Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


What do you get when you take a smelly, cranky woman, her fed-up brother-in-law, and two teenage ne'er-do-wells? Maybe, just maybe, the Nativity.

Submitted: December 12, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 12, 2017

A A A

A A A


The white flakes around me are as thick as the frosting on a Christmas cookie as I make my way back to the car. Throwing some last-minute groceries in the back seat– Camille forgot to pick up milk for the mashed potatoes, we accidentally finished off all the hot cocoa, and we just realized we have no gift for her cousin’s son, Henry– I hurriedly climb inside. As I turn the keys in the ignition, the car hums to life. Warmth spreads over the seats.

Ahh. That’s better.

The roads are slippery with ice in some places and packed with snow in the rest, so I drive out of the parking lot slowly. The car behinds me beeps. I pull over a bit to let him pass. At this rate, it might take me until next Christmas to get back to the house. I don’t care. I’m not taking any chances.

If Camille were here, she’d say I was being too cautious. Since when is that a bad thing? Camille’s blind to the dangers of snow because she grew up here in Michigan. I didn’t. I grew up in California. And although I just witnessed my first snowfall two days ago, I can assure you this: the stuff’s treacherous. Hypothermia, frostbite, slick roads….

Luckily, it’s only five miles back to the house. Through some miracle I arrive in one piece, grocery bags in hand. There’s a small herd of children playing tag in the living room, but I make it past them, too. Never have I been gladder to see a kitchen.

“There you are.” Camille sets down the potato she’s peeling and smiles. “I was getting worried. How bad were the roads?”

“Horrible,” I grumble, dropping the bags on the counter. “It was snowing.”

“Tenderfoot.” She pecks me on the cheek, then rifles through one of the bags. “Aw, is the dog for Henry? It’s adorable.”

“It was overpriced.”

“Shh. You’re starting to sound like Scrooge. Have a Christmas cookie or something.” She stuffs the dog under her shirt and disappears into our bedroom. I follow.

“It’s bad out there,” I tell her, as she rummages through her box of wrapping supplies. “Like, really bad.”

“Mm-hmm.” Camille extracts a bag with Thomas the Train from the box and slips the dog inside. “You got a pen?”

I hand her the one in my pocket. “Super white,” I continue. “I thought someone had dumped a can of paint over my windshield.”

“Poor baby.” She scribbles a note on the bag. “Well, thanks for braving the storm.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“No, really.” Camille’s face softens. “Thanks for doing… all of this.”

Now I feel bad for complaining. I pick up a sheet of tissue paper and stuff it inside the bag. “It’s nothing. Really.”

“It isn’t nothing.” She leans against me, burying her face in my sweater. “I know we were supposed to spend our first Christmas at home, with your parents—”

“You needed to see your mom.” I wrap my arm around her as we head back to the living room. “It’s fine. I mean it.”

I know I should be happy to be here. Camille certainly is. Her mom hasn’t been doing so well lately, and it looks like this might be her last Christmas. Our presence means the world to Camille. That should be enough.

But deep down inside, there’s an annoyance that I can’t seem to shake. We flew over two thousand miles to be here. I hate planes. It’s cold. It’s snowy. It’s wet. Her family is big and loud and this house is small and drafty. And it’s our first Christmas as a married couple. We’d talked about starting a bunch of traditions, like hosting a cookie exchange (Camille’s idea) and putting up an epic light display (my idea). Now all of that has to wait until next year.

“Derrel!”

Oh, yeah. And then there’s Lanie.

As a matter of principle, I do not hate people. There are several people I dislike. There are several more I avoid. There are even a few who I wish would move to Australia. Or Antarctica. Permanently. But there is only one individual who I hope and pray with all my heart will one day in the very near future be abducted by aliens, never to be seen or heard from again. And that person is Lanie Augustus, my wife’s older sister.

How someone as sweet as Camille survived growing up with Lanie is beyond me. Lanie’s vocally judgmental. She’s loud. She wears smelly perfume. And she’s overall the most obnoxious, bossy, self-absorbed idiot I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing.

She broke her toe two months ago when someone dropped a pumpkin on her foot at the supermarket. Probably an employee who got sick of listening to her whine about the price of squash these days. Somehow, the stupid bone still hasn’t healed. And Lanie uses that as an excuse to get out of everything.

