What do you do when your partner is gung-ho for Christmas and you don't want to take part in the festivities? For the narrator, an escape into his writing world would bring a welcome diversion from the music and mistletoe of the season. A very unusual encounter in his dreams, however, just might restore his love for the season and allow him to view it with an entirely new perspective. A seasonal short story from the author of CONTINUUM and THE COW AND OTHER COLORADO TALES.
The spirits who inhabit our old house are agog with the goings on. It is one day after Thanksgiving and David, my partner of twenty-eight years, is stringing multicolored lights in our postage stamp front yard; encircling our three dwarf Alberta spruce trees, the porch, outlining the square of our front window, winding the mini-teardrops around the pillars that support our porch. The benign albeit occasionally annoying spirits know the import of such business. Christmas, they whisper as they flit about my writing room, their tiny breaths puffed against my left ear—always my left?—as they dart from me to the window where they see what David is up to, then from the window to me and back again. There is no way to prepare for this annual buzz. I could leave town (some Jehovah Witness enclave, I suppose) and return when the lights come down, when the event has run its course. I could, but won’t. David would...well, David would mope; pouty lips and all. A pitiable mien. And no, I cannot do that to him. That part of David which remains a child is manifested during this annual rite, this nonsense, this Bah! Humbug! excursion into the central core of ridiculousness.
I brush my hand against my ear, the gesture exciting the spirits in such a way that I suspect they believe I’m only playing with them. They are that way. Any acknowledgement of their presence exacerbates their frenzy.
As if the ritual of the stringing of the lights weren’t enough, from this day onward, until December 26th, David’s audio system—every damned gadget an audiophile could want—interconnects about as large around as my forearm; the amp, the preamp, cd player, the subwoofer, the speakers; all of it purchased at half the current market value of our home (Well, perhaps not half)—will heat up, shiver, shake, blare and boom with the disks he has carried up from the cellar in four boxes blackly marked CHRISTMAS MUSIC. Within the boxes, too, are DVDs of Rudolph, Grinches, snowmen, hideous stick-figured ghouls celebrating The Nightmare Before Christmas, Charlie Brown; the voices of Burl Ives, Gene Autry, and Bing Crosby for heaven’s sake! My defense is a closed door on the second floor—my writing room—where my tunes reside somewhere in my computer, and mask the cacophony of noise from below with Leonard Cohen, Sibelius, Bob Dylan, The Felice Brothers, Lou Reed, Beethoven, Waymore Blues Band, Tchaikovsky. There is more. You get the point.
I cannot wait for the binge of riotous delirium the spirits will exhibit when the lights are turned on for the first time with the coming of nightfall. Dear Lord, grant your humble servant, George, the ability to accept the things he cannot change!
I give up my effort to write. I cannot compete with these distractions. I cannot control the spirits. They pursue their own agenda. Harrumph!
No, I do not see the spirits. They do not manifest their shape or form. I imagine, if they have any substantive form at all, they resemble something along the line of Tinkerbell or, yes, Tinkerbeau. Then again they could be hideous, looking something like, oh, death incarnate...whatever that looks like. Zombies? Larry King? Who knows?
The tree will be erected later. Perhaps tomorrow. Life-like sprigs pulled from a box—the specter of fire from a real tree a concern—festooned with the ornaments David has collected during our long-lived coupling: orbs, ceramic representations of reindeer, snowmen, Santas; crystal-like (plastic actually) etched doodads—remembrances of our fourth, seventh, eighth, twelfth, twentieth year together. Then will come the collection, the entire collection of figurines from the animated grunge of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, gently placed upon a layer of white cotton spotted with silver flecks (faux ice?) all placed upon our mantle. And then the cranberry glass will come out of the display cases; decanters, vases, cups, saucers placed on side tables, the piano, shelves. (“There is just something Christmasy about cranberry glass,” David says annually.) I watch where my elbows swing as I navigate around the surfaces where the delicate glass has been placed.