Monday, December 27, 2010

Dump Sweet Dump

Dave and Sam in front of our "dump" the other day.

How easily the knife turns.
It's Christmas morning and we're all full of presents and cookies and we're laughing and talking, full of holiday cheer and love. Dave is in the kitchen, cooking breakfast and we're admiring him with greatly exaggerated and giggly compliments.
"Not only does he cook, he's good-looking," someone says.
"Oh, better than Colin Firth."
"Better than Brad Pitt."
"Almost as good as Angelina."
"And he's handy," someone else says.
"Handier than Red Green."
"Handier than a double roll of duct tape."
"Handier than a two-peckered rooster in a henhouse."
"And he's got money, too," someone says.
"That's why I call him Moneybags Webster," I say.
That's when Sam, my 10-year-old, says, "If you guys are so rich, how come you live in this dump?"
Oh, it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

Our house isn't like other people's houses and, as our children get older, they're starting to notice the difference.
Their friends, for the most part, live in three-bedroom bungalows, the kind you see in subdivisions everywhere. They have big living rooms as well as family rooms, a couple of big bathrooms, a rec room, a laundry room. They may not be Martha Stewart-pretty but they're functional and clean and well-designed for young families.
We live in a four-room log cabin.
One of those rooms is the bathroom and it's so small that I have to walk into it sideways. The bathtub is the smallest tub I've ever seen.
The living room and kitchen is an open area. Only six people can sit in the living room at a time.
Our bedroom is the size of the smallest bedroom in most people's houses.
The boys' room is an all-purpose room that contains bunk beds, laundry, a china cabinet, a dresser and the kitty litter. Since we don't have the boys all the time, this actually works better than it sounds.
The floor is painted and peeling in spots. We want to put hardwood flooring on it some day but can't afford to at this moment. One thing at a time!
We also have a detached garage plus workshop with a full-sized apartment on top - lots of room for guests, especially in the summertime. The boys, however, won't go up there alone because there are zombies who want to eat their faces off.
Personally, I love our cabin in the woods. It was built in 1880 and the logs are still sturdy. The panelling inside has a gorgeous aged patina. It is warm and cosy in the winter and cool and comfortable in the summer. All this, and it overlooks the Muskoka River. What more could I ask?

For youngsters, though, I guess it doesn't stack up against three bedroom bungalows.
Dave's feelings were hurt by Sam's comments. He doesn't appreciate being told our house is a dump. I tried to explain that I don't think that's what Sam was saying. I think he meant to say, "If you have so much money, why don't you live in a big mansion?" Or something like that.
Or maybe he does think we live in a dump.
Right now, it's increasingly important for them to fit in, to be like other kids. When they get older, though, I believe they will appreciate that a home doesn't have to be big or fancy to keep the rain and snow off our heads, or keep love inside.
Some day they will appreciate their lives on the Muskoka River.
Maybe not until they're grown up and I'm dead and gone.
But it will happen.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I Got A Cold For Christmas!

