This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:
Title: “A Hell of a Thing”
Author: Lisa V. Tomecek
“Come in from the cold, Uncle.”
I look up from the window to see him standing there by the open door: tall and lean and maybe thirty, with an easy smile, stubble, shaggy hair. And flip-flops.
Who wears flip-flops in the snow?
He’s always been like that, my nephew. I suspect I’ll never understand why.
“You look like hell, Uncle,” he says, and means it. I take in the jumble of thrift store denim and flannel and chuckle at the irony.
“I’m fine,” I say. I shrug deeper into my overcoat—black, wool, made in Italy—and heft my coffee. The steam spirals up in the chill. “Just out for a walk.”
“Don’t lie, Uncle. You didn’t walk.”
He frowns and waves a hand at the car that sits idling at the curb. The engine rumbles like a drowsing beast; the parking lights pulse red, wash the icy slush on the streets with blood.
“Come in. Bring your driver, too. We’re sitting down to dinner. Everyone’s there—well, except you.”
I know already. I’ve seen them gathered around the table, watched a long time. The memories of younger days wash over me, and for a moment, I think about it. But—
“No. I’m fine. I have things to do. Business meetings. Paperwork. Hostile takeovers. You know how it goes.”
But I know he doesn’t; he’s never been the corporate type. Still, he lets me play the game, and he smiles that easy smile again.
“It’s been a long time—too long. Everyone would be glad to see you.”
There he’s wrong. There I know better. I shrug and swallow my coffee. It’s bitter.
“Your dad and I don’t get along. We haven’t. We won’t.”
“You could,” he says, “if you tried.”
“I don’t think so,” I tell him. “Sometimes things go too far for making up.”
He frowns again. The falling snow clings to his shirt, lights in his hair. “You know I don’t agree.”
“And you know I think you’re too idealistic for your own good.”
A sudden sadness comes over him. He lifts up his hands, plaintive. “I wish you’d stop this, Uncle. Every year, you show up on the doorstep, and every year you refuse to come in. Just—why?”
I smile. It’s thin, wistful. I taste the spoiled memories. They’re bitter, like the coffee.
“Pride, kid. Pride’s a hell of a thing.”
I turn back to the waiting car.
“Should I tell him you came, Uncle?” he calls after.
I don’t bother to turn back.
There’s a long pause, then—
“Merry Christmas, Uncle,” he says quietly, in that way without malice that I’ll never understand.
The car door opens. The heat welling from within washes the chill off my bones. I sit down, settle in, shut the door. My driver leans in from the front seat. His eyes catch the streetlights and glow, molten pools of red. They weren’t always that way.
Neither were mine.
“Where to, Boss?”
“Away,” I tell him. “Anywhere but here.”
Read other stories from this project here: