Story #18 for Story A Day Challenge May 2016
The Whole Story
“Tina, let me introduce you to Rococo. Rococo, this is Tina, my wife.”
Tina and Rococo said, simultaneously, “Nice to meet you.”
Chris said, “Rococo is my cousin. She’s Joyce’s daughter.”
“Oh. Oh,” Tina said. “I thought . . . I thought you were . . . I mean, your mother was just talking about you. I am so sorry, but she made it sound like you were . . . “
“Dead?” Rococo finished Tina’s sentence. “No, I’m not dead, but her favorite dog was named Rococo. She’s been dead a looong time, before I was born. Mother likes to leave out that part in hopes of getting sympathy from as many people as possible.”
“Oh,” Tina said, again, as if her vocabulary dissipated with the heat waves rising along the blacktop next to the park where they were gathered for Chris’s family reunion. “I don’t really know what to say to that.”
“Don’t be embarrassed,” Rococo said, “it’s a common mistake. Want to hear the whole story?” Rococo could tell Tina was wishing she was anywhere but there, but Rococo felt it only fair that if her mother had cornered Tina then Rococo deserved comparable air time for the whole story.
“See, when my mother was a teenager she had this dog, Rococo. Carried that dog everywhere. You know how these days high schools make kids carry dolls to get them used to the idea of parenthood? They don’t have anything on my mother. Everywhere she could, my mother took that dog with her. It was a mutt of a dog, something small with a curled tail and floppy bat ears. There are hardly any photos of my mother without that dog. My grandparents have told me these stories hundreds of times. My mother, about a gazillion times. She particularly loves a new audience.” Rococo pointed to Tina. “That’s where you come in.”
Chris moved away, excusing himself from the monologue he knew was coming.
Rococo didn’t even blink when she continued. “My mother loved that dog. Cuddled it, cooed at it, catered to its every need. Spoiled it rotten. And then it got old and died. She was brokenhearted.”
Leaning in closer than Tina would have liked, Rococo whispered in confidence, “I think she married my father on the rebound. Really. She won’t admit it, but I believe it 100%.”
Shifting her weight from one to the other, Rococo continued. “Anyway, you know what happened then. She got pregnant. I was born and she named me Rococo after her stupid little dog. The only problem was, I wasn’t a puppy. I wasn’t as cute as a puppy. I grew. I got big, then bigger. I think she was shocked. Maybe it would have been okay if I had stayed a little baby, but that’s not how it works, is it? No, it’s not.”
Rococo gripped her ice tea glass so hard her knuckles were turning white. “Anyway, suffice it to say that I didn’t get a whole lot of cuddling or cooing. The bigger and older I got, the more disappointed my mother got and the more she idolized that dead dog. If there was a sainthood for dogs, my mother would be on the Pope’s doorstep right this minute to make sure it happened.”
“Oh,” Tina said, repeating the only syllable she could muster. She didn’t want to ask any questions for fear of opening the door to a lengthy discussion. Considering this conversation was already way too long for her, she decided looking dense was the safer bet.
“Well, I’ll let you in on a little family secret, one my mother never seems to include in her story.” Rococo absentmindedly sipped some tea. “My father was not happy, not happy at all when he found out what she had named me. Oh, no. He put his foot down, head-of-the-household stuff and all. If there were any more children, he was going to name them. Put an end to my mother’s silliness of how she chose a child’s name. Fortunately there ended up being only two of us. Me and my younger brother. Hey, there he is. Let me introduce you.”
“Astrodome!” Rococo waved to her brother. “Astrodome! Over here!”