Well, besides the Chris and Dave factor.
And Jules and Jess and James and Nicky and Eliza and . . . oh hell.
But it's still fun!
It was coming on for Christmas, as Dylan Thomas was wont to say.
Which was, actually, the only thing Chris could remember from his lit class at Oklahoma. Big Dave had seemed suitably impressed by Chris quoting a Welsh poet. Chris didn't tell him that he had thought the poet had stolen the expression from Joni Mitchell, because Dave did know who she was.
Christmas, and Dave wasn't going home to Philadelphia, because his family had pooled their money and sent the parents on a cruise. Instead, he had been playing every frigging sad-ass Christmas CD he could find, for weeks , ever since Thanksgiving. He seemed particularly fond of "Another Auld Lang Syne," and Chris almost suspected him of pulling an elaborate practical joke. Come on, I met her at the check-out line On a cold New Year's Eve? Except, of course, that Chris'
boy Dave didn't have a sense of humor.
It was comin' on Christmas, they're cuttin' down trees came the stereo from the next room.
"Christ!" Chris moaned.
"Kinda the point of the holiday," David said, opening the bathroom door. "Of course, since you're going to hell, it doesn't matter."
Snow thought she'd be certifiably insane if she had to listen to one more version of "I'm Gettin' Nuthin' for Christmas." Because Christmas?
In retail, Christmas was Hell.
"Well, aren't you just the one with the heart three sizes too small," Eliza said jovially, spreading red and green icing on sugar cookies with a joyful abandon.
"You aren't the one who has to fill in if someone's sick or quits," Snow said. She dropped a metal bowl of boiled icing on the table with a thump.
Fucking table still wobbled.
"Someone wants three dozen Santa cookies at eleven, can we do it?" Amy yelled.
"Hate Christmas," Snow muttered. "I don't care how many bottles of Big Tattoo Red Seth brings me."
"Someone wants a dirty Santa cake," James informed her, setting down a couple of sheet cakes on their cooling racks.
"What would a dirty---Oh," Snow groaned.
"I want a hippopotamus for Christmas!" sang Jess, throwing herself down on the bed next to Kelly.
"What happened to the classics, like 'Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer?' " he asked, pulling the sheet over his head.
"It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas?" Chris asked.
"Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer?"
"Not even close."
"Frosty the Snowman?"
"Jingle Bells? Deck the Halls? Twelve Days of Christmas?"
"That last one is actually a religious song," David said, patiently folding clothes.
Christian gave him a sour look. "Stop that. If I wanted to fuck Martha Stewart I'd apply for a conjugal visit."
"Hey, this is my house. If I want to have matched socks, then I can match my socks."
"What the fuck does it matter, I'm wearin' boots? And let me say, one navy and one black sock is nothing compared to a grown man who wears pink striped socks."
"You still don't know my favorite Christmas song," David said, obnoxiously calm.
Chris resisted the urge to brain him with the guitar. "Okay. I know just about every fucking Christmas carol and cartoon Christmas---'Have a Holly Jolly Christmas?' 'White Christmas?' "
"Close but no cigar," David sighed, and got up to get---aw shit, he was even putting nutmeg on top of it---the eggnog.
"Whatever it is, you win. I'll learn how to play it for the Christmas party."
"The King," David said, looking hurt. "Blue Christmas."
Chris choked on the eggnog.
At the Pancake Heaven, Cindee was leaning on the counter, listening
sympathetically to Alexis, and why his expression didn't match that of the
snowman on his holiday tie.
"So, Christmas season in the grocery business.
This is the time of year that our warehouse distributes
everythingthey can find that they don't want left in
storage. Because if it's thrown away, it's the store's fault,
and not the corporate buyers' fault. So each truck is a treat.
Really. I get stuff I never wanted, stuff we'll never be
able to sell in California. Stuff that people up in Minnesota or
Nebraska or Wisconsin would want, but not Californians."
He paused, andCindee neatly refilled his coffee cup and topped it with milk. Alexis took
a life-giving gulp, before continuing.
"And it's also corporate visit time. Visit. Hah.
