Secret Santa #5
Beards hunched near beards by the bar as an old man husked out a joke about a plot to leave the Wife. He had tobacco-stained fingers and was obviously still with her; ‘The plan’ and he chortled smoker’s cough, ‘is to leave for a pack and never come back.’
You purchased your first pack not ten minutes later.
Your wife did not like the smoking. ‘The baby is coming! The baby is coming!’ she crooned like we were long-living the new King. She reclined behind the tiny egg of her stomach and flapped her hands in the air, skin sliding tight over thick-twig neck tendons. You were a happy dick of a dragon and blew smoke with a one-half smile.
Melinda and her King were watched through the nicotine and tobacco boiling batches of your temper. No fucking, no smoking, no-eggs-in-the-food; the headaches and handbooks, the too-tight-shoes. Cigarettes became your teeth, your teeth became cigarettes. A row of fire, consuming your lips.
‘We are all changing.’ slipped over your tongue at the table and Melinda spit peas at your face.
The bean of a King was soon a peach, but on the screen you saw an alien-thing, and the alien thing King said to you —
‘Hello, you are not my father.’ and you could’ve reached inside the petroleum-jellied belly and shaken its small slimy hand. Outside you smiled and the cigarette stood at attention. A bastard son for two!
You said, ‘Who the fuck runs around outside in winter with no shoes on?’ and were graced with the mother lion’s glare as she knit her hands over the pouch of the coming King.
You sat outside next to the snowman and fabricated possible fathers. An undergrad. The roommate’s ride. A professor. His teak desk aching beneath their bucking. The snowman’s second-tier-tummy was a perfect ashtray and when you were done outside, he was the first casualty of war, riddled with holes from the cigarette gun of your mouth.
Seven o’clock and Melinda had not returned home. You found a romance novel in the Holy Mother’s night stand and flipped through the gooey yellow pages. The ashes went everywhere, into the spine, over the serenading symbols of sensuality riling up into one good hard fuck. It was there, where the spine splayed itself open. But it was not to your liking, and you flung the book aside.
She shed a few tears that night and asked you to stop smoking. You left the room for another slice of pizza. In the morning she thundered and sobbed because you didn’t put the box in the bin. She stomped a big foot. You said to her:
‘I meant to.’ or maybe it was something like, ‘I’m so sorry.’
She did the ninja rabbit face and hurled the thing at your head. It thucked against your forehead hollowly and fell to the floor. You stepped over to it to get to the coffee pot. The Holy Mother’s muscles rippled; inside the coming King flexed and flipped and turned red against you. She lunged and locked your head in her matador arms.
‘Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!’ came like the long-living King.
The way she shrieked and pressed her thumbs into your eyes ensured that the King would never die.
You scrambled for the counter and elbowed her broad back. ‘I’m sorry’ you said and threw the contents of the coffee pot onto her face. She howled and brought her hands to her face. She staggered back in claymotion dance moves, the sopped hair over her wet face like the matted locks of a wild wolf.
But the reprieve was a ruse, the coffee cold and stale. Yesterday’s brew.
‘You didn’t make me any fucking coffee?’ you snarled and raised your arms like a grizzly bear.
Next day, you kissed her bean-brewed cheek when you picked her up at the university. The cold winter sun made a point to pierce through pines and panes of glass to poorly exhibit her eyes and the way they looked at you through each light. She had a good day. She should have put the box in the bin herself.
‘I’m so sorry’ you said and pulled into the drive.
The holy sanctuary of the coming King morphed into a mountain and Melinda staggered behind it, suffering from a double-chin complex. Reigning regent, she sent you on missions for malts and snacks as salty as sweaty fingers. The chips were bathed in brine and battered in malt before being scarfed down, transforming her oesophagus into a cornucopia of lipids. She had maternity leave and spent it in fuzzy socks, mood swings and feigned coughing fits. It was all a good show.
You never met the babe, this coming King. He popped the cork out of the holy birth canal while she was aiding undergrads with philosophy theses, and the real father drove badly all the way to the hospital. They rung you an hour later, the real father said —
‘It was about half one.’ as if he had said, ‘I’m the dad. Don’t bother showing.’
You met the mysterious God-head of a father outside the hospital room and clapped him on the back to watch him jump. He kept his hands perfectly still in his pockets.
You looked in saw his Holy mother there on a bed, puffing with palms pressed against the tumbling inside. She didn’t see you for a minute, or just for a while, and she smiled and the sun shone in your eyes through the window across the way.
The philosophy undergrad bounced his knees and shuffled out a good smothered St. Vitus at your side.
‘You’re okay.’ you nodded. ‘You can handle this.’
One last glance at the wife on the bed between two metal bars, one last glance at the father with acne. You turned and the father fidgeted with jerked puppet joints and stood. You had your line ready, lying on your tongue as it had in your head for months now. It waited like the glorious coming of the King.
‘You know?’ he said.
The seal stayed shut. You said it anyway. You said —
‘I’m going out for a pack.’
The father jammed a fist into his pocket and looked at you, his eyelids hooked up by caffeine, lips sore from practising Plato’s venerable vocabulary against your wife’s fat pucker.
You turned, batted strides towards exit signs that took you to a lift where you pressed the proper buttons to take you away. Behind you a small thwacking sound started up like a fan, a deadly roulette blade rolling forwards for your tender neck. Thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack when you entered the lift alone, thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack, all the little lights dimming and dinging. Thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack cleared round the corner as the doors slid shut.
The father sprinted down the hall at you pumping white knuckle fists, his jacket thrashing around his waist. You could see it now, the dent in the nickel-brushed doors. The sad, small shape of an enraged father. A halo of head blood to crown the figure.
You pressed the button and he dove in between the opening doors without breaking his sprint. He crashed into the lift and didn’t bother to catch his breath.
‘I’m coming with you.’ he said.
You stood there with crossed arms and smiled.