The Gustafson family reunion was held at the community center in the center of the small town of Murphysborough in Southeast Minnesota. About eighty of the clan showed up by around noon; including the surviving grandmother, seven of the nine surviving children, and a score and a half of cousins and some of their families. Two of grandmother’s daughters had died at the age of mid-sixties from cancer, the same malady that had fell her husband three decades earlier. Some had traveled from as far away as Florida and California. In fact, not even half of the family resided within a hundred-mile radius of the ancestral area that the grandparents had farmed after grandfather and grandmother were married and grandmother’s parents had given the newlyweds some land and property to get started. They hadn’t had a reunion in ten years and grandmother was well into her nineties. On occasion, a couple or few of the siblings and families would get together at Thanksgiving or Christmas; however it could be said that they were largely scattered to the wind, with much distance between each other.
David Nelson had been divorced for three years and was able to join his parents and grandmother and his sister and her family for the event. He brought his older son, Oliver, from his first marriage. He spent the first hour of the reunion making small talk where touchy subjects such as long standing rumor and details about marriage dissolution were avoided at all cost.
Jim O’Reilly had at one time been one of David’s favorite cousins because of his carefree and straightforward nature; a contrast to his own awkward and sometimes aloof personal demeanor. Jim’s late mother was David’s mother’s older sister. The fact that David had not made it to his aunt’s funeral was not lost upon the O’Brien clan. David couldn’t make it for one reason or another. He had never been asked to explain and most family members reasoned that Southern Iowa was a long way to drive to the middle of Wisconsin with a young child and wife.
‘How are things down there in the Hawkeye State, David?’ Jim asked.
‘You know, about the same as always. Pretty good I guess.’ David said.
‘Well things are just fine for us in Wisconsin, buddy.’ Jim said.
‘What’s up with the super short hair, Jim? Going for the virile bald manly man look?’
‘You could say that. Have to be proud of the head the good Lord gave you.’
‘I can’t wear my hair that short. Too many bumps and uneven spots.’
‘You should do it anyway. We like the close and tight style.’
‘So, you’re second wife was a Latina if I’m not mistaken….’
‘Yeah, you’re right. Why do you bring that up?’
‘No reason. How did that whole thing work out for you David?’
‘It wasn’t a match made in heaven, but it could have been worse.’
‘I hate to break it to you, but you might wanna consider having someone else pick your next wife for you if that is the route you want to try again.’
‘Yeah, you know that you are right about that. I am the common denominator in the equation, there is no doubt about that. Ha ha ha.’
‘I’m glad that you don’t take yourself so seriously but it is serious business selecting a mate, buddy.’ Jim said.
‘Hey, let’s talk later OK. It looks like it is time to eat.’ David said.
‘You got it ace.’
After David excused himself, he sat back down at the table where his son had been sitting earlier and was still sitting and playing a game on his tablet. David sat down and looked at Oliver who was thoroughly engrossed in his activity with little awareness of the chitchat and mingling going on between his much older relatives and also among those cousins closer in age. Oliver was wearing a wrinkled but clean white t-shirt and a pair of athletic shorts; this was about as dressed up as his father had seen him in a long time. David was glad that Oliver agreed to travel to the event without any resistance or complaining. He had learned over the years to pick his battles with his son, who had been known to throw tantrums until fairly recently, and was obstinate about many things. He seemed to take after his mother in many respects.
‘Let’s go buddy. Time to eat.’ David said.
‘Uh, in a little bit. I’m almost leveled up.’ Oliver said.
‘OK, fine. Five minutes then.’
After about five minutes the two got in line and served themselves the usual Midwest fare that was catered by the local supermarket: dinner rolls, ham and turkey slices, bean salad, pasta salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, iceberg lettuce salad, and chocolate cake. David filled his plate and Oliver only selected three dinner rolls.
‘What do you think of the big family event?’ David said.
‘It is kinda weird dad.’ Oliver said.
‘I don’t know. It is like they are all from some old TV show.’
‘Interesting observation son. Where do you wanna sit?’
‘I don’t know. With your parents maybe.’
