THE CUSTOMS OF HIS CLAN

By Deirdre Maultsaid

His instructions are excited and penetrating enough to be overheard by
everyone around us because he is trying to put me on my best behaviour in
front of his mother. Three more bus stops and I'll be at her house for the
first time. He turns in his seat and straightens his back in order to tower
over me more. "Let me tell her about the baby, okay? And whatever you
do, don't mention ferrets!"

I ask, "Why on earth would I mention ferrets?"

He says, "Just don't. My mother lost a member of her family to ferrets so
we have a long, bad history with them. We never talk about it. They
should be exterminated. That is one species that should be extinct. I mean
it. Blow them all up." And then, he points his finger like a gun.

A member of the family? Exterminated? "Don't they make good pets?" I
ask.

He insists, "That's the one thing I won't stand for."

I point out, "We don't live with your mother."

He concedes, "Well, if we tie it up in our basement. Just don't ever, ever say
anything!"

I'll use whatever I have against his mother. What do I have? My youth,
some words, and a lack of reverence. Rats, snakes, spiders. This is what
I think. I'll see what she says first, how wide she opens her door, where I
am allowed to sit down. If she challenges me or fails me, then from my
secret arsenal--ferret! Will it stun her enough? Otherwise I will have to
use guilt or the expected grandchild. Or worse, what I have in such short
supply—understanding.



Copyright © Deirdre Maultsaid 2001

Deirdre is a Canadian writer. She writes postcard fiction, essays and is revising her
novel "The Cold Ashes of Her Shelter". She has had work published in Canada,
at Other Voices and Zygote amongst others, and on line at Conspire, The
Barcelona Review, The Danforth Review  and others.