December 22nd

A distant relationship between father and son is further stressed when the family gets together for Christmas.


2. Connection


I wake up to the sounds of a lot of quaking.  It was the damn lake ducks. They took refuge on the side of my house because the lake froze over. Leaning up in my bed my head began to ache. This was no doubt the results of my drinking last night. I slowly got out of bed and walked to the bathroom.  Turning on the sink I cupped my hands and threw cold water onto my face. Needless to say I woke up right away. Now wide awake I go to the living room to look at the clock. 12:20. Man slept in today. I went to the kitchen and made some eggs for breakfast. The sizzling of the eggs in the pan with the morning sun creeping in through the shades gave a harmonious feeling. A knock at the door interrupted the silence of the house. I got up and peered through the shades of the window. I saw Mike’s white 2004 Chevrolet Astro parked in the driveway. He was early. Too early.  Opening the door I saw Mike standing there with his curly dark brown hair and green eyes. He gave a weak smile as he hugged me tightly. I didn’t like touchy feeling encounters so I awkwardly gave one back. After the embrace I saw his wife Amy coming up the pathway with a bag in one hand and Ally, their daughter holding onto her other. Amy had long brown hair that curved around her face. Her light brown eyes were accompanied with arched eyebrows that made it seem like she was asking a question. I kind of liked her. As for Ally she was a small kid with black hair down to her waist. Her eyes were a dark brown that anyone could get lost in. She was always quiet and would hide when anyone other than her mother talked to her. She was a strange child.

                “Hello Jorge!” exclaimed Amy extending her arm to me.                                              

 I raised my hand to shake hers but she wrapped her arm around me in a sudden hug.

“Hi” I blurted out hoping she would let go of me.

Thankfully she did and bent down next to Ally.

“Say hello to Grandpa Ally.” She said in a sing song kind of way. Ally just buried her face in her mother’s arm.  

“She’s just really shy.” Amy said standing up.

“Where do we put our things?”

Pointing to the hall behind me I answered, “First door on your left.”

 She smiled at me and took Ally to the room.  It was just me and Mike at the door now. My body tensed. Every time we were left alone Mike would start talking to me about my personal life which I hated. “How have things been dad? You don’t look too good.”

I must be psychic because I saw this coming.

“I’m fine I just went to sleep late last night.” Mike gave me a sympathetic look and walked to the car to get the rest of the luggage.              

                Once they got settled in Mike put the television on for Ally to watch. I sat on the sofa looking at the newspaper I got a few days ago. Some store owners products were destroyed by a fire. There was foul played involved and now they are looking for the delinquents who did it. Poor sap. Amy was in the kitchen making some hot chocolate for Ally. The chocolate scent crept into the room and danced around me. I secretly hoped she would bring me some. Mike sat on the other end of the couch one seat away from me. I tried to seem entirely focused on the newspaper to avoid any conversation.

“So dad, what have you been up to these days?” Mike asked.

“Well, you can usually find me complaining about the good old days when things were cheaper. I also like to sleep a lot and watch the grass grow.  Heck I even like making things out of wood. You know the things that old men are supposed to do.”

Mike chuckled at this. Amy came into the room and gave Ally the steaming cup of hot chocolate. The aroma was intoxicating. Amy sat on the couch between us and laid her head on Mikes shoulder. She had a nurturing mist about her. The way she talked to Mike and the way she babied Ally. She seemed like a good mother. Just like Valerie. Before the tormentors could sneak into my mind I snapped my tired gaze away from Amy and looked at Ally. She was easily entertained with the cartoons. I liked her innocence and unknowing of the world. It was a lot better than knowing the grim reality of life. 

                We didn’t really do much today because Mike and his family were tired from the trip here. We just lounged around the house. Night snuck up on the forest as the light fled from the growing shadows of the trees. I walked into the kitchen to see Amy making something. She turned around and looked at me then smiled.

 “Hot tea?” She asked raising the pot.

“Yea, sure.” I answered.

 I didn’t really want any but she caught me off guard with the question. I sat at the table and looked out the window at the now dawning sun. The clouds tried to cover up the last of the sun as the moon took its shift. She put a cup of steaming tea in front of me and sat across from me at the table.

                “Mike is playing with Ally in our room.” She told me.

“Ah, I see.”

 I took a sip of the tea. It tasted awful. It tasted like leaves and dirt thrown into water. It was very bitter. We sat there drinking tea for a few minutes before she left to the room. I went to the sink and dumped the rest of the tea. Reclaiming the seat in front of the television I flipped through the channels until I came to the news. Another crime committed another animal saved the usual boring crap. I heard footsteps coming from the hall and saw Mike.

“Dad I’m going to the store to get a few things want to come with me?” Mike asked putting on a thick brown coat.

 “No thanks, I’m comfortable here.” I answered.

“Ok then be back in a bit.” I heard the door close.

                The television was on but I wasn’t really watching it. Her face flashed in my mind. My chest began to hurt. Her crying made its way to my ears. I tried to block it out but it was impossible.

“Jorge” Someone was calling me.

 “Jorge.” Amy said louder.

 I snapped my head in her direction and saw her with Ally.

“Can you watch Ally real quick I have to change.”

 I looked at Ally then back at her. “Sure.”

                Ally plopped herself on the couch. It’s not that I’m bad with children, it’s just that Ally is a little strange and that made me uneasy.

“So Ally do you want anything to eat?” She shook her head no.

 “Are you tired?” Another shake from her head. Damn I hoped she would be tired and just take a nap to make this all easier.  A few minutes of silence passed.

“How about I tell you a small story?” She nodded in acceptance. Thank god. Now what do I tell her. I sat there for a moment then began.

 “I used to travel the world. I have been to many place like Germany, France even Japan. Ever heard of Japan?” She nodded.

“Well I was traveling around Japan when I came across a poor village. They were farming crops of fruits and vegetables and I wanted some. So I went up to one of the farmers and flashed some money and asked for some fruit.” Ally appeared to be listening so I continued.

“With the little Japanese I knew, I heard him say that they don’t take money. This was strange to me. Why would they not take money? So I asked and you know what he wanted?” I paused for dramatic effect.

” He wanted shit.” Ally seemed surprised to hear this and covered her mouth.

                “Oh I mean crap. They wanted crap.” Ally giggled.

“They used it to grow their own food. They were following the ways of old japan.  So word of the wise, don’t but food from Japan, it’s made of crap.”

Ally smiled at this. I felt a ping in my chest. I swear this was the first time I have ever seen her smile. Heck it was the first time I even talked directly to her.

“Did you like the story Ally?” Ally shook her head.

“No?” I barked when I noticed a figure at the corner of my eye.

  I turned to see Amy in the hallway leaning against the wall with her usual smile.

“Thanks for watching her Jorge.”  She said.

With that she called Ally back to the room for bed. I was alone again. That warmth that I felt in my chest was now gone. What the hell was that? I then refocused on the television. 

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