David talked with his aunt Natalie for a few minutes before joining his immediate family’s table. They were a couple tables away from the O’Briens, who were represented by four of the five children and a few of their kids. Natalie reported several health concerns, including a recent hospitalization for some sort of brain disorder that had caused her to have multiple falls and ongoing dizziness. She was a couple years older at seventy-one than David’s mother. David also talked with her husband James and asked about his cousin Annie who Natalie spent her days looking after. Annie was profoundly disabled and had never been able to communicate. She could walk, but was like a two-month-old child in the body of a small forty-eight year old woman. David was careful not to say anything that might upset Natalie, whose first husband had committed suicide back when Natalie still worked as a nurse. Natalie was prone to drunken rages that were directed at David’s mother among others. Sometimes she would call and make her younger sister cry. David recalled that most of the time Natalie kept her emotions in check during family gatherings over the years with the exception of a couple drunken rages during weddings.
When David rejoined his son, parents and his sister Rebecca’s family at the dinner table he was relieved to be near his son, who seemed content at the time, and his nieces and nephews. His sister had two girls and two boys. The youngest one, a girl, was the child of her and her boyfriend Bryce, a scientist who taught and did research for a university in Alabama. When Rebecca married her ex, she was four or five months pregnant, and many of the relatives on her mother’s side of the family didn’t attend, apparently because they disapproved of the pregnancy and rushed wedding. Most professed to be obedient Lutherans who followed Biblical instruction. Rebecca wasn’t religious at all. At least Becca’s children seemed well adjusted and well taken care of.
‘How’s school going, Oliver’ Rebecca said.
Oliver was preoccupied with a hand held gaming device playing a number puzzle game. He either didn’t hear her or wasn’t aware that it was appropriate to reply.
‘Oliver, aunt Becca is asking you something.’ David said.
‘Oh it’s fine.’ Oliver said.
‘Do you have a favorite subject.’ Becca said.
‘What is a subject?’
‘It is the same as a class Oliver.’ Becca said.
‘Not really. Maybe lunch.’
This was met with laughs. Oliver cracked a smile.
‘His mother and I have to remind him to do his homework often. It is either that or no gametime right Ol?’ David said.
‘Oliver is doing pretty well. He is in the regular classes most of the time. Every once in a while he behaves inappropriately or needs more direction and has to go back to the special Ed classes though. But he is getting decent grades.’ David said.
‘I’m pretty book smart but I have trouble with the people sometimes.’ Oliver said.
David was taken back by Oliver’s sudden font of conversation.
‘Yeah, but you’re doing well son.’
‘Sounds like he takes after his father regarding school a little bit.’ Becca said.
‘Hmm. Maybe you’re right. People haven’t ever really been my strong suit.’ David said.
After lunch, most of the relatives went to the hotel where they were staying for the weekend. Oliver and David had been invited to share a suite with Rebecca and the kids. Two of her kids slept in their grandparents’ room, but all of them gathered in their parents’ room to sit down and watch a movie. David went downstairs to the hotel bar to visit.
Several of David’s aunts and uncles and cousins were already there with beers in hand. Football was on the televisions. Jim caught David’s eye and David sat at a table with him and two of his brothers, Larry and Mike.
‘How’s it going brother?’ Jim said.
‘Just fine. The kids are all upstairs watching some movie.’ David said.
‘They can’t begin to indoctrinate them soon enough, can they.’ Larry stated in a semi-rhetorical way.
‘Most of that crap portrays some weird lefty version of reality that is nothing like the real world, you know.’ Mike said.
‘Well it does seem a little different then the stuff I liked when I was ten or twelve.’ David said.
‘And what was that?’ Jim said.
‘You know: ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, ‘ET’, ‘Rambo’, ‘Caddyshack’, Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris movies. Fun stuff like that.’ David said with a nervous laugh.
‘Yeah, some of that is fun and some is Jewish propaganda.’ Mike said.
‘Whoa! Come on, what is wrong with Steven Spielberg? I mean you gotta love some of the special effects.’ David said.
