It was Sunday and Sunday at the Campbell house meant one thing - Uncle Jake.
Before Nana died she and Uncle Jake would lock themselves in the drawing room with cucumber sandwiches and iced tea. Now, we were given the task of entertaining the crotchety old mule. How Nana was able to put up with him I'll never understand, but after three Sundays with Uncle Jake Nana
went from sweet old lady to saint in all of our eyes.
The day started off with the usual attempts by Lucy, Janie, Mike and I all stuttering out excuses to leave. Even Dad tried with the How bout I take the kids to Church sham; however, Mom was not giving out any day
The gray overcast sky seemed to foretell of Uncle Jakes visit. At precisely
10 a.m. the doorbell rang - not once, not twice but exactly three times. Uncle
Jake was always a creature of habit. We all looked at each other hoping not to
be drafted to answer the door. Janie, would you please let Uncle Jake in? Whew, I escaped again. Along with answering
the door the draftee was now responsible for entertaining Uncle Jake for at least 15 minutes, which, in Uncle Jake time, feels
more like an hour. Uncle Jake would complain about any and everything. He liked no food, enjoyed no drink, nothing is as good as it once was and he was an expert in his field
of finding each and every fault you possessed.
Mom went into the kitchen to start breakfast as Dad ushered us toward the drawing room to sit with him. Uncle Jake sat in the wing back chair, took out his pipe and began tapping it against the ashtray Mom laid
out that morning. Mom never allowed anyone to smoke in the house; however, Uncle
Jake was not just anyone.
So younguns, what kind of grades are you getting?
Lucy would answer first, as usual, since she was the Queen of Aces. Next
Mike - the regular B-Boy, Janie and than I. Not that I was a bad student, I was
just ordinary. I guess ordinary wasnt good enough for Uncle Jake as he seemed
to receive particular pleasure when pointing out my mediocrity. After a twenty
minute lecture on the importance of an education Mom, like a guardian angel, rescued us with a call to breakfast.
After breakfast we would all quickly volunteer to wash and dry the dishes. Unfortunately
this job required only two people; therefore, two of us would return to the drawing room and him. This week Mike and I had to walk that last mile. When we opened
the door we noticed that all of Dads papers had flown off of the credenza onto the floor.
Mike ran over to the window to close it while I headed for the speech. For
the last week all Dad ever did was work on his speech - the one he had to give to the men coming to hear all about how Dad
could bring the business out of its slump with just the smallest investment. These
men, these investors, would make or break not only Dad, but the hundreds of men working at the plant. Dad was a man possessed. As soon as I had picked all of the
pages up, satisfying myself that nothing lay under the sofa nor the chairs, I put the speech on the table with a small statue
atop it to keep it from again flying. As I sat down I realized my error, what
was I thinking, Uncle Jake was in the room. He had the statue off and pages in
hand before I even had the chance to turn around. I looked from Dads speech,
to Uncle Jakes cold, gray eyes, to Mikes panic stricken expression and felt a thump, the thump of my heart dropping from my
chest and landing somewhere near my left knee. It was all over.
Mike fumbled while I bumbled but nothing was going to stop that crazy old man from reading that speech. He sat with a look on his face that feel somewhere between amusement and contempt. He was going to let Dad have it. I had to feel sorry for Dad
since I knew that Uncle Jakes words cut like a knife and this was Dads bread and butter in Jake the Blades hands. I crept away from the drawing room slowly although I wasnt sure what my plan was. Maybe I can run into Mom and explain, she can send Dad to the store or something. Maybe I can distract Dad, no, I realized that a game of catch or a story about homework would be far too
lame to keep Dad from his destiny.
As I approached the kitchen I heard my Mother and Father talking about the storm outside. Now honey, we cant send Uncle Jake out into that weather, why hes nearly eighty years old, hes likely to
blow away, said my Mother and Dad, he said nothing at all. I knew what he was
thinking, what we would all have been thinking, Nooooooooooo.
It came to me than, at that moment, I knew what to do. Uncle Jake would
have to catch a cab to get back to the home, and if there was a storm maybe I could convince him, yes I believed at that moment
I might be able to save Dad after all.
I ran into the drawing room gasping for breath and flailing my arms about in the most exaggerated way possible. Uncle Jake, Uncle Jake, you gotta call a cab fast.
This storms settling in and could last for days, there wont be any cabs on the street soon at all. Quick, Mike, give me the phone. Jake, this creature of habit,
would not, could not dream of spending a night away from his own bed, with his cracked tea cup and soda crackers in bed. No, Uncle Jake did not even want to wait for the cab and headed straight for the porch. Just than; however, it looked as if the whole plan was about to crash in as Dad appeared
out of nowhere. He looked at my sweaty brow, Mikes shocked expression and the
pages of his speech dropped casually next to the wing chair with just a single ash upon its pages. Dad looked at Uncle Jake with a furled brow and spoke, Jake, dont forget your hat.