• christmas mayhem •

Hm…kids are in bed?…check. Presents arranged under the tree, yup. Puppy stockings hanged at puppy eye-level, yessiree. Everything is as it should be, and yet…something is missing, or so it seems, to me. It just doesn’t quiiiite seem like the Christmas’, of my childhood, really, nothing like the ones I remember: and it isn’t Bing Crosby, crooning ‘White Christmas’, or commercials with Santa riding electric Norelco shavers down fluffy hillsides on TV. Something doesn’t seem…for lack of a better term, sufficiently, ‘Christmaseey’, to me. Hm, what could it be?
On the couch, under a light blanket of fleece, and with a snoozing pup on my lap, I sit comfortably, reflecting (mostly), with affection, on the Christmas’ of the past, of my childhood memories.
I recall…the smells, under the smoking, incandescent, two-inch colored bulbs that would burn the hair off’n a hog, of burning tinsel, of a house filled to the brim with sniffing, farting, wheezing (visiting) relatives, snoring to beat the band. Beneath are background sounds: from the back wall, from behind the tree, the, ‘color wheel’, with it’s changing light, bathing the ceiling in reds, then blues, to greens, to yellows, then, again, to red, to blue, to green, to yellow, with it’s, ‘creek-creek’, creaking sound, perpetually…and then, it comes to me–the full recollection of the, ‘main event’, which I shall, to you, dear reader, relay, with alacrity:
Even though I am so very nearly forced to sleep with my sister in her bed, that it makes my skin crawl to consider (I am, six, maybe?), all because ‘Grammaw’ says she’ll “be darned” if she’s “…gonna spend another sleepless night getting kicked in the back by (her/she), ‘that whirligig’,” and sister, decrying, “Me, sleep with ‘Pee-bag’? I would rather DIE than wake up WET again! MOTHEEEER!!!”, things seem to have, in the end, worked out just fine, for me.
I am ensconced on the floor, quite happily, under a floral linen sheet, on a thing momma calls a ‘pallet’ (is that a ‘Texas’ thing, or does everybody have them?), me, ‘keeping time’, like no metronome, ever, kicking’ my legs, languidly, ‘stretched out’, all three feet of me, and so very nearly directly under the tree, as to be, for me, a spritely woodland fantasy: and looking up, a mighty spruce, redolent of sap, the tree-topper scrunched at an odd angle to the ceiling, which, due to it’s unnatural girth and size, the tree is actually pressing against it, I see.
(Dad had apparently got a ‘huge deal’ at the Kiwanis, ‘yearly sale’ for the behemoth tree, since no ‘ranch-style’ homeowner in a fit state of mind, would even consider buying it–not if he wanted to stay married, that is, or, at least, that’s what most of the least intrepid men imaginable, had said, the woosies.)
And then I hear it, from waaay, up top of it. A glass ornament, descending: (*bing!bing!bing!*) hitting every branch, on it’s way down, and then (*crash!*), it ‘busts’ on the floor, by my head, right next to me. In the changing light of the creaking, ‘color wheel’, the detritus looks, to my six-year-old eyes, like a castle in ruins, which, of course, I think, absolute perfection, naturally. Then another irreplaceable ornament comes cobbling down, with the same cascading rhythm: (*bing! bing! crash!!*) ‘Wait a sec,’ I think. ‘One, okay, that’s an accident, but two? Uh, oh!’
Then, from up in the tippee-top of the tree, an unearthly mewling, and a rustling, emanates. Mandy, that stinkpot, she’s in the tree!
‘How’d she git’ up there?’ I wonder, and, ‘There’s gon’ be hill t’pay!!’ (We weren’t allowed to say, ‘hell’. Or, ‘shoot’, or ‘dang’, none of that good stuff.)
Did I mention that the entire floor was wall-to-wall with sleeping bodies? Brothers, sisters, cousins, relatives of every age, and make and model, a proverbial potpourri of large and teeny bodies, and overlapping arms and legs, every ‘which-a-way’ …then (*snap!), the tree makes a sound that can only mean one thing, ‘tiiiiimmmbeeeer!’, that big sucker is a-comin’ DOWN! KEEERRRRRRAAAASSHHHH!!!!!! “AAAAAAHHHHHRRERFGG!” Screams ensue, in every octave at once: cries of horror, shock, and dismay, entreaties for mommies, pathetic moans, and declarations of every caliber, all of it, muffled by a ton of poking, bending branches, bursting ornaments, entangling electrical cords, clinging tinsels and popcorn strings; everywhere, wall to wall, were scrambling bodies, writhing in pain. All in all, a sap-tinseled, hellish hysteria! What a sight to see.
It was heavenly.
Parents, aunts, uncles, extended relations of every description, together with exclamations too pithy to print, groggily rousing. Lights flicking on and off, a melee of scrambling feet, shrieking moms, cataleptic kids and crying babies– And Gramps, at the wet-bar, sitting on a high stool, above it all, surveying the scene, and, with a ‘clink’, and a ‘snap’, of his old Zippo, and lighting a Lucky Strike, and laughing, to beat the band: laughing, laughing, laughing, with his dried-out vocal chords, like Zeus had swallowed an organ-grinder, and his monkey, and Gramps, slapping his knee, as if it could possibly need further punctuation, the ensuing cacophony.
“It’s a nightmare! A nightmare!” says momma, over, and over again. “I’ll make coffee,” says Gram. “Where’s…that…damn cat!” mutters dad, through clinched teeth. “I’m gonna…just wait…’till I…” (Dad never could finish a sentence, sufficiently, when on a ‘killing spree’.)
And then, I’m here, and now, again, and it’s Christmas Eve, the kids are abed (dreaming of iPhones and X-boxes, presumably), and all is quiet, except for the pooch, snoring quietly next to me, and then, it comes to me. I realize what I’ve been ‘missing’, all this time. It’s quiet. All too quiet, or so it seems to me.
“Christmas mayhem,” I whisper, to myself, mistily, as I empty the last drips of egg nog, into a half-filled glass. (Those ‘dang’, kids have drunk ‘most all of it.)
‘Oh, that’s OK’, I think. (I always add a little milk, too, ‘thick’, ‘straight’, for my taste, anyway.) I add a bit of ‘one percent’. A dash of nutmeg. Ooooh! That first sip! Yum.
Standing in the kitchen, with the ‘fridge’ light slashing convivially across my toes, I come to the conclusion, that, maybe, just a little, I shouldn’t mind a teensy bit of, ‘mayhem’, with my Christmas, just for old times’ sake.
‘Well, the day is still young,’ I think. ‘Anything can happen.’
The kids. I grin. They’ll soon be awake.
~ Tim Burchfield
(Revised 12/25/16)



