AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 6/04/2004 12:41:00 PM ----- BODY:

Foot-in-Mouth Disease

I can't believe I forgot to write about this. Last weekend Leeann invited me to her house for a Memorial Day cookout, which would feature some people I haven't seen in a truly frightening length of time. In I walked, into the Twilight Zone. I mean no offense to my former Chelmsford brethren, but this was just plain weird. Take, for example, the fact that when I walked into the ranch-style house where Leeann has lived since I've known her, I walked over the brand-new hardwood floors, past the brand-new completely remodeled kitchen, onto a porch where there's no longer a screen door and out onto the back patio without noticing anything was different. I was also nervous about seeing my former classmates. We were all fairly high-octane students in high school, and I worry about that high-school reunion kind of embarrassment where someone you grew up with shows off their wedding ring and stock portfolio and you're backing away toward the Jell-O mumbling something awkwardly and thinking, I live at home.... It's all good, though. Most people were different, yet the same, the way Leeann's house was. But Amanda is pregnant. I knew this, of course, beforehand thanks to that ubiquitous Chelmsford gossip, but I hadn't seen her showing before. When I walked out to the patio she was on a chaise lounge, having been sentenced to bed rest, and quite clearly, hugely pregnant. This is important later. I had brought Tim for back-up, just in case things were nightmarish. He did his usual Michigan J. Frog routine, but I didn't mind. A couple of times he came in handy to talk with when other people were milling about elsewhere. I never know what's going to make these people crack up and flatter me about how witty I supposedly am and what's going to draw a deafening chorus of silence. I said something, I forget what now, that made Jenny Medeiros choke on her corn on the cob, but then as we were discussing the fact that I am now allergic to shellfish, when I made the comment that "If I was ever going to kill myself, I think I'd do it with shellfish, you know, go out happy," oh, boy, were there crickets. It gets worse, though. Later on there was one guy hanging out by the grill--there's always one guy who takes over the grill, have you ever noticed that? Just someone who cannot resist making sure every person has a burger, a piece of chicken, a hot dog, want cheese on that?--who was asking wistfully if there was anything else to cook. "No. Stop cooking," Leeann told him. "You could get a squirrel, maybe, slap that on there," I volunteered, ever the clown. Laughter. Then riffing on the theme of strange grilled items. Well, it's all fun and games until someone gets poked in the uvula with their own big toe, and in this case that someone was me in a big way. As the suggestions and one-liners reached their crescendo, I blurted out, "your first-born child!" A gasp. I looked over, and there was Amanda on the chaise lounge, clutching her belly protectively. Tim pointed at me and laughed.