Christmas, the Day After, a short story by E. J. Ruek
Christmas Day has passed. Nancy sits at the kitchen table sipping coffee to the drone of some morning show on the TV. It’s seven-fifteen and everybody’s gone. The kids who came home for Christmas, the husband, his sister, the cousins — all gone. Except Dad. He’s upstairs, still asleep. The house looks like an earthquake hit it. Or a tornado–beer bottles, wine glasses, broken cookies, spills, torn litter, the fragments of wrapping paper… .
Nancy looks up the stairway to see her father standing there. “Morning, Dad,” she says. “Want some coffee?”
“Love some.” He pads down the stairs, his slippers–a gift from her–soft-sounding on the stairway carpet.
She gets up to find a cup, fills it, gets the creamer out. He comes to stand beside her, puts his arm around her, and hugs her to him. “You look whipped,” he says.
She smiles, the corners of her mouth quivering while the corners of her eyes get damp. She hands him his cuppa. “It’s fresh perked,” she says.
He sits down at the kitchen table, his eyes reaching out the window to the snowy yard. “Even in winter, your garden is pretty.”
Now she really smiles. Someone noticed. “You hungry?”
“Not yet.” He looks at her. “You eat already?”
She shakes her head.
“You fix breakfast for the crew?”
Again, she shakes her head. “They were meeting friends up at the lodge.”
He nods, sips his coffee, stands up and walks over to stare out at the living room. ”Christmas tree is beautiful,” she hears him say. He turns back to grin at her, drains his cup, then puts it on the counter. “Don’t wash that cup,” he says, shaking a finger at her, and pads off out of sight.
She sighs, turns toward the pile of dishes waiting by the sink, then sinks back down into her usual chair. Moments later, the sound of the TV stops and the stereo comes on with “Carol of the Bells.”
Walking over to the bar, she looks out into the living room. Yes, the big TV screen’s black. Yes, her dad is playing with the stereo remote. She didn’t know he knew much how to use one. He looks over at her and winks. Then he starts picking ribbons and paper off the floor. Grabbing a sponge and a towel, she moves to help.
Together, they get the house clean, him vacuuming, her wiping down and putting things back in their place. They do the dishes the old-fashioned way, him washing while she dries and puts them in the cupboard, all to the joyous sounds of old-fashioned Christmas carols.
In an hour-and-a-half, the house is back in order, neat and clean. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Now let’s go find breakfast,” he says. “That old restaurant we used to go to, you, me, and Mom — it’s still open.”
Nancy pauses, thinking of her bank account. Joe’s out of work, though that didn’t seem to stop him from buying himself a season ticket to the slopes. “Okay,” she says.
He grins. “My treat.”
~ ~ ~