Lanie can’t cook because standing hurts her foot. Lanie can’t pitch in to help entertain the seemingly innumerable demons– ahem, children– running around the house, because one of them might step on her foot. Lanie can’t serve, Lanie can’t wrap… the list goes on and on.

Some people say the devil wears scrubs. Others insist the devil wears Prada. They’re wrong. The devil wears a fake fur coat, bunny slippers, and half a gallon of Bath and Body Works’ “Sun-Ripened Raspberry” scent.

“Derrel!”

And here comes Lucifer herself.

“It’s Derek,” I tell her, as patiently as I can. “Derek. With a k.”

“Derrel,” Lanie snaps, “Derrel, did you know Josh and Sandra had a baby?”

“Four months ago,” Camille is kind enough to cut in. “Henry’s so cute!”

“I was talking to Derrel. Did you know they had a baby?”

I’ve never worked out why she likes picking on me. “Um, yeah.”

Her brows furrow. “Well, I didn’t,” she sniffs. “And I neglected to get the kid a gift. Why does a four-month-old even need a present, anyways? I certainly don’t know. But apparently he does. Which is why you’re going to drive me to the store to get one.”

“I’ll take you, Lanie,” Camille interjects. “Derek, you can finish the potatoes, right?”

I can’t, but I nod vigorously. Lanie takes no notice.

“No, Derrel’s going to drive me.”

“But I don’t like it when he drives in the snow.” Camille reaches for her sister’s hand. “He’s new at it, and I have nightmares that he’ll drive off the side of a cliff or something!”

I’ve never worried about driving off a cliff. Not until now. Thanks, Camille.

The argument that ensues is painful and pointless. Painful, because anything that has to do with Lanie is inevitably painful. Pointless, because long story short I’m at the wheel ten minutes later with Lanie in the passenger seat.

We drive in silence to the store. When I say silence, I refer to the lack of words passing between us. Lanie makes plenty of grunts and scoffs as she digs around in the glove compartment looking for… something, I guess. Probably an excuse to criticize me. I’m past caring.

The store is crowded and finding a parking place takes fifteen minutes. Lanie doesn’t stop griping about the price of a Beany Baby car until we’re back in the car. Once we get back in, she whines about how long it takes to heat up. For once, I can’t wait to get back on the streets, cliffs or no cliffs. From the main road, it’s just a few minutes to the house. And if anyone needs anything after that they can walk.

We’re about halfway back and coming around a tight turn when I see them.

The male– not quite a boy but decidedly not a man– is perched by the side of the road on the back of a beat-up motorcycle. Actually, he’s on the back of what appears to be several beat-up motorcycles, with parts stolen from each one and smashed together to form a semi-cohesive product. The thing is held together by nothing short of the will of God, I’m certain. The girl– she’s really not more than a girl– shivers on the ground beside him.

And before you get all weepy and sympathetic, I would like to point out that these are not two nicely-groomed teenagers who’ve had a spell of bad luck on the road. These are those teenagers– you know, the crazy jobless, moral-less millennials they say are ruining the country.

Half the boy’s head is shaved; the rest of his hair flows down past his shoulder. Tattoos bearing words I can’t repeat in public snake up the bald section. The girl isn’t any better. Her hair is dyed in alternating streaks of purple and green. Her lips are painted black and electric blue eye makeup smudges half her face. She’s wearing a necklace with what appears to be the arm of a Barbie doll hanging as a pendant. A silver stud glints out of her nose.

“Young people these days!” comes Lanie’s whine from beside me. “I’d be ashamed to be the parent of such young hooligans—”

I have to admit, I do not stop the car and roll down the window out of concern for the young rebels. I do it because it will shock– and hopefully silence– Lanie.

It shocks her alright. No luck on the silencing part, but I’ll take a win where I can get it.

“DERREL!” she shrieks as I pull up beside them. “Derrel! I demand you turn this car around! Derrel!”

Ignoring her as best I can, I lean out the window. “Hey, guys. What’s up?”

“Yo, dude.” The boy slides off his bike. “You know, you’re like, the first person to stop. Like, this whole night.”

“Yeah,” the girl calls. She rolls her eyes. “And we’ve seen, like, a hundred cars.”

“Oh. Well, what seems to be the trouble?” I might as well be polite, right? (Okay, I admit it: it’s nice to watch Lanie fume and sputter. Why end the fun early?)

