I have a rule against strangling my husband. After many years of marriage, there have been times when to do so would seem helpful, therapeutic, and even necessary. He is a dear man, but that night I was sorely tempted to throttle him, rule or no rule.
His distraction was obvious as he played with his dinner. Two loaves of bread and appetizers had been inhaled as per usual, but the turkey leg was untouched and the stuffing was chilling into a congealed lump. Not believing for a minute that it was my cooking, I asked sweetly, “Anything wrong dear?”
“I’m just not very hungry tonight,” he mumbled, twisting his white moustache. That condition was unprecedented.
“Are the preparations coming along?” I gently prodded for the sore spot, knowing his business demanded more of him at this time of year.
“No, they’ve got it all under control down at the plant. Everything is nearly packed up and ready for delivery. The orders were staggering this year, but they’ve done it again.” He was very proud of his workers and I stroked them off my list of possibilities. Thinking about the transportation division, I wondered if there were glitches there.
“Is the team ready?”
“Yes.” His well rounded belly pushed his chair from the table. “They’re fitted with all of the latest gadgets this year - GPS for the remote areas, earphones for communications and fleece uniforms to fight the wind chill. They’ve even loaded up on organics, they apparently improve performance.” Usually the new technology excited him, but instead he seemed mournful. Chin up silly man, everyone here works so hard and you collect all of the credit. I swallowed my critical thoughts with a bite of salad and peered for further clues.
And then it came. With no trace of his typical jolliness he announced, “I think I’ll stay home for Christmas this year.” He didn’t even look at me until I closed my gaping mouth and placed my fork gently down.
“I think I’ll stay home for Christmas this year. I can spend the time with you dear.” Nice try, but I am not buying that particular sweetening tactic.
“What brought this on?”
He thrust himself out of his chair, his red coat shimmering as he paced. “They don’t need me down at the plant anymore with those new robotics. I haven’t been involved in most of the production and really have no idea of what’s being shipped.”
“So?” I knew that had never bothered him before.
“The team knows the route down pat, so they won’t miss me. The drops will probably go a lot faster without waiting for me at each stop. Maybe they can actually split up and finish in half the time.” He shrugged his massive shoulders and stomped his black boots.
“It’s just no fun anymore dear,” he whined. That seemed closer to the truth. Perhaps he’s feeling his age this year. Maybe the elves had to modify the sleigh again to fit his bulking behind and he’s a little self conscious. You work one day a year and you need it to be fun? It’s time to set you straight dear.
“Darling, do you know how many children will be devastated if you don’t do your job?” His head fell to his chest and his shoulders slumped. My voice hardened just a tad. “The elves have worked extremely hard bringing the plant up to date and have consulted you on every last detail. The team needs your leadership. And they are bred to get all of the deliveries done even when you eat milk and cookies at every house.”
He sank dejected in his chair and lifted his pleading eyes. “What if I said I was just too tired this year?”
Forcing a smile, I suggested that he have a long nap on Boxing Day. We finished the meal in tense silence and he excused himself after dessert. As soon as he was out of sight, I grabbed the T.V. listings and flipped forward. Just as I had suspected, there was a James Bond movie marathon overnight on December 24.
Swallowing the urge to follow after him and stuff a snowball down his 3x pants, I sighed and picked up the remote. If I can figure out this new P.V.R., it’ll record the entire thing. With popcorn and that suitcase of Junior Mints stuffed in his stocking, we can enjoy watching it together on New Year’s Eve.
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