I got a cold, lost my voice and Dave's fondest wish came true: a yap-free Christmas.
Too sick to go to my Mom's for the Robb family gathering. Too sick to go to the Raneys for the Friend family gathering. Too sick to try out my new cross-country skis.
Still, what Christmas I did have was pretty good. Here's a photographic rundown of some of it. You'll notice that I look insanely unattractive in all photos, that I have the fattest legs in the universe and am, frankly, sick of caring about it. That's who I am, take me or leave me.
Christmas started with such promise this year. It was our turn to have the kids so I was determined to pull out all the stops with baking, cooking, decorating and fun. Dave and I have been working like demented beavers for weeks, thus no time for blogging.
Christmas Eve we woke up early and we bustled about, getting the turkey in the oven, peeling potatoes, making my Mom's famous Yellow Jellied Salad and trying to calm the kids down. Sam was crazy hyper, crawling around the tree and scoping out all the presents. Angus was trying hard to be an obnoxious 13-year-old, hurting my feelings cause I was excited but he got over it eventually and started having fun.
Late morning we drove an hour north to Dave's mom's house, where we visited with her, Aunt Edna, Dave's brother Max and members of his family. After we left Dave was looking forward to some quality time with Alice and Edna and then, surprise, Dave's ex-wife and her mom showed up for a visit.
Awkward? Uh huh. We were all on our best behaviour, though, as we always are. I made her a coffee and we talked about dogs.
I gobbled up some of Alice's delicious squares and got some coconut or something stuck in my throat. It was really irritating and wouldn't wash away. As the afternoon progressed, the irritation developed into a full-fledged sore throat. Stupid coconut, I thought, on the way home.
Leah and Vic were joining us for Christmas this year and they were already there when we got back. The house looked so Christmassy and cheerful. I had warned them not to eat anything all day because we had a feast ready by 5:30. We ate like fiends. And then ate some more!
Then we all curled up on the couch to watch the 1971 classic The Homecoming, the precursor to The Waltons. It is absolutely my favourite Christmas special and Patrician Neal is awesome as the mother, way better than that tenderhearted Michael Learned. Then we popped the tired children into bed and settled in for some euchre.
By that time, though, I was starting to feel really sick. Feverish, excruciatingly sore throat, phlegm settling into my chest. I had to call the night quits early when I had looking forward to some kick-ass card-playing. Oh well. Leah and Vic took the couch. Me and Dave went to bed and everyone settled in for a long winter's nap.
Dave had warned the kids they were not to be out of bed before 7 a.m. At 6:59 Sam came into our room and pointed to the alarm clock, after about an hour of sitting up in bed and sighing heavily. Ten-year-olds are so cute, aren't they?
Present-opening was big fun. I got lots of great stuff, including a new red down-filled coat and an electric can opener - don't laugh; with arthritis settling into my one hand so bad I can barely open cans anymore.
Dave made bacon and french toast with cinnamon for breakfast and afterwards everyone went outside for a little fresh air. What a gorgeous, sunshiny day it was! Dave, Angus and Sam tried out their new skis. I wish I could have, but I was too sick by that point. I put on my boots and my coat and went outside for a few minutes but then went back in and let everyone else have fun.
Leah and Vic left around lunchtime – they had a dinner engagement with friends up north. And then Dave took the boys to their father's. I had a little cry, feeling sorry for myself being left alone and sick. I had to phone up my mom and tell her we wouldn't be coming over. I was way too sick for that and she didn't want my germs. All the rest of the family would be there, however, and I envied them the terrific meal they would have, Mom's incredible Christmas carrot pudding, the gift exchange and the socializing.
I laid on the couch for the rest of Christmas Day, watching movies and slathering myself with Vick's.
Today we were supposed to go to South River to spend time with Richard and Tammy and their family but, again, I am just too sick.
Oh well. Things could be worse. I do have my sweetie waiting on me hand and foot and cleaning up the Christmas mess single-handed. It's another gorgeous day and the chickadees are bopping around the feeder, sharing sunflower seeds with blue jays and red squirrels.
There are cookies to eat and movies to watch and it's kinda nice not to worry about getting dressed.
That was my Christmas.
How was yours?

Sam had the honour of topping the tree.
Christmas Eve dinner: Angus tries his first taste of champagne;
Sam pretends he's drunk.

Leah pontificating (check out the finger); Vic laughing at her. 
Stuffing and giggles and funny hats. 
The fearsome threesome. 
Yes, I was too sick to do dishes. (heh, heh) 
We put Misty's Santa-dog dress on our cat, who wasn't amused.

Sam stole my monkey sock hat.
Since the cat was wearing Misty's santa dress (a gift from Leah and Vic),
we dressed Misty in her tu-tu.
Sam was having a great time outside. He and Gus love their new skis. 
He's such a cutie in my hat and his new coat and mitts.
Angus is an avid and talented downhill skier so he thought cross-country
would be a little lame - HA! He wiped out after this pic was taken.
This is him sliding down the septic tank hill. Poo Hill, we call it.
Time to go. Everyone hugs everyone.  Angus and Vic.
Angus and Leah.
Leah and Vic with their "hubby," Dave.