‘Again, the fake media using special effects to destroy children’s perception of the real world.’ Larry said.
‘I thought it was a good thing that we beat the nazis in WW2.’ David said.
He kept himself from mentioning how the Soviet Union suffered tens of millions of more casualties trying to stop the nazi destruction, rape and enslavement.
‘Brother, you have much to learn.’ Jim said
‘I’m no expert on the media. I’m just a public servant delivering mail in the rain, snow or shine.’ David said.
The group shared a tense laugh.
‘Well we all do our best to work and practice good Christian morals.’ Larry said.
‘You’re smart David. You know that this nation was founded by white Christian men and women, and has always been run by our people.’ Jim said.
‘And always will. By the way, do you know that Germany modeled its Aryan state on our example of how we eliminate the native sub-humans and enslaved the mud people.’ Mike said.
‘They were so successful due to their impressive discipline and use of scientific truth, including eugenics theory that was developed here, but sadly not used on any sort of meaningful scale.’ Larry said.
The other brothers appeared to be impressed by Larry’s eloquence. And raised their beers and drank. David failed to do so. David considered offering examples of countries that offer education and health care to all, and who embrace immigrants as a means to increase diversity and maintain a population that contains enough workers and professional people to keep their economies thriving. He nixed the idea when the word ‘diversity’ crossed his mind. This seemed like it would sour the conversation.
‘Well, what are the threats to our way of life then?’ David said.
‘Immigrants, mainly. They impose their cultures on us and try to convert our children to their perverse religions and ways.’ Jim said.
‘Do you really trust these ‘mud people’ David? What have any of them ever done for you.’ Larry said.
‘They haven’t taken your job yet, working for half the pay, shacking up in stinking hovels.’ Mike said.
‘That’s true. Not yet. When will they be able to, what? Overthrow the government?’ David said.
David thought about his friends and acquaintances from different backgrounds. Nobody had ever tried to convert him, and nearly without exception, all had offered respect and friendliness. He lived in a college town with people from all over, people who were educated and sophisticated to various degrees.
‘Our dad worked in a good union job in the state prison for a long time. He will tell you about what happens to people who don’t stick with their own kind.’ Mike said.
‘Yeah. You would get destroyed out there in most places. They want to form alliances with the Blacks and other mongrel races, to steal our jobs and our land.’ Larry said.
‘They’ve already stolen our government. Never to be trusted again after that uppity nigger Obama was placed into the sacred office of the executive. I could go on how he has been proven to be the anti-Christ.’ Mike said.
‘You see, these types preach diversity, sexual orientation perversity, and communist ideals as if it were a true religion.’ Jim said.
‘The blood of our savior Jesus Christ is the only truth. It will be quite the war before he comes to judge the righteous. The true word of God demands that we fight for our beliefs.’
‘You better believe that those damned towel heads would cut of the head of every man, woman and child who loves Jesus.’ Mike said.
‘Wow. That paints a scary picture. I don’t know, but where I live everyone seems to get along.’ David said.
‘I hate to break it to you little brother, but you live in a godless cesspool of commie pinko slime. The reason it seems peaceful is that the true Americans have been coerced into silence or have been forced to leave, obviously.’ Larry said.
‘I don’t think that is true at all. If it is so godless, why are there like fifteen churches downtown that are filled every Sunday?’ David said.
At this, Larry quoted some obscure Biblical passage about how the devil would come in many disguises near the end-time and how he would make falsehoods sound like truth. The O’Briens noticed how David seemed repulsed by such logic.
‘What, David, do you or do you not believe that Christ is your true savior and that only through Him can you find peace and glory?’ Mike said.
‘Guys, I’m not very religious. I believe in Christ’s teachings. Sometimes I’m not so sure about His followers though.’ David said.
‘So you’re saying that one religion is as true as any other? What did I tell you about him, Jim?’ Mike said.
‘I worry about your soul little brother.’ Larry said.
‘You really have no idea do you, David?’ Jim said.
‘About what?’ David said.
‘About the endtimes and the final battle between good and evil.’ Mike said.
‘That sounds pretty heavy folks.’ David said.
