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Bedtime Christmas Happy

  "Uncle Mike?" Jake said while looking up from his soggy Cheerios.

Michael Remer peaked over the morning paper at his nephew. "Yeah kid?"

  "What does jackass mean?" he asked, balancing a spoonful of milk in mid-air. 

"Where did you hear that word?" the tone of his question didn't match the chuckle he covered with his knuckles.

"I heard mommy say that to daddy," he said, retreating back to his cereal. "It's a bad word. Isn't it?"

Mike's smirk turned to a frown as he closed the paper and laid it on the table. Removing his reading glasses, he exhaled through his nostrils while struggling to find a suitable explanation for a seven year-old. Poor little guy. His dad is a jackass. You would think, after all the things our parents put us through, that he would've learned from their mistakes. No kid should have to witness an ugly divorce.

"Look, Jake..." Mike rubbed the stubble on his chin before continuing, "Sometimes grown-ups say things they don't mean–when they're angry." 

The comforting whiffed as his nephew remained submerged in the mini whirlpools he spun in his milk. It's bad enough that they just dropped by last night, unannounced, and dumped him on a week night. But now the kid has to suffer through a life lesson from the most unfit parent on the planet. I feel for ya! The innocent child playing with his cereal made his stomach flip. He had to cheer him up.

Using the wisdom of his additional twenty years of life experience, he dodged the subject by changing it to something universally loved by all children. "But, Christmas is in a week! did you already send in your list to Santa?"

"Luke Allen in my class says Santa isn't real." Jake said to his bowl.

Geez kid, you're just beaming with sunshine today.

"First off, don't ever trust someone with two first names," the joke landed as Jake's head emerged from the cereal with a smile.

"Secondly, if that were true, where do all the presents come from?"

"He says they come from mommies and daddies."

"Hogwash!" he snapped. "There'll be no such lies in this house, Argggh!" he added with an over the top pirate accent (a homage to Jake's fascination with the thieves of the sea).

Mike's goofy shouting caused the boy to snort with laughter. The wonder that exists in the hearts of every young child, returning to his face. "Now, finish ye breakfast–or ye be walkin' the plank! Arggh! Arggh!" he said while scooping the paper back up and noticing the sports section. "And ye be joinin' the Red Sox, apparently" he added with mild dissatisfaction and a raised eyebrow. Jake giggled, returning the spoon to milk with a scoop that overshadowed his mouth.

After returning home from dropping off Jake at school, Mike called to check-in with his brother.

"How'd it go? he wasn't too much trouble was he?" Richard Remer asked.

"He never is, Rick." Mike said.

"Good. Sorry to just drop that on you but we had to figure some stuff out. Stuff that couldn't wait."

Rick was that kind of guy. Everything was on his schedule and everyone else just had to work around it. That's probably a big reason why his marriage is failing.

"Yeah, how's it all going?"

"Not great," Rick said through an exaggerated sigh. "But, we're trying to work through it. You know, for Jake and all."

"That's noble. And now that you mention it–I know it's not my place, but Jake told me this morning he overheard a fight. He said he heard Erin call you a–"

"You're right! it's not your place," Rick interrupted.

Mike could feel the heat coming through the receiver as he went on.

"What happens with my family is my business, got that?"

"Understood." Mike said, choosing the one word answer over the more attractive spewing of hot truths that boiled in his gut.

"I know this hasn't been easy on him," Rick started to backpedal his emotions. "I remember how hard it was on us."

Glad to hear you aren't completely oblivious to the past.

"On top of everything, he's getting bullied at school now–"

"Wait, he's getting picked on?" Mike's anger towards his brother morphed in a different direction upon hearing the news.

"Yeah, some kid starting teasing him about believing in Santa and what not. Got a few of the other kids to join in."

"Luke Allen?" he spoke from seethed lips as he envisioned taking a trip to the Allen home and having a few choice words for Luke's parents.

"Did Jake mention it?" Rick asked.

