Christmas Present by Marie Shields

My sisterinlaw has arrived with her three little darlings, all under the age of four, and that pompous proctologist she's married to. I'd suspect he wasn't the father if they didn't all look just like him. The baby is really his spitting image since she's as bald as he is. The other two actually have hair, lots of it, bright spiky red-orange
hair. Wonder where that comes from. We don't have any redheads.

'It's going to be mayhem around here for awhile with all the cooing and ooing and hasn't she gotten big'comments. I'll be saying it too, but when I do, I'll mean that those kids are fatter than ever.

1 holler at my wife that I' m going to take the dogs for a walk and slip out the kitchen door.

Damn dogs. Usually they're pulling on the leash wanting to go another mile or so. Today they are dragging behind me as if I were abusing them. It's a thought. When life gives you lemons, kick the dog. Or something like that.

1 half drag, half walk them to the dog park where they refuse to play and just sit there staring mournfully at me.

Nobody here but me and them, guess they know where the action is. Afier an hour I give it up.

Now that we're headed for home they're in a hurry. "Heel," I holler. "Heel, you mutts."

They ignore me.

Well, at least I had enough foresight this year to stash a bottle of Seagram's 7 in the garage. I chug down a couple of good belts before I go inside to join in the holiday festivities.

"Hiya Proc. How's the butt business?" I laugh at my own witticism, but I'll bet he thinks I'm laughing at him struggling out of my recliner. Maybe I shouldn't have had that last belt.

"Merry Christmas, Richard. I have asked you more than a dozen times not to call me by that vulgar name," he says.

"Dick. My name's Dick. Think penis, Doc."
His hands are "the tools of his trade" and he's very protective of them. 1 squeeze his hand as hard as I can when we shake. We stand toe to toe, eye to eye. Sort of. He's about a foot taller than me and got one hell of a grip for a fat guy.

1 shrug and let go first. "Where's my old lady?"

"Our wives are upstairs putting the finishing touches on Santa's surprises."

"Oh, yeah. How about the brats?"

"Our children are downstairs in the playroom."

"Think I'll check on everybody. Say hello, ya know. Make yourself at home, Doc."

He hates being called Doc only a little less than he hates Proc.

The kids are all glued to the television watching a Powerpuff Girls Christmas special. Now, there's a mean bunch of girls. I watch long enough to guess that the three of them are going to use their superpowers to gang up on some other little girl and beat the crap out of her. They don't seem to scare the kids, but they scare me.

Halfway down the hall I can hear my wife and her twin sister arguing in that controlled tone they always use.

They might bicker a lot, but even Proc knows better than to try to get between them.
They're tighter than Siamese. Only difference between them is, I got Lynn pregnant while we were still in high school. Emily Rae went on to college and married a rich guy.

I stop in the bathroom and gargle some Listerine. My wife likes a good stiff drink as much as I do but pretends she never touches the stuff when any of her family is around.

"I have to insist you rewrap your children's presents,“ Emily Rae says.

"If you want presents rewrapped, you're going to have to rewrap yours."

I'm proud of her. "Stick to your guns, honey."

"I can't understand why you are being so unreasonable about this, Eleanor Lynn."

"Don't call me Eleanor, you know I hate that name." says Lynn.

"It's a perfectly respectable name. Our greatgrandmother was a real lady. She would have been gracious enough to rewrap her presents."

"If you think it's so all fired gracious, why don't you do it?"

"Because, Eleanor Lynn, my children have so many presents and yours only have a few."

A few? We almost bankrupted ourselves this year. I just couldn't stand another year of seeing that look in Lynn's eyes when everybody else's kids were opening presents for two hours after ours finished. Even though we make our kids open real slow.

"I can't believe you're being so selfish. That you would willingly ruin your own niece's and nephew's Christmas," says Sis. "You used the exact same paper and ribbon as I did on purpose. How could you afford it anyway?"

"I got it at Costco, same as you did. What difference does it make that they're the same?"

"Mine still believe in Santa Claus. They know he'd make their gifts special. Yours are probably so heathen they don't even believe I wouldn't put it past that Richard."

"Dick." I hear Lynn's breath catch in a sob.

"And yeah, they do know God and Santa Claus aren't the same person."

Dick might not be very religious but he don't.. .doesn't lie to the kids."

I want to go in there so bad. I want to hold my wife. I want to yell at her stupid sister, tell her that if the kids thinkthe presents
are from Santa it would make sense they're all wrapped in the same stupid paper But I don't.

When I asked Lynn what she wanted for Christmas this year, she said she wanted me to be nice to her family and not make a scene. And, by god, that's what she's going to get. Starting right now.

--2008 - Sheilds

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