My father answers the door. “Come in,” he says, like an invitation to a formal dance. “I lead, you follow,” he then commands as we walk across the foyer where slates have been randomly set, like book covers in Storyland.
What story am I entering? Will there be witches and goblins, or a barroom brawl? It is the night before Christmas and all through the house, the cold seeps through windows and sills. It is the night before Christmas and my dark presentiments are my only presents.
I enter the kitchen where my mother sits on her stool at the breakfast bar like a pauper, a puppet, or the King’s fool and certainly my father is King of this tawdry kingdom on Tawdry Lane. Mother is smoking, the flare from her butt is a signal in a war zone while she sips booze from an orange juice glass.
“Hi Mom,” I offer lightly, as if my “hi” could shim her up, but she hunkers down instead in her shrunken monkey body. Her black eyes grow blacker, narrow me into her gun sights. “Have a drink,” she says, then waves to the stand of liquor bottles glinting like idols.
“You know I don’t drink,” I respond, then go to hug her and bestow a kiss, light as a butterfly’s, upon her leathery cheek. She flinches as if she’s been stung. “Why did you do that?” she asks in the voice of a mouse as it slips in its hole. “It’s Christmas,” I reply, “that’s why. Tis the season of joy and love.”