"Yeah, he sure did. I hope you gave that kid's parents a piece of your mind!"

"Settle down. They're just boys. This stuff happens. Besides, it's probably time he learned the truth anyways." Rick said.

"He's seven, Rick."

"That's about the age I found out."

"Yeah and look how you turned out." Mike immediately regretted the blurted out words.

"And what's that supposed to mean!" Rick's temperature was rising again.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean. I–got a little worked up. I just don't think it's the right time to crush his–"

"Mike!" Rick yelled above his younger brother.

"Fine, you're right. Your family, your call." Mike backed off.

"Good! sheesh, man. One day, you'll understand what it's like to be a father. Gotta make tough decisions."

Mike always hated his older brother's condescending lectures and this one was no different. Using the same technique that worked on his son earlier, he recycled the topic switcheroo method and said, "Well, I'm still quite a few chapters away from getting to that one."

Rick belted a pack-a-day smoker's raspy laugh as he added, "Yeah, you can't put the cart before the horse!"

Mike tried to echo the expression but it came out flat and phony; Rick didn't seem to notice. Mike's love life was a long-running joke between the two of them (with one side enjoying the humor more than the other).

"But, in all seriousness," Rick paused to clear his throat with two coughs, before continuing, "how's it goin' in the lady department? any prospects?"

"Nah, work is so crazy right now. I can't even make time to watch a ball game, let alone try to date someone."

"Maybe you should ask Santa for one!" Rick barely got the sentence out before unleashing another obnoxious wheezing howl.

"Ha, good one! But, I already wasted my wish this year on a cherry red Ferrari!" Mike now joined his brother in laughter and this time it was genuine.

Ding! Dong! The doorbell in the distance lowered Mike's chuckles. With Rick still making a racket on the other end, his ear drifted from the phone. Tilting his head for improved listening, he waited for the reverberating ring to evaporate. Satisfied with the appropriate amount of silence, he started to turn back to the conversation.

Ding! Dong! He sprung up from the kitchen table.

"Hey, Rick," he paused, waiting for his brother to die down. When it didn't, he interjected again but louder, "Rick!"

"Yeah?" his roaring, having melted into the response.

"Someone's at my door. I'll have to call you back."

Having ended the call, he trotted down the stairs of his split-level home. As he reached the last step– Ding! Dong!

"I'm comin'!" he yelled as he yanked at the handle, swinging the door open. "What's so damn import–"

The porch was deserted. I was two steps away when the bell rang that last time, how...that doesn't make sense. Unless, it's malfunctioning. Wouldn't be the first time something in this house broke down. Yeah, probably some teenager's idea of a Christmas prank or something. The only thing greeting him at the screen door window was the beginning of light flurries (which the weatherman on the radio this morning had assured wouldn't come until later this afternoon). That guy's job security is impressive. Though, he didn't mind the snow. It had been a dry winter and he always enjoyed a white Christmas. Clicking the handle on the screen door with his palm, he started to push it open to take a step outside. But something was pushing back against him. After a second, he realized something was blocking the door.

Upon further inspection, he found a small cardboard box sitting in front of the door. The box was maybe four inches tall and eight inches wide. There was a Christmas themed sticker on top. Red and green ornaments bordered the label that read, "Mikey" written in silver cursive. No other postage or stamps of any kind. This package was clearly delivered by hand, but it was very strange. No one had called him Mikey since he was a boy.

He stared at the box on the kitchen counter with crossed arms. Rubbing his chin, he pondered the package's possible contents and the reasoning behind the chosen name. He wasn't on a gift-giving level with any of his neighbors. His friends weren't exactly the "thoughtful" type; let alone think of a gift and hand deliver it. It seemed the only way to solve this mystery was with a rusting pair of kitchen scissors.

The flaps popped open as he finished slicing the lone layer of tape atop the package. Inside he found a blank envelope. Lifting the piece of paper revealed a small white box in the same rectangular shape as the package, only half the size. Intrigued, he unsealed the envelope and took out a tiny stack of white cards. The message's font on the first was bold and black, reading:

OPEN ME IN THE GARAGE.

