Today’s Christmas story:
“Mmmm.” My eyes slowly opened. I could smell the bacon on the stove. I glanced over the side of the bunk. Stevie’s mattress was empty and his sheets in a tangled clump. I slowly lowered myself to the floor and yipped as my bare feet touched cold hardwood before I could find my slippers.
Landon still lay in his bed, half on his back and half on his side. His arm hung off the bed and his long, greasy hair covered his face. I grabbed Stevie’s pillow and threw it at my oldest brother. Landon grunted and stirred.
“What?” he mumbled.
“Come on! It’s Christmas! Dad’s cooking bacon and there are presents to open!”
Landon rolled away from me, not sharing my enthusiasm.
I ran to the kitchen. Stevie was already sitting at the table poking his fork into red and green pancakes.
“Good morning, Mark,” mom said and kissed my head. Dad slid a plate of three pancakes and a side of bacon onto the table.
My eyes grew big. “Looks delicious!” They tasted as good as they looked.
Stevie and I were done eating by the time Landon stumbled in scratching his neck. He yawned, stretched, and grabbed a pancake without sitting down. “Don’t we got presents or something?” he asked, crumbs falling from his lips. He glanced at me with a grin and a wink.
Mom clapped her hands together. “Yes, now that you’re all awake! Come, come!”
We moved to the living room and my brothers and I crammed around the tree. Stevie and I scuffled and scurried, trying to figure out which ones belonged to us.
“Boys,” dad said sternly as he sat in the recliner. “Calm yourselves. Landon, why don’t you pass out the presents this year?”
Landon shrugged. “Whatever.” Stevie and I sat back as Landon sorted through the wrapped treasures and stacked piles in front of us.
“On three,” mom said. “One… two…”
She didn’t make it to three before Stevie and I tore paper and sent it flying through the air. My first present was round and heavy. With the paper gone, I stared at a giant can of cut green beans.
Landon must have noticed the tears starting to well in my eyes. He leaned close and whispered, “Hey, buddy, remember you have to pretend to like it. That way they won’t realize that we know.”
I nodded, forced a smile, and glanced at mom and dad. “Thank you. It’s just what I wanted!”
The next Christmas was better. That first one was rough. That’s life, though, when your parents’ bodies get taken over by alien brain slugs.
©2020 Michael Bergman
Image by: unsplash.com/@hi_i_am_steph