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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 6:24 pm
 


Nobody knew where the darned thing had come from. It was just there – all ribbons and red paper – pushed against the side of the tree. Shiny red paper. It looked more like Valentine’s Day wrapping than Christmas. You’d think that somebody would have noticed when it first appeared … all that red, all those ribbons, and it wasn’t exactly a small thing. About the size of an air conditioner. And it was just there. Erik noticed it first. “Whose the big red gift for?”
Everyone followed his gaze. And there it was. Big. Red. No tag. Everyone shrugged.
“Who gave it?” asked Erik.
I looked at my daughter, Cassie. Cassie looked at her mother. Her mother looked at her boyfriend. Her mother’s boyfriend looked at my girlfriend. My girlfriend looked at her daughter, Amber. Amber looked, my at son, Erik.
We all lived in the same small apartment so that we could afford to pay our car insurance.
Nobody knew who gave the big red gift. Erik approached it. Slowly. Carefully. With the caution of one steeped in the traditions of the season. He’d seen The Nightmare Before Christmas twice. Twice. He’d seen spiders and bugs. He’d seen false Santas. Fake elves. Plastic Christmas trees. He bent knowingly toward the big red gift and examined it. It loomed red and ribboned before his eyes.
“Careful,” I said.
“Don’t get too close,” warned his mother.
“Oh, Erik,” said Cassie. “Don’t touch it.”
“Don’t come too close,” said Amber.
Suddenly, Erik jumped backwards and into the air, screaming: “Yow!” and landed on his butt four feet away from the tree.
Everybody spilled eggnog into their laps. Cassie and Amber yelled: “Ooo … eggnog!”
My girlfriend said: “What was it, Erik?”
Erik shook his head. His eyes were wide like boomerangs. He shook his head again. He stared at the big red gift. As before, we all followed his stare, eggnog laps and all. Erik’s mouth quivered. His cheeks strained. His jaw opened. He said: “There’s something in it.”
We all sighed and smiled and laughed and relaxed and winked at each other and wiped eggnog out of our laps with our shirt cuffs, and Erik’s mother’s boyfriend said: “Well, of course there’s something in it, you silly goose, it’s a Christmas present.” We all laughed some more. “Ha ha,” we said.
“It’s alive,” said Erik.
I looked at my daughter. She looked at her mother. Her mother looked at her boyfriend. Her mother’s boyfriend looked at my girlfriend. My girlfriend looked at her daughter. She looked my son. Then, we sort of all looked around the room at each other.
“What do you mean by alive?” I said.
“There’s something in it, Dad,” he said.
“Something alive?” I said.
“Inside it?” said his mother.
“Under the ribbons and wrap?” said my girlfriend.
“The shiny red wrap?” said Cassie and Amber in unison.
“It’s alive,” said Erik, still staring at the big red gift, eyes still as wide as pendulums.
“What makes you think it’s alive?” said his mother’s boyfriend.
“It talked to me,” said Erik.
Silence poured into the room like liquid mercury, all gray and thick and soundless.
“But that’s impossible,” said his mother. “Gifts can’t talk. Not if they’re wrapped in shiny red wrap with no air holes. Are you sure it talked?”
“It talked to me,” said Erik.
I looked at my daughter. She looked at her mother. Her mother looked at her boyfriend. Her mother’s boyfriend looked at my girlfriend. My girlfriend looked at her daughter. She looked my son. Then, we all looked at Erik.
“What did it say?” said my girlfriend.
“How did it talk?” said Cassie.
“Where is its mouth?” said Amber.
“What do you have in your eggnog?” said his mother.
“It doesn’t have a mouth,” said Erik. “It just talked across space and right into my mind.”
“What did it say,” repeated my girlfriend.
“I don’t know,” said Erik.
“You don’t know?” I said.
“You don’t know?” said his mother.
“You don’t know?” said my girlfriend.
“You don’t know?” said his mother’s boyfriend.
“You don’t know?” said Cassie and Amber in unison.
“It wasn’t words,” said Erik.
We all stared at the big red gift. It shone with shiny red depth under the green boughs of the tree. It towered over the other gifts like a bigger than normal air conditioner. It was bigger than the gifts that were obviously music CDs and computer games. It was bigger than the gifts that might have been books or fragrance kits.
A gift wrapped in a Christmas bough motif that might have been a computer printer or a small microwave was almost as big as the big red gift, but not quite.
“How do you know that it talked to you?” I said.
He thought about this for a moment. Then, he thought about it for another moment. A few moments later, he said: “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” I said.
“You don’t know?” said his mother.
“You don’t know?” said my girlfriend.
“You don’t know?” said his mother’s boyfriend.
“He doesn’t know!” said Cassie and Amber in unison.
“Then, how do you know it talked to you?” said my girlfriend.
Erik thought about this for a moment. And then he thought about it some more, and he said to my girlfriend: “Why don’t you get close to it? Why don’t you see if it’ll talk to you?”
Everyone looked at my girlfriend. My girlfriend looked around the room at everyone else. As she looked at each of us, we lowered our gaze, not wanting to look too deeply into the eyes of someone so surely doomed to hear a big red gift talk to her. My girlfriend stood up, moving slowly, like one condemned.