“Dude, my bike’s, like, totally busted,” the boy drawls. He coughs. “Can we have a lift?”

“Um….” Now that I’ve stopped, I feel bad just leaving the kids. But this car is a rental and they’re awfully dirty—

“DERREL!” Lanie screams. “DON’T YOU DARE LET THOSE PUNKS IN THIS CAR!”

“Hop on in,” I offer, unlocking the rear doors. The kids look at each other in surprise.

“DERREL!”

“Shut up,” I tell her. The boy helps the girl up. They climb inside.

“Nice ride,” the girl comments, closing the door.

“Thanks.” Lanie’s eyes are practically bulging out of her head. Shoot, I don’t even care if I have to pay a cleaning fee. The look on her face is worth it.

That’s not to say that being in the car with them is pleasant. They reek of smoke and alcohol and other stenches I can’t– and don’t want to– identify. So I decide to get them out as quickly as possible.

“Where to, guys?”

“How ‘bout a hospital?”

“Sure thing.” I turn to Lanie. “Any ideas where—”

She crosses her arms. “No.”

“Fine, then.” I pull out my phone and type “hospital” into the GPS. As we pull out, I can see Lanie glaring at me out of the corner of her eye. I ignore her and glance back at the kids. “What are you doing out in the middle of a blizzard, anyways?”

“Probably selling drugs,” Lanie mutters.

The boy snorts. “We’re just looking for a hospital, man.”

“Can’t your parents take you?” They’ve got to have parents in the picture. I’m not even sure they’re old enough to be legally emancipated.

The girl runs a silver-studded tongue over her lips. “Mine, like, kicked me out,” she says dryly. “Soon as I got pregnant.”

“You’re pregnant?” I turn around and stare. She’s wearing a thick coat, which hides her belly. But she still seems awfully thin. “How— how far along are you?”

“Eight months, dude,” the boy says, slipping an arm around her shoulder. Lanie makes a face. “We think.”

The girl runs a hand over her stomach and smiles. “The doctor at the clinic said he’ll probably come, like, a month early,” she explains. “So we’re gonna find a hospital, like, now.”

“That— that’s a good plan,” I manage. Lanie scoffs, but before she can say anything, I pull into the hospital. The boy helps the girl out. They lock hands and walk inside together.

“Painted hussy,” Lanie snaps, but she’s annoyed enough that she doesn’t say a thing for the rest of the ride. My plan worked after all.

“Where have you two been?” Camille demands as we walk inside. “We were about to send out a search party!”

“We took a little detour,” I explain.

“What Derrel means—” Lanie’s voice rises into a shriek “—is that he insisted on giving a ride to a pair of hitchhiking druggies!”

That gets everyone’s attention. As she begins her dramatic reenactment of “Camille’s idiot husband” and the “half-witted-neon-colored-probably-Satan-worshippers” I picked up, I make my escape to the kitchen. Camille follows.

“The mashed potatoes turned out good,” I tell her, sticking my finger in the bowl.

“Thanks.” She glances back at the living room. “So… you seem to have had an adventure.”

“You could say that.” I’m about to say something else– probably admit how much fun it is to annoy her sister– when I see the calendar hanging on the wall. It’s one of those ones with a picture for each month. This month is the Nativity.

There’s a male– not quite a boy but decidedly not a man– leaning against a donkey. Beside him sits a girl –she’s really not more than a girl– and before her sits a manger. A manger with a baby. Jesus.

They’re neatly dressed, of course, and Mary is smiling much more pleasantly than anyone who’s just had a baby should smile. The stable is immaculate– not a stalk of hay out of place. All the animals are beaming, like they’re happy they’re there.

But my eyes keep coming back to the young couple. The unmarried couple. The couple who went on a road trip and had no one to get them to where they should be.

“So what did you really do on that drive?” Camille asks, looping her arm around my waist. “Assuming you didn’t actually pick up a pair of neon-colored Satan worshippers.”

“I picked up Mary and Joseph,” I tell her. “And I helped them find the stable.”

She starts to laugh, then sees I’m serious. She follows my gaze to the calendar, and I see her start to understand, just a little.

“Mary and Joseph, huh?”

I nod.

In a way, I think they were.


© Copyright 2018 KathrynAcacia. All rights reserved.

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