• porcupine •

• porcupine •
I slowed for a porcupine this morning. It seemed in no itching hurry to get off of the road. Languidly, it began to saunter off. Well, sort of.
A porcupine has a particular way of walking: slowly, methodically, it winds it’s way to wherever, but not lackadaisically; there is evident economy of motion: “Slowly, slowly, wins the day,” it seems to say.
(The walk seems studied. At all times, a very careful placement of limbs, held far from the torso, to better approximate the ideal mode of locomotion, that of lumbering; it’s a plod, admittedly, but it doesn’t hurt, seemingly, and goes some way to explain its apparent universal porcupine appeal: which, come to think of it, makes a kind of sense. In fact, categorically.)
It’s a plodding life, and a good one. But to learn it, and thoroughly, must entail a kind of prickly, spiny hell.
The porcupine lifestyle must have peculiar associations from the crèche. Sharp childhood memories make for lasting impressions. Necessarily, nuzzling is minimal. Playing with the sibs mandates little romping. One learns early of the evils of nosiness.
“Ow! Pincushion! That was my eye!” “Oh, what a crybaby. Why d’ya think you’re born with two eyeballs, UNO, huh? Duh!!”
One who would actually ‘turn the other cheek’, is roundly regarded as ridiculous, and rightly so. What foolishness! ‘Do to others, as one would be done by,’ is the best, in the crèche, or so I imagine.
As the porcupine clears my headlights, it regards me resignedly; the expression becomes a word, unexpressed, belatedly: it says, “Patience.”
They must learn early, I suppose, a particularly porcupine philosophy, which patently pricks, fundamentally rooting its way deep into the psyche, like a tick, digging in, and there’s no getting out of it: the porcupine mantra, “Life is pain. And love? Forget about it.”
Wait a sec! Where is my silver lining, intended for me, as I head back to hearth and home, to my particular American Dream? That darned prickly porcupine–what did he say? What could it be?
“Slowly, slowly, wins the day?”
Nope. Try,
“It could be worse, you could be me.”
~ Tim Burchfield


• disgruntled dyslexic persons •

• disgruntled dyslexic persons •
Last week, the BBC reported that the “British CIA” (Secret Intelligence Service or SIS, aka MI6) is accepting applications from “persons with dyslexia”, for consideration as ‘code breakers’, due to their uniquely intuitive ability “to see patterns in complex codes using letters or numbers, or of letters and numbers in combination” — with the single caveat that “applicants must apply ‘in person’, at their district offices,” utilizing driving directions easily attainable under the auspices of Google Maps.
Bit of a sticky wicket, here: it seems, quite inexplicably, that in the weeks subsequent to the general announcement, according to a spokesperson, known only as “Zed”, “Not a single applicant has turned up to apply for the job”. (Oh, bother.)
Being rather ‘special’ myself, dyslexically, I can so easily discern the trouble, which is as plain to me as the nose on the face of Pete Postlethwaite. Dollars to doughnuts, the fly in the creme brûlée stems from Google Maps’ so-called, “simple driving directions”.
Heavens Above! Even the inestimable Alan Turing could not have made the slightest sense of these. Meanwhile —
In an unrelated side story, the BBC has reported that, according to eyewitnesses, “Gaggles of disgruntled Dyslexic Persons,” (have been sighted) “wandering about, in fits and starts, in their hundreds, slap bang by the foot of Beinn Griam Mor!!” (in Sutherland, Scotland, in the general vicinity of The Garvault, Britain’s most isolated hotel).
~ Tim Burchfield