I said: “Maybe we should just stay away from it.”
Which, of course, sealed her fate. She had no choice but to approach the gift, and approach it she did. Two feet away from it, she kneeled down. I don’t think anyone in the room breathed a molecule of air. She bent her head toward the gift as it lay ominously by the tree, all red and wrapped in mystery. So far, the only thing any of us could hear was our own heart beats. Thump. Thump. Thump. My girlfriend lifted her hand toward the gift. Thump. Thump. Thump.
“You’re not going to touch it, are you?” I said, thus pushing her right over the brink and driving her hand hopelessly toward the big red gift. Her hand was less than half a foot away from the gift. Thump. Thump. Thump.
Suddenly, my girlfriend jumped backwards and into the air, screaming: “Yow!” and landed in Erik’s eggnog-stained lap four feet away from the tree. Erik screamed: “Yow!” All of our hearts went thumpty-dump skip thumpty-dump! Eggnog was everywhere. Cassie and Amber yelled: “Ooo … eggnog!” Thumpty-dump skip thumpty-dump.
The big red gift lay by the tree. Shiny and red. Still and ribboned. Quiet and enigmatic. Towering now above the other gifts and seeming almost to tower over the tree itself.
“Is it getting bigger, Dad?” said Cassie.
I rubbed my eyes and looked at the gift. I thought it pulsed, but chalked this off as an eggnog-induced illusion.
“No,” I said. “It doesn’t seem to be moving.”
My girlfriend removed herself from Erik’s lap, wiping eggnog from her slacks. “It talked to me,” she said.
“What did it say?” said Cassie’s mother.
“How did it talk?” said Cassie.
“Where is its mouth?” said Amber.
“Have you been drinking Erik’s eggnog?” said Erik’s mother’s boyfriend.
And then we all went silent. We all stopped breathing for a moment, our lungs frozen inside our chests as though they were attached directly to our ears, which had just said: “Quiet. Listen.”
We listened.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Quiet, heart,” said our ears.
Thump.
“Shhhh.”
Our hearts stopped beating for just an instant.
We all stared that the big red gift.
And then we heard it.
It was soft, like snow. Warm, like candlelight. Glittery, like tassels. Friendly, like a Christmas card. Sublime, like a carol. Merry, like a sleigh ride. Smooth, like rum-soaked eggnog. It would have sounded much like a song if it didn’t sound so much like a story. On the other hand, it might have been something read silently in a book, or watched on a screen. There was no defining it.
And then as a group, we all stood up. I looked at my daughter, who looked at her mother, who looked at her boyfriend, who looked at my girlfriend, who looked at her daughter, who looked at my son, who looked at me. And then we all looked at the big red gift.
The ribbons seemed to shake. Yes, they shook! And then they undid themselves and fell away from the big red gift as though invisible hands had untied them and let them drop into the bed of pine needles at the side of the tree.
“The ribbons!” said Cassie and Amber together.
“They undid themselves,” said Erik.
“Did you see that?” said his mother.
“They just ….” said her boyfriend.
“But how…?” said my girlfriend.
“Did somebody put extra rum in the eggnog?” I said.
And then the big red gift seemed to shake. Yes, it shook! And the shiny red wrap shook and shifted and shucked itself away from what appeared to be a big brown box.
As one, we all stepped toward the box as if drawn by invisible strings. We moved slowly and silently, staring at the big brown box, and the sound that was soft like snow and warm like candlelight seemed a little less Christmas card friendly and more like a rum-soaked hangover.
“Dad?” said Cassie.
“Mom?” said Amber.
“Mom?” said Erik.
“What’s happening?” said his mother.
“I can’t stop walking toward it,” said her boyfriend.
“I think I need more eggnog,” said my girlfriend.
“Lots more eggnog,” I said.
And then we were all standing around the big brown box and the flaps of the box lifted away and the box opened. We all looked inside the box. There was nothing inside. Nothing. But we still heard the sound and the sound drew us closer and closer to the box until, first, Cassie stepped into the box and disappeared. And then, Amber stepped into the box and disappeared, followed by Erik, who stepped into the box and disappeared. And then his mother. And then her boyfriend. And then my girlfriend. And then I stepped into the box and the last thing I saw before I disappeared was the flaps flying up and the shiny red wrap and ribbons poising over the flaps ready to wrap the box again.




Biff
Silence says it all.

www.biffmitchell.com


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:07 pm
 


Reminds me of a gal I used to know from Tamworth.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 8:32 pm
 


...do you live here?

Biff
Silence says it all.

www.biffmitchell.com

(Hey! Lookit that... not one single speling mistake. And I just polished off a whole bottle of wine and two beers.)


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 10:03 pm
 


Son.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 3:48 pm
 


...I have a father?

Biff
Silence says it all.

www.biffmitchell.com


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