When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

The Bulgarian Princess – Part 3

This is the third and final installment of this story. Read Parts 1 and 2 if you haven’t done so already and want this to make sense. Or maybe you don’t want to read those parts, and that’s fine. OR, maybe you want to read them out-of-order, which is also great. Enjoy!


After more than eight years of marriage, I thought we, including my brother, would have grown to like her. Wishful thinking is a dangerous thing, kind of like chain-smoking Marlboro Reds for 40 years and expecting that the CT scan will reveal the unsullied lungs of a newborn. Their marriage was a mess due to my brother’s recent job loss, a house in foreclosure, and her refusal to seek legitimate employment in lieu of her current money-making hobbies: performing body painting at nudist resorts, chauffeuring my seven-year-old niece to local beauty pageants, and black market trafficking Levis jeans in Eastern Europe. The Bank of My Dad kept them out of a cardboard box and her in designer duds and platinum-blonde hair extensions.

As Fall fell upon us that year, I started to dread the looming holidays. I concluded that I would rather shove a meat thermometer into my eyeball than spend another family gathering drowning in the palpable tension created by two married people who hate each other. (No, I’m not talking about my parents, they might actually like each other, on most days.)

On Turkey Day, they arrived at my parents’ house, the location of the Dad ATM machine. This year, the machine screen displayed “Out of Order.” Perhaps my dad’s spine reappeared because the turkey still had 30 minutes to go and he was two-thirds of the way through a bottle of Bordeaux – or maybe he valued his retirement savings far more than her pedicures and Coach bags.

News of the ATM malfunction did not go over well. Panicked and shocked, they locked themselves in one of the spare bedrooms.

Within seconds, my mother had shimmied down the hallway to put her ear to the door, even through the rest of us could hear them from the other side of the house.

You just need to get a real job, and not that damn body painting shit, he yelled.

I stay at home to be mudder, she screamed back. I not career person, I work to raise my daughter. Your dad is mean…no more money?

This continued for 20 minutes. I could hear words like “stupid,” “lazy,” “cheapskate,” “bitch,” “douche-canoe” and “helicopter mom,” lobbed back and forth between the two of them with the intensity of two tennis players competing in the Wimbledon finals.

Then there was a loud screeching noise, followed by a pop and the thud of flesh hitting first branches and then soil. A momentary silence was interrupted by gut-wrenching sobs. My mother knocked on the door.

Is everything okay in there?

He’s gone. Leave me alone, shouted the Princess from behind the barricaded bedroom door.

My mother returned to the kitchen to tend to the turkey, which was now turning from golden brown to a charred grey.

What happened, did he go out the window again? I asked.

Yes, said my mom, staring intently at the inedible turkey. And this time I’m pissed, because I just had new screens installed on those damn windows. Now let’s get this goddamn turkey on the table and everyone is going to be happy, even if I had to paint the goddamn smiles on your faces with a sharpie.

We headed to the dining room and gathered around the smoldering carcass of what used to be a turkey, trying to ignore the two empty seats at the end of the table.

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