Mr. Merry

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He walks to the middle of the road and lays down on the wet cement. Cars run over him — bump, bump — and he returns slowly to his city streets. Boston, Christmastime. Every pine tree is decorated downtown, filled with lights and tinsel running every which way. Mothers and new wives are in their shabby or chic kitchens, baking, rolling, sprinkling sugar and flour over everything. It is not snowing, not cold; just mildly unpleasant as he rolls across town, smelling the air and imagining something else.

He has seen all of the holiday movies worth watching, and so has everyone else. On the television now are horrid things, awful sequels, revisions of visions of sugarplums. Women and men pretending to be from the 1950s, pretending to sing, pretending to have talent. No, no, that’s enough. That must be it. There must be nothing else, nothing new. No snow on Christmas Eve either, just gray slush in the gutters reflecting outdoor blowup Christmas lights.

After a few hours he sighs and scrapes himself off the road. There wasn’t even that much joy in it, he thinks. The only pleasure gleaned knowing that somewhere there are a few shiny BMWs with bits of him on their wheels.

It is dusk as he makes his way home, and he imagines the yards of colorful paper that will fill garbage dumps in the week to come. Covering other terrible things with their shiny foil masks. He rubs at the sleeve of his suit, a bit dusty from his travels. In his hands he carries bags of gifts for his three children. Of course, he made sure to put them safely aside, as usual, before lying in the road.

He expects his wife is home from work by now, waiting for him, sitting around the tree. His family will be there, as always, waiting. He will hide the expensive presents until the children are in bed, and then he and his wife will sit them all under the tree. They will be there, waiting, until morning.

At his house, he pauses at the front gate. He looks on from the dark street, admiring the strings of lights running every which way. He steps up onto the curb, walks past the sidewalk, unhinges the gate latch, marches up his front porch stairs, opens the door. He stashes the bags as the smell of Christmas cookies greets him. He turns to close the door, catching one last glimpse of the road. He sighs as the door clicks shut.

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