February 10, 1996
Dear Diary –
Whoa, that is really lame.
I guess I’ll start by cluing in the clueless on how I got this stupid book, and why it’s so messed up.
Christmas freaks me out. It’s not the sight of dirty old men in red velvet suits sitting little kids on their laps. I mean, that’s really creepy, but it gets worse. What’s worse is that almost every foster family I had went into meltdown at Christmas time.
I guess it’s the pressure. Everyone wants a perfect family Christmas. Everybody tries too hard. It starts with something small – burnt toast, missing batteries, or a cup too much eggnog. Then it goes into hyper drive. Kids start yelling, grandma cries, a dog knocks down the tree. All of a sudden, the adults are screaming about who slept with who about 20 years ago. Then, somehow, all the shit lands on me. Have you ever been in the fucking ER on Christmas? I have. Four times.
So, I’ve developed some rules for dealing with Christmas:
1) Get everybody who might show up something, somehow.
2) If anybody gives you anything, thank them.
3) Keep your head down. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
4) Go to bed early. Usually they won’t mess with you once you’re asleep
The past couple years, since Mac and Tessa took me in, Christmas hasn’t gone too bad. But when December 25th came around, I was a still a little freaked out, you know?
Mac had Joe, Adam, and me over. Everybody’s got their role to play at Christmas. I was working on “dutiful son.” I mean, I think that’s what Mac expects from me. Who knows what the dude really wants.
Mac played “generous Dad” like the role had been, y’know, written for him. He got me all this upright stuff for my new place: towels, plates, and a coffee pot. I thanked him, and gave him back his shirts. See, Mac always gets the blood out of his clothes after a Challenge, but then he usually tosses them if they get cut up. I found a stack of his old shirts neatly folded up in the closet, all of them slashed to hell. Tessa used to really like him in those shirts.
Now, I been fixin’ up the crappy clothes people give me, since I was, like, 12. I can make stuff fit right and even give my threads some style. So mending a few clean sword cuts was no big thing. I snagged Mac’s shirts, sewed them up almost good as new, and gave them back to him for Christmas.
I was more than kinda missing Tessa that day. She was more “hot mamma” than “loving mother”, but she really seemed to care.
I think Joe was going for “weird uncle”, with that Club International subscription. Don’t get me wrong, I like nudie mags just fine, but it’s kind of a funny Christmas present. Still said, “Thank you”, of course. I got him a metal slide thing for his guitar. Ray down at the shop said it was a good one.
Then there was Adam. He just kind of showed up out of nowhere a month ago, and started sleeping on Mac’s couch and scrounging out of his fridge. Joe says that was a normal hospitality thing, back in the day. I guess Adam’s the “free-loading brother”. All I know about the guy is he likes beer and books, so I got him a bookmark.
When I unwrapped his present to me, it was a book covered in brown leather. Smelled good, like a new jacket. But there was no title, and when I looked inside, there were no words.
I was thinking, like, this must be a joke. Not the, “Ha ha, Richie, isn’t this a funny gag gift” kind of joke. More a, “Stupid kid probably can’t even read, let’s give him a book with no words in it” joke. But when I looked up at Adam he wasn’t laughing. He just smiled, said, “I thought you might learn something.” So I said, “Thank you.” Rules #1 and #2 were taken care of, so I should’ve been safe, right? I wish.
A couple of hours later we were all half asleep from all the turkey and ham and stuff Mac’d been feeding us. The guys turned on some old black and white movie to watch. I figured I’d check out my book. Adam had to have written something in there, if he thought it was going to teach me. But there was nothing. Maybe the book was like that weird “one hand clapping” thing Mac tried to teach me once.
Then it hit me. My foster-sister Marie and I used to write each other secret messages with lemon juice. When the juice dries, it’s invisible. But when you heat up the page it’s on, it turns brown so you can read the message. I poked around in the kitchen and found one of the candles Mac uses for getting romantic with the ladies.
It seemed to make perfect sense at the time. It’s only now, looking back, that I have to seriously ask myself, am I retarded?
I lit the candle and held the first page over it. One corner started to turn brown and I thought I’d found the secret message. I moved the page a little closer, and WHOOSH! The thing burst into flames! I wanted to put it out, to hide it, but I couldn’t. I froze up. This was the worst way ever to break Rule #3. And the fire was eating my book.
Joe was first to notice. He glanced around, sniffing, and yelled out, “Richie? What the hell?!?”
Mac sprang into action. He grabbed the book, tossed it in the sink, and turned on the water. Then he wet a sponge and started cleaning up the flaming bits of paper before they could light his nice counter top on fire.
Joe was poised on the edge of his seat to help, but Adam hadn’t moved a muscle. He was lying stretched out over most of the couch. Eventually he tilted his head a little and drawled, “If you didn’t like the journal, Ryan, you could just have thrown it in the trash. The ritual burning is entirely unnecessary.”
“Journal?” I asked. Then I guess Adam decided to show off a little, ‘cause he sat up, put one arm on the back of the couch, and went off. He said a whole bunch of things; I’ll just put down what I remember.
“A repository for your thoughts and feelings? A place to record your impressions of events, whether routine or bizarre?”
And I was thinking, OK, I guess I could learn something from that. But then Adam decided to break it way, way down for me. “A diary?” Now, that was just freaking insulting.
I try to leave my mouth in neutral. But sometimes it kicks into gear without me. “But, diaries are for girls!” popped out.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mac twitch. Then he pivoted, strode into the bathroom, closed the door, and ran the water. See, this is what I like about Mac. He never laughs in my face, no matter how much I deserve it.
Joe cleared his throat. Oops. “Oh, Joe, I didn’t mean you! You’ve got to write in the thing, it’s, like, your job.” Joe just turned to watch Adam’s reaction. Adam put both feet on the floor, and said gently, “So, that would leave me the only girl in the room?”
It was at that moment that I remembered two other things I knew about Adam. One, he carries a sword. Two, he was good enough to kill Kristin with it. I fell back on Rule #4, yelled out to Mac that I was real tired and was heading back to my place, grabbed my book from the sink and bugged out.
Once I got back to my apartment, I locked the door and shoved a chair under the knob. I tossed the book into the corner near the heater to dry off. Then I stripped down and jumped under the covers with just my boxers and my sword. Christmas was officially over.
It turns out that sleeping with a sword wasn’t one of my best ideas. In the morning, by the time I’d finished cleaning up the sheets, I’d forgotten all about the book. It just kind of got buried under some dirty laundry, and I didn’t find it again until today.
The first dozen pages are burnt up, the cover’s got some funny black marks, and the pages are all wavy from getting wet. But it should still work fine, right? So I thought I’d take it for a spin, see how I like it.
Dear Diary -
Am I going to be a freaking dumb ass all my Immortal life, or will I grow out of it someday?
Dear Richie –
That’s a tough one. Get back to me in a hundred years.
Yeah. I could get to dig this book. Thanks, Adam.
Written in response to lastrega’s February 10 Journal Challenge.