When the people from corporate HQ want freaking weekly run-downs
of whatever is going on in our store. So either they, or someone's brother-in-law,
come into the store and walk around. Poking noses into everything."
He stopped and shook out a pill from a prescription bottle.
"What's that, hon?" Cindee asked.
"Muscle relaxers," he said. "I just got back from the doctor. My back is killing me,
and my marriage is breaking up." He looked up. "You really have extraordinary
Cindee batted her eyelashes.
Down at the end of the boothes, Snow and Jules were in full cry about the Muzak,
to Amy. "It's Blue Christmas by three different singers, then four rotten
generic instrumental carols, then Blue Christmas again," Snow grumbled.
"But when Manager Dave comes in, it's the King," Jules said.
"Better than that godawful television actor's band that you have the :cough:
illegal :cough: download, though," Snow said, in a bewildering switch of thought.
Nicky and Eliza dropped into seats in the booth. "Isn't she cute when she's switching
personalities?" Nicky asked, fondly. He kissed Snow's temple. She swatted at
"I fucking hate Christmas and I'm going nuts and no one cares!" she wailed.
"No, actually, not," Nicky said.
"So what's different about this time of year from the rest of the year?"
Eliza asked reasonably.
Snow kicked at her under the table.
"What else, Snowy?" a preternaturally patient Amy asked.
Snow took a big drink of her Christmas blend coffee. "They, corporate,
have been telling us all for months to not
think about 'shrink'. It's on all the memos, there's probably a fucking
little jingle that we're supposed to fucking sing!" She put her palms flat
on the table and took a deep breath. "That we should have our tables and
displays full, full, full all the time. Now? They're screaming
that we are wasting too much product. And we all have to go
to department- specific meetings after the New Year to find out just
what it is we're doing wrong. Because! Damn! We're
throwing away too much product every day. Well NO
FUCKING DUH!!! And poor Alex has to go with each one
of us and get yelled at at every meeting."
Nicky poured another cup of coffee from his Thermos bottle for himself
and Eliza. The smell of the luxury blend wafted over the table.
"Why doesn't David go?" he asked.
"Because David was born with a golden ass," Jules said. She smiled, looking off
into the distance, until Eliza poked her. "Sorry. I was in my happy place for a
"I'm taking it that James' ass isn't as golden?" Nicky asked.
"It's golden, it's golden," Jules said, unconvincingly.
"Is there trouble in paradise?" Eliza said. She and Snow leaned forward,
their eyes bright.
Before Jules could answer, the vestibule door opened, and they could hear
a country-rock voice singing, "I'll have a blue Christmas---without you---hey,
Snow ground her teeth. "If it was anyone but Chris, I'd kill him."
"Talk about someone being born with a golden ass," Nicky muttered.
All three women got glassy-eyed.
"Oh, Jesus ," Nicky said.
"Jesus is the reason for the season, or so I'm told," said Chris, at their table.
"Whatcha gettin' Big Dave for Christmas?" Eliza asked, sitting up straight.
Chris gave her a cool, blue-eyed stare. "I'll kick his ass for him if he looks at
me the wrong way, the big mother fucker," he said. "That answer your question?"
Snow's lip trembled. "I wish you'd just sit down and talk to him."
"Talk, yeah," Nicky said. "Not with the hitting and kicking and the throwing into
the truck and having all of us get up bail money."
"You didn't have to bail anyone out at Thanksgiving," Chris said.
Eliza spoke for them all. "Yeah, but what happened after Dave pulled you off
James? Are you two friends, now?"
Chris rolled his eyes. "Oh, sure," he said sarcastically. "We're friends. He
cooked breakfast for me, we're so---we went home and sucked each
other's dicks, what d'you think? Give me a break."
Chris stomped back off to the counter, cackling evilly.
The other four stared at each other, then Nicky leaned to the side so he could
pull his wallet out. "Fuck," he said, sourly, and handed Jules five dollars.
"Toldja," she said smugly. "Those two'll never get together before
Eliza narrowed her eyes. "Wanna bet?"
"No!" everyone chorused.