(Originally written: April 23, 2018)

Uncle Ronald was a curious man. And by that I don’t mean that he himself was curious about things. He was too self-centered to be concerned with things that weren’t closely related to his center of gravity. He was curious in that he was a mystery. No one knew whose Uncle he was. He wasn’t anyone’s brother, cousin, or even friend. He definitely wasn’t anyone’s sister because that would be ridiculous. Some people joked that Uncle was just his first name. Those people aren’t very funny. 

Despite not knowing who Uncle Ronald was, people still invited him to parties and important functions and they’d still call him Uncle Ronald. He’d come for the food. If there was something that Ronald liked more than himself, it was food. His doctors warned him against eating the way he had eaten as a young man (no one knows when Uncle Ronald was a young man. Just that he’s an old one right now). Yet since heeding a doctor’s warning would mean he listened to a voice other than his own, those warnings fell on deaf ears. 

Mostly recently Uncle Ronald had been invited to an engagement party. He arrived when no one was looking at the entrance and had gotten started on the food before the guests even realized the caterers had brought it out. Ronald thought the chicken was a bit too dry but that didn’t stop him from taking a fifth helping. He also did a fantastic imitation of a bear preparing for hibernation when he single-handedly cleared a platter of salmon. Although if he had to knock the salmon out of the air like a bear did, Ronald would have stuck with the chicken. Asking him to exercise was like asking a fish to give dry land a shot. You’d have wasted your time and been left feeling wet. 

Disaster struck when he decided to move on to dessert. The options in front of him were: a German chocolate cake, a mango key-lime cheesecake, and a bowl of fruit salad. Feeling the urge for some moist chocolate after the chicken had left his palate in a worse state than the Sahara, the man took a step forward to grab a plate of it. Everyone is born with a set number of steps they will take (or rolls if they’re wheelchair bound). Ronald reached that limit when he moved towards the cake. He clenched his heart, exclaimed he should have had the cheesecake first, passed a noxious amount of gas, then fell to the floor. 

The guests were quite stunned. This story is in fact about three of them and their thoughts on the party’s events. Ronald’s passing (of gas and of life) being one of them.

Teresa Langley is a mother of three and a mom of none. Her middle child, the one that never called, had gotten engaged to an accountant and this dull little party was the best thing they could do. It was humiliating. An indoor party when Spring had just started? Chicken when they could have gotten beef? Honestly all Lisa had to do was ask. Teresa would have planned the party for her. But no. She couldn’t let her own mother, the woman who had brought her into this world, do this for her. 

Teresa stared down her nose as Lisa danced with…whatever his name was. Too long for her to bother remembering. If Lisa could stick with one man instead of jumping from one to another then maybe Teresa could bother. She hadn’t even met the man until the month before when he had insisted on meeting her. Lisa, the ungrateful wretch, had done her best to stop that from happening but had caved to her fiancé’s request. Seriously, Lisa was lucky Teresa had agreed to come. To this gathering of freeloaders that was under the guise of being an engagement party. 

Lisa was wearing a dress that stopped just past her knees. It wasn’t bad looking but Teresa wouldn’t have picked that color for her daughter. Made her look sickly. Not that Lisa had very many choices for colors. Poor girl didn’t really match with anything. Not her fault. She had gotten her father’s complexion. Her hair was the one thing she had gotten from her mother and she couldn’t even wear it properly. Styled in a way that showed off her father’s ears. Did she not care for appearances at all? This was her engagement party and she hadn’t even made an effort to look presentable. 

Teresa huffed and looked away before she got a stroke. One of the caterers returned with a drink that she had asked for five whole minutes ago. She waved him off and tried to find something that would make this “party” worthwhile. Instead everything she found made her wrinkle more, the lighting of the room making her look older than she would admit. The guests had been asked to dress formally yet some of the men were wearing jeans with their button up shirts. And it seemed many of the women were intent on picking up some new customers at the party considering how quickly their dresses ended. Eventually, after glaring at the floral arrangements, she saw him. Ronald. Teresa huffed again. Lisa continued to surprise her in increasingly disappointing ways. How could she have invited him but not invite her own brother? He was busy with medical school but he would have made time if Teresa had asked. At least he listened to her. 

