My Grandfather and my least favorite relative used to bury the hatchet for one day- and one day only.
On Christmas Eve they would sit near the fireplace and play games- cards, dominos, Battleship sometimes they played Parchessi .
The games changed, their sweaters that Grandma knitted would change from year to year too but the two of them, focused on each other and the game they were playing- that intensity never changed.
They would glare at each other and slam back glasses of whiskey until midnight and Christmas was officially here- at the stroke of 12 they would get up leaving their game unfinished evrn if they had been in midplay.
At that time, Grandpa would push his chair back and then my least relative ( my cousin had killed my cat and blamed it on my dog ) would push his chair back and they would get up and go to different parts of the room and the freeze was back on.
At the end of the evening Grandpa stood in front of the tree with a glass of wine- probably something that Grandma had liked and he raised his glass and said, ” We miss you Clover sweetheart. We’ve missed you every single day of the year, but tonight. On the night we lost you on that road and-”
Grandpa looked at each of us- and he seemed to make up his mind to not go any further- to not say the name of the man who took Grandma Clover away from us on Christmas Eve six years ago.
” I miss you Clover, we all do. ”
We all felt a chill, even though we were right in front of the fire place and the room was ” toasty roasty warm” as Grandma Clover used to say.
” Drive careful- every single one of you. ”
We assured Grandpa we would and he followed us all out to the street where everyone’s cars were parked.
I was one of the last out of the house because I always was last and I walked and skated on the frozen ground to my parent’s car because who was going to yell at a kid to run in the ice and the snow on the very same road where her Grandmother had been mowed down by a crazy man and left her broken and as family legend said headless body on the sidewalk I was now taking my time walking on.
In truth, I just wanted some extra time in the snow and the car ride home was a long one.
I sort of slid up behind Grandpa and heard Cousin Mel sort of slur, ” Merry Christmas Killer.”
” Happy New year Mr. Shakedown”
” I’m the least of your problems Gramps. I’m not the one who framed the nicest person, literally the most friendly person on Earth for something you did- a couple of times from the looks of her.”
” No, but how’d that life insurance money taste Mel? Half. You got Half.”
” Yeah. Well. It wasn’t worth it. Who knew he had a friend even more twisted then you. Have you heard from him?”
” I’m expecting to, sooner then later. ”
They both looked down the street, towards the woods.
” Who is this friend of his? ” Cousin Mel asked ” because maybe we can, you know. Reason with him.”
Down the road I know we all saw a black shadow break away from the trees and start on it’s way up the roads towards us. It was big and hunched over but maybe that’s because it had something slung over it’s shoulder.
At that point I decided to get a move on and zipped into the car and slammed the door shut so fast I almost took my own leg off.
Grandpa and Uncle Mel could have made a mad if not graceful exit to the house and the toasty roasty warm family room, but I think they didn’t because it wouldn’t have mattered.
When our car pulled away I saw them standing there in the snow.
Grandpa, Cousin Mel and an enormous dark figure with a black sack slung over one of his shoulders and yellow fire where his eyes should have been.