Enjoy this exclusive excerpt from Rash & Rationality with a backyard BBQ that doesn’t go the way Marty hoped.
The party was off to its usual smashing success. He wished he could take the credit, but most of that was his father’s doing. Though their mother’s eyes did light up when she unwrapped her gift, even as she pretended she had no idea what the six-foot-long cylinder could be.
“Okay, okay.” He dipped his arms, extinguishing the sparklers he held in both hands. The kids groaned, but he held firm. “Uncle Marty is very tired. Why don’t you go annoy Eldon?”
Their little mischievous grins rose and, like a flash, they all took off after the man in a full suit who didn’t want anything to do with the sticky-hand sort. All their second cousins danced around his brother, pleading that he set off more fireworks. It wasn’t even eight and they’d already torn through half.
Eldon took in their pleas with his usual flabbergasted look, then glared at Marty, who tried to sneak off and wolf down a couple of hot dogs before they were all gone. He’d nearly made it to the meat table when a hand grabbed his arm and steered him away.
“Marty, could I have a moment with you?” his mother said, pulling him closer to the dance floor.
“Do I have a choice?” he asked. The hot dogs were even farther away than before. And the street corn. How did he miss that in all its buttery, cheesy goodness?
But his mom had her ‘we need to discuss something important’ look on, so he turned to her. “All right, Mamá. What is it?”
“The woman you brought to the party…?”
“Isn’t she wonderful?” Marty sighed, his gaze skipping past the clusters of cousins, aunties and uncles, to his angel leaning against the dessert table.
“I suppose. It’s only that, well, is she okay?”
That ripped him away, his head shaking. “What? Why?”
“She’s been trying to eat that churro for the past two minutes.”
A groan rattled from Marty as he watched Janeth pose with the cinnamon sugar treat perched on her lips. Her phone switched positions thrice. “Mom, it’s normal.”
“In my day, anyone who couldn’t figure out how to eat a churro es bayunco.”
“Mamá!” He turned on the woman he’d thought would be giddy to meet his girlfriend. Instead, Janeth had gotten a polite but cold handshake and little more. “She’s not crazy—she’s taking pictures of the party. It’s…it’s what she does.”
“Takes fifty pictures of a churro?” his mother asked slowly as if he too was bayunco.
“What’s with the negativity? Do you not like her?”
“No, she’s…fine. Rather aloof.”
Marty scoffed. “So’s Eldon, but you don’t hold that against him.”
“What am I?” said aloof man asked, striding closer. “Aside from covered in sugar. Thank you for that, Martin.”
“Doing my part to liven this party up,” he answered with a snicker at his brother.
Their mother eyed up the white handprints now decorating Eldon’s suit. “I was only inquiring about this new woman in Marty’s life,” she said to her firstborn.
“She’s quite…something, isn’t she?” Eldon said.
“Yes, very, what’s that word they use now? Bougie.”
Both men stared at their newly minted fifty-year-old mother. She glared back. “I use the internet, the same as you. And find some video tutorials helpful.”
“Look, okay. I get that she’s outside of our strange Salvadoran and Italian family loop, but I thought you of all people would welcome her.”
Their mother sighed, her arms crossed as if she had to enter her mental palace to confront him. “Of course, dear. I only was thrown off guard. You arrived with that delightful Brandy and I thought…”
“What?” Marty asked, but he turned away from her to find the woman in question having to field a barrage of questions from Uncle Edward. She seemed to be holding her own and wasn’t going for any mace or flails in her purse.
Odd—he’d never noticed how va-va-voom she was. That thin sundress she had on struggled against her curves, especially around the back. With her hair down, one side kept falling in front of her eye. She’d push it back behind her ear, only for it to come tumbling back out. Marty had almost done it for her when they’d stood in line for carnitas, but she’d turned to him and his hand had frozen before making contact.