It’s been another four years, and I’m back at my Aunt Hemera’s quadrennial picnic. Why, I can’t exactly say. Everyone here is a quadragenarian, nobody really wants me to be here, and I’d rather be anywhere else right now. But you can’t escape family duties, even if they are all of them quozes.
It’s nothing but aunts and uncles as far as I can see. Uncle Herman is bragging loudly about the time he wrestled quoll and quokka in the Outback. Only Aunt Georgina is pretending to listen. The two quidnuncs Aunt Bertha and Aunt Merry are over by the gate, discussing who’s changed the most and who’s closest to their quietus. Uncle Terrence is scarfing down quenelle before his sister, Aunt Matilda, sees him, and interrogates him like an old quest monger.
Over here by the food, my appetite perks up. Besides the quenelle, there’s quetsch, quarender, quarhog, quiddany, and quadrimium. Aunt Hemera loves the unusual. In fact, the food just highlights the unusual beauty of our location. Right now in summer, the green lawn is carpeted in quatrefoil. The sky is clear and a breeze sweeps in from the sea just a mile away. Everyone arrives for the picnic by quadriga or quadrireme, as has been tradition for the past four generations. (Uncle Mertis says it’s been that way for five, but not many people pay him attention because he’s a little off-kilter.) Once you arrive, there are these elaborate quadras set up around the grounds. Four, of course. Each decorated to look like one of the four seasons. Even their gaudiness can’t detract from the beauty of our Isle. They are meant to represent the old quarter land, the way our Isle used to be divided. The Isle of Man might be beautiful. But I can’t say because I’ve never seen more than this mock up.
“Four,” I murmur, looking around me. “Nothing but fours. Out there, on the real Isle, there must be real, solid, unpredictable life, and I might never see it. All my life I’ll be stuck here at home.”
“This isn’t your home, dear.” I jump-it’s Uncle Mertis at my elbow.
“Uncle Meris,” I laugh nervously, “what do you mean?”
He taps his nose. “Well, it’s home, but it won’t be in three and a half minutes. You’ll see.” He holds me at arm’s length, his sharp eyes suddenly looking much, much older. He sighs and squeezes my arm. “Goodbye, Sylvia, dear. Don’t forget, when you’re out there, that it was your old Uncle Mertis who sent you on your way.”
“I-but-“too late, he’s gone. Aunt Hemera, standing among her younger sisters like a queenright, calls out “Let the quadrille begin!” Everyone rushes to the center of the lawn. I run too, not wanting to be the point of Aunt Hemera’s scolding, even though we will have to take turns in the dancing.
“Not you, Sylvie.” It’s queen bee herself. Aunt Hemera points a long finger towards the queach. “We need more greenery for the summer quadra. Run along.” The queach is at the farthest side of the island. I start plucking at the thicket. But there’s a gate. There’s no creak, no squeak as I open it, but as I step through, the sound of the quadrennial vanishes. And there before me is my qualtagh. She looks familiar, with her long dark hair and brown eyes. Those eyes widen when they see me as if I’d just appeared.
“There you are!” She claps her hands and skips over to me. “I’ve always known I had a sister. I’ve waited for you. Ever since I saw you on that painting. You were just waiting for me to call you.”
I look behind me. There is an elaborate painting on a garden wall. A painting of a picnic scene.
“Who painted this?” My fingers trace the wall. There is a mischievous looking man with sparkling old eyes.
“My family.” my sister holds out her hand. “Come on. They’re waiting to meet you.” I grin, and take her hand in mine.
“Then I guess I’d better meet them.”
Just before the wall is out of sight, I look back one more time. I’m pretty sure that bright-eyed mischievous character winks at me.
I’m a bit sorry for all the unusual q words. They were so much fun that I sort of ran away with them. Click here for the source and definitions (if you dare).