Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Angry Christmas Wish - A Work of Fiction

Disclaimer: This is a total work of fiction. I was joking about being cranky on Christmas, and a friend joked that a story called "The Angry Christmas B****" would be funny. So, I started writing. My teenagers are good kids. My father-in-law was, and my mother-in-law is, lovely. And in my marriage, I'm definitely the lazy oaf.

New Mary shoved an elbow into her snoring husband’s ribs.
“Roll over!” She snarled. It was already late on Christmas morning. There was no way presents would be unwrapped and dinner on the table by 4. She sighed and rolled out of bed.
“Let’s go. Got stuff to do. Get! Up!” She pulled his covers off. He grunted and staggered into the kitchen after her.
“You do the coffee, I’ll do the bird.”
Her husband heaved a sigh New Mary pretended not to hear and shot her a look she didn’t see.
Once they each had a cup of coffee with milk - they were out of creamer - they went to wake Tracy and Andrew. The kids used to be the ones to wake them up, but that was before they were teenagers. They looked at the pile of presents wrapped in snowman-covered paper under a dehydrated tree with their typical lack of interest.
“No stockings?” Andrew looked around.
“Stockings ended when your father slaughtered Santa Clause.” New Mary sipped her coffee and picked grounds out of her teeth.
“I didn’t slaughter Santa. The kids asked. I told them the truth.” Her husband rolled his eyes.
“Well, whatever you want to call it, Santa is officially dead and in his grave. You want candy? You have allowance. The store’s down the street.”

New Mary selected yoga pants that failed to look like anything else, despite the advertising, and a baggy red sweatshirt. She pulled her lank, dirty hair back into a ponytail.

The doorbell’s ring found her kicking back in her favorite recliner, sipping a Coors Lite from the can as the dog barked his head off.
“You gonna get that? It’s your parents.” 
Her husband gave another loud sigh and got up to answer the door.
New Mary nodded at each visitor in turn, raising her can in greeting. Her husband’s parents exchanged a look New Mary didn’t bother to try and interpret.
“That bird smells delicious!” Her mother-in-law exclaimed.
“Yup. Should be ready in about an hour and a half.” New Mary crushed the empty can and tossed it into the bin in the corner. “I’m gettin’ another. Anybody need anything? Good.” She disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bag of potato chips, a tin of bean dip, and another can of beer. New Mary tore open the bag and thrust it at her father-in-law, popped open the dip, handed it to her mother-in-law, and tossed the lid. New Mary’s in-laws shared another look as New Mary plopped down in her chair.
“So! Did you get more of those cute Christmas plates like you had last year?” New Mary’s mother-in-law was making a valiant effort to be cheerful.
“Naw. We had some plates left over from this summer. Didn’t see a need to get more just for this one day.”
“Oh! A patriotic Christmas.” Her father-in-law chuckled at the flag-decked plate in his hand.
“Ah. Yes.” Her mother-in-law smiled tightly, red lips glistening.

New Mary let the guests serve themselves in the kitchen. The teenagers sat, staring at their phones, while New Mary’s in-laws made the same bland comments they always did. At least they weren’t making the back-handed compliments and routine digs they had been making for the last 20 years.

New Mary got up to clear the paper plates, plasticware, and uneaten side dishes away.
She’s changed,” Her mother-in-law hissed.
Are you two… okay?” Her father-in-law whispered.
I dunno. One day I woke up, and it was like she had gotten fatter, uglier, and meaner overnight…” That was her husband’s voice, whispering back.
The teenagers had already disappeared into their rooms. New Mary cracked another beer and flopped into her recliner, avoiding the looks from her husband and his parents. They’d be gone soon. Hardly a dish needed washing. She sighed and smiled in contentment.

