by James Hartley
There was something strange about Thanksgiving this year, and Josh was a little upset about it. The days before had been normal, with Mom doing a lot of extra shopping, but then the guests started to arrive.
When the doorbell sounded, Josh ran to open it. There were two adults, and a boy about his own age, eleven or twelve. Josh had never seen them before. But the adults greeted him with, "Hello, Josh," and the boy said, "Hey, Josh, got any new computer games?"
Josh stood there, unable to reply, until his Mom came up behind him. "Pete! Rose! How good to see you. You're looking great. And hasn't Little Petey grown this year?"
The woman addressed as Rose grabbed Mom and gave her a hug, then said, "Talk about growing, Josh is shooting up too. Oh, Esther, we brought along a couple of pies for dessert. Never too much food on Thanksgiving, right?"
"Right, Rose, and thanks." Josh's Mom turned to him and said, "Why don't you take Little Petey up to your room and show him your new computer games?"
Josh said, "OK, Mom," but he was puzzled. There was that word again. What, he wondered, was a "computer?" He knew he didn't have one in his room, but he was wrong. When he and Petey got upstairs, there was a strange device on Josh's desk. Part was a typewriter keyboard, part looked like an empty picture frame.
Petey was already looking on the shelf over the "computer." He pulled down a brightly colored box and said, "Hey, let's play this one, OK?" He started to hand it to Josh.
Josh answered quickly, "You go ahead, you're the guest," waving vaguely at the computer.
"Oh, boy, thanks! You're really swell, Josh." Petey did something with the computer and the space inside the frame lit up, showing a cartoon of two men with swords fighting a dragon. Petey started typing frantically, and soon was totally absorbed in the game.
Josh tried to figure out what Petey was doing, but he was interrupted by his Mom calling.
"Josh, come down and say hello to Aunt Hazel and Uncle Syd, and your cousin Margaret."
Josh went downstairs to find another group of strangers. The adults were just another aunt and uncle, but Margaret, well, she was something else again. She was about fourteen, and she had very definitely "gotten her development," as they said in school. Josh blushed all over when she grabbed him and kissed him. "What were you doing upstairs?" she asked.
"Oh, I was with Petey. He's playing a game on my computer."
"Petey on the computer? He'll be glued until dinner. Let's go down in the rec room and watch TV."
Josh was confused again. The only place that could be described as "down" was the cellar, that was all storage space, his Dad's workbench, and the furnace. And what was "TV?" But he followed Margaret down the cellar stairs and at the bottom was a room he had never seen before. It had a ping-pong table, and a sofa facing a picture frame like the computer's. Margaret turned on the TV, and they sat on the sofa and watched the pictures.
Well, Josh tried to watch the pictures, but Margaret had other ideas. She kept kissing him, and running her hands all over him. After a while, Josh tried putting his hands on her, and she seemed to like it. Dinner was called before much happened, and Josh wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed.
More strangers had arrived. Everyone sat down at the table, and someone called Uncle Ben, who wore an odd collar, said grace. The prayer he said was odd, too, talking about Pilgrims and someone named Jesus, never once giving thanks to Ormazd for the harvest.
Dinner was good although a few things were odd. There was a strange purple jelly called cranberry sauce, but when Josh tried it he liked it. By the time dinner was over, Josh was stuffed.
Uncle Syd was the first to get up to leave. "Sure wish I could stay and watch the Giants on TV, but the weatherman is predicting snow, and we have a long drive." He and Aunt Hazel and Margaret gathered up their things. "We'll see you all again at Christmas."
As they were going out the door, Margaret grabbed Josh and kissed him again, then whispered in his ear, "It's only a month until Christmas, Josh. We can go down in the rec room and watch TV again then."
Others started getting their coats on, saying they wanted to get home before it snowed. Josh wondered how anyone could tell when it would snow, but so many other strange things had happened he kept his mouth shut. Finally all the guests had left.
Josh waited until his Mom and Dad were busy cleaning up, then went down the cellar. The rec room was gone. There was nothing but the workshop, the furnace, and the piles of boxes. He looked more carefully, trying to figure out where the rec room had been, and finally realized it was the part of the house that had only a crawl space. He gave up and went up to his room.
The computer had vanished, too, and the shelf held only books. Josh was disappointed, he had wanted to see what that computer thing was all about. Well, maybe if Petey came for Christmas, whatever that was, the computer would come back too.
Then he realized he was much more interested in having Margaret and the rec room back. A month, she had said. That would put it right around the Solstice Celebration. Heck, thought Josh, a month, that wasn't so long to wait.