Aggie had her baby on July 17, and it was immediately apparent that Iggie was not the father. The child had very long, straight brown hair and its tiny baby features were snugly concentrated in the centre of her face, which reminded everyone of someone else… but who?
We had them over for dinner again to admire the new addition to the family, and it was Celia, torn away from her iPhone long enough to examine the wee thing with a critical eye, reached over her, smoothed her soft hair into a part, then snatched Uncle Fred’s glasses from his face and posed them over the little face.
All eyes turned to Uncle Fred, who turned an alarming shade of magenta, then to Aggie, who immediately took the baby up to nurse, and finally to Iggie, who was idly clipping his chest hair with my mother’s favourite sewing scissors.
He looked up, unalarmed. He was used to people staring at him and had given up trying to figure out why. He smiled and waved, then set the scissors on the coffee table. He picked up a magazine, and proceeded to rip out the pages, one by one, leaving them in a neat stack on the cushion beside him. He looked up once, to glance meaningfully in the direction of the kitchen, indicating he was ready to fill his belly.
My mother, who had turned pink in the face too, gratefully hustled into the kitchen where the Crock Pot roast needed no attention at all. In fact, we all threaded our way around the furniture in a long, windy, single line like a regiment of ants, into the kitchen to join her. All except Iggie, Aggie, Uncle Fred, and my father.
We could hear my father’s low baritone, humming soothingly, and Uncle Fred’s less sedate squeaks, coughs, and something that sounded like Gregorian chanting. My mother told me to get away from the door and mash the potatoes, which was usually Uncle Fred’s job, though the consensus was he mashed them too much, making them gluey. I was determined to have fluffy mash, and dedicated my full attention to it.
Julia poured herself another glass of white wine. “Who else would have him?” she said, and my mother told her to hush, even though, if you thought about it, it was true.
Uncle Fred had meticulously parted and gelled brown hair, hardened into a helmet, and he wore an abundance of Old Spice cologne because, we suspected, he had an aversion to bathing. He was very white and prone to sunburn even in the winter. He didn’t like animals and we had to lock Charlie in the basement whenever he visited, because he pretended to have an allergy. He had a lot of alleged allergies, including aversions to poppies, asters, rayon, acid-free paper, dish soap, chain link, and Chapstick. Almost everyone had caught him watching porn on my father’s laptop, because he was afraid to access it at home in case “they” could trace it back to him. He wore white sport socks with leather loafers. Uncle Fred’s political leanings shifted regularly to the opposite of what everyone else thought. He believed he was a good debater, but he had no true beliefs.
Well, nobody’s perfect.
Iggie was surprisingly and profoundly disinterested in the fact that Aggie and the baby would now move in with Uncle Fred. If you looked back, you could see their relationship had been troubled for a while. Iggie had stopped taking Aggie’s hand and putting it in his lap a long time ago. Aggie had stopped licking his face when she felt amorous. Perhaps it was inevitable that they would drift apart. The stresses of moving to a new town and to an era far different from the Pleistocene Epoch could strain any relationship.
The landlord of the apartment that Iggie and Aggie had called home wanted to torch the interior, and possibly the entire building, but my father convinced him the place could be salvaged, and called on his friend Ernie McMurphy to come and do the drywalling and carpet installation at no cost to the landlord, since the damage deposit had barely begun to cover the necessary renovations.
So Iggie needed to find a new place, a bachelor pad, and my father called on one of his ex-students, now a real estate agent, Sally Bonaparte, to help Iggie find an unfurnished studio apartment on the ground floor with room for a fire pit outside.
It was love at first sight.