The Kilroy All-Star Christmas Spectacular: It Came Upon a Midnight Chapter
It is not snowing in Poplar Bluff, but, hey, it is raining, which is perfect if you like your holiday season drab, gray, dreary, blah, shitty, and sucky. I was not dreaming of a yuck Christmas but here we are. Decorations look less bright and cheery. No reds or greens or fabulous lights. Everything looks brown. Ho, ho, ho. Good tidings of great joy and whatnot.
I sip my Hayden's pink lemonade and I'll ride its sugar rush the rest of the afternoon. A few crumbs are scattered in a wrapper in the passenger seat, remnants of my devoured jumbo barbecue sandwich. My phone buzzes next to the wrapper. A text from Tony.
At bookstore. Stop by.
Will do. Leigh Ann's house first tho.
You sure you wanna do that?
Want to. Have to.
Leigh Ann's neighborhood is older, but upscale. Old doctor and lawyer money and a couple of business owners. She lives at the top of the hill in a sprawling ranch house. Last Christmas we hung out in her room all the time and watched movies and made out. Last Christmas her folks put out an impressive light and decorations display. Blinking lights and an inflatable Santa that freaked me out. I know it was supposed to be playful but that Santa's expression made me think hard about the song that says "he knows if you've been bad or good." Maybe that was point.
This Christmas, it appears the Cantwells have opted not to put up a display.
I sit in the driver's seat and take a few breaths to calm myself. I should light up, but Leigh Ann's mom doesn't like the smell of it on my clothes and I already get more than a few judgmental glances from her dad. The wise choice is to smoke after this visit. I get out and a sharp, bitter wind stabs me and the icy rain hits my face. Not cold enough to snow, but cold enough to get pelted with near-frozen rain. I double-time it to the front door because I never bother with umbrellas and ring the doorbell. After a few seconds of second-guessing myself, the front door opens and Leigh Ann's mom greets me. Her face looks tired and sad but I'm not going to tell her that. I told Leigh Ann she looked tired once and it turned into argument about how I somehow find her repulsive.
"Jeff?" Her mom never calls me Kilroy and I wouldn't ask her to. She already thinks I'm too weird for human interaction.
"Hi." I swallow hard. It's like I'm meeting her again for the first time and the actual first time was awkward as shit. "Is Leigh Ann home?"
She shakes her had and somehow her face falls even further.
"We haven't seen her in several weeks."
"Have you heard from her? Where is she?"
"She calls." Mrs. Cantwell (I never called her Barbara) lets out the weariest goddamn sigh I've ever heard. "She says she just needs to figure some things out. Not planning to be home for Christmas."
This woman looks like she needs a hug but we really don't have that kind of relationship. She was always nice to me, even if she didn't understand me. Mr. Cantwell (I never called him Jim) maybe said five words to me in the two years Leigh Ann and I were together. He mostly grunted at me and looked like he wanted to shoot me.
"Will you tell her I stopped by? Let her know I was asking about her?"
She nods politely and whispers for me to have a Merry Christmas. I wave at her as she closes the door. As I walk back to the van somehow the rain is colder.
I should be at Someone Else's Books, where Tony is but I'd rather sit in the drizzle at Bacon Park where Leigh Ann and I used to come. We'd sit and talk and dream. Our first kiss was at this park. We lost our virginity to each other at this park. I'm listening to a Kacey Musgraves song because Leigh Ann loves her music. The picnic table I'm sitting on is dry under the small pavilion but the wind still bites. My memories of Leigh Ann are the only thing keeping me warm. That, and the buzz I get from smoking my Mongalisonian cigarette. Mom wants me to call her. Tony is texting wanting to know where I'm at. People want to see me, but the only one I really want to be with is nowhere to be found. I feel like part of me is gone. I need something to cheer me up.
The voice of a man dressed in shabby clothes and who looks like he hasn't seen a shower since the turn of the century pulls me from my existential abyss and I pull my headphones out.
"Could I bum one of those cigarettes from you, brother?"
I have to smile. "I'm afraid you don't want this stuff. Let's just say it's out of this world."
"Smells like Mongalisonian tobacco."
His statement makes my blood stops flowing. This guy knows about Mongalisonian space dope? How? I look at at him and he looks at me and we look at each other. I squint. He squints. I turn my head a bit in suspicion. He does the same. Then, a creepy ass smile spreads across his lips and his eyes turn from their current human state to a bright but ugly yellow with black slits for pupils.
He lunges for me and I flip off the table and whip out my P-47 Electro-Photon Multiblaster from its holster on my back because I'm always packing and land three shots right the chest of this sumbitch. He looks at me like I just ran over his cat with a steamroller and dissolves into a green slimy pile of nasty on the concrete.
"Asshole," he whines. That Herpezoids can talk in that Jell-O state never ceases to make me giggle. "All I wanted was a smoke."
"You bastards never just want a smoke."
"I can't argue with that."
I give Tony a call and tell him I'm on my way, but also tell him to tell Kevin Raulston, the owner of Someone Else's Books, that I'll be bringing in a Herpezoid because Kevin will know what to do with it.
"Oh. Um. Okay." Tony sounds like me taking down a Herpezoid is some unforeseen event that has thrown off the entire day. He's so fussy.
"See you soon then?" he asks.
"Yeah. On my way."
But I'm not on my way. I want to sit and watch it rain some more and listen to this Kacey Musgraves song. Do I like it? No. Is it making me feel better? Also, no. But, she was Leigh Ann's favorite and it keeps me connected to her. Besides, sometimes you just need to sit in the rain with Herpezoid goo at your feet.