Strove to find a way to punch people in the face by using the Internet.


Don’t Eat the Lasagna
How do you know when the holiday season officially kicks off? Around here, it's when my little brother rings me up to tell me you can see a relative’s mugshot online.

See, our other brother got a hold of some of the many aliases used by this chick their uncle married (technically these two are my half-brothers, but seeing as we share a singular love for hijinx, not to mention a brain, we just dispense with the formalities). Anyway, she needs those because she's a professional con artist.

In the process of looking her up in the offender databases provided online by the Florida Department of Corrections, he found — well, he found what I found, that she has about 219 convictions for petty theft and bouncy checks, but in addition he found a great photo of the guy I'll call Cousin Barry.

Cousin Barry is a family favorite. By "favorite," of course, I mean everyone hates him. Picture a cross between late-period Paul Lynde at his ass-searingly fruitiest and Gary Busey at his most terrifyingly unpredictable. Dress him in the grisliest, most Jurassic leisure suits not expressly forbidden by international law and drape him in cheap jewelry, and imagine him smelling like gin and standing real, real close and wanting to "tickle" you. That's Cousin Barry.

Sounds bad, right? Really, though, all that alone wouldn't distinguish him overmuch in our family. No, Cousin Barry's obnoxiousness alone isn't what generates ill will. There are other reasons, such as his propensity for holiday nudity. How many Christmases were spoiled by a sauced-up Cousin Barry, displaying his 60-something-year-old ding-dong for all to see during his inevitable skinny-dip in my dad's pool? (The answer: all of them.)

But truth be told, while nobody was a big fan of Cousin Barry's annual "unwrapping of the gifts," it wasn't even his saggy moobs ("man" + "boobs") that earned him his rep as the must-avoid sociopath in an extended family of sociopaths. His cooking, for example, didn't help his case.

Ah, his cooking. I remember cakes so dense, small dishes of candy would get sucked into their gravitational fields. Icing studded with generous dollops of cigarette ash. A lasagna that included a layer of whole cloves. Not garlic cloves, mind you. Cloves. It was totally inedible. The dog wouldn't eat it. I'm not making this up. Just think about it: a "lasagna" that included a layer of whole cloves. Fear this lasagna.

But you know, even potentially dangerous culinary monstrosities don't clinch your persona non grata status at the Hughes house. Croaking a guy, however... Well, it's a bit much, even by our standards. But not Cousin Barry.

I do not know the details. I do not know the specifics. I do not know the method, though I suspect lasagna may have been involved. And I don't care to speculate. Don't ask. (He might hear you.) But Cousin Barry croaked a guy, back in the '50s. And he was sentenced to life. You don't get that shit for a little run-of-the-mill manslaughter or anything. First degree all the way for Cousin Barry.

Anyway, he was paroled when I was a kid and started showing up at Christmas, mincing around and making everyone uneasy and taking off his clothes and stuff. No killing, though. Not as far as we could tell.

I'm not sure when Cousin Barry started skipping the holiday gatherings at Pop's place. Probably when Dad told him to shut his damn mouth and Barry said something like, "Don't you tell me to shut my mouth. I can do things to you. I've done things you can't imagine." Not a smart move. Dad has at his disposal a daunting combination of red-faced Irish temper, an abnormally large dose of the fearsome Dad Strength and a general inclination toward all things whoop-ass. No geriatric Paul Lynde motherfucker can stand up to all that, murder-one rap sheet or not. So Cousin Barry doesn't come around any more.

But, thanks his disdain for reporting to his parole officer, a recent traffic stop and the efforts of my intrepid brethren, we can now visit him online. And let me tell you, the picture is good. It's so, so good. He looks crazy... So crazy. Cuh-raaay-ay-zy.

Nope, I'm not going to show it to you. It might be in the public domain and all that, but somehow I suspect Cousin Barry might not want this info spread around too much. And people I write about here have a weird way of turning up when I least expect it. You think I want Cousin Barry paying me a visit? Uh-uh. Get your own convicted murderer.


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