It’s 6:30 in the morning. My wife Catherine’s asleep upstairs. Downstairs our Christmas tree gleams in the dim morning light. In the bracing darkness outside a pack of coyotes raises a sudden din of high-pitched yelping that sounds like the horrible hounds of hell on holiday.
Holy cow! It sounds like they’re right outside my office window! I’m so not kidding. We live near all these hills, and lately it seems like the coyotes have been talking amongst themselves, saying, “What are we doing living out here in the middle of nowhere, when those morons get to live indoors? Let’s scare ‘em out of their houses.”
And then last night I caught on fire. I left a little message about it on my FB page last night (because what good is social networking if you can’t use it to share how you almost charbroiled your face off?). The gist of what happened is that I inadvertently dangled the bottom front of my flannel shirt over the roaring gas flame of one of our stove burners (we were supposed to making tea, see), and whooof! my shirt went up like it was made of … well, apparently nothing burns like freakin’ flannel, because the whole front of my shirt was aflame before you can say “I can’t believe this is how I’m gonna die!” I immediately jumped about six feet to my left, and the shirt was over my head and on the floor by the time I landed.
After it happened Cat (whose Big Joke afterwards was, “You’re too much of a hottie!”) and I were watching TV, and I was, like, “Man, I can’t believe how much it still smells like burn in here.” It was so weird, since it’d been hours. And then I realized the acrid smell was coming off me. All the hair on half my stomach and chest was fried. (I’m fine, btw. I’ll miss my beloved flannel shirt, but I suppose it was already old when I bought it at a thrift store five years ago, so perhaps it was time we parted anyway. Maybe having it burn right off my body was God’s way of telling me to stop dressing like a derelict.)
So. First I caught fire, and now I’ve got what sounds like two thousand hounds of hell yipping outside my window.
You know, this has been one weird Christmas. Since early November I’ve been working on a book that has obliterated my normal life; half of this big bad boy is due January 22, the rest on March 1. I’m 25,000 words done now, which leaves 60,000 words to write in the forty-two work days left between now and March 1. And since the book’s about a real actual person who has a real actual life that zillions of people know about, it’s not like I can just make stuff up. It’s a veritable research fest up in this hizzle.
Anyway, the book’s important to do because it’s about something I seriously care about, and I love writing it. (I’m also doing it on spec, however, so … here’s hoping that I don’t end up having wasted the last four months because man am I now officially out of money.) But it’s largely badoinkered the whole Holiday Season thing for Cat and me, since … well, since I haven’t had time to do much more than help decorate our tree and extinguish my burning clothes.
And then came this nightmare event in Connecticut, of course. Which has so darkly pervaded the lives of us all.
This year, I know, we’re all having an off Christmas.
But now the time is really here. Now it’s really Christmas.
And this year we’re all hugging our children a little tighter than we usually do, and holding them a little longer. And most of them understand why we’re doing that, and are more than okay with it.
Merry Christmas, friends. May all your dreams come true. And may the wolves not stop at your door as they pass back toward the hidden wild where they belong.
If you’ve a moment and haven’t ever read it, “Joseph and Pregnant Mary at the Inn” means a lot to me.