There were shrieking, curdling, gulping, bleating cries combined with hurried shouts and panting. And clucks. The patchy green property flowed down a hill into a white fence leading to an elk preserve at the foot of Wyoming’s Teton mountain range. My brother-in-law got drunk multiple times on the trip and hopped the white fence hoping for some headspace in elk and bear territory. My brother David was rounding first base during our wiffleball game, the eighth of the trip, as I jogged home from third – getting pegged with a plastic wiffleball by one of my pre-teen nephews was a more favorable outcome than outright sprinting and dissolving any sense of athleticism I still held with them. Seven goats roamed the property with fifteen chickens, twelve ducks, five turkeys, a few hissing geese, two ranch hands, and thirty members of my immediate family – my four siblings and I plus our spouses, parents, and their eighteen grandkids. I avoided a fluffy tangerine-colored rooster and almost slipped in its droppings as David rounded second, a train of five- to nine-year-old nephews chased behind, hurling the ball as he slid into third. Some of the younger ones collapsed, screaming the phrase “not fair” more than I’d heard since teaching at an all-boys catholic high school. The sun was in its first move toward the mountain peaks, signaling the end of the day, and right at the level to shine on the wooden white Adirondack chairs lined up next to the first-base line. My wife, sisters, mom, and sister-in-law, the group my dad called “the girls,” drank wine, periodically kicking a pecking hen away. If it were a pointillism painting, their Nike shorts and plain Target t-shirts would look more formal, but in my view, it looked more like east Texas had come to town. I laughed when my sister Mary Claire suggested a Bordeaux instead of my mom’s boxed wine – and laughed harder when she described the Bordeaux as “robust.”
Everyone in their place, even the ranch hands Rex and Connor ran out to join the game, which got my dad to come try his hand at pitching, an audience for his past-prime athleticism in cut-off scrub shorts. But as I crossed home plate, a central figure caught my eye. In front of the chair line of crossed-legged women and wine glasses, but far enough away from the pasture playing field, light flickered through the dancing Aspen tree leaves onto two baby blankets. The two youngest kids, Mary Margaret and Elodie, swam in place, rolling over to giggle or spit or a handful of grass they’d pull up. But next to them, my nephew Tommy stretched across the softer of the blankets, leaning on his elbow and crossing his legs. His mom, my sister Katie, asked him to join the game, but he was nursing an injury from a Netflix binge the day before and felt tired. He lifted a handful of something in the air, and I watched as the sun set on my family, my feet covered in chicken shit and my dad yelling at someone to toughen up, and Tommy letting a handful of Cheeto-puffs fall into his titled mouth, giggling and crunching before a goat came staring with its rectangular pupil.
C.E. O’Banion is a 32-year-old writer and father of two living in Baton Rouge, LA. His work can be found in The Southern Review, Whalebone Magazine, and a few newspapers here and there. His debut novel Chinese New Year is coming out December of 2022. He is a writer who has previously worked as an attorney, cake decorator, teacher, and nursing home director. He’s been fired from two. You can find more of his work on his website.