I seem to have lost my writing mojo and am trying to get it back while recovering from yet another surgery, and a raging case of shingles. While I am off work recuperating, I have taken to walking my dog during daylight hours…we normally walk in the dark of the very early morning before work, when there isn’t much that can be seen. Because I have a 4 inch incision in my abdomen we aren’t going to win any land speed records. With this leisurely pace I often find little treasures or unusual items that spark my imagination. I’ve decided to write a short story for each discovery.
Several days ago I passed a small, unopened package perfectly wrapped in Christmas paper. It was lying in the grass a good distance from sidewalk the first time I saw it and was propped up against a tree the next time I saw it. On the third day it was gone.
“I think my Mom liked you.”
“If you say so.” She sure had a strange way of showing it, I thought. After the cursory introduction during which his mother gave me a long, thorough inspection – taking in my hair, face, body and clothing – she finally offered her hand and asked to be called Shirley. A cigarette hung from her lips and she squinted through the smoke and offered me a beer. After I declined she popped open the can, turned away and made her way to the kitchen, mumbling under her breath something that sounded like “another uptight, holier than thou teetotaler” Or something like that. I was too busy taking in the disarray that was the living room.
“No, really, she has never liked any girl I’ve brought over. She liked you.”
“And your Dad?”
“Dad doesn’t like anyone…present company included.”
“Your own father doesn’t like you?”
“Never has, never will,” he stated flatly.
“Why?” I could not fathom the family dynamics I had witnessed that day. Chain smoking, chain drinking mother. Cold distant father whose only conversations bordered on abusive tirades about the shortcomings of every family member present. Boisterous children, and grown siblings who called each other names she wouldn’t have called her worst enemy. I was the only child of older parents whom I had moved to Florida to care for as their health declined. Our gatherings were quiet, usually elegant, and peaceful. And frequently mind-numbingly boring.
“Something about being born some time after he caught my mom cheating on him.” He shot me a sidelong glance. “With his own brother.”
“Hmmm.” I opened my car window for some fresh air, but being Florida at Christmas time, the air was heavy and damp. I wanted the cold, crisp air of Christmases past. I wanted the quiet of my boring little world.
I thought about the present in my purse. I was nervous and more than a little scared.
“Want to come over for a drink?”
“No. I can’t.” I said a little too quickly. “I mean, I’m tired, it’s been a long day.”
We’d been dating for nearly a year. I hadn’t met his family before and although that seemed strange, after today I thought that might have been a good thing. I thought he would have a present for me, but he hadn’t offered one so far and Christmas was nearly over. “I think I’ll just go home.”
“Oh, okay.” He gave me the sidelong glance again. “I wanted to talk.”
“I wanted to talk to you, too.”
He pulled into the park near my parent’s house and parked the car. “Let’s walk off some of that dinner.” He grabbed a small bag from the back seat, opened the car door and came around to open mine. I slung my purse over my shoulder and joined him on the sidewalk. We walked in silence in the damp air.
“You first,” I said.
He cleared his throat. He looked nervous. He looked everywhere but at me. He cleared his throat again. He’s going to ask me to move in with him, I thought. Or marry him. I inhaled deeply.
“I know you just met my family today, for Christmas and all. My mom insisted I invite you.” He stopped walking and faced me, but didn’t look at me. “But, the thing is…” he cleared his throat once more, and studied his shoes. “My ex and I have been seeing each other again. She’s going to move back in and we are going to give it another try. New year, new beginning and all.”
I felt as though I had been gut punched. I exhaled slowly – my stomach threatening to relieve me of the wretched meal I had endured with his dysfunctional clan. The meal I had endured through cigarette smoke that made me gag, noise that made my head hurt, and interactions that had left me speechless.
I finally took a breath and steadied my voice. “Why not take her to Christmas dinner, then?” I asked. “Instead of me?”
“My family doesn’t like her,” he shrugged. He handed me the small bag. Inside was my toothbrush, my hairbrush and a few other toiletries I’d kept at his apartment. And the condoms I’d bought but that sometimes were forgotten in the heat of the moment.
“I see.” I didn’t really see, but I didn’t know what else to say. I tried not to look hurt, but I’m pretty sure I was unsuccessful.
“I’m sorry to do this on Christmas Day and all but she’s moving back in tomorrow.” He started walking again but I stood where we had stopped. He turned back toward me. “What did you want to talk about?” he asked.
“You wanted me to come to your place tonight and she’s moving back in tomorrow?” I could not breathe. I was incredulous. I wanted to scream.
He finally looked me in the eye. “I am sorry.” He looked sheepish, but not at all sorry.
“That’s the truest thing you’ve ever said. You are sorry, all right.” I paused and took a deep breath. “We’ve dated a long time with very little forward progress. I mean it took you nearly a year to introduce me to your parents. What I wanted to say was that I think we need to see other people. Guess you beat me to the punch.” I took the condoms from the bag and handed them to him.
