Conrad glared at his cell phone: 37 voice mails and counting. Christi was relentless. This time she wanted his spare laptop. When the phone rang again, he checked the urge to throw it out the window.
"Bro," he sighed into the receiver, "I thought you were her. I was gonna lay into you."
"I told you not to hook up with that bitch," his little brother laughed, "is nuts."
"I know," Conrad muttered. "I wish you never introduced us, Johnny."
"Whoa! Hey! Brother-man, I told you then—don't." Johnny laughed, "you did, that's not my fault. But, now you know."
"For sure. What you want anyway?"
"Um, Aunt Kimmi's," Johnny hesitated, "well...she...she passed away. Her wake is tonight."
"Dude," Conrad stared at the clock on his DVD player, "that's in thirty minutes. What the—oh, uh, good looking out, little brother." He shook his head, twice: once for Aunt Kimmi and once for himself. "Thanks, Johnny. I'll be there."
Ten minutes. He was only ten minutes late. A couple of the older aunts scowled, but he didn't feel the disapproval, the tension that usually accompanied their glares. Music played. Relatives mingled, some meeting for the first time. Old familial rivals cut-up using memories as can openers in mock civility. "You remember when..."
By 11:30 PM, Conrad sat in the driver's seat, fingers wrapped tightly around the wheel. She'd called 32 more times. He blared Miniature Tigers and drove with the windows down. He found himself in the Outskirts. Turning into the first trailer park, he pulled over on a small dirt mound between two trailers. The hood of his car was warm as he lay there staring at the stars. He couldn't help but think of Christi's insanity and Aunt Kimmi's funeral. As beautiful as the Perseids were, he wished some stars never fell.