Sunday, December 25, 2011
Cody stopped waking up early on Christmas morning when he was twelve, but he was awake now. He never thought about it, but if pressed he might have said that he’d stopped believing in Santa even before then, and even if he did get up early the presents would have to wait for the parents to get up, eat breakfast, et cetera et cetera, and they loved to drag it out. The dark had an early-morning feel to it, though. As always, Sondra lay next to him, breathing softly. Contrary to what Jennifer (and those on either side) thought, they didn’t make love every night — but it did help to warm things up in the small bedroom, and they’d gotten used to sleeping naked under all the covers.
Sondra was a heavy sleeper, but he was careful reaching for the digital watch on the nightstand anyway. 6:12 a.m.? He grinned. He was excited about this Christmas alright, but this morning he was giving the present. But not just yet… let Sondra sleep a little more. He waited, even dozed a little. When he next checked the watch, it was 6:58. Good enough.
Good thing she usually sleeps on her back, Cody thought. He hadn’t given much thought to what he would have done if she wasn’t. Slowly, carefully, he eased himself under the covers until his head was at her waist. He bent over and began kissing her thighs and in between. Sondra’s breathing grew a little heavier, a little faster as he continued, and her legs eased apart a little. Cody climbed over her leg, now kneeling in between as he delivered his present.
“Codyyyyyyyy,” Sondra moaned, pushing herself into his face. He continued to work, one finger joining his tongue. “Mmmm,” she said. “Don’t stop… mmmm.” Her breathing quickly grew ragged, then she gasped, cried out, and grabbed Cody by the arms, dragging him on top of her and inside of her, yelping with pleasure until one of the neighbors started pounding on the wall as Cody came with her.
“What brought that on?” she said after a while, still under Cody.
He grinned. “I wanted to give you something special for Christmas.”
“You beat me then… I got you a wind-up watch for when the batteries die in your digital.”
“That’s okay.” The grin disappeared. “Oh… shit!”
“I wasn’t wearing a condom!”
Sondra thought a moment. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the right time. Chances are, nothing will happen.” And even if it does, she thought, it’s just an early start.
One winter tradition that had already established itself was a community breakfast, especially on cold mornings like this one. Instead of firing thirty fireplaces, they used methane-fueled cooktops to make breakfast for everyone — usually pancakes and oatmeal, with “bacison” (smoked portions of venison cut into thin strips like bacon) when they had it. It helped to warm up the Laurel Room, along with a large kerosene heater they’d looted from the Lube Job garage across the road.
The kids bolted their breakfast, then Ashley hopped onto the dais next to the big TV. “Excuse me, everyone,” she said. “We’ve been working on a Christmas play, and we’d like to, um, perform it for you now.” There were many approving mutters and even a little applause at this. “Um, thank you. Go ahead and finish eating, and we’ll get ready.”
After a few minutes of hurrying props into place, Ben and Lily came out, dressed in robes. Lily had stuffed her robe to make herself look pregnant, and even waddled a little.
“Are you alright, Mary?” said Ben. “We’ve been walking a long way.”
“I’ll be fine, Joseph. We’re almost there, right?”
A large cardboard cutout of a pickup truck, painted white of course, approached. “You can ride to Bethlehem!” Caitlin’s voice came from behind the cutout. “And everywhere else, too!” Some of the adults laughed. Others scowled.
“We’re fine walking!” Lily said. “Now go away!” The “pickup” backed out, and Sheldon stepped on stage.
“I’m sorry,” said Sheldon. “We have no room in the inn.” His delivery was a little wooden.
“But my wife is about to have a baby!” Ben said. “What can we do?”
“I guess you can sleep in the stable,” said Sheldon. “At least it will be warm and you can sleep in the hay.” He turned and walked off. “Mary and Joseph” crossed to a cradle stuffed with straw; Lily reached under her robe and withdrew a baby doll, which made some of the audience chuckle, and laid it in the cradle. Ashley, dressed as an angel, swooped onto the stage and sang “Gloria” off-key, arms extended as if flying. Off to the side, Delphinia smiled and hummed softly, somehow pulling Ashley into tune.
The three of them exited; Sheldon entered wearing a toy crown. “Who are these people who ask where the king is?” he asked the audience — in contrast to his innkeeper, he nearly chewed the scenery as Herod. “I’m the king! I’ll go to Bethlehem and take care of this!” He turned and exited, as Ben and Lily entered from the other side, Lily carrying the doll.
“Well, now that the baby’s born, I guess I’ll find a job here in Bethlehem,” Ben said.
Ashley, still in the angel costume, swooped in. “Arise, Joseph, take your family and flee to Egypt! Herod wants to kill the baby!”
“Oh no!” Mary said. “Let’s go!” They turned and exited, as Herod stormed on stage again.
“Fled to Egypt, did they? I’ll catch them!” he yelled.
The cardboard pickup entered behind him. “You’ll catch ’em faster if you ride,” it said.
“Good idea!” Herod ran behind the pickup and it crossed the stage, passing Mary and Joseph who watched as it went by. After a moment, the audience began laughing and applauding.
“There goes Herod,” Lily said. “I guess the angel will tell us when it’s safe to go back home.”
The other three walked back out. “The end!” Ashley said, and everyone applauded. “Lily wrote most of the play, but we all helped. Miss Elly and Miss Delphinia helped us with the costumes.” Elinaeya nudged Cleve and pointed as the audience applauded; Cleve smiled as the actors bowed and shucked the robes right there on stage. Of course, “Herod Drives Off” became an instant Christmas tradition.