Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
A Straight FlushDad had the path of least resistance to the phone, so he rushed to answer it when it rang. We were expecting their call. It was a miracle we even heard it above all the happy commotion. I was second to last in line, so I had to wait patiently while everyone before me talked at their leisure with everyone at their house. I was anxious to thank them for the absolutely beautiful dress scarf they had given me. They had always had a wonderful knack for selecting gifts that were just perfect for the recipient. Well, …
I put the phone on speaker so that Mom, who was elbow deep with the preparations for our next meal, could say a few words unhindered. "Merry Christmas!", we both chorused in unison to my sister-in-law. She responded in kind. But the next words out of her mouth were somewhat surprising. "I'm really sorry about Lizzie's present." Then she put emphasis on the fact that it was my brother who picked it out and insisted on sending it in the huge box along with all the other Christmas presents they had mailed to us. Mom and I each made some kind of reassuring comment to make light of the matter. There really was nothing wrong with it at all, it just was sort of unusual and totally unexpected. In fact the whole thing was rather humorous.
Lizzie is our dog. And, as with all our pets and those of our constantly expanding clan, she was a part of our family and enjoyed all the same participation in our holiday celebration as the rest of us - only to a much lesser degree. That meant, of course, that she received her share of gifts too over the years. And they typically were of the edible kind. She didn't seem to mind that, in comparison to the bounty received by everyone gathered in our house on Christmas day, her gifts were quite meager - and poorly wrapped at best! This year was different however.
When we began to unpack the package they had sent to us, and to distribute the enclosed gifts to be opened according to our long-standing tradition of opening presents during the holidays, we all stared open mouthed when a very large box was pulled out and designated for Lizzie. none of us could figure out what it could be. We all would just have to wait until it was her turn to open a gift in question. And that could be a while! There were undisputed rules and guidelines that had to be strictly followed by everyone regardless of age, newness to inclusion in our family group, and whether belonging to the human or canine or feline variety. Of course, in honor of the Christmas spirit (for none of us are Scrooges), we made a few minor alterations of the system as necessary to accommodate the youngest and nonhuman members.
It took a long time before the focus rested on Lizzie and her prized possession. One of the main rules to our systemized way of enjoying everyone's Christmas, was that we started with the youngest family member and moved our way upward in age. She was only 10 years old and should have been second, but in dog years... well, a rule is a rule. When it finally came to Lizzie's turn, we were all at a total loss as to what her guess should be. And, that was another of our famous rules - the recipient chooses one gift to open on that round and had to make a bona fide guess (no lame or cop out guesses are allowed) as to what was inside. In this case, since she wasn't able to adequately verbalize, we could help her. It was heavy, didn't rattle, and didn't have any of the telltale signs (mostly aromatic) of the expected treat. After a much heated debate she ended up guessing that it was a really heavy dog bone. She wasn't even close.
What it in fact was, was a miniature porcelain toilet bowl to be used to satisfy her thirst. There was a slight stunned silence as it was revealed. Then came the comments and the jokes. It was really quite funny. The back of it could conveniently hold a plastic bottle of water that would keep her ever hydrated. When I reflected on all of the wonderful gifts everyone had received, I couldn't help but flashback to that particular item. Where on earth would we put it? I felt a pang of guilt also as I thought about the fact that I had only given their dog Vinny two lousy milk bones obtained from our already opened box in the kitchen cabinet. They seemed highly inadequate in comparison. My sister-in-law had told me during our phone conversation that she had made it perfectly clear that my brother's idea was not up to his standards and she wouldn't even allow him to purchase a similar throne for their dog. She said she it would never see the light of day in her kitchen or anywhere near where people congregated, and unfortunately they didn't have a basement! I chuckled inwardly.
I gazed around the beautiful mess that used to be our family room only hours ago. My eyes lingered merrily upon the twinkling Christmas tree bedecked in all its finery, with several decade’s accumulation of ornamental mishmash gracing its artificial branches. There were numerous old-fashioned - some might argue, downright archaic and best left to their impending demise - bulbs, from when my parents first started out together, dancing among the limbs of our weighted friend. Baubles and bits of sequined and beaded delights peeked from behind some of their more standard store brought counterparts (purchased over the years to replace those geegaws, which had accidentally fallen through previous tree trimming, tail wagging, child romping adventures of the past - may they rest in pieces) bragging for notice. A vast array of uniquely colored rickrack, yarn and ribbon trimmed Styrofoam balls (heavy and bumpy with the affects of far too generous Elmer’s glue applications) attested to all those glorious snow days gone by which were filled with winter projects craftily designed to soothe the savage beast-child. A conglomerate of hand-painted plaster of Paris wonders in all shapes and sizes and in various stages of their inevitable crumbling decay dangled precariously about along with our share of those a few tacky but humorous “Jack-in-the-Box” novelties scattered here and there (or rather, discreetly hidden) throughout its depths. Our Evergreen was not lacking - in any way shape or form - the ever typical trinkets, embellishments and decorations so necessary for making it a true family heirloom. As my eyes reached the top, though, I hesitated because of the vacancy of a perfect tree topper. We once had a reasonable facsimile of a star, but it had broken years ago, and we never found the right replacement. Suddenly, a hazy image began to appear. Sitting proudly above all the shimmering lights and ornaments, a shiny porcelain pot morphed into being. I quickly brushed the disturbing vision from my mind. It had been another perfectly wonderful Christmas celebration. Hearts were happy, stomachs were stuffed, and spirits were spunky and spry. So to quote, with only the slightest of revisions, that most famous exclamation from the beloved classic story, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good FLUSH!”.
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