Monday, December 20, 2010

When It's Time

The older I get, the less I fear death.
When I was young, I couldn't imagine dying. It terrified me. The thought of missing out on everything, of nothingness, of being buried in the cold ground – unimaginable to a youngster who barely understood what it was to be alive, never mind to be dead. Of course, back then I also believed I was the centre of the universe. That I was the only one who saw, who thought, who knew what was going on; the rest of the people in the world were just stage actors put there for window dressing and my amusement. Or lack thereof. I really believed I was the exception. That I would live forever. That rules of mortality didn't apply.
What an idjit, eh?
Don't hold it against me. I grew out of that kind of thinking pretty quick. Still, it took a long time to realize that I was gonna croak some day, just like everyone else.
I remember the time me and my friend Mark (and I think his brother Andrew and my sister, Elizabeth) were out bike riding on the back roads around Markham. (Back then Markham was a village surrounded by farms and dirt roads and we roamed the concessions on summer days without fear of child molesters or bad guys of any description.)
We were out, just tooling around, and we came across a pioneer cemetery we'd never explored before. We dropped the bikes and checked it out, meandering through the weatherbeaten headstones, some of them more than 100 years old. It was a gorgeous, hot summer day, not a cloud in the sky, and we were all full of the innocence of youth in an innocent time, not a disturbed thought in our blessed, middle-class heads.
And then I came across this:
Reader beware as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you must be,
Prepare for death and follow me.
The fact that 40 years later I can still quote it verbatim gives you some idea of what an impact it had. It scared the crap out of me. It scared the crap out of my friends! We hopped on those bikes and pedalled our arses back home as fast as our young legs would take us.
It was like someone reached out of the grave and touched us with a bony finger to say you, yes you, were coming down to the land of earthworms to pay an extended call.
For a long time I wanted that put on my headstone. I thought it would be cool to scare kids the way that headstone scared me. Only in the last 15 years or so have I given up that notion. Maybe it's because I have kids of my own. Maybe I just grew up and realized it didn't matter, and that's not really who I am. Maybe I'm old enough now to realize death isn't a joke, that it's not to be taken lately, but it's also not something to fear.
Getting old, getting aches and pains, is how we accept dying. How often have you heard people say, "it was a relief," when discussing the death of a seriously ill person? Or a very old person? Or someone who is profoundly mentally ill? You would never say that about a young person or any healthy person in the midst of a vibrant, satisfying life.
My father died after a long, exhausting battle with a rare blood disease. At the onset, when he first started getting lifesaving blood transfusions (his body stopped manufacturing its own blood), my mother asked how long this would last (meaning, I think, how long before he would be better and wouldn't need it anymore). The doctor replied, "Until he's had enough."
It was hard to fathom his meaning at the time.
My dad was still in pretty good shape. He was a fighter. He'd battled addictions, and won. He went through open heart surgery, had his knee replaced, survived a traumatic car accident that threw him into intensive care for five weeks. I mean, he'd been through it all, and he always pulled through. He had no intention of just rolling over. He went for his blood transfusions, he went to the doctor, he took his pills and, slowly, began to waste away in front of our eyes. As the disease progressed, he needed more frequent transfusions. At the end, he was getting two a week and it still wasn't enough. He couldn't eat. He couldn't swallow his demerol. He was in so much pain that he moaned constantly. Finally, one day, he'd had enough. 
"No more," he said to us.
No more transfusions. No more pain.
My father was ready to die. His body had given out and his mind sought relief from pain.
Tomorrow I'll be going to a funeral for the grandmother of some of our closest friends. Richard and Tammy stood up for us when we got married this fall. Nan was Richard's grandmother and Tammy loved her as much, if not more than, anybody. They had a close bond and both Rich and Tammy are in mourning right now. It's especially hard, this close to Christmas.
I never met Nan but Dave knew her well. He says she was a warm, generous woman, the kind of person who, when you went to visit, immediately sat you down and plied you with home baked pies and cookies and whatever else she had on hand. She was generous to her family and friends, and lived in her own home, healthy and busy and active, until she had a stroke a few weeks ago. She was 90 years old.
Not a tragedy, not when you can live that long and be that healthy and that beloved by those who knew you. A successful life, by all standards. Her funeral will be a tribute and a celebration to a life well lived.
Still, it is never easy to lose someone you love. Whether they're in pain, whether it was expected or not, there is always a hole in your heart when someone is gone. 
To Richard and Tammy, Emily and Megan, Wes and everyone else touched by Nan's death, I send you good wishes. Be kind to each other. Love one another. 
And have something to eat. 
I think Nan would really want you to eat something.
Especially you, Tammy, you ol adorable skinny butt, you.
See you tonight at the viewing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rudolph the Freaked Out Reindeer

Christmas is WHEN?


Wrapping - wrapping - writing cards - baking - cleaning - decorating - wrapping - wrapping - who has time for #fridayflashing?

YOU do?

What, are you out of your freakin' MIND?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why? Why? WHY?

