Friday, December 24, 2010

CombatWords, December 24, 2010: Holiday

CombatWords, December 24, 2010: Holiday

Here's a funny one I heard on Twitter: "Happy Holidays!" "Fuck you, we don't celebrate 'holiday' in America. Merry Christmas!" Pick a holiday—it doesn't have to be Christmas.

Combat Expiration: 12am PST, 12/27/2010
Critique Expiration: 12am PST, 12/29/2010
Bonuses/Penalties: +2 if posted by 10pm PST 12/24/2010, +1 if posted by 3am PST 12/25/2010, -1 if posted by 6am PST 12/27/2010, -2 if posted by 12pm PST 12/27/2010

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  1. "Fine," she yelled into the phone. "That's just fine. You spend your Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the entire New Year with her. I hope you strangle on holiday cheer." She slammed the phone down so hard it rang from the impact.

    I crawled out of bed and eased over to the bedroom door. It was open a crack, just enough for me to look through. She was sitting in the chair, slumped over crying. Her shoulders shook and she held her face in her hands. I knew I should get back in the bed and try to sleep. I hadn't seen my mother cry very often, and it scared me. I wanted to fix whatever it was that upset her.

    She stood up from the chair, ran a hand through her short dark curls, pulled a tissue from the box on the table and blew her nose. She paced back and forth across the living room. Perry Como sang I'll be Home for Christmas on the stereo. His voice was scratchy. The record was old. "Why do I do this to myself?" Mama asked. "Why don't I just say goodbye and be done with it? Why do I let you torture me?

    I knew she was talking to Ray. I knew he had told her he couldn't come over. He was with his other family. I wanted to go out there and tell her it would be alright. We could have fun without him. We could play Old Maid or Go Fish. I didn't though. It was late, past my bedtime, and somehow I knew it wouldn't make a difference. I wasn't Ray.

    She walked over to the Chistmas tree in the corner. It was beautiful, with those minature twinkle lights, green, red, silver and blue balls. One of the blue balls had my name written in glitter on it. My second grade teacher, Miss Marchant helped me make it. The ice sicles sparkled. The angel on top smiled down at her. Mama stood there, her fists clenched.

    Perry Como started singing I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, my favorite song. It always made me happy. That's when my Mama reached out, picked up the Christmas tree and threw it across the room. It happened fast, like a streak of light, all the colors and sparkles flying and then crashing into the wall. Some of the glass balls bounced off the floor and shattered, some rolled under the table and up against the stereo. The twinkle lights went dark and Mama dropped to her knees on the floor. She reached out and picked up one of the silver balls that hadn't broken. She looked at it for a long time and then she started crying again.

    I heard a knock at the door. She stood up, wiped her eyes and stepped over all the broken Christmas decorations. She opened the door and Ray stood there. He stepped into the room, took her in his arms and held her tight. They sat close together on the couch and talked for awhile. I couldn't hear what they said, but Mama wasn't crying anymore.

    I crawled back into bed. When I woke up the next morning, the tree was back where it belonged. Its lights twinkled, and the angel smiled down on me from the top. There weren't as many glass balls as there had been the night before, but the one with my name on it was there. Ray was gone, and Mama was smiling again.

  2. Christmas

    Preserve jar shattered on the brick base
    of the fake fireplace. Wet fist of black jelly
    bristles with crystal slivers.
    Years later, a single glass shard lost in the shag
    finds its way to the bare sole
    as iron filings cling to a magnet,
    as a hot needle leaps to lance a boil.

    The spot remains, a subtle crust
    and the plaster stained as well, near the bed.
    The wet thunk of an orange,
    marmalade grenade spitting shrapnel
    sharp enough to worm its way through
    the thickest wool, the densest weave

    In the end, your heels porcupine wings
    as every mincing step sings stiletto pain
    shooting in a chorus up your legs,
    torso chained to a lacerating libretto that tears
    backstage behind your clenched teeth.
    Shirt soaked with briny dross,
    froth gathers at your sleeves
    as a single red ball drips from the bough,
    bounces on the rug but does not shatter.

    This, I spit,
    -and the sticky phone
    silently agrees-
    is fucking Christmas.

  3. Confessions are a funny think. They usually work out good for the guy with the sweaty knees. I thought this was combat words? Take the gloves off a little; flesh things out? I got a lots of the flesh. Looks like craigslist showcase mediocre time, to me.

    Holidays are a time for me to reflect on my emoism and feel on one hand disconnected from my family and culture while on the other hand feeling artificially intelligent and profound as a result of that disconnection. Some years I dress up like santa and hand out coach purses to the homeless. There is no telling really what I'll do until the inspiration strikes me.

    But that's what it's all about isn't it? To create/perpetuate this moment of inspiration be it artificial or real? I want to see that 43-year-old-poor-ass-father-of-five losing his shit over Santa Claus in the mall. "Buy that motherfucker a candy cane!" I say.

    Your rodent made a damn that blocked the waters flowing into my heart. Then I made it suck my dick and burnt down its beaver den. This year I'm going to accept my "CNN Heroes" award in a kilt.

  4. trainwhistle: I like the story, think it works well, but I think you can work on making the narrator's voice stronger/clearer. It might work if you write it in the present tense, and make the voice sound more like a child's (if it is indeed a child witnessing these things; I was distracted by the vagueness of the voice). Aside from that, very nice, you do a good job of holding back just enough information to make us fill in the blanks.

    me: I think you addressed most of my concerns with the rewrite. Still not sure about the ending, but I understand that you're trying to contrast all that arsty fartsy poetic shit with a moment of raw emotion. I'm not sure that it's working, though.

    cufflink: it's great to hear from you, but I have to be honest, I have no idea what you're talking about with this piece, or what you're even shooting for. I get the sense the tone is supposed to be humorous, but I don't get the jokes.

    Hope everyone's holidays have been relatively painless.

  5. rToady: I like that you riffed off the broken Christmas ornament. "Wet fist of black jelly" and "red ball drips from the bough" were two favorite images. Pain radiates from childhood to adulthood. I liked it.

    cufflink: You brought my emotions to the surface, I'll give you that. The disconnect of the piece seems for me to mirror the disconnect of the season. It was confusing, but maybe that was planned.

    tw: I've been working lately on "voice of the child" pieces. Will try the present tense. thanks rt.

    Happy and Healthy New Year to all.