"I just don't understand why I have to be involved in this," I said, clenching my teeth and gripping the steering wheel in Hulk fashion.
"You can drop me off here, Greg. I can take a cab..."
"Okay!" I got out my phone and pretended to dial.
"I don't know why you have to be so persnickety. I really don't understand you sometimes."
"Never mind. This is just sort of something I didn't want to do on my day off."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I'm a burden to you. I'm sorry that I'm a burden to everyone. I just wanted to do something nice for the family, and I'm sorry for that."
"Please stop saying you're sorry, Mom."
"Sorry. I just want... I just..." Mom started to cry. "I just want to be with my family for Christmas..."
"I don't see why. We're all so awful."
Traffic finally started moving again, proving that even metaphors don't last forever. We got to Chris and Cinira's house.
"No, Linda!" Cinira said at the door, making the sign of the cross before plastic Santa. "No, we don't want this. I want you to take it back, please."
Mom was stricken. She was pale. She cradled plastic Santa in her arms. "It's just a little thing. Just a little..."
"B-buh-but... please, it's just... Christmas?"
"NO. I don't want you spending your money like this! We don't want this in our house. Please."
Mom in a trembling voice tried to explain that it was a little thing, it was Christmas, it was nothing, she was sorry, she just wanted to be with her family. ETC. But still Santa was denied. Finally, Mom played her I'm Old card.
"Send me to hospice!!"
She was feeling light-headed. She was dizzy. Sobbing, crying, tears streaming, she blindly felt for a chair. She sat. And sobbed some more.
We gathered around her. Cinira got her some tea.
"It's okay, Mom. It's okay. We just want you to be well. To be happy."
"And we worry about your health. If you're not feeling well, you should see the doctor."
"I just saw a doctor!"
"I don't know. What year is this? But I promise I'll see one soon."
"In January. After Christmas."
"Why in January? Just go now. What are you waiting for?"
"Oh, I see," I said. "So Christmas is a time for not doing anything for your health. How warm."
Mom said nothing.
"Man, this gangrene is a hassle--but it's the holidays! I'll get antibiotics in January! Whoops, is that a kidney stone? Did I lose a limb? No matter! It's Santa time! What better way to tell baby Jesus you love him than by not seeing the doctor for your sepsis...?!?" I yelled.
Mom looked around the room. "Why is he talking?"
Chris got out plastic Santa. He started to assemble the ladder. Then he set the ladder by the tree. He plugged it in.
Plastic Santa climbed the ladder while Little Drummer Boy played.
Mom wiped away her tears. She smiled. We all stood around as plastic Santa climbed and then went down.
Santa went up.
Santa went down.
Santa went up.
In the end, Mom got everything she wanted. We had been played. Most masterfully.