I hit Next Blog and a religious blog came up.
I hit it again. Another religious blog.
Hit. Jesus.
Hit. God.
Hit. Born again.
I'm like, WTF?
Doesn't Blogger "group" blogs so that when you hit Next Blog you are seeing bloggers of a feather? Flocking?
I didn't think I was all that religious.
I mean, there's no Jesus Loves You buttons on the side of my blog. No crosses. No Bible quotes.
I wrote ONE story about Jesus, and I didn't even mention Jesus (it was very vague; for the most part, everybody thought Jesus was a dead husband... but that's a philosophical question for another day).
I kept hitting Next Blog and eventually the blogs changed somewhat.
They went from religious blogs to crafty religious blogs.
Quilters who pray.
Scrapbookers who liked the birthing canal so much they did it a few times. (Hey, there are days I'd agree to be born again, but only if there's an epidural involved... mmmm, I love epidurals - sung to the tune of I Love Turtles).
OK.. so... not only am I not that religious, I'm also not crafty.
Not even a bit!
I can barely sew a button on. Can't knit. Can't crochet. Can't embroider. Can't hold scissors without cutting some piece of flesh (could be handy for circumcisions, I guess).
I don't get it.
I thought that almost an entire year of flash fiction stories might put me in the company of other writers, not religious crafters. Not that there's anything wrong with being a religious crafter – it's just that we're not of the same flock, you see what I'm saying?
So I'm feeling a bit like a lost lamb, searching for my flock.
I need to get flocked, obviously.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

"Sing me a dirge, will ya?" asks Dave.
We're on the way home from Christmas shopping, driving in a snowstorm. The roads are solid ice and there are cars in the ditch up and down the highway.
I start singing the first thing that pops in my head:

"Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out.
She'd wash the dishes and scrub the pans,
Cook the yams and spice the hams
And though her parents would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out."

Why this song by Shel Silverstein pops into my head at this moment is a mystery to me. 
Also to Dave. "What IS that?" 
Dave is younger than me. Also, not as weird. Sometimes he doesn't know stuff I do. Important stuff, like who Todd Rundgren is and what he (Dave, not Todd) was doing when John Lennon died (I think he was still in public school – I was in my first year of journalism school).

In the 1970s I was a teenager living on the outskirts of Toronto, where top 40 radio station CFTR was king. Every morning I would wake up to to the weird morning man who had a roster of equally weird songs, most of them stolen from the Dr. Demento radio show.
One of the shows he played regularly was Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.
I have forgotten almost everything I learned in high school, except that silly song.
The man who wrote it, Shel Silverstein, was a real Renaissance man. A renowned illustrator, he drew children's books and cartoons for Playboy magazine. He wrote books, he wrote plays, he wrote songs. Did you know he wrote A Boy Named Sue for Johnny Cash? Or On The Cover of Rolling Stone for Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show? 
The man was amazing.
And here's the proof: I can still quote Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout but darn if I can remember when garbage day is.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Favourite Colours - #fridayflash


You know that place somewhere between tipsy and completely schnockered?

That’s were Gerard Hartley was.

“Pass the peanuts,” he said to the guy in the Budweiser cap sitting at the end of the bar.

The Bud guy gave him a dirty look.

“Please,” he added.

Bud Guy slid the bowl along the bar and Gerard almost but not quite snagged it with a wavery hand. The bowl flipped over and nuts tumbled out.

“Ya lost your nuts,” Bud Guy said, then snickered.

Gerard shrugged. He had no comeback. He gathered up the peanuts as best as he could with watery eyes. A couple of tears splashed down his leathery cheeks. Bud Guy saw.

“You crying?”

Gerard shook his head.

“Looks like crying to me. Man, you’re even more wasted than I thought. Barkeep, pal here is hammered. Maybe a cab might be in order.”

The bartender gave Gerard the once-over than shook his head. “I think he’s ok. He just lives around the corner. Walks. Comes here pretty near every night. I’ve seen him worse. You’re alright, eh? Gerard?”

“Pffft,” said Gerard. He wiped his eyes and finished cleaning up the peanuts.

The bartender looked at Bud Guy and shrugged. “See?”

Gerard filled his mouth with peanuts and crunched them noisily. Small peanut bits fell out of his open mouth onto the bar. Bud Guy made a face.

“Eh?” Gerard said. “What’s the matter now? Making faces at me. I saw you. What, you think I’m blind? You think I’m stupid?”

Bud Guy looked at the bartender beseechingly.

“What’s your name?” Gerard asked.

“Me?” asked Bud Guy. Gerard nodded.

“Chris,” he said.

“What’s your favourite colour, Chris?”

“My favourite colour? What the hell?”

Gerard slumped on his barstool. “Just asking, is all. Nobody asks me what my favourite colour is anymore. Notice that? When’s the last time somebody asked you that?”

“I dunno,” Chris said. “Can’t remember.”

