Every family has an uncle Ed. In other families his name may be John or Steve or Louise. In our family, his name is Ed. Just to be clear, Uncle Ed isn’t the guy who creeps everyone out just by looking at them. Uncle Ed is the guy who has the best story for every occasion. That’s because he’s gone everywhere and done everything. Or so he says.
At Grannie Edith’s ninety-fifth birthday family gathering last summer, my cousin Tommy and I drank sweet tea beneath a pecan tree. Tommy lives three counties over, and we only see each other a couple of times a year. Since we’re only five months apart, it was expected that we hang out together. Besides our ages we’ve got nothing in common. I was into baseball and football. Tommy was already into girls. Naturally, we talked about the only thing we had in common. Uncle Ed.
“Dad says Uncle Ed smoked too much pot in the seventies,” explained Tommy. “All the stuff he says is real, ‘cept they’re memories of old movies and TV shows he watched when he was high.”
“Didn’t he work on oil rigs? Maybe it’s all those fumes he sniffed,” I said. “One things for sure. He’s got a story for everything.”
Tommy kicked at a fallen pecan. He looked off into the crowd around Grannie Edith. “I bet I could mess him up.”
“What d’ya mean?”
“Make up somethin’ he can’t make a story for,” said Tommy.
I thought for a second. “Nah. Won’t do. He’s gotta story for everything.”
“Betcha I could do it.”
“Betcha you can’t,” I said.
“What d’ya wanna bet?”
“We don’t got any money,” I said.
“How ‘bout your new Case double-X pocket knife? I saw you showin’ it off earlier. I’ll put up my twenty-two rifle,” said Tommy.
“That ain’t right.”
“What ain’t right is you’re chicken.”
I glared at Tommy.
“You’re twenty-two and a box o’ shells,” I said.
Tommy picked up a pecan and chucked it into a bush. “Can’t argue that. Uncle Ed! C’mere a second, will ya?”
Uncle Ed looked up from Grannie Edith.
“Tommy! Jack! How you boys doin’?”
“Just fine, Uncle Ed,” I said. “How’re you?”
“Fair to Midland.”
“That’s alright,” I said.
“Listen, Uncle Ed. Jack ‘n I were talkin’ ‘bout somethin’ that happened a few years back, but we’re fuzzy on it. Can ya help us out?” asked Tommy.
Uncle Ed tapped Tommy on the shoulder. “I’ll do what I can. Get the ole brain pan workin’.”
“Remember when someone told you nothin’ excitin’ ever happens at a gas pump? And you said somthin’ ‘bout a red tail hawk?” said Tommy.
Uncle Ed looked confused and took a sip of tea. Tommy gave me an arrogant smirk. I started sweating.
“Seems to me you’re talkin’ ‘bout the weddin’ at the Texaco station on highway 75. Yeah. It was at pump four ‘cause that’s where the happy couple met. Of course,” said Uncle Ed, laughing to himself, “the red tail hawk belonged to Juanita, the maid of honor. I was the best man. She was a wild one, that Juanita. She was my wife for ‘bout six weeks back in ’74, but that’s a story too spicy for your ears.”
I laughed and started clapping. Tommy’s jaw dropped.
“You’re makin’ this up,” stammered Tommy.
Uncle Ed slugged Tommy in the shoulder. “Son, the weddin’ couple were your folks. I can’t believe you didn’t know. ‘Specially ‘cause you practically just asked me ‘bout it.”
“No way,” said Tommy, over and over.
“If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’,” said Uncle Ed. “I’ll prove it to ya. Stan! Hey Stan! What pump ya’ll get married at?”
Tommy’s dad Stan shouted, “Four.”
The blood drained from Tommy’s face.
I just shook my head. “How could you not know that? They’re your folks,” I said. “Dumbass.”
Uncle Ed and I laughed at Tommy.
Not only did I walk away with a new twenty-two rifle, I learned two important things at Grannie Edith’s ninety-fifth birthday family gathering. First, compared to my cousin Tommy, I’m a genius. Second, and most important, I have the coolest family ever.