The Ball Drops

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Poor Mister Tubbler: he gets a glum and juvenile look at the most wonderful time of the year. Ah, family!

Submitted: December 02, 2015

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Submitted: December 02, 2015

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~~The Ball Drops

“Good-bye.”
 Mr. Edgar Tubbler watched the pimply-faced store manager lock the door on his face with what he suspected was a satisfying click. Well, Tubbler conceded, I did dash in at the last minute before closing on the eve of a major holiday. And yes, I displayed less than good cheer when the staff tiredly let him tsk, tsk through the remaining stock of canned goods, no doubt dreaming of booting him out with a hearty thud and going home to hot toddies and boob tubes. But Edgar did not mind their dismayed faces as he delayed and dawdled about the aisles. The Tubbler household was not exactly like a bed of roses—more like a mattress of thorns.
 Tubbler firmly believed a man’s home was his castle, and those dethroned by the might of invading forces faced justified exile or execution. At the moment, either suited him fine—he could endure anything to get away from his sister-in-law and her clan. Why, oh why, did his lovely wifey Maryam’s Big Sis and her brood of Knohbody bums have to move in? Didn’t they know this was a joyous season?
 “Dex lost his job,” Wifey’s rehearsed explanation echoed in his head. “Just like in that movie. You know, the one where Santa takes revenge on life. Don’t worry, it won’t be forever. Just until he gets back on his feet.”
 “Deadbeats don’t get up. They lie in wait.”
 “Oh, you! Just wait and see,” Maryam asserted without much feeling. He wasn’t certain whom she was addressing, her husband or herself.
 But like a good husband, Edgar stifled his feelings, directing his hopes to the merciful Heavens to show his in-laws the door.
 His deepest hopes went semi-answered. Dex Khohbody left, all right, but landed on the golf course instead. “You’d think the Good-for-Nothing I married was on vacation,” Big Sis complained over her daytime soaps and carton of ice cream—food to soothe, she called her little indulgence, daring anyone to state otherwise. That wasn’t the only source of comfort: Dex made sure to cart in a box of amateur trophies the night they dropped in, all brightly polished, while Big Sis lugged a suitcase under one arm, her eight-year-old princess in tow, and another on the way, courtesy of stork carrier.
 Tubbler started to balk, but wife Mary, quite contrary, took to seeing her garden of faces grow. They couldn’t toss out their little girl, she protested. And of course Dex salvaged his trophies—sort of an emotional crutch, she patiently explained, using all those big terms from that television doctor. Poor Dex had a steady job and got canned. It happens all the time. A young man like Dex Knohbody has, well, dexterity. “Why can’t you be a good egg about it?” she teased, employing a personal affection in semi-public company.
 “Yeah, Eggie,” Dex cut in. “This is an opp in disguise! I do got potential, out the gazoo. And dripping with skills—”
 “Skills!” boomed Big Sis, releasing her cargo so Princess could open the fridge. “Swinging a club on the green is what your gazoo’s good for. Like a dirty Neanderthal and his oversized club. As for what drips out said gazoo—”
 “Listen to that crack. See what I put up with?” Dex snarled. Then, even louder: “Say, you. Who was cah-ray-zee ‘bout my ‘cave man tactics’ when we were courtin’, huh?”
 “That was before I found out about you and your homo erectus,” Big Sis replied, without batting a lash. “Yeah, I said it. I know all about your high-stickin’ ex-clu-sive club. And what’s more…”
 Judging from the volume and easy banter, Tubbler bet the Knohbodys’ ex-neighbors had heard this shtick before. Now his in-laws were conducting a statewide tour in his living room, performing in stereo. Maryam managed to break in with a late dinner. A hot meal worked wonders that stormy night two months ago. It kept working every day after that, right through his wallet.
***
And speaking of empty wallets, the lightened load in his back pocket caused Edgar to stumble in the street, almost dropping his bag of corner drugstore food stuffs—candied yams, cherry pie filling and ready-made crusts, cans of mixed veggies, and thick gravy. Big Sis hinted broadly the festivities required all the trimmings, just like everything else in her life. They could hardly ring in the holidays with a measly chicken pot pie, she patiently demanded. Tubbler had watched their vacation funds dwindle—alas, a lousy week of frost-bitten camp sounded mighty good right now. But more mouths demanded grub. Then the other extras added up. Like Big Sis’s little Princess Delilah cracking Maryam’s wedding vase in the first week, a commemorative plate the next, all the way up to the can opener yesterday.
 Big Sis had laughed it off. “Well, it was a can opener and paint does come in a can. The doctor said we should encourage such an inquisitive little mind. She’s a genius, you know.”
 Edgar hadn’t felt like laughing for months. He didn’t even have the nerve to ask what Delilah wanted to paint. But he managed to keep his cool. He didn’t yell, even though going up to one and a half packs a day, unfiltered, put a bigger strain on his already-tight wallet.
