People in the village of Upstate New York find the McClary family to be a peculiar bunch. Some call them eccentric; others call them crazy, but the strangest McClary is Endive, the middle child, nearing forty, and living in a basement above a mortuary.
Endive is a frustrated social worker in a bureaucratic hog tie rendering her helpless to those in need. Invisible to her family, and boyfriend Neil, she comes undone when he ended the relationship. The plot to win him back is foiled by Davin Gray, rodeo star whose bravado and straight talk repels her but it masks the pain of a troubled past.
And she watched him hungrily for any signs he still loved her as he had professed so many times before it scared her. Was it false bliss for the last six months? So what if it was, Endive was grateful to be the delusional fool because being loved made her life purposeful, something that filled the void and she did not want it gone. She did not want the “before Neil” of her life back, but unable to bear the emptiness of “after Neil” that was sure to follow.
Her temples pulsated to the verge of rupture. What to do, what to say, think, think, and think. The calm, rational side said to shut up, go to the bathroom, then reason with him to give the relationship a chance. Jesus, it’s only been six months. What could one possibly know about a person in half a year, 26 weeks, 120 days, 4,368 hours? Relationships have to be cultivated, a history must establish. What if the previous owner of the checkered sofa had gotten rid of it after six months?
“Would you excuse me for a minute?” Endive finally pushed herself up, steadied wobbly knees. “I’ll be back, have to tinkle. Be right back,” she repeated, curtsied and smiled, then walked briskly to the bathroom hunched over as if holding a full bladder.
A crazed woman about to crash off a cliff with a malfunctioning seatbelt, she pushed and shoved the medicine cabinet contents in search of the Valium. Okay, think, think, think, she repeated. Endive’s lovely brown eyes tripled in size when she grasped the empty bottle. “Oh God,” she freaked out mindful of Neil a few steps past the bathroom door, “right in the middle of a crisis.“
Intuitively, she grabbed the Midol box ripping it apart. A pill was taped inside the lid and above it, in a frenzied scrawled was written: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
Margaret Buckhanon’s fiction has appeared in Birmingham Arts Journal, The Delmarva Review, Mississippi Crow and Shalla magazine. The Delmarva Review selected her short story,The Homecoming, for reading on NPR in 2009. Her debut novel, SIREN, was published in 2001.