One Year Earlier…

The dream had been perfect. Her dress had swished against long, toned legs, pedicured Christmas Red toenails peeking out of glittering sandals as she placed a perfect, golden goose on a table set with gold-trimmed china, crystal stemware, and real silver silverware. The man at the head of the table was a smiling Don Draper look-alike. Her children looked like tow-headed angels, the girl in ringlets, the boy’s nose still turned up a bit, like it was when he was a baby. They all smiled, hands and napkins in laps. Her in-laws were there, too, smiling in festive attire.

Mary stretched, inadvertently kicking a cat who responded with a hiss. She was awake before her alarm went off. Her husband snored loudly, farted, and turned over in his sleep. She sighed and slid out of bed, threw on her robe, and padded down the hall to make coffee, swearing as she tripped over the gym shoes outside Andrew’s room. She dumped the burned dregs out and started a new pot. It was gurgling as she did a sink full of dishes. The turkey was ready to go, so she opened the oven and realized the leftover fries were still in there from two nights ago. Her husband had volunteered to do the clean-up that night, but he must have missed those. She pulled the fries out, dumped them in the sink, and put the turkey in the oven. She could enjoy some coffee and a pop-tart before everyone else woke up to open the silver-and-blue-wrapped presents under the tree. Except the ancient pot’s filter had clogged, and a mess of coffee grounds and water were spilling down onto the floor.

The doorbell rang as Mary stepped out of the shower. Her in-laws were early.
“Can somebody get the door?” She yelled to the rest of the house, over the sound of the dog barking his head off.
The dog continued to bark while she towelled her hair dry. She heard the door open as she pulled on the maroon velvet pants she wore at holiday events and a loose-fitting top in black with silver trim. Mary grimaced in the mirror, touched a mascara wand to her eyelashes, and put on her favorite lip gloss.
She greeted her in-laws, giving her father-in-law a quick hug and her mother-in-law one of the awkward handshake/hug things they always did. Almost two decades, and she still didn’t know what she was supposed to do. Her father-in-law returned to his seat in her recliner, beside her husband in his recliner, opposite the fireplace. The flames were just starting to lick up the wrapper of the Qwik-Log.
“Babe, when you bring out the ‘hors d'oeuvres,’ could you bring out the bourbon, too?” Her husband smirked and emphasized the French phrase as he rolled his eyes at his father.
Mary disappeared into the kitchen just as the microwave dinged. The pizza rolls were done. She dumped them onto a plate, pulled the veggie tray out of the fridge, and grabbed the open bottle of Wild Turkey from the counter.
Tracy and Andrew materialized when she set the snacks on the coffee table. Mary corralled them.
“Listen,” she hissed, “you will not be on your phones. You will mind your language. You both know how your grandmother feels about strong language. And bickering. If you serve yourself something, you had better eat it all.” She gave Andrew’s plate a meaningful look. 
“We know, Mom. Is that all?” Tracy caught herself before her eyes rolled.
“It. Is. Christmas. Act like it!” Mary cajoled them, before returning to the kitchen.

“Oh! Paper plates for Christmas dinner!” Her mother-in-law smiled and raised rainbow-shaped eyebrows. “But these are the fancy ones! Cute little Christmas trees. Adorable.”

“This shi- crappy fork broke a tine. But it’s fine. Three tines is fine. I don’t need a new fork, Mom. Jeeze.” Tracy sighed, rolled her eyes, and accepted the replacement fork.

Andrew spent the evening smiling at the phone in his lap when he thought no one was watching and dumped his half-full paper plate into the trash.

The few dishes done, teenagers having vanished when the guests did, and her husband snoozing in bed with the game still on the bedroom television, Mary sat down in her recliner with a glass of wine and her laptop.
The program was simple: A lengthy questionnaire. A credit check. Mail in a DNA sample from the kit at the pharmacy. Show up at the airport when you get confirmation. For a one-time fee, you’re set up in a community of like-minded people, according to your questionnaire responses. And you get the assurance that your loved ones are taken care of in a suitable manner.

A week later, she boarded a charter jet. A smiling attendant poured her a complimentary glass of pinot grigio. She smiled and reclined her seat.