 Dex didn’t take his princess’s self-expression lying down. He threw down his golf clubs, taking care they land on the once-plushy sofa rather than the unforgiving floor, and then berated his wife’s motherly skills, ending with the usual “just put it on the tab with the others, Eggie!” Apparently having a credit line made little Delilah extravagant, for she then threw the good crystal glasses at the freezer. But Big Sis was ready this time. “Here,” she declared, tossing Dex’s biggest tin cup at her host while keeping her eyes at her husband. “Not quite as good, but at least this thing isn’t a total waste.”
 Hubby didn’t miss a beat. “Hey, speaking of being totally wasted…”
 “Oh, up your wisecrack!”
And they were off again.
And again.
All through the most wonderful time of the year.
***
Tubbler stopped at a red light. He watched a sedan speed by, filled with partygoers, right out of Norman Rockwell, splatting some rain water on his shoes. Another came up, occupied by a happy couple and their little tot in tow. Her chubby face pressed against the window gave Tubbler a pang over his own angelic daughter Amelia. “Just think,” Big Sis had beamed that first night, “Little Delilah can be a big sister to her cousin and teach her all about the facts of life, just like I did with her mommy.” Even Maryam did a bewildered double-take on that one.
 Amelia, smart cookie that she was, quickly broadened her English. That very morning, his seven-year-old sweetie knocked on his door and asked, “Daddy, what’s a blankety-blank?”
Dad had felt his jaw hit his stomach. “Huh?”
 “Cousin Delilah says Auntie calls Uncle Dex a blankety-blank every night.”
 Edgar fumbled around for his socks. “Uh…don’t repeat it, sweets. It’s…just a private way of saying ‘I love you, or…yeah.’”
 “Oh. They have a funny way of showing it.”
 “To love is to laugh. Now, you know how much Delilah likes to tell tall tales, right?”
 “She’s a big, fat, stinky, lousy liar? That’s what Uncle Dex called Auntie and then Auntie said blankety-blank-blank-bl—”
 With that, Edgar maneuvered his precious daughter to her mother while he went to the blissfully comfy cubicle.
 And when he came back, he’d sworn that Big Sis and Dex had put in an eight-hour day if he didn’t know about Dex’s dedication to the green. He almost blessed the Lord when Big Sis suggested he go out for more food for the dinner table. He took one look at the patched table cloth, mismatched cups, cracked plates, and he jumped headfirst out the door.
 Nearly an hour and fifty dollars later, Edgar decided the Knohbodys had to go today. New Years officially kayoed the calendar and he’d be a Yule Mule to extend a season’s greetings for another 365 days. He recalled asking Maryam earlier that month, wasn’t their duplex too small for so many people? The neighbors already gave him funny looks—and what about the Big Mouthed landlord? Say, what about that brother of yours on the remote farm with the dirt road and all that wide-open space?
 Maryam gawked. “He lives five hundred miles away!”
 “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
 Maryam never could take a hint.
But he resolved his in-laws will. This was a time for new beginnings and he wanted nothing better than to return to the old status quo. Couldn’t they—
 “—just go away?”
 He looked up from his pavement musings. Another couple strode past him, rapidly receding into the darkening evening shadows. He shrugged at the interruption, returning to a fantasy of no Knohbody bodies, when a soft crash sounded behind him.
 He spun, ready to throw a bag and beat it. In the dark alleyway he saw only a dumpster, lined with the usual trimmings, but the raised hairs on his arms suggested otherwise. Someone in there had dropped…
 …his eyes traveled downward to a torn bag by the trash bin. By the romantic moonlight, he saw scattered aluminum cans rolling about. Oh, yes, his memory perked up, Santa’s over-the-top parade of endorsements had paraded down Main Street not too long ago, with holiday spirits caroling out in the snow long thereafter. Oh, the rubbish people consumed. And the confetti streamed out like…like…
 Heavens! He forgot the whipped cream…the ones that Knohbody brat loves to spray like she was the reform school’s next Jackson Pollock. It took an hour to clean up the last time the termpermental artist let loose with her topping the pumpkin pie. The same pumpkin pie he dug out of a can….
 “…and like the cranberry glop from a can? More like ‘can’t’ if you ask me!”
 “I’m not asking y—!” snapped Tubbler before his voice caught. Maryam didn’t say that on Thanksgiving. Or did she? Great cats, she and her Big Sis were starting to sound alike. And no wonder, after all these months under the same roof, studying the same subject of henpeckery.
 Edgar Tubbler tiughtened his grip on the cheap store sacks. No. Maryam would never say such a thing. She had smiled and said something about making do as the Pilgrams had done. That this was the true meaning of the holidays.
 Then when does Squanto drop down the chimney with our presents? demanded the dear Knobody tyke, all but rubbing her hands together in Machiavellian anticipation. I wanted a red truck! Not the stupid doll house!
