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Lowell Mick White is a PhD student at Texas A&M University; he specializes in creative writing and co-edits Big Tex[t], the literary journal from the English Department at Texas A&M University.

* * *

he car rolled to a stop on the packed snow in front of my mother's house. The night was clear and cold, and there were little halos around porch lights on houses up and down the street.
"You want to wait here or come in?" I asked. "I'll just be a minute."
"Too cold," Corrine said. She was unbuckling her seat belt. "Anyway, I want to meet your mom."
We got out of the car and when the car doors shut they sounded very loud. It was a quiet night. Many of the houses along the street had some sort of lights strung up outside, and they quietly pulsed green or red or blue, and almost every house had the curtains on the front windows open, and you could look in and see their Christmas trees, all lit up and sparkly.
"It's pretty out," Corrine said. She kicked at the snow, smiling.
"It is," I said. The walk in front of the house was barely shoveled. We went up the driveway and I bent over and tried the garage door. It was locked, and I had lost my key. "So much for sneaking in," I said.
We went around the front of the house, passing in front of the big picture window. The Christmas tree blocked most of it, but I could see my mom in there, sitting in her recliner and watching tv. There was a big green bottle of gin on the table beside her. I could just barely hear the sound of the tv through the walls of the house.
I rang the bell and banged hard on the door two or three times. The sound of the tv disappeared and I could see a shadow moving in the living room — my mother getting out of the recliner and coming to the door. The porch light came on.
I looked back at Corrine and smiled.
There was some fumbling at the lock and then the door opened. My mother looked at me for a moment.
"Oh," she said, surprised for a second. "Well, hi there!"
"Hi," I said. I stepped past her into the house. It was very warm inside and everything smelled heavily of pine – it smelled like Christmas. I turned around. "Uh, Mom, this is Corrine. Corrine – my mom."
"Hi," Corrine said. "I've been wanting to meet you for a long time."
"Well, aren't you a beauty!" My mother looked Corrine over, smiling, and then hugged her. Corrine looked over my mom's shoulder and arched her eyebrows at me, smiling.

"Come on in and sit down. I was just watching the news."
Corrine broke away from my mother, unzipping her coat. She looked around the room and smiled at my mother.
"What a pretty tree," Corrine said.
My mom waved her hand. "I just threw on a bunch of stuff we had when the kids were little. Anyway, it's kind of lopsided, don't you think?" She reached over and straightened the tree imperceptibly.
"Looks fine to me."
Mom settled back into her recliner. "Would you like a drink?" she asked Corrine. "I was having a drink while I was watching the news."
"We just stopped in for a second," I said. "I just need to – "
"Sure," Corrine said. She took off her coat and muffler and sat in the big gray chair facing the tv.
My mother got back up and went into the kitchen. I looked at Corrine and shrugged. She smiled at me.
"Your mom's neat."
I shrugged again. "I guess."
My mom quickly came out with a glass and some ice.
"I was having a drink while I was watching the news," she said again. She squinted at me – her eyes were very bright.
"Uh, I just need to get something out of my bedroom," I said. I took a step toward the stairs.
"Doug," my mom said, and I stopped. She poured some gin into the glass and handed it to Corrine. Then she looked up at me. "I just realized your father was an alcoholic. I just realized that tonight. The news had a special report on alcoholism and I realized that your dad was one."
"Oh," I said. I looked back at her. I couldn't think of anything else to say.
"It's true," Mom said. "He was. He was just like the people on tv."
"Well," I said, and stopped. I looked over at Corrine: she was gazing into her drink: straight gin. She was frowning. "Too late to do anything about it, now," I said.
"I just thought you should know," Mom said.
"I need to get something out of my room," I repeated. I turned and headed up the stairs.
"Doug's father was such a wonderful man, in so many ways," I could hear my mother say to Corrine. "But he did like to go to Happy Hour...."

