Though most of the Shanleys thought both Juan and his book were ridiculous, they embraced the idea of the pool party. Everyone was so busy working and raising children that they rarely had a chance to get together and just relax.
Not everyone lounged around, though. Ruby and Juan, the most â€œactiveâ€ of the Shanley clan, spent the whole afternoon in the pool, racing each other and splashing around.
â€œI wanna be just like my dad when I grow up! Well, except for the prankingâ€¦and the obnoxious behaviorâ€¦and the bad table mannersâ€¦â€
Of course, Juan had to take a few breaks to go call his publisher.
â€œI think Iâ€™ll work on a sequelâ€¦I can call it â€˜Juanfooleryâ€™â€¦or maybe â€˜Zen and the Art of Total Mayhemâ€™â€¦â€
By the time Delaney finally decided to climb into the pool, Juan had worn himself out.
â€œQuick â€“ somebody put his hand in a glass of warm water!â€
Juan eventually woke up and dragged himself over to the grill to make some hot dogs. As he served the food, he wondered why he was so tired. For the first time in his life he felt incredibly old.
After dinner, Mia and Sierra snatched up the lounge chairs and chatted quietly into the night.
â€œYou know,â€ said Mia, â€œJuan wasnâ€™t too bad today. Iâ€™d say he was almostâ€¦nice.â€
â€œHeâ€™s so busy congratulating himself he hasnâ€™t had time to prank or insult anyone.â€
â€œI think youâ€™re right.â€ Mia paused thoughtfully. â€œAnd you know, he really is a good father to Ruby. Sheâ€™s turned out to be such a sweet girl.â€
At that moment, the sweet girl was being tucked in by her grandpa Marcel, who had left the pool party early. He was getting more eccentric and antisocial in his old age — eating dinner by himself, staying up late to read his hordes of books, and practicing speeches in the hallway mirror. Whenever anyone asked him what he was doing, he mumbled something about â€œmaxing skillsâ€, but no one knew exactly what that meant.
He was always kind to his grandchildren, though, and hoped theyâ€™d grow up to have his love of knowledge.
â€œSleep, little one, and dream of great things.â€
Eventually the rest of the Shanleys headed off to bed, and the house grew silent â€“ except for Delaney, who was keeping her husband awake with her incessant snoring. Juan rolled over in bed and stared at her in frustration. He was exhausted, but he couldnâ€™t sleep! And now nature was callingâ€¦
Juan climbed out of bed and left Delaney behind, wheezing blissfully, with Ruby in deep slumber not far away.
In the bathroom on the other side of the house, it was blessedly quiet. But as Juan flushed the toilet he heard the strains of ukelele music…which only grew louder as the toilet ceased its gurgling. When he turned around, he was face-to-face withâ€¦well, something faceless. It was the Grim Reaper, of course, offering him an aromatic drink in a tiki mug. Beside him two lovely hula dancers swayed, as much as they could sway in a tiny, crowded bathroom.
â€œIs this a joke?â€ Juan asked the Hooded One.
But the Reaper simply handed him the drink and motioned towards the suitcase that had appeared at Juanâ€™s feet.
Suddenly the door flew open, and Sierra and Mia stood there with angry looks on their faces.
â€œSo,â€ said Sierra. â€œWe meet again.â€
But the Reaper paid no attention to them. Instead, he took Juanâ€™s hand and disappeared with him into the ether. As the hula dancers dissolved, Sierra finally realized what had happened. She rushed into the bathroom to find a plain gray urn resting on the tile.
â€œOh no!â€ she cried. â€œJuanâ€¦is gone!â€
(continued on Page 3)