Uncle Jay took the last of my coke. Alright I said it, still doesn’t help me. Now how will I get through this holiday charade known as Christmas Eve? Uncle Jay is standing across the room staring at the over decorated tree with glazed eyes and a cocaine induced grin. I wish he would die this instant.
Three feet away is a speaker blaring Christmas music that sounds like Barry Manilow, but I’m not sure. To be safe I begin walking across the room toward Uncle Jay; balancing my Jack on the rocks in my right hand as I maneuver past an ill placed holiday basket containing ten thousand nut variations. I approach a small table where Jake and Pete are playing Black Jack. Every year another piercing appears on Jake’s face. This year it’s the left eye brow. It’s one of many family secrets in the open that no one talks about.
Jake and Pete are discussing what girl or “DIVA” would cause the biggest stir if she were to appear in Playboy. Pete quickly says “Britney Spears” and he is so proud of his answer he hits on eighteen, predictably busting in the process. Jerry seems content with the answer, but not very impressed as if he was anticipating Pete’s response. Jerry pauses for dramatic effect and then says “Jessica Simpson”, then adds “The shock value alone”. This response draws an agreeing nod from Pete.
His form of a concession speech.
I continue past, taking a drink in the process, resisting the urge to yell out the correct answer because this would cause quite a stir.
Uncle Jay is standing alone when he spots me moving toward him. He smiles smugly causing me to get angry and trip over Aunt Carol’s new Gucci bag.
I put my hand in my coat pocket and feel the empty cellophane bag. Nothing. Less than a hour ago Uncle Jay borrowed my coat to go smoke a Lucky Strike and now my coke is gone. Aunt Carol looks up at me as I continue balancing my drink, but she doesn’t seem to mind that I kicked her bag because this gives her a chance to show everyone her new bag, for the third time this evening. A fifteen hundred dollar purse with less than twenty dollars inside.
I watch this travesty as Aunt Carol tells the story of how she saw it and had to have it and then I turn my head because there’s movement across the room where little Todd, my three year old cousin, is pulling on the tree causing ornaments to fall off. Uncle Jay just stands there laughing.
My Aunt Joyce jumps out of her seat to announce that she’s making Bloody Mary’s. Not any ordinary drink, these are made with Aunt Joyce special ingredients she stores in a leather case, stowed in the trunk of her Corolla.
Aunt Carol’s display has started an accessories fashion show. Now Aunt Sharon has to sit up and display her bright red Marc Jacobs bag, smiling proudly as if it were a child. Tabitha, a friend of the family (so I’m told), giggles when everyone looks at her asking her to show them her bag. Although reluctant at first, a confidence beams out of her as she grabs her new gold Fendi bag. A hush falls over the room until Aunt Carol asks “Is it fake?” Tabitha quickly replies saying, “No, it’s real, isn’t it great?”, followed by Aunt Carol reiterating that “Well, it still could be a fake. You never know.”
Aunt Joyce returns with her Bloody Mary, sits, and takes a big drink.
I finish my Jack on the rocks. Aunt Joyce quickly notices my empty glass, stands up and runs to the kitchen to fetch me another one before I can say a word. I stand there waiting, my head spinning from the six drinks and two grams I’ve consumed today.
My cell phone is vibrating so I answer it and it’s Jackson, my friend who’s in town for the holidays and he wants to know what I’m doing tonight. I explain the family situation and the Barry Manilow and then he tells me I’m creeping him out so I stop. Jackson asks if I want to go out later and that sounds tempting, but then I find out he’s out of coke so we decide not do anything because it really wouldn’t be that fun.
I look back at Pete and Jerry, Pete is still trying to think of someone to top Jerry’s pick, but he’s at a loss for the obvious. Next to them my nieces Jill and Candy are playing with a scarf, throwing it high into the air and crashing into each other as it falls down. Aunt Joyce comes back with a fresh drink for me and a brandy chaser for herself. She has something white under her nose which makes me think she just did a line, but then notice it’s not powder, rather foam from egg nog she was probably drinking in the kitchen.
Continuing to walk toward Uncle Jay, I have a clear path until Carl, my brother in law, stops me and asks me what I’m driving. I tell him “Same Nissaan” which doesn’t matter because he’s not listening, but rather waiting to tell me about his truck, the new F150. He asks me if I want to see it, and I tell him I saw it last year and then he tells me that last year he was driving the F110, not the F150. A Lionel Ritchie song starts playing on the radio so immediately Aunt Sharon goes over to Grandma and starts rocking her back and forth. Little Todd is pulling on Grandma’s leg, Aunt Sharon continues to rock her back and forth and Grandma is shooting darts out of her eyes at anyone watching. This is enough of a distraction to walk past Carl.
Finally I approach Uncle Jay and I tell him “We need to talk.”
“Okay, but hey first can you see if you have any gum in your jacket? I think I may have left some in there when I borrowed your jacket.”
Gum. Right. I put my hand in my pocket and there’s nothing buy the empty bag.
“No, check the other one.” He says.
I put my hand in my left pocket, finding a half pack of gum and another bag, my bag of cocaine. I let out a visible sigh and hand over the gum.
“Are you okay?” Uncle Jay asks.
I look across the room. Aunt Carol is now holding Tabitha’s Fendi bag and shaking her head, Grandma is kicking at Todd in an attempt to get him to go away, and Pete has a perplexed look on his face.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” I say. “I guess.”
“So what did you want to talk about?” Asks Uncle Jay.
“Oh.” I pause and take a drink of Jack Daniels. “It was nothing. Merry Christmas.” I hold up my glass and then realize he doesn’t have a drink.
We both stare for a minute at the family and chaos ensuing.
“I’ve got some coke.” Says Uncle Jay.
“Oh?” I reply.
“Yeah. I’m just saying, if you want…”
“Cool.” I say.
Walking past Pete I lean down and whisper “Olsen Twins” into his ear. His face brightens as he hears the words, knowing that in a minute he will be able to show up his cousin, and once again be on top. Uncle Jay and I leave the room and head to the bathroom, humming a Lionel Ritchie Christmas song along the way.
David S. Grant is the author of "BLOOD: The New Red". For reviews, excerpt, and more go to SILVERTHOUGHT PRESS. Follow David on Twitter: @david_s_grant