I went down the hall to my old bedroom. Just as I opened the door, I noticed a light coming from beneath the door of my sister's room. I stepped over and knocked on her door.
I heard someone say, "Fuck."
Then my sister said, "Who is it?"
"It's Doug, damn it." I was smiling. Deb had quit school and moved back home a week or so earlier, and I hadn't seen her in a while.
"Wait a sec." I could hear her moving around, and then the door opened. Deb was looking a tad blurred. "When'd you get here?"
I stepped past her into the room. It was thick with marijuana smoke. I looked at her and laughed. "Jesus!"
"You want some?" Deb's friend Monica offered me a joint.
"Nah, not right now." I looked at Deb. "So what's up?"
"Just sittin' around."
"I guess," I said. "I just stopped in for a minute to get something. I left Corrine downstairs with mom."
"You brought Corrine here? I want to see what she looks like."
"She just looks like...Corrine." I shrugged and looked around.
"I want to see her." Deb was smirking at me. She picked up a dirty glass. "I think I'll go downstairs and get some pop."
"Oh, c'mon. Poor Corrine's gonna think she's in a zoo."
"She is," Deb said. She left the room.
Monica was staring at me. "Your Ma's pretty loaded," she said.
"Yeah, no kidding."

I left Deb's room and went next door to my old room. It wasn't really used for anything now – my mother was using it to store things – but I still had a lot of stuff in it. I turned the light on and opened the closet and pulled out a few boxes and spread them across my mother's sewing table. The second box I opened had my Indian stuff in it, and I sorted through it until I found the spear point: it was a nice one, about the size of the palm of my hand, made of dark flint, richly fluted. I had found it sticking out of a dirt clod it in the middle of a cut down cornfield one day when I was pheasant hunting with my dad. I don't remember how old I was then – eleven or twelve, maybe, just big enough to carry a .410 and keep up with the men. I fell to my knees and tugged it out of the soil and held it up, yelling for my father to come see. He hurried over and was happy for me, and Stewart, the pointer, stuck his nose next to my face, and the sky was high and clear and blue. My father wondered about the man who had made the point, and how it had come to be where it was. He told me I was very, very lucky. I always remembered his face that day, and the sky, and the metallic sheen of the pheasant's covert feathers, and the hard sharpness of the flint.

Now the point was cold and heavy in my hand. I squeezed it tight and felt the still-sharp edges dig at my flesh. It was really a very beautiful thing.
After a moment I looked around in the closet some more and found a hard plastic box that a wristwatch had once come in, and then I put everything else back into the closet. I placed the point in the box and went back into Deb's room.
"That was quick," Monica said.
"I knew what I was looking for," I said. There was a stack of People magazines in the corner, and I pulled one of them out from the bottom of the stack. The Princess of Wales was on the cover. I tore the front cover off the magazine and took some tape from Deb's desk and began wrapping the box.
Deb came back into the room carrying a can of Diet Coke. "What're you doing?" she asked.
"He's tearing up your magazines," Monica said.
Deb looked over my shoulder at the dead Princess's face. "Bitch," she said.
"What's his girlfriend like?" Monica asked.
"She's a babe," Deb said. "I'd even go for her."
"I'm glad you approve," I said. I folded the last end of the wrapping paper and tore off a bit of tape.
"She's got real sharp, bright eyes," Deb said to Monica. "Long dark hair. Nice smile. She's a babe."
"Cool," Monica said.
I smiled. Deb looked at me.
"What's in the box?" she asked. "You givin' her a present?"
"What is it, a watch?"
"It's a ring," Monica said.
Deb looked at her. "Could be. Dad gave Doug the wedding rings when him and mom got divorced. He's got 'em stashed away somewhere."
"It's not a ring," I said. "Jesus."
"It's like a pendant thing or something," Monica said. "Like a
planet she can wear around her neck – you know, like a Saturn or
"Yeah, right." I looked at Deb and made a face.
She smiled, too. "Or a comet!"
"Yeah," Monica said, "or a comet or something."