“Exactly!” crowed Gerard. “Nobody asks anymore. When you’re a kid, you get asked all the time. What’s your name, little boy? What school do you go to? What’s your favourite subject? What’s your favourite colour?”

He paused. Then: “Ask me what my favourite colour is.”

Chris asked.

Gerard thought for a moment. “You know what? I don’t know anymore. Blue, maybe. If you’re a guy, that’s what you’re supposed to say. I used to spend a lot of time trying to decide what my favourite colour was, because sure as shit you were gonna run into some grown-up who was gonna ask and you wanted to have an answer handy. They expected it.”

Chris nodded, grinned a bit. “You’re right, old man, they did. I was always changing my mind. One day it was blue. Then it was red. Then black, when I was a teenager. It was cool.”

The bartender interrupted, putting down his glass-polishing rag and leaning on the bar. “Why do you think they always asked us what our favourite colour was? Why was it so important they know?”

Gerard snorted. “It wasn’t important. They only asked us that because they couldn’t think of anything else to ask. Adults have no idea how to talk to kids.”

He took a swig of beer to get rid of the peanut bits stuck between what remained of his teeth. “I began to think it must be important to know my favourite colour. That and my favourite subject, my favourite song, my favourite kind of car. There was no quitting it. What a load of hooey.”

Gerard finished his beer. He looked sad, like he might start crying again. “I kinda miss it,” he said. “Nobody asks anymore. Nobody cares enough to ask me much of anything anymore. Sucks to be me, I guess.”

There was a lull in the conversation. The bartender went back to polishing glasses. Chris toyed with the label on his beer bottle. Finally he said, “What’s your favourite beer?”

“Same as my colour. Blue,” Gerard said.

“Then how about I buy you one?”

“Then how about you do,” Gerard said.

Later, long after Chris had gone, the bartender was locking up and saying good-night to Gerard. Their breath came out in steamy puffs and their boots squeaked on the snow-crusted sidewalk.

“That favourite colour thing of yours, it gets you a lot of free beer,” the bartender said with a grin.

Gerard chuckled. “Ayuh. It’s a favourite.” He said good-night and headed up the street, his gait only very slightly off-balance.

Versatile, yes; Brainless, definitely

Oh Lord, who art in blogland, forgetful be my name.

Laura Eno went and did it. She nominated me for another one of those cotton-picking blogger awards that get buzzing around the neighbourhood like fruit flies at a grape smuggler convention.
Versatile I may be, but forgetful? Holy doodles, I am so forgetful that ... oh frig, what was I saying? I do remember, vaguely, being awarded other awards in the last few months but quite honestly I can't remember who gave me what. I APOLOGIZE! I should have written them down. I should have posted them immediately.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda ...
So as not to delay this any longer than necessary, I am passing it on immediately to Deb at My Great White North, WHO I MET TODAY for the first time! Not only did I meet Deb, who I read faithfully, I also met her husband, David, and the world-famous dog celebrity Lucy the Golden Lab.
I love Lucy, I really do. I love it when Deb writes about her antics, so it was a really big thrill to make a fuss over her today, petting her and cooing and carrying on. Lucy put up with my attentions for a couple of minutes before giving me a sardonic look as if to say, "Puhleese. No autographs, just cookies."

Lucy (on the right) with two visiting pals. Look at the look on her face. She cracks me up.

Deb is the very picture of versatility. She's an excellent photographer, a seamstress, a cook and a writer. What's more, she is genuinely funny. Nothing makes me smile more than a visit over at Deb's blog.
Funny thing is, Deb just lives around the corner from me, maybe a half an hour at the most. For bloggers who are often whole countries apart, that is like living on someone's doorstep.
I hope we can get together for coffee some day soon. And, I promise, I'll bring Lucy treats.
Deb, all you have to do is pass the Versatile Blogger Award to someone else you admire, and let them know you did it. I hope they're as deserving as you.
AND, speaking of the lovely and talented Mizz Laura Eno, I want to let you know that I am FINALLY starting to read Laura's book, Prophecy Moon. Laura sent it to me MONTHS ago. This embarrasses me to admit, but I have not read a book since last summer. I've barely read a magazine. It's everything I can do to read #fridayflash stories. Seriously, I am falling apart!
This week I have vowed to read one chapter of Prophecy Moon every day. As of this moment, I've finished Chapter Two.
It's so good, Laura! It is! I can hardly wait to see what happens when he finds the old hag!
Thanks for sending it. Thanks for the inscription. Thanks for the award. Thanks for being such a powerful, positive force in the writing world.
To visit Laura's blog, visit A Shift in Dimensions.
To visit Deb's blog, visit My Great White North.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rant #3,467 - ARGGGGHHHHH

I was trying to find a picture that sums up my mood. This postal guy kinda comes close.

