This is a piece that I wrote for a reading I did this past weekend at the Highland Inn Ballroom in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was called the Holiday Hangover. The name kind of says it all.
I Died That Day
The Princess Bride Should Have Been A Christmas Tale
“Stop playing with your dingy son.”
My father was still yet to graduate my brother and I to advanced slang for male genitalia.
Now that was a word that I might have learned a little too early in life.
If cursing was an education, Chris Feldmann, my brother’s best friend, was Doogie Howser. He had his PHD in swearing by age 12. Kevin, his little brother and at the time, my best friend, was always on the receiving end of Chris' rage. I have to admit though Kevin was a cocksucker and from what I can tell from his Facebook page... he still is to this day.
Hot tears streamed down my face as snot dripped from my nose. The only remedy available was the sleeve of my winter coat that was two sizes too big. A hand me down and an unflattering one at that. My mom had pulled it out of my brother’s closet and put it in mine after the first “cold snap”. We lived in Florida though. The low for the week was 55. A fucking windbreaker would’ve sufficed.
"You're still going to get presents." She said.
Her words didn’t even come close to soothing the sting of the low blow that I had just been dealt which I was why I was actually playing with my dingy in the first place. Touching my junk had always brought me comfort at a young age... and still does to this day.
"Well, where do all of the presents come from then?" I blurted out, still clinging to the innocence of my childhood as I was watched it disappear into the sunny south Florida December day... that promised a high of 64... with no chance of rain.
“When you make your wish list for Santa, don’t you always give it to me?”
My mother replied with a slight grin on her face. It was as though she was finding some sort of satisfaction out of breaking my young heart and destroying the false reality that she had built for me in the first place.
“Also, don’t you always get what you ask for?”
She always seemed pleased with her ability to spend my father’s money.
She should’ve been a politician.
I bet she created the phrase “golden parachute”.
The term “black widow” was fashioned for her.
It’s also been rumoured that the hit song “Evil Woman” by the chart topping pop rock band Electric Light Orchestra was about my mother after they encountered her at a “meet n’ greet” back in the 70’s.
My father stood by... dingy in hand.
Kevin had been riding Chris’ BMX bike for the better part of an hour before Chris appeared from behind Craig Alderson’s house. He tore across the yard in a fury that could only be matched by one of the rage zombies in 28 Days Later.
As he cleared the driveway it was hard to decipher audible words coming out of his mouth, but he was either swearing... or speaking in tongues. Words and phrases that I never knew existed were exploding on my face from across the street, then again that was probably just the spit that was coming out of his mouth.
His 12 year old frame advanced through our boring suburban neighborhood like a steroid infused CGI version of Eric Bana. He sounded like Joe Pesci in Home Alone after Kevin McCallister had beat the shit out of him for 2 feature length films, but with rabies.
I knew Chris wasn’t after me as I sat fearless on my shitty blue huffy that I had inherited from the kid who had stolen my bike a few weeks earlier. I later found out that the hoodlums called their thievery a “gift exchange.”
As I glanced behind me Kevin had already abandoned Chris’ BMX bike and was already two yards over blazing a trail towards Mrs. Geier’s flower garden. He looked like a young Forrest Gump after he had broken out of his leg braces. He was already crying, anticipating the abuse that he was about be dealt at the hand of his brother.
Honestly though, I didn’t feel bad for him. At 7 years old I was new to collecting baseball cards and Kevin had invited me over to trade some cards earlier in the week. At the time I had no idea who Pete Rose was and my dad gave me a similar beating to the one Kevin was about to receive when he found out that I had traded his Pete Rose Rookie card to Kevin for a Bo Jackson card that said “Bo Knows Baseball.”
I thought it would be worth more since it was in black and white.
When I questioned Kevin about it later, he too referred to this as a “gift exchange”.
I cheered as Chris pummeled Kevin’s face in a bed of lilies.
But through the blood curdling screams and the sight of Chris’ fists flying through the air at a speed that could only be matched by E. Honda from Street Fighter 2... only one thought was bouncing around in my head and unfortunately it wasn’t regarding Kevin’s well being.
It was the only coherent properly enunciated expletive that came out of Chris’ mouth as he spit and slurred.
I had to know...
“What... was a cock sucker?”
