We gather for drinks like in those movies with a detective with a British accent. The confronting of the suspects and we’re all there. These are the crimes we’ve committed according to my mother: not wearing a Christmas sweater, mishanging the tinsel, losing the Perry Como record where he sings The Little Drummer Boy, hiding fruitcake in a napkin and leaving it under the tree where the dog found it and ate it and then sicked it up. I lost the record, by which I mean that I stole it and ran over it with my car. Dad is wearing the Santa hat, which was knitted by his mom back in the last century. She’s gone now, but innocently – her death is not one of the Christmas crimes. My sister and I look at each other across the room and raise our highball glasses in a silent sister toast. By her raised eyebrow I know that she is thinking do you remember when we looked forward to Christmas? I shrug to indicate that I do: putting on something that sparkled, a bit of lipstick, dangly earrings. Who were we trying to impress? The floor is a sea of crumpled paper. Every third person has a bow taped to his/her/their head. My aunt is handing around the lyrics for Silent Night copied on half sheets of paper. My sister rolls her eyes, which means: I am going to kill someone soon. I hold a fist up in solidarity. We plead with our eyes: when will this end? My weird cousin sits down next to me, his thigh cozying up to mine, and I spring up like the nutcracker in a Christmas ballet. In the bathroom, I light up a cigarette and turn on the vent. My sister comes in and we both sit on the edge of the bathtub. Did he try to cop a feel, she asks, and I nod. We smoke silently, and after a minute, she ways, what’s your plan, man? And I say pizza? My house? Your nomination is accepted, she says. The dog tries to leave with us but we lock him in the laundry room. Christmas is red. Tomato sauce, a neon sign that says Angie’s, the heels I kick off which lean against each other like old drunks, the string of beads that my sister leaves in the bathroom and which I find the next day when she is sleeping off the bottle of wine we drank: all of it red, including the wine.
Mary Grimm has had two books published, Left to Themselves (novel) and Stealing Time (story collection) – both by Random House. Currently, she is working on a dystopian novel about oldsters. She teaches fiction writing at Case Western Reserve University.