Excerpt of The Vacation by Polly Horvath
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Aunt Magnolia's Idea
Fortunately, as the days went on,
platelet test showed that she was on the rebound and her
body had stopped all its indiscriminate destruction. We
began to find her lying on the couch with a steely look of
speculation in her eye. I, for one, did not like it and I
could tell it was making Aunt Pigg nervous. It shifted the
dynamics in the house. Instead of Aunt Pigg and Aunt
Magnolia wary of me, suddenly it was me and Aunt Pigg
wary of Aunt Magnolia. Aunt Pigg began to come up to
me when I got home from school and say things conspiratorially
like, "She's doing it again. She's thinking.
is she thinking about?"
We could not tell what Aunt Magnolia was thinking
about. Although she was weak, it was apparent that her
strength was returning. Her bruises were disappearing.
Her gums had stopped bleeding. But she had a frightening glint in her eye, as if some angry thought was
her and feeding her return to life.
"What have I done with my life, Pigg?" she would ask
over dinner. She still insisted on being served on the
couch although we were quite aware that she could at
least hobble to the dinner table now. Aunt Pigg and I ate
across the room from her at the dining room table.
"Uh . . . uh . . ." Aunt Pigg would say nervously because
if you didn't say the right thing to Aunt Magnolia
she would snap. Aunt Pigg said this kind of crankiness
was just part of a convalescent's progress and we should
ignore it, but I had my doubts. It seemed to me more as if
when she began bleeding she also released the bile from
the dark and twisted recesses of her soul.
"NOTHING!" barked Aunt Magnolia. "NOTHING!"
"Oh, please stop," said Aunt Pigg. We had just gotten
all the trash off our lawn and become respectable again
in the eyes of the neighborhood. She did not want someone
thinking there were domestic disturbances going on.
"Have I gone to Spain? NO! Have I worn stiletto heels
and hung out in nightclubs? NO! Have I eaten goat
"Would you like me to get you some goat cheese, Mag?" asked Aunt Pigg tremulously.
"NO!" said Aunt Magnolia. "I'm just listing my life's
shortfallings. Have I swum the Great Salt Lake? NO!"
"Neither has my mother," I said, chewing ruminatively.
There is nothing like someone's loud theatrics to
make me cool as a cucumber. "It seems to me if someone
should have swum the Great Salt Lake, it would be my
mother because she wants to become a Mormon."
"Have I been trained in the ancient art of kung gu?
"I believe that is kung fu, dear," said Aunt Pigg.
"I have done NOTHING!" said Aunt Magnolia. "ABSOLUTELY
"Now, I wouldn't say nothing, ex-ex-ex-exactly," said
"I WANT TO GO TO THE BEACH!" yelled Aunt
Magnolia. And then she sat up and finished her dinner
quite politely as if nothing had happened. Maybe she just
had to get it out of her system.
But no. It was not out of her system the next day, so to
the beach we were going. All three of us, for an unspecified
period of time. Aunt Pigg had to write my teacher a
note saying I was leaving on the weekend and would
probably be gone the last bit of school and could she
please organize whatever work I needed to finish out the
year so that I could do it on the road.
"Oh, of course," said my teacher when I gave her the
note, "your mother disappeared in Uganda, didn't she,
dear? Naturally your aunts want to take you to Africa, tobe with your father. You'll be a comfort to each other."
Tears welled up in her eyes. I couldn't bring myself to tell
her that I was going to the beach.
Excerpt from Vacation by Polly Horvath, pages 34-39. Copyright . 2005 by Polly
Horvath. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC in 2005. All rights
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