We know, Mr. Simmons; we know we actually got off lucky, too, since nobody was actually killed," Maddie said somberly. "At the first meeting that Professor MacDuff hosted, he told us about what some white civil rights activists suffered, for trying to improve life for African-American people down in the South. We could be in for more of the same."
"But if no one speaks up for them… the gargoyles could be slaughtered!" Mary protested. "If you'd been there, Daddy, if you could have heard Brooklyn describing what it was like to wake up and see his whole family destroyed, murdered while they were helpless in stone sleep…"
"I have some vague idea… and frankly, I don't want to imagine it completely," Michael muttered. "I saw all the death I ever wanted to see back in 'Nam."
Mary's mother had closed her eyes for a few moments while Maddie had been talking, wincing with some remembered pain. But when she opened them, she said firmly, "The girls are right; such a slaughter must not happen again. I dinna like the thought of our dear chicks in danger any more than the rest of ye… but we raised fine lasses, who know their own hearts and their strengths, and know to fight for what's right when they have to." She looked at her daughter and said, "Ye do what ye must, dear chick… but promise me this, if you can? Promise me ye'll come home for every holiday, an' at least once a month besides. I canna bear the thought of not seeing ye again, too…"
"Mom, of course I'll be coming home!" Mary protested, embarrassed by the sudden emotion… and a little frightened by it, too. Her mother had always been such a tough woman, standing up to nearly anything, and Mary could count on one hand the number of times she'd actually seen her cry. But now there were tears shining in her eyes…
"Gran'ma, don't cry," little Tommy spoke up from his chair, also sounding frightened. "Mary will come back…"
"Hey, that's 'Aunt Mary' to you, bucko," Mary shot at him, heartily glad for the chance to change the subject. "As someone who used to diaper you, I earned that title fair and square!"
"Mary the Quite Contrary," her older brother Henry said with a smile and a shake of his head. "You've got to be the only woman your age in this whole country who actually wants to be called an auntie."
Everyone bantered back and forth merrily for a few minutes, shaking out old tiffs and well-worn arguments for an airing; the sort of friendly arguing among families who know full well that no argument would ever really shake their love for each other. Then little Tommy piped up, "Gran'ma… who did you never see again?"
All conversation stopped cold for a minute, as everyone turned to stare at either Mary's mother or Mary's nephew. Tommy squirmed in his seat, but pressed on, "You said you couldn't stand not seeing Aunt Mary again, too… And 'too' means more than one, right?"
Mary turned to Samantha, Henry's wife, and muttered darkly, "He gets that from you, you know. Curiosity killed the cat..."
But after a minute, Mrs. Simmons answered with a sigh, "Tommy, your father isn't my firstborn. Long ago, afore I even came to this country, I had a dear son… but when trouble came, I had to leave him with some friends of mine, to keep him safe. He was no older than ye when we parted… and I've never seen him since. I-I know he grew up safe, and happy, but… Och, ye've got me weeping!" as she dabbed at her eyes with her napkin. "I'm sorry, all; this is supposed to be a happy feast…"
"All right, buster, that's it," Henry told his son sternly. "No more making your grandma cry… or you'll get lima beans for dessert tonight."
"And liver and onions for breakfast tomorrow!" Mary added.
"And… and pickled eggs for lunch tomorrow!" Maddie chimed in, having caught on fast. "And sauerkraut for an afternoon snack!"
Tommy obligingly made gagging noises, which grew in volume as everyone else chimed in their ideas for truly disgusting dishes. And the comic relief worked; by the time everyone was laughing and groaning at the idea of eating yogurt-covered maggots (that was Samantha's idea, and no one wanted to know where she'd gotten it from), Mary's mother had dried her eyes and joined in the fun. Although she insisted that haggis was actually quite good if it was done just right…
Over an hour later, the ladies of the house retired to the Printemps den, while their husbands and children cleared the dishes away. Once they were alone, Mrs. Printemps said to her old friend, "So we were right; the spell has been broken! Did you want to take a trip down to New York?"
"…Not yet," Mrs. Simmons said slowly. "For the first thing I'd be having to do is apologize… and I'm not going to do that until I'm certain."
"How much more certain do you have to be? What your Mary said tonight… that's exactly what you said happened!"
"No, it's not." She shook her head thoughtfully. "Not exactly. This Demona... and the other one, Angela… they weren't involved."
"Are you sure?"
"I was there, Finella. I saw the whole thing. I've gone over it all three times in my head since we sat down to dinner tonight. An' I'd be willing to swear on a Bible, there were no female gargoyles left alive after the slaughter at Wyvern. None that I saw, none that the Magus cast his spell on. No, someone's not telling the whole truth…"