“You’ll need these before I will.” I turned and started walking toward my parent’s home, fighting the urge to vomit. And the urge to cry. He stood silent in the damp air. “Have a good life” I shouted over my shoulder. I walked past his car and toward the street.
As I neared my parent’s home, I fumbled in my purse for the present. The one I had wrapped so carefully after peeing on the stick and seeing the results. I had carefully capped the pregnancy test and sat on the bathroom floor for so long my mother knocked on the door and asked if I was all right.
I looked at the perfectly wrapped gift and threw it as far as I could.
22 responses to “Ghost of Christmas Present”
I LOVED this story so much. I cannot believe I am gushing. I am not usually a gusher. You managed to captivate me completely with your introduction (love the idea of writing about random objects you happen to pass by) and then your description was lively and informative so I had to carry on reading. I want to know what happens next. IS there a next? Why doesn’t she tell him she is pregnant?! He is a complete arse, though, isn’t he? What is his story? My goodness, you have wowed me. And here I was trawling the internet for some good writing tips. You got them all right there, the build-up, the tension, the seeming climax only to be shocked by the reveal at the end. Beautiful work 🙂
Thank you – I am so glad you liked it…not sure where the stories will go or what will follow, but I’m hoping I have fun writing and others have fun reading.
Yes that is the main thing 🙂 Happy writing, and hope you have a cheery recovery!
If this story is you sans mojo, well, I can’t wait for more! Great story, Katy — I’m gushing like OB above. But thankfully, I can just say “ditto”!
Happy — HEALTHY — New Year for you!
Elyse – thank you. I can feel the mojo returning (or maybe it’s the drugs!!!) Either way, I am hoping for a healthier new year…the last few have been, trying, to say the very least.
Happy New Year to your and yours.
Get better soon, and I hope you find your mojo. (Austin Powers anyone? Oh behave! LOL)
Katy! You’ve been missed! Loved the story. I too have had a photo collection which has been growing in my phone. The subject matter is strange or interesting or interestingly strange things things which I’ve found on the ground at my feet. I’ve been thinking about how to work them into a series of blog posts, either separate, stand-alone ones or woven into a single story. Since you’ve gone ahead and blazed the trail, I’ll be sure to give you props!
Get well sooooooon!
I enjoy walking in the daylight but once that Florida sun gets very high in the sky I turn into a mole and dig myself in for the duration! So we walk at sunrise. I have several more photos (I finally remembered to take my phone) and several ideas for most of them. I can’t figure out how to weave them all together because they are all so different, and as you say strange or interesting or interestingly strange. I have missed writing so much but between work and being sick…it just hasn’t happened. Guess it’s like riding a bike…
How great to see you in action – and what a resurrection story. Great! You had me going right up to the end.
Sorry about the surgery, though. Hope you’re healing nicely and feeling fine very soon.
Peg, how delightful to see you. This is my 4th surgery in as many years…my son thinks they should put a ziplock bag type closure on my belly. How I wish they had been tummy tucks!!! I’m healing up pretty nicely, but the shingles have knocked me on a$$. I’ve missed you. Hope your holidays have been splendid and you have a great 2016.
I loved this. Great ending. When I see a suspicious package lying in the grass my first instinct is to call Homeland Security, but wondering if it contains a pregnancy test is a close second. Hope you make a speedy recovery.
Thanks Paul. If the package had been of a size or shape that suggested it contained a liquor bottle…this story might have gone a whole different direction. Probably because I’d have opened the damned thing.
Homeland Security should be called anytime there is a unattended Christmas gift. Definitely…
Good to see you back, in or out of pain, you’ve been missed. This story punched me in the gut. And that’s a very good thing. Martha and I agree on one thing. *grin*
Hope you have a 2016 full of fabulous!
BD!!! Happy New Year. That is my wish for you as well.
Here’s to us. *big smile*
I want more! You write good. Real good.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, less surgery and much less shingles new year!! (By the way, I asked my surgeon for a tummy tuck while he was at it and he said hell no. I figured with the fifth one the sixth was free?)
DJ…how good to see you Just for you, I’m going to set aside all this work I’ve been ignoring for the past 2 weeks and write another. Just for you.
I’ve had 8 abdominal surgeries. My tummy looks like a road map…a flabby, unhappy road map. My resolution is to not have surgery, shingles pain, or shitstorms in 2016. Just kidding. My resolution is to win the PowerBall.
Hope you and yours have a fabulous year.
Wonderful story. I hope you’ve recovered from your health issues. Sounds like it wasn’t a very fun holiday season for you. 😦
Hi Katy. Sorry I’ve ever Bly just found this. I do hope your surgery was successful and you’re fully recovered.
I have to agree with everything already said about the story. It’s great. Do please keep blogging. We miss you
Hi Katy. I hope your surgery was successful and you are now fully recovered. I love your story and agree with all the comments. More please