She was not an attractive person, my Aunt Gussie. Her face had the look of an old leather bag that had been left out in the weather too many times, a strange brown from too many hours in the sun, with rifts and crevices that would challenge even the most expensive facial cream. My sister always said that Aunt Gussie smelled like beef stew, but she had a better olfactory nerve than me, and I always tried to hide in my bedroom when the old lady visited. But then my mother would call out, “Henry, come say hello to your Aunt Gussie,” and I would have to slink out, forcing myself not to grimace, to suffer her gnarled hand upon my chin and a wet kiss on my cheek. “Look how he’s grown,” she would always say, and I would catch a glimpse of my sister smirking off to the side before I could escape out into the yard, wiping my face with my sleeve. How Aunt Gussie was related within our family I never knew for sure, but her elderly decrepitude and her widowed status lent her the kind of familial preeminence that necessitated a certain level of obeisance from adults and children alike. The worst part was that my sister’s observation put me off beef stew for the rest of my life.
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