Teresa was about to tell her youngest to bring her some fruit salad ( clearly the caterers couldn’t work quickly ) when she heard Ronald make an exclamation about cheesecake. She turned to see what mess he was making now when he emitted an extremely rude noise and collapsed to the ground. Wonderful. Now Lisa would break into tears and this party would manage to get worse than it was. If Lisa had listened to her mother, literally all of this could have been avoided.

Teresa huffed a third time, apparently trying to do her best impression of an arrogant steam train. She had decided to leave this mess before she’d have to deal with watching Lisa’s theatrics. Maybe she’d give her a call in a few days if the girl had calmed down. The child better answer the phone this time. Teresa was growing quite tired of being ignored. 

Charlie Hedding was ecstatic. His best friend was getting married and he was going to be the best man. Well he hadn’t been asked yet. But considering he had introduced the now happy couple to each other and had grown up with the groom, Charlie felt that he had a really good chance of being the best man. Still. It wouldn’t be appropriate to make assumptions so Charlie was doing his best to remain patient and wait for his friend to ask him. To be a best man, you must actually be the best man. To that end, Charlie was running around the party putting out the various fires that were starting while they were still embers.

Jacob Barley – having done his name justice – was making quite the impression at the bar. The bartender was growing very exasperated and his years of customer service was the only thing holding him back from breaking a bottle of Jack Daniels on the drunk’s head. Of course, Jacob would be too inebriated to feel the pain and would instead focus his attention on licking up the whiskey dripping on his face. As the bartender’s hands wrapped around the bottle’s neck, Charlie arrived. He put his arms around Jacob’s shoulders and dragged him away, offering the bartender an apologetic smile and shrug. 

Jacob and Charlie were more acquaintances than friends so the best man wannabe did not hesitate to dig through the nuisance’s pockets and handing all the cash inside to the taxi driver that arrived. Would Jacob make it safely to his home? Charlie did not care. If something happened, he’d hear about it. And probably continue to not care. He had a best friend to care about. Jacob was nothing. 

Charlie entered the venue in time to see that Lisa’s back zipper was in the process of going down. He shook his head and rushed over. He knew that she was too big for the dress. But it’s not like he could say that. He could say it as delicately as possible and Lisa would have felt that she was being called a baby elephant. Instead he had just put on a smile and told her to buy it. He was about to go ask Lisa’s mother to take care of it but remembered that Lisa hated her mother. Charlie didn’t get why. Teresa Langley had seemed like a lovely woman when asking if Charlie was interested in dating her other daughter. After seeing the other daughter, Charlie made up a girlfriend. 

Instead Charlie settled on sending the maid-of-honor to the rescue. Doing that only served to remind him that he wasn’t best man yet. He would be right? It’s not like there was any other option. Well. Ravi did have a brother. But the brother would be more involved in the Hindu wedding. It wouldn’t be fair to give him both. Ravi wouldn’t do that to Charlie. His anxieties were interrupted when he saw Uncle Ronald clear a platter of salmon. He rolled his eyes and began speed walking towards the table of food. This was another thing that Charlie had seen coming. Uncle Ronald always made an impression whenever he went somewhere and Charlie felt that Ravi and Lisa should be the only ones making an impression at this party. 

Charlie’s attempts to stop Ronald from eating everyone’s share of the food went ignored. It didn’t help that Uncle Ronald was as tall as he was wide and Charlie had just barely made it to average height. After he had been carelessly pushed aside, Charlie realized that Ronald hadn’t even noticed him. He pursed his lips and instructed the caterers to cut off Ronald’s access to the food. They did not look too happy about their new guard duties but they didn’t have chance to protest before Charlie rushed away.

Charlie was getting some wine for Ravi’s Mom when he heard Ronald shout. He whirled around, wine forgotten, and rushed towards the noise. He arrived just as Ronald died, the recent passing of gas still echoing through everyone’s mind. As Charlie stared at the man that had been more whale than human, he had a very disheartening thought. 

It would be some time before Ravi decided on a best man. 

