Odd Prompts Week 7

Here’s this week’s Odd Prompt via Bethany Defries: Family reunions are always “fun”. Especially when my brother the demi-god shows up.

At the Reunion

How long has he been dead?”

Everyone looked at Kaitlyn. She shrugged, and said, “It’s impossible to tell. We didn’t realize that he was actually dead until shortly before we called EMS.”

The police officer looked at her in some disbelief. “He’s face-down in the potato salad,” he said, glancing past her to where the paramedics were shaking their heads and noting the time. Behind him, his partner was being sick in the bushes.

Kaitlyn glanced to the side. “Well, he’s a demigod.” She spread her hands. “It’s not as though he’s not survived crazier things before.”

“A demigod?” asked Officer Travis, going a bit gray in the face. “Who—um, what is the deceased’s name?”

“Titus d’Zeus,” Kaitlyn replied. Officer Travis let out a breath, looking relieved. Zeus had almost as many children as he’d had mistresses, and wasn’t inclined to notice them much. Much easier to deal with a death when there wasn’t apt to be smiting involved.

“And what is your relationship to the deceased, ma’am?” he said, flipping open his notes.

“He’s—he was my brother-in-law.”

“And is your husband also a demigod?” he asked, somewhat apprehensively.

Kaitlyn shook her head. “Oh no. Titus was much older. Their mom left when my husband was still a toddler, so he was mostly raised by his dad.” She noted him glancing around the rest of the circle, and said, “This is a reunion for my side of the family—my husband and I are the only ones with a relationship to him.”

“Ah,” he replied, clearly unsure what to do with the information. “You said he’d survived a lot of things before?”

“Well, yes,” she stated cooly. “We thought he’d drowned, at one point, until he burst out of the lake like a son of Poseidon.”

“He got hit by a car once,” someone volunteered behind her. “Rock to the head,” contributed another.

“Fell off a cliff.” “Mixed ammonia and bleach—it took days to air out the laundry room.” “Broke a strut while hang-gliding.” “He was buried in an avalanche for four days.”

Kaitlyn lifted a hand and the contributions stopped. “We were used to considering him nigh-invulnerable,” she said. “Like The Tick.” Behind her, someone muttered, “The tick.” She went on, “Sometimes I think he was taking the adrenaline junkie bit to an extreme because he knew he was safe. I mean, how meaningful is it to go base-jumping if you know you’ll survive your chute not opening?”

“So you only noticed he was dead when his skin color changed,” said Officer Travis.

“Lividity,” murmured Kaitlyn. Officer Travis’ partner, who had finally returned to his side, winced and went back to the bushes.

“Well. Now, this is just a formality, you understand, but I have to ask, did he have any enemies?”

A sharp bark of laughter came out of the crowd. Kaitlyn just nodded. “You might say that, officer. You might also say that he made enemies wherever he went.”

He looked around the crowd, noting their lack of sorrow. “You… might?”

Kaitlyn sighed and crossed her arms. “You might think that feeling up your brother’s wife would be beyond the pale, but he didn’t. He, well, the best expression is that he thought he was a god’s gift to women.”

“Not just women,” said one of her cousins stiffly. She turned, noted the teenager with a certain hardening of her features, and nodded as she turned back.

“I told him I’d rip his eyes out of their sockets and feed them to him if he didn’t get his hands off my breasts,” said Reese, an older woman, short and stocky. “He seemed utterly appalled that anyone would question his rights. He did back off once I showed him my nails,” she continued, displaying short buffed nails that came to a tight curve instead of the fashionable blunt enameled manicure. Noting the policeman’s look of disbelief, she continued, “I don’t know how he died, but I’m glad he’s dead.”

“Your husband?” he asked, almost nervously.

Kaitlyn tilted her head. “You’ll have to ask him how he feels, of course. He’s over with the kids at the playground. But I suspect he’s not going to be too heartbroken. His brother wasn’t very… brotherly.”

“Toxic,” added Reese. Kaitlyn shot her a look.

“Ah,” breathed the officer. He closed his notes, and said, “They seem to be finishing up over there. There will be an autopsy, of course, to see if there’s any reason for him to die. It doesn’t seem likely that the death was suspicious, but we will, of course, be in contact with you if we need further information.”

“Of course,” echoed Kaitlyn. She turned to see the coroner and paramedics wheeling the body away. Officer Travis and his hapless partner followed them, and she sighed, looking at the remains of the potluck. The potato salad would have to be discarded, bowl and all, and she was rather inclined to pitch the lot rather than deal with cleanup. She probably ought to let the others sort it out, though, as they surrounded the table to claim their own dishes.

Thoughtfully, she trod the small sharpened scrap of mistletoe into the mud churned up by the medics’ feet. Completely the wrong pantheon, of course, but everything else they’d tried hadn’t worked. She reminded herself to sneak the slingshot back into her young nephew’s car, smiled, and bent to the cleanup.

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