…It’s difficult to explain but it was important that I get the tallest, most magnificent tree I could find, almost like the one at the White House, which seems to thrust up into the sky like a rocket. The holidays were a disaster last year, even more so than usual, and it’s as if there were some awful canvas in my living room that couldn’t be disposed of but only painted over. That’s what I have to do, let one year eclipse another and disarm its memory. There was an incident at the Corbett’s party, which we aren’t invited to this year. Lana says we’re probably on a few NSTA (never see them again) lists and this is anathema to her. It’s almost as if she has been marooned in space, just circling in her capsule until the oxygen runs out. The party was an annual event and a regular bacchanal, known for its lascivious games and odd rituals.

One of them involved the selection of the worst gift from the previous season and either smashing it or setting it on fire, whichever was appropriate. It was an honor to initiate the demolition. Last year’s entry was the replica of a fountain which had the illusion of water trickling, but the constant gentle sound had finally driven the Flannigans to exasperation. Cal Usher dispatched the innocent object with a couple fierce passes of a ceremonial sledgehammer, catapulting some pieces to the far reaches of the yard.

The other notorious game was “Under the Mistletoe” or, as it was more informally called, “name those lips.”  I suppose that I will never be able to prove that the selections were rigged and that several slips with Lana’s name had been placed in the punch bowl. But suddenly she was up there with the blindfold looking kidnapped. Ted Corbett, who had been leaning into her every chance he got anyway, was now taking full advantage and kissing her as if this were the climactic scene of a Hollywood epic. She guessed George Mathews and of course everyone was laughing and applauding except me and Lana who just wanted to get out of the spotlight. Corbett came over to me and said he was sorry but that he had been waiting to do that for so long, he got carried away.

“Do that again and you’ll get carried away in a hearse”, I shot back, a bit surprised that my internal party censor had been bypassed altogether.  And if that had not been enough, I couldn’t stand his unrepentant expression and shoved him half way across the room…

~ published by the Beacon Street Review

From Tom's Blog

December 20, 2017

“Home and Castle” coming out in January

The editing and proofreading and thousand other things that go into putting a book together are thankfully finished and my story collection Home and Castle is at last coming out in early January. (see www.snakenationpress.org for the Editor’s statement and further details). Most of the stories in it were originally published in literary journals such  (…read more)

About The Author

THOMAS BENZ graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame. He recently won the 2017 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award for a short story collection called “Home and Castle.” The book is to be published by Snake Nation Press in the fall. In the last several years, he has had fifteen stories  (…read more)