Dec 04, 2023, 06:24AM

Deep in December

All the girls are beautiful!

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"Well, son, what do ya think! Merry Christmas!"

Dean kicked a tire and complained, "I wanted it to be metalflake. Red metalflake. This is just red."

"I know, boy. But the man at the hobby shop said they simply don't make a go-kart in metalflake, in any color."

"Well, couldn't you have brought it to a custom shop and had it repainted?"

Father and son stood in the center of the sealed driveway under the chilly December morning sky, a sky that was iron gray, a sky without an iota of pity. Mr. Stefano squatted down next to the kart and said, "That would have cost a fortune! And besides, your mom and I had already spent a mint on this baby. And besides that, well, I just didn't think of it." Then he snapped, "I thought you would be delighted to be the only kid on the block with his very own go-kart!" He patted a tire and attempted to add a note of encouragement to his voice, trying to camouflage the fury he felt welling in his chest, "C'mon! What say you get in the driver seat and take her for a spin?"

"Maybe later." Dean moped back indoors, slunk into his bedroom, shut the door, paced around, sulking. From a desk drawer he retrieved a pack of Marlboros, fired one up. Lying on his bed he blew smoke rings at the ceiling and batted back tears.

He stubbed out the cig and reached under the bed to grab a handful of comic books. He found one he'd read only once, and commenced a re-reading of Avengers #10. Mrs. Stefano rapped on her son's door and said, "Be ready for Mass in 10 minutes!"

"I ain't going."

She tore open the door, marched in and barked, "What! It is Christmas, young man!"

"I don't care," he whined, his lower lip trembling. He threw his comic book to the floor and sat up. "I wanted metalflake! Like in a Beach Boys song!"

"Why you spoiled little brat! Eleven-years-old and you think you're owed everything!"

"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! This is the worst Christmas in the entire history of the world!"

She reached back to slap him across the mouth, but he blocked her blow with his forearm and hissed, "I wish you were dead! Why don't you take that stupid go-kart and drive it off a steep cliff!" Dean threw himself face down on the bed, hugging his pillow to his face, sobbing.

After Mass, Lisa found Dean downstairs, in the den, watching a Christmas parade on TV. "Well, you missed a really boring Mass. I didn’t think it would ever end," she said to her little brother.

"Got any smokes?"

"Yuh." She reached into her pocketbook and produced a pack of Kents.

"Kents? You're back on Kents? Whyncha just breathe fresh air, for cripe’s sake?"

"Ronnie smokes Kents! And he's the quarterback!"

"Yeah, and he's a pansy."

"Yeah? Well, that so-called pansy could snap you in two! Like a breadstick! Just look at you! Eleven and you have a three pack per day habit! You can't even walk to the fridge without getting winded!"

"Aw, blow it out your shorts! I'm fine!"

"Well, fine. Go get your own smokes if'n Kent isn't up to your high standards!"

"Aw, I'm sorry. Just gimme a cancer stick, awreddy."

She lit one and handed it to her little brother. Her lipstick left red on the white filter.

"Boy, was Mom steamed! What did you say to her?"

"Nothin'. I di'n't say nothin'. She must be on the rag."

"Watch your mouth! That's our mother you happen to be referring to."

"Who cares? She's an old bag. Our parents are losers. Why don't we live in California? Like The Beach Boys? Everything is perfect in California! It's always warm and sunny! All the girls are beautiful! There are kustoms and hot rods in every driveway! Instead we're stuck in stinkin' Connecticut!" Dean took a long drag, you could see the ash grow, held it in for a beat or two, exhaled from his mouth, and inhaled that smoke through his nose, then exhaled that.

Dean sat up to switch the channel and found King Kong. He laughed, "Nothin' says Christmas like a big dumb ape. I like it when they shoot him off the skyscraper!"

"Aww, I feel sorry for him!"

"He's just a big dumb ape, for cripe’s sake! And it's all fake. It's just a stinkin' movie. He's just a toy, a doll. How could you even feel sorry for a doll? Girls are so stupid." Upstairs, the phone rang. Presently, Mrs. Stefano called down, "Lisa! It's Ronnie!"

"Speaking of big dumb apes, it's your boyfriend! Ronnie!" Dean followed that with smooch noises. And pig-like grunts.

Lisa smiled and swatted Dean on the head. Not too hard, but hard enough to smart.

"Hey! Easy on the noggin, peasant! It's the only one I got!"

Mr. Stefano trotted downstairs and announced, "Since you find the go-kart to be such a disappointment, I will return it. You will get nothing this Christmas!" He then folded his arms across his chest and waited for his son to beg him not to.

Instead, Dean, glued to the TV, belched, then muttered, "Who cares?"

An hour later, Dean slouched into his car coat and headed outdoors, motivating over to Jill's house, hoping he could get her away from her parents and, with luck, cop a feel. Danette's prettier, but Jill's close, not across town. He rummaged a jacket pocket, found a pack, lit a cig and sighed. 


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