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The Unexpected Guest

by Melissa Shanker

I hate unexpected guests.

The doorbell rings and inevitably, I am un-showered and bra-less. Yesterday's dishes amass in the sink, and a usually delightful child suddenly engages in an unusually spectacular tantrum.

Unwanted, unsavory, unexpected intruders, how I wish they'd stay away!

They don't. Just the other day, while performing a pore-refining facial, while re-organizing a dated underwear drawer, while wearing a honey-moon-era teddy - to test feasibility of wearing said teddy, ever, ever, ever, again - the doorbell rang.

The surprise interloper fell into my arms, heavy and heaving. The door swung open, the dog ran out, a draft chilled my exposed parts, but I didn't let go. I knew not to let go.

Eyes red, lips puffy and trembling "It's your Dad," she said.

My Dad. A salt and pepper Renaissance Man, with a pension fund, and a penchant for tennis, had paid his dues and now spent his days planning dream trips to Italy and shopping for puppies, condos and convertibles.

"It's brain cancer," she said.

I did not expect that.

Surgeons unearthed the squatter from the gray folds of his reason, leaving behind tracks of steel through flesh and bone - a gruesome calling card. Then satisfied and smug, they recited scenarios and percentages. We trusted their jabberwocky talk, and hoped we'd seen the last of our unexpected guest.

To be sure, we locked all the doors, barricaded them with chairs, dressers, beds, armoires, end tables, ottomans, and other heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy, stuff. Until, beleaguered and fatigued, we thought we'd done enough.

We were wrong.

The intruder climbed in through a dark, cobwebbed, basement window.

(How did we miss that?)

Deaf to our complaints, he's unpacked his bags, put his feet up on the coffee table and s-p-r-e-a-d out.

Our unexpected guest is back, maybe forever. And now, for my Dad, forever might be only six months.

Melissa Shanker is an aspiring novelist who lives in Okemos, Michigan with her husband, three children and overly zealous lab, who happens to love unexpected guests, especially the UPS man who leaves him Milk Bones.