Jim eyed his mother-in-law, then his Uncle Brian. “Tornado — Red Alert, “ he called out. “Everybody to the basement!”
Brian stopped mid-stride and looked around, then out the window. “Tornado? What are you talking about? The sky is clear.”
“The atmosphere in here looks pretty stormy, Dad.” Todd looked from his father to his aunt, then back again. “The way you came marching in here, you look like a thundercloud about to zap somebody.”
Brian glared at his sister. “Well, somebody here needs zapping. Maybe they’d get hit with a little common sense.”
Aunt Joyce bristled. “If anyone here needs common sense…”
Brian gritted his teeth. “Your aunt has taken it upon herself….”
“I don’t want Mom’s party turning into a free-for-all. And if you weren’t so obstinate, you’d admit I’m right.”
“A free-for-all?” Jenny repeated.
Brian stuck out his chin. “Of course you’re right, Joyce. You’ve always been right, ever since we were kids and I tried to correct some crazy idea you had.”
“And you never would admit it when my idea was better!”
“Whoa, you two,” Todd interrupted. “Would one of you care to explain what this is all about?”
“Your Aunt Joyce has ruined Grandma’s birthday.”
“I’ve saved it from being spoiled by a bunch of party-crashers. You’re too stubborn to…”
“Mom,” Jenny demanded, “what exactly did you do?”
“It’s what she didn’t do,” said Brian. “Without consulting any of the rest of us, she decided to NOT put the announcement in the newspaper. Now nobody knows about the party.”
Everyone looked at Joyce. “You didn’t?” said Aunt Cassie.
“No, I didn’t. Do you know how it works when someone announces a party. Everyone who’s ever so much as said hello to that person — and a lot who haven’t — show up for the free eats.”
“But how will Grandma’s friends find out about it if we don’t announce it?“ Jenny asked.
Brian clapped her on the back. “Finally someone’s talking some sense! That’s just what I said.”
“We can get a list of their friends from Grandpa and Grandma,” Joyce explained. “Then we’ll call the friends and personally invite them. That way none of them will miss the party because they didn’t see the announcement. Plus, their friends would appreciate a personal invitation a lot better.”
“Hmph,” said Brian. “Mom and Dad know practically everyone in town. Do you know how much phoning we’ll have to do?”
“That’s right,” said Uncle Steve. “You really should have talked this over with us, Joyce.”
Joyce plopped her purse onto a chair. “This is a family affair. We don’t have to invite everybody in town. And this way people like the Tanners won’t show up to spoil the evening. I’m doing this for Mom’s sake.”
“The Tanners have known Mom and Dad for years! Folks will want them to come. Where’s your head, Joyce?” Brian threw up his hands in frustration.
“I know you’re good friends with their son, Brian. But the Tanners have a drinking problem. At the Franklin’s golden anniversary last month at the Seniors’ Center, they came bringing their bottles with them. They spiked their punch in the cloakroom and got pretty tipsy.”
“Well, we don’t want that.” Tiffany paused. “Do you really think it would be a problem?”
“No!” Brian declared.
“Yes,” Joyce countered.
“You’re just being paranoid — and you’re letting your wild imagination ruin Mom’s birthday celebration.”
The cousins looked back and forth from Joyce to Brian. Then they looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Now Brian, let’s not overreact here.” His wife squeezed his arm gently. “The party isn’t ruined. We’ll just start calling people.”
Brian snorted. “No, if Joyce wants to do things her way we’ll just let her. But we’re not going to be there.” He gave his two sons a pointed look, daring them to disagree.
“If you’re going to be like that, we won’t be there, either!” Joyce snatched up her purse and headed toward the door.
Uncle Steve grabbed her arm as she passed. “Just a minute, you, two.”