Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans: Alone with the Clouds

Rita lies in her bed and blows clouds of smoke toward the ceiling. Everybody fucking has somebody. Getting married. Making babies. Today her co-worker she used to screw, or rather, she imagines she used to screw, announced in a mass email to the clinic that he and his girlfriend are expecting. “Ho, ho, ho,” the subject line read. What a fucking Christmas surprise. She was stupid to think he would even be slightly interested in her. Not when Hallie owns five guns, loves to hunt. And she’s white.

Nothing racial, just preference, they always tell Rita. But she’s a racist for preferring white men. She’s repeatedly accused of hating herself.

She takes another long drag on the cigarette. This isn’t what she wants. Cigarettes don’t do it for her. She wants to inhale, hold it in, rise with the clouds, turn over to see herself, still, hovering just above the mattress, the sheets outlining her body underneath, her eyes hanging low, faded, gone.

Fuck Renee and her incessant need to make everybody better people. “When we were kids, we wanted to be on Santa’s nice list,” Renee said. “But as adults, everyone should desire to be on the Lamb’s list.” She’s got Bryan talking like a fucking uptight preacher’s kid. She made Rita fast weed. Shit. She misses being high. She needs it. The kiss of the blunt turning her lips numb. Feeling inflated. Never wanting to come down unless it’s on top of a man rising.

Shit.

She should’ve picked alcohol. Booze only makes her horny. No point in being horny when she’s alone in her bed with only her fingers. Sometimes they get the job done, sometimes she needs to feel the full circumference of a man’s dick.

A white man. Because that’s what she prefers.

Although her weed man is black. And sometimes he stays, when the loud isn’t enough, when she comes down too soon and needs to follow it with a shot of Henny, and he helps her finish the bottle, then finishes her.

Maybe she does hate herself. Maybe God does too. Maybe He’s sick of seeing her in church on Sunday, knowing where she was the night before, where she’ll be after the congregation’s dismissed, knowing she’ll slip out before the altar call.

“You’re wrong,” Renee always says. “He’s waiting for you to come to Him. A Father doesn’t turn His back on His children.”

And maybe she has a point, because sometimes Rita can feel Him tugging at her heart, making it skip a beat, not like a man. With a man, the skip is almost like a pinch at the bottom corner, just above the ribcage, like she’s going into cardiac arrest. With God, it’s a flutter, like butterflies in her stomach, not like shuffling in her bowels.

But if a father doesn’t abandon his children, where the fuck is hers? Why hasn’t she seen him since she was eleven, when he folded eleven dollar bills into her palm for her birthday, as the three-month belated gift.

No. She won’t go into that suck fest. She won’t accept her dad as the root of her problems. She won’t be that girl with daddy issues, who seeks approval in the arms of a deadbeat nigga like her father.

No. She just likes to be high. Wants to get high. Needs to feel high . . .

Shit. Where the fuck is Renee?

—Nortina


Part of Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans
——
Previous: Time to Decorate the Tree
Next: Distractions

Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans: Time to Decorate the Tree

“You bought a fucking tree?” Bryan knew that when his wife left at 8 o’clock this morning, and was gone through lunch, it could only mean one thing.

Renee is an anomaly. One of those special deformities in nature that you only read about in books—Dr. Seuss books to be specific. A normal person sleeps in on a Saturday morning. Not Renee. Saturday is reserved for shopping. Has been since the first Macy’s opened in 1858, according to her. Because she knows stupid “little known fun facts” like that— never play Renee in trivia. If you value your precious sanity, never, ever play Renee in trivia!

With it being December, Lord only knows the layers upon layers of cheap-ass, overpriced, shitty Christmas decorations that are lying in her trunk right now. Plastic ornaments, faux snowflakes, holly, and paper poinsettias, mistletoe—like Bryan needs a weed to tell him to kiss his wife. The first chance he gets, he’s tossing it all in the garbage, where it belongs, feigning ignorance that he didn’t know that stuff in the black trash bag labeled “Christmas” wasn’t in fact trash.

“Excuse you. Language,” Renee says over her shoulders as she wraps her tiny fingers around the tip of the tree and, with one foot on the car and the other planted on the leaf-covered lawn that Bryan still hasn’t raked—he’s been meaning to get to it—tries unsuccessfully to pull it out of the back seat. “And I could use some help here.”

Bryan nudges her aside, a little harder than he means to, and she slaps his arm. He looks at her and winks, then curls his calloused hands between the twine wrapped around the tree and with one swift jerk of his arms, releases it from its leather hold.

“Oooh, my muscle man,” Renee teases. She raises herself up on her toes and plants a soft kiss on his lips. “All those curl-ups in your little man cave downstairs are starting to pay off.”

Bryan drops the tree between them at their feet and scoops Renee up into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist. “There’s more where that came from,” he says, and he takes her bottom lip between his, sucking it hard.

Two cars pass by, one honking its horn, before Renee finally breaks away. “C’mon,” she moans. “We gotta put up the tree.”

