Landon Shoemaker sat in his favorite chair, which was positioned the perfect distance between the heat radiating from the hearth’s brightly blazing fire, and that damn chill that always settled nearer the log walls of his house this time of year. Relaxed in a way that working men understood, he had put in a good bit of work today and earned himself a good rest. Lifting the bottle held in his hand to his lips, he drank deeply, the yeasty overtones of the beer not registering as he sat, staring at the flickering flames through watering eyes.
No celebration tonight, he thought, glancing over to where the Christmas tree had stood in past seasons, his lips twitching sideways in disappointment as he stared at the empty corner for a long minute. Hard to believe the year had slipped away from him again, but here he sat, on his own. The sole surviving member of his generation.
No family in the house. Back in the early part of the year, he had buried his brother, Rodney. His sister, Isabel…well, she had been gone for a long time. Gone long before she died, even. He had family left, products of his marriage, but his kids and their children were off living on their own in Billings and Fort Wayne. Not that he begrudged them their choices, but on a night like tonight, he would give a lot to see them crowding around the fireplace. To watch the grandkids rip brightly colored paper off boxes, their faces shining as they shouted with laughter.
He turned slightly, cutting a glance towards the matching chair next to his; both still pulled up in the middle of the room and angled so any occupants could easily carry on a conversation. That glance stuck on the empty seat for a long minute, and then he finally turned back to the fire and sighed. No anything tonight.
No kids meant no reason to decorate, so there was no holiday clutter anywhere in the room. No shine of glitter, no scent of evergreen. Hell, anymore, he did all his shopping online and simply had things shipped directly to his kids and grandkids, so he didn’t even have any presents stacked and ready to distribute.
Lifting the bottle again, he took another drink. No one to play Santa for. He grinned crookedly at the rueful memories. Wars had been waged in this very room over who would wear the enormous red and white hat on Christmas Eves in the past, the winner granted rights over distribution of the presents. The expression slowly faded from his face as he thought of the stocking cap folded and still stored securely in the box of decorations up in the attic.
Shifting restlessly in the chair, he rolled his neck, listening to the tendons creak and make snapping noises. Stiff and tired, he was feeling his years tonight after working all day. The day before Christmas in Wyoming, you wouldn’t expect people to be out doing their shopping at a bike store, but regardless of the forecast, the snow held off and shoppers had come in today in droves.
His store in Cheyenne sold bikes, gear, and parts for most of the major domestic brands of motorcycles, and a few foreign ones, too. His salespeople had worked the floor while he watched from his vantage point through the lofted office’s window, grinning as the shirts and jackets fairly flew out the door. They had sold dozens of various chrome accessories, and he smirked now to think about it. One good thing about the brands he sold was seldom dealing with post-holiday returns, unlike some other stores. Enthusiasts enjoyed owning the best, and it was a point of pride for him to cater to that.
He yawned wide, his jaw cracking much as his neck had, and then he snorted a laugh when his belly joined in, growling loudly. Mentally composing a list, he went through the contents of his refrigerator, discarding various supper ideas until he reached the same conclusion he normally did when finally considering eating about this time of night. Pushing on the arms of the chair, he jackknifed to his feet, declaring to the empty room, “Cereal it is.”
When his wife was here, she would have had his head for considering breakfast cereal a meal, but she hadn’t been here for a long time, not for years. He swallowed, his throat suddenly tight, remembering the Christmas Eve dinners she would put on the table. Simple fare, but good, and always accompanied by a mug of her spiced rum, served with a sweet kiss.
It took some effort, but he pushed those thoughts aside.
2015 © MariaLisa deMora