“Christmas Lights” Part One

(Photo used by permission from the talented Tori Watson at Marvelousthingsphotoblog.com)
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
A
Short Story
By
Travis Thrasher
1.
RED
            It’s
time and I don’t care what day it is or how long it’s been or what might happen
or who might find out. I need some fresh air. I need to get away from all this
Yuletide nonsense, all this angry bickering just like every Christmas. I need
some sanity.
            Mostly,
I just need a really strong drink.
            I
almost leave the house without my coat, but my SUV keys are in its pocket. I
find it hanging in the closet smashed against all the other ski jackets and
overcoats. I see Carmen’s fur coat and a part of me wants to take it out and
set it on fire. Not because I have anything against fur coats. I just have a
big problem with my daughter-in-law.
            I glance in the dining room and see the table we were all sitting around half an hour ago. It’s already got its centerpiece and table settings perfectly organized all around it. I see a Nutcracker standing at attention giving me a critical gaze, as if he is standing in judgement of what I’m about to do. 
            Shave that white beard, buddy. 
            As
I near the front doorway, I hear steps coming down the hallway. 
            “Dad,
don’t do this.”
            It’s
Rick. Of course it’s Rick. This is his house and he likes being in control of
things since he’s the firstborn and since he’s his father’s son. Rick was the
one leading my intervention years ago. His tone sounds the same as it did that
ugly Saturday morning years ago.
            “I
can say the same thing to you,” I tell him.
            “I’m
not leaving.”
            “No.
You’re arguing.”
            “We’re
just talking.” Rick sighs.
            “That’s
not talking. I know talking and that—that—is
not the definition I have going in my mind.”
            “Come
on. You said yourself you can’t stand Obama.”
            I
shake my head.”Yes, but I think the election is over and he’s our President.”
            “That’s
my problem.”
            “And
my problem is you making it front and center at dinner. Especially this year.”
            “Take
off your coat,” Rick says. “Come on—we still have presents to open. Where are you going to go?”
            He
gives me a look. That look. The look
I’ve seen about a thousand times. That shaming, detestable, smug look.
            “I’m
going out. I’m getting away from this.”
            “I
don’t think that’s such good idea.”
            He
still speaks to me like he used to, like the father to a son, like a sober
person to a drunk. Except this time, I am the father again. This time, I’m
sober. Way too sober.
            “It’s
Christmas and I don’t want to hear how much you hate the government and I don’t
want to hear another debate about gun control and I really, truly don’t want to
hear Carmen’s complaints about—about everything.”
            Rick
holds my arm for a moment, and I shoot him a look. He knows this look and he
lets go.
            “Look—Dad—it’s
just—you know how things are. Just don’t leave. We’ll mellow out. We just started to open our stockings. I’m sure you got something really good in yours. Like
the salami Mom got you last year. We’re still laughing about that.”
            Rick’s
trying to change topics and lighten the mood. But it’s not going to happen.
            “I
bet in ten minutes, Molly and you will start going after each other. She’s
already had half a dozen glasses of wine. You know how she gets.”
            “Yeah,
well, she takes after her father.”
            If
I didn’t love this man standing right next to me, and if he wasn’t my eldest
son, I’d plant my fist right in the middle of his big mouth. But instead, I
force a smile and open the door and leave.
            This
is why I need to get out of here.            
            This
is why I need a drink.
            It’s
been a very long time coming.
            (Click here for Part Two of “Christmas Lights”)
            

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