Confused and visibly frightened, the card shook in his hand. Uh why would there be such specific orders? It's gotta be one of the neighbors playing a joke. I bet it's John Doyle. I'm pretty sure he saw me park the car in the driveway after dropping Jake off at school. Plus, I think he's still got his panties in a twist because I didn't acknowledge their Christmas card last year. Shrugging off the warning, he snatched the tiny box from the package. Tearing open one end; something rolled out and into his hand. It was a black HOT WHEELS toy car. Examining it closer, he recognized it was a Ferrari.

"Okay..." he said, utterly baffled.

He placed the toy car back in the package. Setting his sights back on the cards, hoping for any further instructions that could explain the odd gift–something caught his eye. Did that box just move? He froze as his assumptions came to life. The package shook again. His body jumped back a step in response to the fear. Again, it shook; and then stopped. Gaining enough courage, he crept towards the package. It remained idle as he peered over the edge, grimacing with one eye closed. The tiny car sat inside, dormant. Suddenly, the sound of a jet engine ignited and the tires on the toy spun into action. Smoke started to spread through the kitchen as he feared his eardrums might explode from the reviving. Frantically, he went back to the cards in his hands. Over the tremendous growling of the package in front of him, he flipped to the second and last card. In the same font, it read:

I TOLD YOU. THE GARAGE.

"Ahh!" his shriek was embarrassing but justified. Acting on impulse, he gingerly grabbed the smoking package and turned for stairs. Scurrying down the steps, he carried the box as if it were a foul-smelling bag of trash. The two sets of stairs seemed more like ten. The blaring grew louder and louder, the closer he got to the garage. It was hard to tell through the smoke but it looked as though the car were growing.

Finally, he reached the door. Wasting no time, he whipped it open and nearly ripped it out of its hinges. Tossing the ticking time bomb into his completely empty garage before he slammed the door shut. He dove back into the carpeting of his basement floor–just as the reviving engine hit its crescendo. He curled into a ball and braced for the inevitable explosion. It never came.

After a minute of heavy breathing, he sat up and listened. Silence. Making his way to the garage door, he tapped the handle. Expecting the metal to burn his fingers, he was surprised by its cool touch. Down by his feet he noticed a fog rolling from underneath the door. Taking a deep breath, he creaked the door open. Smoke transferred from garage to basement as he coughed and waved at it. After the combustion settled enough to make out the damage, his jaw dropped. Sitting in his garage was a sparkling new, black Ferrari.

The toy had grown into an actual automobile. Amazed and shocked, his feet floated towards the sports car. His hands slid across its welcoming metal body. He wasn't crazy. It was real! There was an actual Ferrari in his garage!

"Thank you! thank you!" he yelled while hugging and kissing the car. "Whoever you are! Thank you!" Looking through the windows, he noticed something on the steering wheel. Sliding in the driver's side, he plopped into the warm leather. There was a card stuck in the center of the wheel. It was the same type of card he had found inside the package. In the familiar bold print, it said:

MIKEY, YOUR HEART WAS RIGHT. JAKE NEEDS TO BELIEVE IN ME NOW, MORE THAN EVER. DON'T LET HIS MAGIC BURN OUT.

P.S. I know you said cherry red, but this was the best I could manage on such short notice.

December 04, 2021 03:46

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4 comments

Kathy Philpott
01:13 Dec 10, 2021

I enjoyed this story and I was happily surprised with the ending. Clear and effortless writing style. I’m a fan. Also, I’m a huge Ferrari lover.

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Brett B
02:29 Dec 10, 2021

Thank you Kathy! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I too, am a Ferrari fan.

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Amber Fox
01:22 Dec 09, 2021

Great ending! It makes me want to read more!

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Brett B
02:07 Dec 09, 2021

Thank you Amber!

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