Hysteron Proteron

Hysteron Proteron (his’-ter-on pro’-ter-on): Disorder of time. (What should be first, isn’t.)

“Go! Get ready! Set!” Uncle Harvey yelled. Set what? Go where? Get Ready? Was it a riddle? It was very mixed up. Maybe it was because it was Labor Day and my wife’s family was drunkenly gathered “out at Camp” by the lake. In addition to eating gallons of “special” baked beans (laced with rum and mustard) crystallized “Sugar Bumps,” and a lot of meat—hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, sausage patties, and kielbasa from the grill—every year they went crazy and pushed somebody into the lake to “cleanse” Camp and create a little extra entertainment. Nobody had drowned yet, but odds were that it would eventually happen. That’s why in the past couple of years only elderly family members had been pushed in, due to their existing proximity to death, and the family wager that they’d all die pretty soon anyway.

Now I got it with Harvey’s fractured countdown! He was trying to disorient the elders, catch them off guard, and push one of them in the lake! Too bad it didn’t work. Grampy picked up a rock and threw it at Harvey, missing him and shattering one of Camp’s storm windows. My brother-in-law, a former college football star, ran toward Grampy, tackling him and dragging him to the lake’s edge. Then, he and Harvey hoisted Grampy up, swung him back and forth a couple of times, and threw him into the lake—all in good order, 1, 2, 3. Unfortunately, there was a 4 that should’ve been a 1. They should’ve paid attention to the notorious giant catfish hanging out under the dock: Blimpy. Every Labor Day a few pounds of spoiled ground beef and a gallon of pig’s blood were thrown under the dock to appease him. Blimpy was known to snatch the occasional kitten or puppy off the dock, but he never attacked a person in the water. Was Grampy going to be the first? The meat and blood had been forgotten this year. Danger lurked.

As Blimpy headed for Grampy, we all dashed into the water, splashing and yelling. Blimpy got the message and retreated back under the dock. Grampy’s pacemaker started to malfunction, so we carried him back to camp, gave him a double Bloody Mary, and put him in the most comfortable lawn chair to dry out in the sun.

Everybody agreed: this was the best Labor Day family gathering ever! Well, everybody but Grampy—he wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the family’s consensus. Given that he almost died, we could understand, although Aunt Kay did call him a spoilsport, and Uncle Lowell told him all he had to do was “punch the damn fish in the nose, and it probably would’ve died.”

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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