It’s official, Figs: the weather is getting frightful, the mistletoe has been hung, the lights are twinkling–the holidays are upon us! To celebrate, we’ve asked some of our favorite authors to share holiday memories with us. Tune in all through December to get in the holiday spirit!
Joining us today is debut author MacKenzie Cadenhead, whose new book Sally’s Bones is a delightfully funny, dark middle grade novel about a lonely little girl and her ghostly canine companion, Bones. Below, MacKenzie fills us in on one of her most hilarious holiday memories.
I’d heard him stumble in close to 3am.
It was the prodigal son’s first holiday home from college. Though Mom had me under house arrest following the Yearwood’s annual Christmas Eve party, Mikey had secured the ok–was encouraged even–to stop by Lefty’s Pub for a “quick catch-up” with other recently returned friends.
“Mikey’s a college boy now,” my father had offered as an explanation. I snorted. So all it took to turn the boy who once hid our rival high school’s mascot in my mother’s bathroom into a responsible member of society was four months of un-chaperoned campus living?
“Uh-huh,” I’d said, knowing well enough that when it came to the first-born son, it was best not to verbalize my objections. If a goat in the bathtub was categorized as spirited, there was no use decrying the great risk that sending Mikey to a bar on Christmas Eve held for the next day’s festivities.
The oven clock read 5:55. The first hint of a gray winter morning crept into the kitchen, revealing the manifestation of my prediction. I froze by the coffee maker and stared dumbly into a cavernous abyss in the side of the Christmas turkey. In place of what was once tender, juicy flesh lay bones picked clean, discarded flecks of too-rubbery skin and a lightly chewed plastic pop-up timer. Depressions in the shape of meaty fingers tattooed the perimeter of this gorge of gluttony. I pulled out a chair and sat at the kitchen counter beside the mangled corpse of Christmas future.
“One day out of the year I want to live in a Norman Rockwell painting,” Mom would say. She’d prepare the turkey on the 24th and let it sit in its juices overnight. On Christmas day she’d tenderly brush the breast with olive oil so it would brown perfectly during the final baking. When we were all seated for dinner, my mother, carrying the glorious bird, would emerge from the kitchen to thunderous applause.
All other days of the year I was an expertly angsty teen, but not this one afternoon in December. My thick black eyeliner would be traded in for a scrubbed clean face. I’d opt for simple silver studs in my piercings. I’d even wear whatever holiday-themed sweater my spinster Aunt Edna brought for me, and I’d do it with a smile. I loved being little Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street and Mikey was Ralphie from A Christmas Story. As silly and annoying as he could ever be, on this one day we were bonded by a mutual love of jolly old men in suspenders, the Channel 11 Yule Log, and, above all, our mother’s Rockwellian feast.
I heard the faint sounds of snoring coming from the other side of the kitchen door. Tip-toeing into the living room, I discovered my brother passed out on the couch, the twinkling lights from the Christmas tree illuminating his slack-jawed face. In his hands was a partially wrapped present. I leaned in to see what lame gift he’d brought my mother that would inevitably make her forget the kitchen crime scene. Spilling out of the Christmas wrapping paper was a yellow and blue woman’s top, size small, that read My brother’s a Wolverine, and all I get’s this stupid t-shirt.
It was a present for me.
I shook my head and smiled as I laid a blanket over my big brother. Someone else could snitch. Tonight I would ask myself what would Jesus do and I would choose peace.
Stepping over the wrapping paper, I headed for the stairs. As I gingerly lowered my foot onto the creaky hardwood floor, I felt something wet and squishy between my toes. The remnants of Mikey’s drunken evening pooled around my bare feet. Gagging, I opened my mouth, and let out a scream.