Bryan holds her for just a few seconds longer, then lets her slide down his waist and back to her feet. He bends over to hoist the Christmas tree over his shoulder and carries it through the front door. “I still can’t believe you bought a fucking tree,” he mumbles.

“I thought you promised no cursing this Christmas.”

This is what I get for marrying a church girl, Bryan says to himself, then aloud, “What’s wrong with the artificial tree in the hall closet?”

“Um, other than the fact that it’s broken, and we had to duct tape it together?” Renee says sarcastically.

“It worked, didn’t it?”

“It almost set the house on fire!” she says, reminding him how the lights—also duct taped—shorted out and went up in flames. It was a miracle the curtains behind the tree didn’t catch too.

Bryan stands the tree against the wall in a corner of the living room between the couch and love seat. “And this one won’t? It’ll be dried out before the 15th. Damn near crispy by Christmas. The little leaves will feel like sewing needles when it’s finally time to toss it to the curb.”

Renee places both hands on her hips and lets out an exasperated sigh. “Well, with all the wildfires going on in the mountains right now, I was lucky to find this one at all. Home Depot is selling them faster than they can get them off the truck. Everyone’s afraid we might have a Christmas tree shortage this year.”

All the more reason to go artificial, Bryan says to himself.

“Besides, I got it for a steal anyway.”

“Honey, a steal to you is still $100,” Bryan says, just in case she forgot about the cake plate she bought at the Belk Home Store last Christmas. The one currently collecting dust in the china cabinet above the refrigerator. The one Renee hasn’t bothered to take down since last Christmas, mostly because she’d need a ladder just to reach it—Bryan unwilling to help, because what the fuck would they use it for?

“But babe, it was crystal,” Renee whines.

“You don’t even bake!”

“Natasha does. And she promised me a German chocolate cake this year.”

“Tash is getting married in three weeks!” Bryan says, flinging his arms in the air. “When does she even have the time?”

Natasha and Mitchell are the new “it” couple of their group of friends, dethroning Bryan and Renee of their ten-year title when Mitchell finally proposed on Easter Sunday. (Resurrection Sunday, he always corrects Bryan.) Renee was so excited when Natasha asked her to be her matron of honor at their Christmas-themed wedding, stopping just short of asking her to plan it, thank God. There’s no telling what kind of gaudy Christmas decorations she would’ve hung in the sanctuary and fellowship hall of The Revelation of Jesus Christ Christian Center, the church they all attend, had she been given the reigns. The rehearsal dinner, on the other hand, is a tragic tale yet to be written.

“Oh, that reminds me. You’ll have to cook dinner. Tash called while I was out. She wants to have girl talk tonight.”

“Dammit, Renee. I haven’t seen you all day. A man has needs,” he says, then bites his lip, remembering the cursing. “Damn” being the worst of the “naughty” words he’s forbidden to say until at least January 2.

But Renee doesn’t seem to notice, or if she does, she brushes it off, pulling at one of the tree needles poking out of the twine wrapping instead. “Tell you what, if you help me get this tree up and decorated, and we still have time left over, maybe I’ll fulfill some of your needs before I have to meet up with Tash.” She looks up from the tree and winks at him. “I’ll even do that thing you like so much.”

“Really?”

She rolls her eyes, puffs her cheeks and blows out air, but finally nods, though reluctantly.

Bryan sprints to the hall closet, where they keep most of their Christmas decorations on the top shelf. The first thing he pulls out is the red and green plaid skirt they wrap around the base of the tree. “Do we even have a stand? I can’t remember the last time we got a real tree.”

“Don’t worry, I bought one.” Renee says. “Along with some snow-dusted icicle ornaments, a few beads, a string of lights, a few chrome garlands, and a new angel, because this was the first time I’d ever seen a black one and I just had to get it.”

Bryan drops his shoulders and sighs. Typical Renee.

—Nortina


Part of Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans
——
Previous: Before the Wedding 
Next
: Alone with the Clouds

Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

31 Days of Holiday Hooligans is coming a little early this year…

Introducing: Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans!

I’m sure you all remember the serial story I started last December but never finished (due to an exhausting bout with “writer’s block”).

Well, it always bugged me that I never finished the story, especially since you all loved it so much, and it was just starting to get good.

Since falling off at around Day Nine, I’ve spent the better part of a year writing new chapters to the story, strategically posting it with a back date to December 2016, creating the illusion that I never abruptly stopped writing the story. (It was all in your head. 😉 )

Then it dawned on me. Why back date it, where no one will ever see it again (unless they one day decide to peruse old posts) when you can just repost it all over again, like it’s a new story!

Technically speaking, half of it is new. At least to your eyes.

So, to officially kick off the holiday season, my favorite time of the year, this November I’m bringing back last year’s 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans series with a twist, calling it Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans. Before we introduce the new material, let’s look back at the old and prepare ourselves for what’s sure to be a ho-ho-hoin’ good time!

Be sure to pop back in tomorrow for Day One of Countdown!