You lean back on the sofa, take a bite of a brownie, and place it back onto the plate alongside a dozen other half-eaten baked goods. The plate is covered by remnants of brownies, cupcakes, and other dessert items with different colored frosting. Your six-year-old son Trevor decided just that morning that Santa must be tired of going from house to house and eating the same cookies over and over again. It would be up to the two of you, he declared, to provide some variety to Santa’s diet. Luckily for you, the local bakery was open until noon today, before everyone headed home to celebrate the holiday. Also luckily for you, the bakery had not been cleaned out by all of the people smart enough to reserve their cakes and desserts ahead of time or all of the people smart enough not to get to the bakery 15 minutes before it closed.
You pick up a glass of room temperature milk and drink half of it in a single gulp. Last year, your husband Michael made the mistake of drinking all of the milk, and the two of you had to listen to your son worry about whether too many bathroom breaks would prevent Santa from delivering all of his presents in time. Trevor’s letter to Santa this year, which is currently sitting in your office, asked Santa if he had a bathroom on his sleigh. Santa’s response, written on a small index card that you left beside the plate of half-eaten baked goods, said Trevor had nothing to worry about: ‘I only drink a small sip from each household.’ The note also thanked Trevor for being so thoughtful with the desserts, but also let him know that Oreos were his favorite. This way, next year, all you would have to do is buy Oreos.
Happy with this year’s crime scene, you pick up a second glass. This one is filled with Baileys and vodka. You turn on the television and are greeted by Sean T telling you that if you did Insanity for 60 days, the things that would happen to your body would be ‘insane’. If Michael were still around, he would have picked up his shirt and showed you his belly. He would have asked if you still thought he was sexy. (You loved him for many things, but his ‘sexiness’ had never been one of them.)
You have never been a heavy drinker, so the alcohol hits you quickly. Ever since Michael died, you have found yourself drinking more, but not so much that you would consider yourself an alcoholic. You close your eyes and enjoy the throbbing sensation as someone shares how Insanity helped her lose 35 pounds.
‘Try Insanity now, risk free for 30 days. If you’re not satisfied, send it back for a full refund.’
You bolt awake, wondering how long you have been out. The clock says 4:46am. You would have to get to bed soon if you wanted to be able to get up when Trevor inevitably barged into your bedroom, eager to open his presents. You turn off the television. ‘No matter what I do, I’ll never look like that,’ you say.
You spin around, almost knocking the glass of Baileys from the coffee table. ‘Hey there, what are you doing awake?’
Trevor jumps onto the couch. ‘Who were you talking to?’ His eyes settle on the plate of half-eaten desserts. ‘Santa? Santa?’ He jumps off of the couch and looks at the boxes of presents under the tree. He then runs to the window and looks up into the sky. ‘I can’t believe you never told me you knew him.’
You look at your son and then back at the Christmas tree and smile. ‘Sometimes I can’t believe it myself, kiddo. Come on,’ you say, grabbing his arm and guiding him back to his bedroom. ‘I’ll tell you all about it in the morning when we open up your presents.’
CEDRICK MENDOZA-TOLENTINO was a 2014 Emerging Writer's Fellow at the Center for Fiction in New York City. He graduated with honors in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Columbia University. He has had work published in Liars' League New York, Akashic - Mondays are Murder, Gargoyle Magazine, Joyland, Slow Trains and Plain Spoke. His chapbook Alphabetica: The Other Side of Love was published by Corgi Snorkel Press. He is currently working on a novel and a short story collection.