CONTESTS

Last Christmas

DANA CARLSON

Honourable mention in the 3rd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.

On the afternoon of December 24 my parents arrived an hour earlier than expected and I was still in my sweatpants. Dad was holding Buffy, the toy poodle. “I don’t want to leave her behind,” he said. “Just in case somebody breaks into the house.”

This was the first time my parents had come over to see my new townhouse, so I gave them a tour of the main floor. My mother shuffled to a dining-room chair and leaned against it, wheezing, and on to the next chair, hand over hand, pausing to rest, and then to the kitchen counter, where she admired the stainless steel fridge. With every step, she gave a little grunting yelp. “I now got the psoriasis on my feet,” she explained. Dad was still holding the dog.

I took her arm to help her to the living room. The black polyester blouse she was wearing stretched and undulated over her bloated body. It looked familiar; it used to be Grandma’s. Mom’s eyes, watery and mascara-smudged, seemed too small for her face, and a hint of yellow tinted her eyes. We sat down for a drink. Mom lifted the glass with both hands.

“Geez, woman, your hands are shaky,” said Dad.

Mom’s fingers were as plump as sausages, red and flaky. The poodle whined and fidgeted.

“Does she have to pee?” I asked.

Mom sat with her legs apart and scratched her palms. I brought her a Band-aid and put it on one bleeding finger. Her hands were hot and felt like crepe paper.

“My psoriasis is really bad lately,” she said.

“She’s seen lots and lots of specialists,” says Dad.

“What did they say?” I asked.

“It’s just stress,” Mom said.

“What doctors? Who?”

“Just doctors.”

We were invited to my uncle and aunt’s place for dinner. Dad wondered if we should leave soon.

“We don’t want to get there too early,” I said.

“Well, I like to visit, that’s the whole point, to visit.”

We sat for a while in silence. “OK, let’s go,” I said.

We took separate cars and I missed the exit so my parents had already arrived when I got there. My uncle answered the door. “We’re having a small crisis,” he said.

“Buffy peed on the couch,” said Dad. The dog was pressed up against Mom on the loveseat, quivering. My uncle dabbed at the cushion with a towel.

“Goddamn dog,” said Dad.

The right side of my shoulder and neck started to seize up where it sometimes does. My aunt came out of the kitchen, “Would anyone like a drink?”

I gave her a bottle of Gewürztraminer. “It goes well with turkey,” I said.

“We’re not having turkey,” she said. “We’re having pork.”

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DANA CARLSON

Dana Carlson is a freelance writer and television producer in Vancouver. “Last Christmas” received an honourable mention in the 3rd annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.


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