Ollie, not short for Oliver or any other name, didn’t understand why he had to be at the engagement party. He didn’t even know these people. Well. He knew his Mom. She had been the one to drag him along, promising him that he’d be able to make loads of friends if she came with her. Unless she expected him to make friends with grown ups, Ollie’s Mom was a liar. A liar who, Ollie knew for sure, had been unable to find a babysitter and had been forced to bring her son along. 

Ollie felt that he could take care of himself just fine. So what if he had fallen down a flight of stairs the last time he had been left alone.  He had tripped and gravity had done it’s job. It’s not like a babysitter could stop gravity from working. If anything it was a good thing he had been alone. If a babysitter had been there, Ollie’s Mom would have rained fury down on the innocent even if Ollie was the only one to blame. Since there wasn’t a babysitter available to use as a scapegoat, Ollie’s Mom had blamed his Dad for being the one to convince her to leave. She had a tendency to blame everyone except herself or Ollie. 

Fortunately Ollie knew that his Mom’s behavior made her come off as a word that he wasn’t allowed to say. So he always acted in a way that his Mom wouldn’t, making him a boy that was very well liked among his friends and classmates. Not that it mattered right now. None of them were here. And he knew none of the grown ups would care that he was a good kid. Any kid was a good one if they stayed out of the way. 

So that’s exactly what Ollie was doing. Staying out of the way by sitting at a table while his Mom stood very closely to a man that wasn’t his Dad. He sighed deeply. Deeper than any child his age had any business going. It was normally a depth reserved for adults that had been recently laid off or divorced. But it seems he thought that being bored was just as bad so he sighed again. He was going to sigh a third time to get his Mom’s attention when he caught sight of Uncle Ronald. 

To an adult, Ronald was a man you avoided looking at. As I have made very clear, Ollie isn’t a child. He became captivated by the man’s size and eating ability. Ollie could barely finish his single piece of chicken. Yet this amazing man was easily swallowing hundreds!

(Ollie isn’t very good at counting)

Eager to get a better view, Ollie abandoned his post and wriggled around the dancing adults to finally get to the table. He stood at the edge and leaned on it, staring at Uncle Ronald as if he was staring at his hero Neil Armstrong. Uncle Ronald was better. Neil Armstrong couldn’t possibly eat this much. Not even half as much! 

Ollie watched as Uncle Ronald reached for the desert. He moved so that he could give his new hero a hand but it was too late. Uncle Ronald had made one last step ( in no way as impressive as Neil’s step ) and fell to the ground. When the man farted Ollie began laughing. Uncle Ronald was a comedy genius. Then Ollie noticed that no one else was laughing. In fact the whole room had gone very silent and everyone that was close by was staring at the fallen man with a look of surprise, disgust, and confusion. Ollie was about to ask what had happened when his Mom appeared from the side and began dragging him away by his wrist. Ollie did his best to protest but it would be some years before he got stronger than his Mom. For now he was stuck with being pulled away from finding out what had happened to his new idol. 

Ollie was wishing he had never come in the first place because now he knew that his Mom was keeping something from him. 

If only he hadn’t fallen down the stairs. 

In case you’re wondering, Lisa and Ravi did end up getting married despite many people in his family saying that Ronald’s death was a bad omen. Ravi chose to listen to his wife-to-be since he is a man of intelligence. Lisa’s mother did not attend because only friends and family were invited. She did not even find out that the wedding had happened until her youngest daughter told her three months later. 

Ollie’s mother was also invited and, much to Ollie’s frustration, she had decided to bring her son. Clearly she had lost the ability to read because the invitations clearly stated that children were not invited. Or perhaps she did read it and decided that her Ollie was so well behaved he might as well be an adult. Whatever her reasoning, Ollie was miserable and Lisa was annoyed. 

It took some time for people to find out that Uncle Ronald had passed so invitations were still sent. And even after everyone knew that he was in a coffin (of record breaking size), they still sent out invitations. If you want to know why, I suggest you ask them. I’m honestly pretty bored of talking about Uncle Ronald and the people that knew him. Why do you think I only talked about 3 of them?

Oh and yeah. Charlie Hedding was the best man.