Mom was jolly. It was Christmastime, and she was full of sugarplums, nitric acid and, worst of all, plans to enjoy the season.
"Actually, Mom," I said, "I'm thinking of skipping Christmas this year. Yeah, I think I'll be a Jew, or something. I think I still have my yarmulke around here somewhere..."
"What?! That's not funny, Greg. Not even in jest."
"If it was in jest, then it would be funny. QED."
"Tell me you at least believe in God, Greg. You need to believe in something. It's very important."
"I believe in Santa. But not God."
"Please don't say that. And what do you want for Christmas this year?"
"The abolishment of Christmas. It's the gift that keeps on not giving."
"Why can't you ever be serious? Now, on Christmas Eve I'm going to go to the service at Bethany with Taylor, even though she doesn't trust any church that doesn't have Christ in their name. It's not fully Christian for her."
"How about Christ Church on University?"
"Oh, that's an idea..."
That was my old church when I was fifteen years old and slightly less cynical. I wore the white robe and marched down the main aisle with the cross and helped with the Eucharist and become verrrrry friendly with the priests. (It's not what you think, people. I never let them come inside me.)
"We have to surrender control to God. He is in charge of our lives."
"Pfft. You are the biggest control freak in this quadrant of the known galaxy, Mom. I don't see you surrendering control to God, or to Yogi Bear, or to anything else. Unless you mean your remote control. But I doubt you could do that, either, because how would you get QVC...??"
Silence. And then... a cracking noise from the kitchen. Like a dog chewing on a bone.
"Mom, what's that sound?"
We both sat motionless. The cracking continued.
"Oh, that's the rat."
"Yes, I put out some poison and it's chewing on that."
We listened for another moment. Crack. Crunch.
"Dear God, it sounds like it's the size of a sumo wrestler. Why don't we get an exterminator in here? The other day I accidentally turned on the basement light and I heard something crash down there. Must have startled the chud."
"We'll see. It's the holidays, Greg. Please don't bother me with these issues..."
"So we're having Christmas here, I hope? And are you putting the rat on the guest list?"
Mom gave me a patronizing look.
"The rat will be dead by then, Greg."
"Right. The rat will be dead by then. I think we have a new slogan for Christmas!"