‘It is real. Biblical prophecy predicted these problems with the heretic Moslems and the false teachings of the lesser races namely their so-called savior Barach Obama.’ Jim said.
‘That is a little extreme don’t you think? Well, I think I’m going for a swim. I wish this place had a hot tub, right? David said.
David got out of his seat and nodded to his cousins and started to turn away when Jim suddenly got up, blocked David and got in his face. David looked puzzled.
‘Yeah, it is going to be hot where you are going cousin.’ Jim said.
‘Come on Jim. Just sit down please.’ David said.
‘I don’t think so.’
Jim bumped into David and seemed to be enraged about something or other. David looked like he was seeing some sort of demon clad in flannel and cheap Vietnamese shoes. He lowered his head and took a step toward the entryway of the bar area. Suddenly, Jim grabbed David’s shoulder with his right hand and struck him right on the left eye with a roundhouse punch with his left fist. David’s knees buckled and he slumped to the floor momentarily, but got up quickly and stepped up to Jim.
‘What the fuck did you do that for, fuck head?’ David said.
‘You’re just some liberal piece of shit living in your liberal dream world bubble, you little fuck.’
‘Get away from me.’
‘Yeah, run away you puke. You really have nobody to run to and you’ll see how we’re right about everything. Have a nice fucking life, you vile piece of shit.’
David pushed Jim away harder than Jim was expecting and Jim tumbled over the chair behind him and went down on one knee catching himself before he landed face down on the charcoal gray carpet. He popped up and started toward David, who was a few paces away by this point. His brothers restrained him quickly.
‘Let that little bastard go, Jim. We don’t want to start too much of a scene.’ Larry said.
The bartended and server were about the only people not related to the Gustafson family in the area. They looked at each other but remained still while tensions decreased somewhat. Jim sat down just as David had left the bar area and grinned at his brothers who smiled like half drunk Cheshire cats. They continued drinking from their pitcher of cheap light beer.
‘Some types are like mad dogs that just need to be put down.’ Mike said.
David returned to his room where his sister’s family and his son were hanging out. When he had walked half way across the room, they noticed that something was wrong.
‘What the hell happened to you David?’ Rebecca said.
She shifted in the hotel chair uncomfortably. David sat down and looked at the floor. The kids all looked uneasy but continued watching a cartoon or playing video games. David’s nephew Ty approached David.
‘Are you OK uncle David?’
‘Yeah I’m fine. Thanks Ty.’
Rebecca came over and put her arm around Ty. David looked up at her and shook his head.
‘What happened. It looks like you have been assaulted physically.’ She said.
‘I got in an argument with Jim and his brothers and when I started to leave, Jim punched me.’
‘That is awful. You should call the police.’
‘I don’t think that will do any good. Plus they don’t have police in this small town and I’m sure that the sheriff has more important calls to attend to. It’s nothing, really. I’m fine.’
‘If he punched you then he needs to be arrested.’
‘Yeah, sure. Well, it would be three of their opinions against mine. They’ll just say that I provoked Jim. Really, are you that naïve?’
‘Hey, I’m just trying to help you, brother.’
‘Thanks for the support, but I’m just going to rest and drive back home tomorrow.’
‘If you say so. Maybe you should go to the doctor. Don’t you want some medication for the pain?’
‘Yeah, I’ll drink a beer and I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’ll be boring trying to explain how I got this shiner though.’ David said laughing.
‘OK, that’s weird, but it’s your choice I guess.’
‘Hey, If you want to ride with us tomorrow you can?’ Bryce said.
David looked at Bryce and shrugged his shoulders.
‘Maybe somebody else can drive your car back.’ Rebecca added.
‘Well they would have to learn how to drive a manual transmission car.’ David said.
‘I know, Dad taught me how to drive a manual too. Don’t you remember brother? Rebecca said.
‘That’s right. Well, we can cross that bridge tomorrow. Do you mind if I have a beer?’ David said.
‘We have some wine in that box on the mini fridge. Help yourself, David.’ Bryce said.
‘Thanks. I feel a tremendous headache coming on.’ David said.