This week I’ve joined the Indie Ink Writing Challenge. Stepping out of my comfort zone, relying on a stranger to inspire me, or confound me.

Jason Hudges (Life & Otherwise) tasked me with this challenge: “Your oldest son has just become the first American Pope; your daughter has just become first female president of the United States; your youngest son is a well-known gay porn star known for his *ahem* size. And they’re all coming home for a holiday dinner. Go!”

“Do you think he’ll show?”

“I hope he does. It would be good for us all to be together again.”

“I don’t know, I’m not sure Mom’s heart can take it.”

“What can’t she take? What he does for a living, or you baiting him until you’re both yelling at each other like a couple of spoiled brats? Mom’s heart is fine, it’s your ego that needs help.”

“Margaret, you know I’m only worried about him as a brother, not as a spiritual advisor. I would think you of all people would be more concerned about the press exposing his profane predilections.”

“He’s a big boy, he doesn’t need or want us telling him what to do. You’ve been away too long Joe, the press already knows about Michael’s sizable career, and it’s not a concern for me.”

The two siblings spoke for a few minutes longer, agreeing to disagree about their brother, instead coordinating travel plans. They were going home, gathering for Mother’s Day and what could be the final time at their mother’s side.

Later that evening, Michael replayed his phone conversation with his sister. She could always talk him in to doing anything, so it was no surprise she got him to agree to join her and Joseph. She had this way of getting her way and making you think it was your idea all along.

She could smother you with her need to control a situation, but when she was running for office, she didn’t balk when his occupation went public. He was proud of how she handled the scandal, and grateful she didn’t try to distance herself from him. He would loved to see the statics on how many of the porn and gay votes she got in the last election.

Joe… that sanctimonious ass. Michael was watching the news coverage when the white smoke rose out of the Papal chimney, then promptly went out and got shit-faced drunk. There was no living with him now. Worse than any parent, Joe could suck the fun out of anything. Forever spouting scripture, passing judgement, proving to Michael there really was a hell and it was being Joe’s brother.

Packing for the trip, Michael fantasized about Joe getting tagged for an enhanced screening by the TSA and getting his junk checked for explosives.

“If that won’t get you sent straight to hell, I don’t know what would,” Michael said aloud, musing about turning that idea into a script proposal for his next movie.

He made himself a promise to refer to Joe only by his Christian name, he’d flirt with damnation before he’d call his own brother “Your Holiness,” or even “Father.” He also decided he wouldn’t call Margaret anything other than her name. Titles shouldn’t mean anything to brothers and sisters. The idea of referring to her as Madam President, to her face, was ridiculous. It wasn’t as if either of them would be calling him Johnson DeSchlong.

He missed their mom. Michael hadn’t been home in two years, not since he won Best New Actor at the Adult Video News Awards. Having his family in the audience, cheering his success was more than he could hope for, but he wasn’t prepared for Margaret’s phone call warning him that their mother was ‘beyond apoplectic” about his award.

As his plane made its final descent, Michael re-read Margaret’s email giving details on where to meet once he landed. He had refused her offer to have a private plane bring him, opting to fly into the airport near their hometown. The three siblings would share a ride to their mother’s home.

Margaret watched Michael from behind security glass as he was quickly surrounded by a horde of buff young men, each offering a more sensuous body part for an autograph. Looking toward her, he eventually made eye contact, mouthing a silent ‘sorry,’

Joe stepped up beside Margaret, “I don’t understand how he can allow that kind of shameful display.”

Without looking at her older brother, Margaret put her arm around his waist, “you’re just jealous no one asked for your autograph.”

Finally breaking away, Michael was escorted into the safe room where he gave his sister a tight hug, then offered his hand to Joe. Pausing briefly, Joe accepted the gesture, returning his warm handshake.

Secret Service agents and papal bodyguards maintained a respectful distance, giving the siblings a moment before maneuvering them away from curious bystanders and toward a waiting limo.