I went back down the stairs. The living room was empty, and the tv was on with the sound turned off. The bottle of gin was almost empty. I heard some voices and went down the hall to the kitchen. Corrine and my mother were there, drinks in hand, laughing about something.
My mom looked up and saw me. "Oh, hi," she said. "We've been talking about your father. I was just showing Corrine where he threw me through the wall."
I frowned. That was a lie, probably. At least, it was something I'd never heard of before.
"So when was this supposed to happen?" I asked.
Corrine looked down and shook her head.
"And then I had to tell her about the time your father was drunk and emptied a bottle of barbecue sauce over your head when you were — what? — nine or ten."
"It wasn't barbecue sauce," I said. I was pretty sure he wasn't drunk either, but I didn't say anything; somehow his sobriety had made his anger all the more frightening. "It was Worcestershire sauce."
For some reason Corrine thought that was funny, and giggled.
I didn't say anything. I was suddenly furious – my mother could never, ever, tell a story truly. Everything she said came out twisted and distorted to serve herself, the poor damn victim.
"The thing is, Doug," my mom said, "is that this little girl doesn't know anything about our family. What have you been telling her?"
I paused. I could feel myself getting red in the face. I finally said, "Nothing."
"Well, obviously."
Corrine laughed again. She put her hand over her mouth and glanced at me, then looked back at the floor.
"We probably ought to go," I said to her. "We'll be late for the movie."
"Doug likes to think that he's punctual," Mom said.
"Yeah," I said, "that's true. I don't like to be late."
"Little Doug was always rushing us around," Mom said. "'Take me to Cub Scouts,' he'd go, 'Take me swimming.' He was always whining about being on time, like we lived in a damn train station or something."
Corrine glanced at me again while my mom drained her glass, wincing as she swallowed. She looked around – a little befuddled – and then reached over and placed the glass in the sink.
"Okay," Corrine said. "Let's go."
"Stick around," Mom said. She opened a cabinet and brought out another big green bottle of gin.
"No, we have to go," I said. I made a face at Corrine and turned and started back down the hall. I heard her following along behind me.
"Stick around," my mom called again.

I stood in front of the Christmas tree and watched Corrine put on her coat.
"I'm really sorry about all this," I said.
She looked at me, her chin down as she zipped up. "It's okay."
I shrugged. I didn't know what to do. I was angry and at the same time felt utterly helpless. I was stuck. I stood there and watched my mother come down the hall carrying the gin bottle. She sat in her chair and refilled her glass.
"I hate to see you kids just leave," she said. "I just hate spending these nights alone."
"Deb and Monica are upstairs," I said.
"Well...." She rolled her eyes. "Those girls."
"We don't want to be late for the movie," Corrine said.
"Well, I suppose."
I pulled the car keys out of my pocket. "Okay, then. We'll catch you later," I said.
"Good-bye," Corrine said.
My mother suddenly saw the box in my hand. "What's that? A present?"
I held the door open and Corrine was going through it.
"Yeah, it's a present."
"It was nice meeting you!" Corrine called past me. She was out on the steps and I could feel the nice cool air rush past her into the house.
Mom got out of her chair and came over to the door. "Tell me what it is." She reached out to take the box from me.
"It's none of your goddamn business what it is," I said flatly.
"You can tell me."
"Oh, go to hell." I shut the door in her face. I looked at Corrine, who was standing below me on the steps. "Well, that's over."
She didn't say anything. My mother appeared in the picture window, next to the tree. She had her hand on the glass and was peering out at us. Corrine waved.
"Let's get the fuck out of here," I said.
We walked down the driveway and back to my car. It was very quiet out and the snow under our feet squeaked and crunched as we stepped on it.
"You shouldn't talk to your mother that way," Corrine said. There was a streetlight behind her and when she exhaled her breath came out in a big, glowing cloud.
I looked past her back into the darkness and didn't say anything.
She didn't know what she was talking about. I unlocked the door of the car for her and opened it and walked around to the diver's side.
"It's not very nice."
I unlocked the car and got in. Corrine was buckling her seatbelt and did not look at me. I tossed the box onto her lap.
"Merry Christmas," I said.


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