Excerpt from The Vacation by Polly Horvath, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Vacation

by Polly Horvath

The Vacation
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    Aug 2005, 208 pages

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Aunt Magnolia's Idea

Fortunately, as the days went on, Aunt Magnolia's 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. What 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 energizing 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 cheese? NO!"

"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? NO!"

"I believe that is kung fu, dear," said Aunt Pigg. "I have done NOTHING!" said Aunt Magnolia. "ABSOLUTELY NOTHING."

"Now, I wouldn't say nothing, ex-ex-ex-exactly," said Aunt Pigg.

"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 reserved. Visitors to this web site are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

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