On the ride to their mother’s, the three talked of mundane things, avoiding what they really wanted to discuss. No questions were asked about jobs, nothing was said about their last gathering, and they never mentioned their mother’s failing health. They talked about the weather, about how bad downtown traffic was, or about favorite meals they hoped their mother would prepared during their visit.

Mary Clayton was waiting on her porch when the first black sedan pulled to her curb. As more cars drove up, and more men in dark suits exited the cars, creating a barrier around her house, the more perturbed she became. She was never going to grow accustomed to the intense security surrounding her two oldest children. They would always be Joey and Maggie to her. If anyone needed protecting, she thought, it was Michael. He was more famous than either of his older siblings, even if it wasn’t his face that was most recognizable.

They were all home, that’s all that mattered. Mary would put up with the intrusion of strangers if only for a few days, just to have her children under her roof again.

As quickly as the limo doors could open, the Clayton children rushed to their mother, enveloping her in one of their group hugs.

Once settled into their childhood bedrooms, the siblings gathered downstairs, sitting at the dining table while their mother puttered around the kitchen, setting out an eclectic selection of their favorite dishes. Mary let her child eat their fill before bringing up the reason she had called them home.

Taking her usual chair at the head of the table, Mary sat quietly until her silence was felt by her children. Turning to her, they waited for her to speak.

“It is so good to have you all home again, but we have a few thing to discuss, matters that have festered for far too long. I need to clear this up while I still have time and all my faculties.”

They all three tried to speak at once, but were brought under control with a simply lift of her hand.

“Not this time, you three just be quiet for a change, it’s my party!”

Fixing her gaze on her eldest child, Mary pointed her finger at him. A gesture they all knew meant a verbal whipping was coming.

“Joey… when you chose the church as your mistress,” she held up a hand again to forestall her son’s objections. “I stand by that interpretation. You forgot how to just be a Clayton. You forgot that first you were a son and a brother. Stop being so damn pompous and get over yourself.”

Michael nearly choked on his drink, and Margaret made a small squeaking noise. Joe was speechless, his face burning red at his mother’s rebuke.

Turning to her middle child, Mary smiled, then reached over and flicked her ear hard enough to make Margaret yelp. She knew better than to say anything in response.

“And, you… I have only three words for you, ‘not the momma!’ You might be able to tell those sycophants in the dark suits and Ray-Bans what to do, but in this house, little missy, I am the law, not you. You need to get over yourself too”

Try as he might, Michael could not will a hole to open in the floor to swallow him. Grabbing the sides of the table, he braced for the tongue-lashing he knew was coming.

Mary leaned over to lay her small, frail hand over her youngest son’s, squeezing three times, their secret ‘I love you’ signal.

“Baby boy, I could not be prouder of you. You alone have fulfilled your destiny.”

Blinking, Michael could only stare at his mother not believing what he was hearing.

“I don’t understand, I thought you were upset about my film work. Margaret told me…”

Glaring at her daughter, Mary demanded an explanation.

“When I won the award in ’09, Margaret called me, said you were angry about it. I could only guess it was because you were upset about the whole gay porn thing.”

“Michael darlin’, I wasn’t upset you won, I was upset you were passed over for the Best Actor nod for ‘Ride ’em Cowboy.’ Your performance was brilliant!”

That admission got all the siblings’ attention, again Mary held up a hand to keep peace.

“You were never someone to do what was expected of you, you were confident enough in yourself to pursue a different path, I’m proud of that. Your brother and sister chose an easy path, they played it safe.”

“But, Mom I’m someone who general public sees as some sort of pervert, not a world leader or head of the world church. A pariah.”

“Michael you are following in a rich heritage, a time-honored family tradition. There should be no shame in that.”

“I don’t understand…”

“There are some things you all don’t know about dear ol’ Mom. Back in the day, I was in the industry too. Michael, when I was your age, I won the very first porn award for Best Female Actor.”

Interested in joining the Challenge? Stop by Indie Ink for details.

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