In the thin blue light of dawn, Tim Timmons woke with morning wood and was forced to delay the emptying of his bladder until the inconvenient stiffy subsided.  Rolling over, he found that she was still there, his lovely Kat, breathing softly with a high pitched nose whistle on the inhale.  He wanted to touch her but didn’t.  She was sleeping deep but woke too easily and would start the day holding a grudge.  Half of her lovely face was cocooned in long golden hair and her nipples were poking through a sexy almost threadbare T-shirt boasting of Sunday Vibes.  It was Saturday.

Throbbing with desire, he slipped noiselessly from the bed and into a pair of jeans and zipped slowly, carefully. He buttoned a flannel shirt as he padded down the hall on bare feet, down the stairs, and into the happy mess they left behind: empty wine bottles and delicate long stemmed crystal glasses stained purple at the base, plates crusted with dried spaghetti sauce, pots and pans, discarded clothes, and an HP laptop closed and silvery cool under the Christmas tree.  Kat had surprised him with a livestream Andrea Bocelli concert, a chilled bottle of Bocelli wine, and a homemade Italian dinner.  For whatever reason, the YouTube channel wouldn’t pair with the television.  Tim suggested his computer and they found themselves snuggling together at the foot of the illuminated tree, nursing dessert coffees with whipped cream mushroom clouding and spilling over the edge. Oftentimes it is difficult to step off this troubled earth but together they had been transported into the Christmas heavenlies by a perfect tenor voice.  This, of course, led to other things and the sticky smell of her hot-lipped sex was still clinging to him hours later. He didn’t want to shower her off.

Kat will sleep until ten.  She will brush her teeth first thing.  She will descend down the stairs with bouffant hair.  She will watch the QVC channel at full volume, fall into temptation, and order things she doesn’t need while clipping coupons from the morning paper. This has always been her weekend routine.  Tim knows not to engage in conversation too early.  He lets her have her space until she warms to the day.  She doesn’t want to hear about election fraud, or how he’d enjoy waterboarding AOC and her anti-American, pugnacious “Squad” members, or how John Steinbeck uses adverbs perfectly (because adverbs aren’t evil, sorry Stephen King).

In the quiet meantime, Tim brewed fresh coffee, listened to Nat King Cole Christmas songs, loaded the dishwasher, and cleaned the kitchen and dining room.  He straightened the couch cushions and picked up a trail of clothes.  He retrieved a black thong hanging from the neck of one of the kneeling shepherds in a porcelain manger scene, looked around as if someone might be watching, then raised the silky triangle to his nose, relishing the perfumed and musky scent of his woman.  He released four barking dogs (three French hens . . . two turtledoves . . . and a partridge in a pear tree) into the backyard to fertilize the lawn. He filled their bowls until each overflowed with kibbles and smiled with his chill bumped arms folded as two baby German shepherds, tails wagging, lapped fresh water. He always spoiled the pups too early with chew treats (which is a misnomer because they never actually chew–they just swallow–and he wonders if dogs have taste buds in their stomachs).  All of this in a little over a half hour.

He was finally able to pee.  Kitchen work had softened his manhood.  Staring into the mirror while washing his hands, he barely recognized his new look.  His un-Bohemian self.  His Sampson grinding at the millstone look: shaved, weakened, blinded, and bound by the cords of love and lust.  A drunken barber had butchered his head and now all of his long hair was gone.  He resembled a peeled potato.  Lesson learned: never sit in a barber’s chair when no one is else there. That was yesterday.

Tim poured himself half a heavy mug of strong black coffee and filled the rest to the rim with Applejack whiskey.  He flipped the switch to the fireplace.  Fake logs ignited with a wizardly poof.  He sighed with contentment when he finally settled down to read Kyle Minor’s dark collection of short stories, “In the Devil’s Territory. The last line to “The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Party” opened an old wound and Tim closed the book after suffering some internal bleeding.

An hour later, sleeping beauty was still under a spell.  From the den, Tim aimed his voice at the freshly scrubbed kitchen (dishwasher still churning away) and inquired about the weather.  Alexa informed him that the current temperature is damp and mild at forty-two degrees with a high today of fifty-three degrees and to expect plenty of clouds with a chance of rain (then Alexa said: Have a nice day, Katarina and Tim answered Thank you in a high falsetto voice just to be funny to no one).

With a refill of coffee and whiskey for warmth (same ratio), Tim zipped into a light winter jacket and headed out the door into the misty white fog for a morning walk.  The front lawns of the upscale neighborhood were littered with flaccid inflatable snowmen and Santas.  At dusk they would engorge with air, standing plump and erect for their evening show (BOING! Alive at five).

A mile later, Tim performed a series of reverse sit ups on the top seat of an empty bleacher, stretching his spine, pulling in his stomach until it burned like fire, imagining himself to be an Olympic diver arching backward off the board.  The Emergency Room requires cobalt blue scrubs (ugh) and he vowed early to give up beer and never to allow a holiday belly to round out like a basketball or his navel to poke through his scrub top–he’d resemble a blueberry (like Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka) if he didn’t keep a flat stomach.  Kat was always saying he’s too skinny and feeding him extra large portions until he was short of breath.  Either way, maybe in the saving of lives, he might save his own and for his many sins atone. Salvation by good works. No faith required.

A bit tipsy too early in the morning, he hung upside down for a long time, allowing blood to rush to his head.  Soon his brain felt like it might explode.  Through a burst of blue stars (his medical knowledge reminding him that this static or snow is actually caused by phosphenes and is a visual trick produced by pressure to the retina and optic nerve and then sorted out by the occipital region of the brain), he stared at the empty field behind him and remembered county fairs and summer concerts and fragrant grass mixing with beer, funnel cakes, hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, Kat’s warm hand in his, dirt lanes, tree frogs, creepy carnival music, smelly port-a-johns, and salty kisses. He also imagined being the passive recipient of fellatio while hanging upside down (erotic asphyxiation without the noose) and it was at that very moment that he realized he was officially drunk.  So early in the day.  Shame, shame.

No. Lame, lame.

The park operated a Christmas train for children that circled through a wooded forest of colorful lights.  In coming days, there would be Ferris wheels and tilt-o-whirls and live animals in a stable of hay.  This was a happy season for many.

Kat once confessed to him her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian just as Tim was reaching through a metal cage to pet a kangaroo. The young roo, instantly aroused by human touch, produced what looked like a snowman’s carrot nose from between his legs and commenced humping Tim’s forearm with great power, pinning and almost breaking his wrist in the process. That was in the summer.

Before he returned to the house, Tim stood still as a mannequin before another display at the entrance of a freshly cedared playground.  Two large plastic candy canes standing tall as soldiers on either side of a red cursive message formed a welcoming gate that said  BELIEVE IN MAGIC.

Tim Timmons sipped from the spiked drink and squinted. The special thermos (ordered by Kat from QVC) had kept the coffee hot. Unsuccessful at banishing recent memories of death and loss from his head, he approached two empty swings.  He pushed invisible children into the sky and tried in vain to hear their voices.  The rusty squeak of the heavy chains intervened and, in a strange way, this made him feel less lonely.  Sometimes noise is enough.

Tim stumbled away. At a distance of about ten feet from the message on the gate, he stopped abruptly and turned around, expecting to see them. But the seats were still empty. They were moving back and forth and winding down like the second hand on a clock.
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Andrew Dabar