The Christmas Coundrum

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Shopping for Salt-Crusted Sarcastic Savages.

By John Connor

The crude cackling continued out back as I stepped into the kitchen. Helena was washing dishes. I snuggled up behind her and whispered “I don’t think Uncle John and Uncle G will be with us much longer. They may not even make it to Christmas.” She stiffened and asked “Why is that?”

“Cuz I’m gonna kill ’em!” That got me a whack with a sudsy spatula. A fresh barrage of belly-laughs came through the screen door. “Heard that, meathead!” they guffawed; “Got our hearing aids turned up, dummy!” Then a voice said more softly; more like a rusty chainsaw, “Why didn’t we drown that mutt when he was a puppy?” And the reply, “Maybe he just needs a good Atomic Wedgie, huh?” Those two … Helena asked “Same-old-same-old Christmas conundrum, hmm?”

I had been trying to get ’em to give me some hints on what they might like for Christmas. These two are the most infuriating family you could ever love; the crustiest, most caustic kin you could ever cherish. They raised me — no easy task — after my dad died, and when Helena and the kids came along they folded ’em into the wolfpack, standing overwatch like Viking berserkers while I was off playing Action Hero; gentle as sheepdogs with them, but deadly as demented dragons to anyone threatening their litter. Christmas brings out their best and worst.

Neither one are what you’d call “well-funded” or even semi-secure. They live cheap, not broke but not flush. But every Christmas they deluge us all with thoughtfully-chosen and often, in my opinion, too-expensive gifts. I’ve tried to talk to ’em about it and I get “Shuddup. We do what we want. It’s our money. And, shuddup!” It helps that they laugh then, but still …

It’s worse when I ask what they want. Their eyes go slitty, their lips draw tight and they act like they’re reaching for daggers in their cloaks. I get “What did we teach you about saving money, ya moron? We don’ need nuffin! Save us the drumsticks an’ two slices of pie. Bring us coffee Christmas morning. Now drop it, dummy.” This year was worse, ’cause they were having fun with me.

The STO Gift Guide

The old buzzards fished me in, pretending they were gonna be cooperative. Uncle John took the lead:
“Okay. I want a set of Klapper-Grips for my 1911,” he said. “I like the ones with the textured desert camo finish.” I bit; I asked what they were and where I could find ’em. “Each grip panel has an acoustic sensor, a 20-lumen LED light and a buzzer-vibrator in it like on your cell phone. I’m always leavin’ my Roscoe layin’ somewhere and forgetting where I put it. Old-Timer’s Disease, y’know. With the Klapper-Grips, I just clap my hands an’ the pistol lights up, buzzes an’ vibrates.” Keeping an absolutely straight face — the only one he’s got — he continued.

“You can find ‘em at The STO Store, online.” I hadda ask what STO stood for. “Senior Tactical Operator,” he deadpanned. “That’s what me an’ Uncle G are, y’know — Senior Tactical Operators.” I caught just a whiff of rat in the air, but couldn’t even open my mouth before Uncle G busted in.

“While yer online there, meathead,” he says, “What I really want for my bedside boomer is one ’a them new STO SnoreFire 9000 weaponlights. Just like a regular weaponlight, except it’s ‘shot-activated’. You fire a shot and it turns on for ten seconds. Great idea, huh?” My brain was still operating in the “semi-normal world” mode, so I asked incredulously why he would want a light that only turns on after you’ve fired a shot? Shouldn’t you identify your target first?

“Nah,” he waved his hand dismiss-ively. “I live alone; no pets since Bogey crossed the river. Somebody’s dumb enough to enter my house, in the dark, and wake me up? WAKE ME UP? I only wanta see what I shot, an’ see if it needs more shootin’. Then I wanta get back ta sleep.” They drive me nuts — and the drive gets shorter all the time.

Red-Headed Genius

“You poor baby,” Helena soothed. “I got ’em covered. Thick, soft oversized Merino wool socks, with no elastic. Elastic restricts their circulation. For each, a set of four large illuminating magnifiers to scatter around the house. Plus, they both get a 48″ telescoping tool-grabber so they don’t have to bend over to pick up stuff they’ve dropped. And these,” she said, fetching a padded box from the closet and pulling out two crystal liquor decanters.

“Uncle John’s bread-and-butter whiskey is George Dickel #12, right? And what does he call it? And you know how Uncle G is about his scotch. What does he always say when you’re teasing him and reaching for it?” She turned the decanters, exposing deep cut engraving. One read “Doctor Dickel’s Magical Elixir #12.” The other read simply but elegantly, “MY Scotch — Not Yours — MY SCOTCH!” Perfect.

“And for you,” she laughed, “I got — a clue, ’cause you really need one!” She pulled me to her fiercely, muttered throatily, “C’mere, ya big gorilla!” and puckered up for a kiss.

If you’ve got old, mean, loving, ornery angels on your list; folks you could never repay for all they’ve done for you, show ’em at Christmas. Get creative. And kiss a redhead. That’s always good. Connor OUT

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