T is for Twelfth Child
“Ah yes,” he said, eying me top to toe, “Abigail Anne, the twelfth child of William Lannigan. As Will here knows, my grandmother was the first.”
Everyone knew Papa had other wives before Mama, but I wasn’t about to give this Johnny-come-lately the upper edge, so pretending that such news was of small consequence, I answered, “Do tell.” Right away, any hope for chubby-cheeked nieces and nephews was gone. It’s funny how you can take measure of some people from the very start; not just by their looks, but things you can’t even put a finger on—a lack of expression, eyes that look right past you, a hollowed out laugh. Elliott had all those, plus a bushy mustache that hung like an awning over his lip and hid the sneakiness of his mouth. When he spoke my name, he gave one of those hollowed out laughs, I suppose it was meant to sound friendly-like, but I could tell behind that bushy awning he had gritted-together teeth.
“Emerson?” I said, “I’ve no knowledge of any Emersons in our family.”
“Emerson is my father’s family name, but my mother was most certainly a Lannigan,” Elliott stated emphatically. “William Lannigan was my great grandfather. Bertha Abernathy, his first wife was my great grandmother.”
To my way of thinking, having a blood line that could be traced back to Papa didn’t say much for anyone. I was of a mind to say so but Will seemed to be taken by the man so I kept my opinion to myself. Of course, Will was the kind of person who could never see the bad in anyone. Once we were watching the television news and there was this story about a man who’d murdered his own mother—I said they ought to string him up; but my brother felt sorry for the guy. “Just think how troubled that poor soul must have been,” was all Will had to say. I’ll grant you Elliott and me might not have gotten off to such a poor start if I’d have been a bit more pleasant natured, but from the minute that man opened his mouth there was something about him that rankled me.