But it doesn't quite have the angst I desire.
This mother is sort of how I feel, only I wouldn't waste good hair at a time like this.
Besides, she's obviously not really upset. She's an actress, and a pretty bad one at that.

Now, Christian Bale, he's an actor, but he's a good one.
Even though I hear he's cranky on set. Hey, I'm cranky all the time, set or no set.
Christian, I can relate, my blood-spattered friend.

Still, as angry as that photo of Christian is, it's not as freaked out as I feel.
This monster is a little closer to the screaming heejies I feel busting out.

Obviously photoshopped, however.
Unlike the picture of this cat.

Of all the photos I've looked at, I think this one of the kid screaming pretty much sums up my foul mood. 

Oh yeah, baby. That's the ticket. That's me - only I'm older and fatter and wrinklier and, yes, MADDER, than this kid. RAWRRRRRRR!

So what's pissing me off?
You don't honestly want to know, do you?
You got your own pissers, your own problems – you come online to escape life's daily bullshit. I know for a fact you don't want to hear mine.
But sweet bloody jaysus, if it isn't your hormonal teenager driving you straight around the freaking bend, it's work. And if it ain't work, it damn sure is something else.
I need a Midol the size of an elephant turd.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Smoke - #fridayflash

Melozzo Da Forli: Music-making angel (fresco, c. 1489)

He hid in the blizzard.

A shape. Like smoke. There, then not.

Snow raged around him, blurring the line between storm and flesh. His breath was invisible in the wind. He left no footprints.

He watched the family inside the warm house.

It was Christmas Eve and the woman was making Cheese Dreams: white bread with a slice of processed cheese, topped with three or four strips of crispy bacon, slid under the broiler until the cheese bubbled. Angie always made Cheese Dreams on Christmas Eve. Her mother had done the same thing when she was a little girl. The kids liked eating it with their fingers and Angie liked the quick simpleness of the meal, following hard as it did on a long day of housecleaning and cooking.

Christine and Marie were sitting on the floor in front of the television, watching Christmas specials. Angie glanced at the TV as she brought plates of Cheese Dreams and glasses of milk over to her kids. The Peanuts gang was singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing, with Snoopy howling in the front row. Nostalgia, anticipation and bacon perfumed the rarified air. Angie smiled, even though she was worried sick.

“We get to eat in front of the TV?” Christine asked.

“For tonight,” Angie said. “Don’t get used to it.”

“Pffft,” said Marie. “As if.”

Angie sat down on the floor beside the girls, resting her tired feet. She looked at the clock. Frowned. Gordon should have been home by now. She stole a glance out the window, not wanting to worry the girls, but Christine noticed. “When’s Daddy coming home?” she asked, through a mouthful of cheese.

“Soon,” her mother said.

“It’s almost bedtime,” said Christine.

“Bedtime!” squealed Marie. “Daddy had better be here before bedtime or Santa won’t come!”

“Santa will come,” Angie said. “And so will your father. He’s just held up in the storm. Probably bad traffic. He’ll be here. Has he ever missed Christmas? Ever?”

She raised her eyebrow.

The girls shook their heads.

“Look, the Grinch is on,” Angie said. “Finish your Cheese Dreams and Marie, drink your milk.”

“Blech,” said Marie.

The woman cleaned up the kitchen and, when she was done, herded the girls into the bathroom for tooth brushing and face washing. She dressed them in new flannelette pajamas, then tucked them both in and read The Night Before Christmas. Marie sniffled a little because her father wasn’t home but Angie reassured her. She kissed them soundly, turned off the light and promised them dreams of dancing sugarplums.

With the kids looked after, Angie curled up on the couch in the living room and stared out the window. The storm didn’t seem to be getting any better. Worry clouded her thoughts.

His heart broke a little bit, seeing her hollow eyes staring out into the darkness.

Gordon would never walk through that door again. She didn’t know it yet. But when the police cruiser pulled into the driveway several hours later, he would be there for her instead, an invisible shoulder to lean on, a comfort, a crutch.

It was the only thing he could give her this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Walking Man

One foot forward

Trusting it will find solid ground.

One tentative step away from old hurts.

Wounds heal; scars fade; fear waits.

A year goes by.

Another birthday.

You walk.