 Oh, how smart you are, my little angel, Big Sis had cooed, Didn’t Miles Standish gave one to Pocahontas? Daddy can get you one.
 Miles Standish can stuff that up Pocahonto’s turkey baster, Dexter replied, just as sweet. Daddy’s headed for the eggnog
 “You’re not.” Said Tubbler firmly to thin air. The dim lights of the nearby Homeless hotline Center bathed his creased forehead in a warm glow like a hearth. A home. He started to hurry.
***
“You’re back! It’s about time.” Maryam’s voice carried a hint of quiet desperation. “Now, listen, dear, Dex was saving some important news.”
Dex refilled his glass. “Yeah—I got a birdie on the first hole—”
Big Sis snorted. “I’ll birdie yours, you dirty—”
“Hey! I’m comin’ clean. Now simmer down or your peroxide will streak before its time.” He took a swing. “So, it’s like this, see…”
“Oh, the loaf got a job. Finally.”
“Does it pay well?” Maryam interrupted. “Oh, dear. I mean, well—” She blinked. “I mean, now aren’t you glad I insisted you stay with us? Now you’re on the rise!”
Amelia giggled, her mouth full. Another lesson from her cousin in the new etiquette. “All this talk makes Uncle Dex sound like he’s a slice o’ bread!”
“Yeah, a sack o’ gassy dough with extra yeast,” Big Sis mumbled.
“Baby, with me you’ll be rolling in it before too long—”
 “Or stepping in it.”
 “Geez.” He set down his glass and stared. “Don’t you show any appreciation? Or did your clap doctor say it was hopeless?”
Little Delilah giggled in her charming way. “Silly Daddy. Anybody can do that. See?” She demonstrated.
Big Sis smiled. “Yes, princess.”
Dex mumbled, “Takin’ after her mom’s xxx chromosomes, huh?”
“You bet,” Big Sis snapped. “If we hadda boy, the kid’ve had the short end of the ‘Y’—just like Daddy. Pass on down the ol’ family Erector Set.”
“Hey, you could use a couplea new things yourself, honey.”
 Tubbler tuned them out. He stepped near the window at the sight of the clear, dark heavens. He marveled at the view from the window, the glum city streets rendered invisible from this distance. Mrs. Tubbler joined him, daughter in hand lest she expand her vocabulary to a teenage level.
“You know,” Wifey muttered, “They do love each other.”
“Sure they do.”
“Of course,” she teased with a bit of the old pizzazz. Her free arm found his and she rested her head on his shoulder. “They tied a knot, not a noose.”
He didn’t reply for a minute. Then: “Aren’t you going to ask me about the groceries?”
“I didn’t need to. I know what you did. The twinkle in your eyes—like the stars the night you proposed. You did something good. I know that. They do, too. And you know what else?”
He recognized her tone. “I already know.”
“Well, I’m going to say it anyway. I lov—”
Amelia perked up. “Blankety-bl—?”
Maryam’s smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Much more than that, honey.”
A soft smack echoed across the room. In mild alarm, Edgar turned, fearing the sight of Big Sis—or maybe Dex—sprawled on the ground. Why didn’t he hide the knives? Instead, his sister-in-law and her husband stood under the mistletoe—another useless extravagance—having completed the required ritual. Their daughter sat beside them, helping herself to the abandoned meal with gusto.
Mr. Tubbler almost wished he had his camera. If only precious Delilah hadn’t tried to become a deep-sea diver during her bath.
Then Big Sis rang out, “A kick!?”
Tubbler swiveled, sputtering, “Oh, for the love of…couldn’t they…for one minute!”
He stopped in mid-rave when he noticed Dex’s goofy look. Mr. Knohbody’s expression lit up as he became all octopus—one arm supporting his wife’s back, then one around her shoulder, then on a chair to support himself, and finally reaching around to feel his wife’s tummy.
Dex breathed, “Is it time—how many days? Heck—”
Big Sis stammered, “Dex, uh, dear, I don’t think you should be pressing…”
Dex sprung to life. “Keys! Eggie, I need the car! Where are…oh, still in my pockets. C’mon darling, off we go! Delilah, stay here with Tubby and be a good kid…” He grinned broadly. “Just like her new brother.”
“That brother better be a sister!” Big Sis gasped. “If you think for one…”
Dex shot his brother-in-law a parting smirk. “You ain’t so bad yourself.”
The door slammed shut.
Delilah put down the sparking cider bottle and burped.
Edgar Tubbler looked at his wife, weary of the world in this sudden quiet. He wasn’t sure he liked it. “Happy New Year. What say we all take the late bus down to meet the latest addition?” His stomach rumbled. “Uh, after a bite to eat.”
Amelia groaned. “Aw, Daddy, you said I could watch the ball drop on TV!”
 “Hmm?” He forgot she was there. Wifey nodded, casting her eyes downward to their mutual parental obligation.
“Oh, yeah,” Edgar scooped his daughter into his arms and moseyed to the table. “All of us. Sit next to cousin Delilah and break the wishbone.” He brightened. “Maybe you can give ‘em luck and get your Auntie a job, too. Then they can all get outta here.”
“Dear…” Maryam hard voice carried an edge.
Amelia smiled. “Oh, that’s easy.”
“Really. How?”
“Uncle Dex said Auntie has non-stop work the second she steps on the sidewalk.”
Edgar Tubbler sighed and counted his blessings. Ah, home, home, home—never has there been a more beautiful four-letter word!
The End.


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