We sat in silence as we ironically watched my mother’s favorite Christmas Special, How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
Though many details regarding this particular story that I am telling have been embellished, this one has not.
I cowered in the corner of the couch feeling like Cindy Lou Who catching the Grinch in the act, but being sent back to bed with a glass of water or in my case being threatened with not receiving any Christmas presents that year.
I wanted to stab my mother in the heart with a candy cane, but I probably would’ve missed since her heart was two sizes too small.
Watching The Grinch with my mom was like watching a gangster movie with Ice Cube before he starred in Are We There Yet and its critically acclaimed sequel Are We Done Yet. Every time the Grinch did something heartless my mom let out a cackle that could only be rivaled by Fran Drescher.
I could tell that she found enjoyment watching the Grinch rip off Whoville and mistreat his dog like he was Michael Vick in a Santa suit.
As Whoville’s torment was coming to an end and The Grinch was making his conversion to Christ, my mom abruptly got up from her la-z-boy that she been plastered to, and randomly wandered into the kitchen for a cup of hot chocolate. As the credits rolled she appeared in the doorway and put me on notice Catherine O’Hare style that it was "time to say goodnight Johnny.”
“In a world without Santa Claus I don’t want to be awake anyway.” I spouted.
I gave her the finger in my brain, but I didn’t know what it meant, and if she’d asked me where I had learned to put all of my hatred into my extended middle finger, they would’ve filmed a certain PSA about me.
“I learned it from you mom!”
After I hugged my father, I bypassed my mother and did the best Kevin McCallister impression that I could muster and said “Goodnight Johnny” as I headed to my bedroom.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to sleep on the hide-a-bed with Fuller.
As Chris stood up from Mrs. Geier’s flower bed he raised his hands in victory as though he was about to receive an MMA Championship belt for defeating his brother in a classic “ground-in-pound” match up.
Kevin’s body appeared lifeless, but I could hear him whimpering as Chris brushed mulch and what was left of Kevin’s self-respect off of his jeans. He gave his little brother one last glance before spitting on him and again uttering the greatest word I had ever heard.
If I had known what a slow clap was at the age of 7, I would’ve started one for Chris Fucking Feldman as he made his way back towards what was rightfully his, his BMX bike.
There was a lump in my throat, and what felt like a bowl full of jelly in my stomach as I laid in bed that night. Tossing and turning and holding my dingy, I felt my sub-pre-teen angst growing inside me as my hatred for parental figures was surfacing at least 3-5 years earlier than most children.
I woke up to a tear stained pillow, and the loss of my youth had not subsided nor had my belief in Saint Nick. My father was sitting at the kitchen table ruffling the paper and complaining about democrats while my mother made breakfast out of Bisquick instant pancake mix.
It became apparent that she faked everything in life, even her ability to make breakfast from scratch. My floppy blond mop had been styled into something resembling a rooster while I slept due to my Dennis the Menace-esque cowlick and damp pillow case. My mother commented on my new “do” as I sat at the kitchen table scowling.
“What’s wrong Johnny?” She said with contrived sympathy.
My angst grew four sizes larger as I stared her down. I decided to go for the gold and ask her the question that had been plaguing my thoughts, dreams and ability to function.
“Mommy.” The one word that I knew could work in my favor and manipulate her stone cold heart. “Why did you have to tell me that Santa wasn’t real?”
Her mouth gaped... similar to what I imagine her asshole looked like after meeting ELO years earlier.
She started to stutter and stumble over her words. After regaining her composure of getting hit by the adorability of a toe-headed seven year old. She put her hands on her hips and said the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard an adult say to date.
“Well, sweetheart, as a new believer in Jesus Christ I didn’t want to wait any longer to tell you that Santa wasn’t real and for you to confuse the two. Because Jesus is real. Not to mention, he’s the reason for the season.”
The fires of hell burned inside of me. I wished I was Damien from the Omen. If she was worried about me believing in Jesus before she sure as shit should be worried now. She had replaced the magic of Christmas, not to mention my childhood, with superstition.
I took a deep breath and thought of Chris Feldmann in all of his glory. I pictured Kevin’s lifeless body after being annihilated, because our fates were about be the same. I stood up from the table and looked my mom dead in the eye and with more defiance than the occupy movement said what every 7 year old thought after being told that Santa wasn’t real.
“Mommy, you’re a cock sucker.”