Christmas Eve With a Dead Body
I'd come home from my rather extended Christmas Eve family gathering at my aunt's big house down in the Galleria area around 9 p.m. My daughter was flush with the joy of her loot and the thrill of running around with her cousins, and insisted on having every present opened and briefly played with before she would even consider going to bed no matter how thoroughly exhausted she was. After an hour of examining her collection of Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Sophia the First, and Doc McStuffins officially licensed baubles, we finally lured her away with the all-important ritual of leaving cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. With that odd take on Communion out of the way, she finally snuggled down in her room to wait for Christmas morning.
Photo by Jef With One F
That left me with several hours in which to do all the parental Christmas last-minute preparations. There were a few surprise presents to wrap, stockings to fill, the bleeding Elf on the bleeding Shelf to move, milk to drink and crumbs to scatter, and most importantly the construction of her big present, an art desk.
The desk, a massive plastic thing that offered the visually artistic child the perfect station to draw as many rainbows and Tardises as she desired, was the latest in a long line of big presents that needed last minute assembly because they were too big to construct and transport in my tiny Escort beforehand. The kid in me that still builds LEGO sets every opportunity didn't really mind, though, and I figured if I started at 10:30 I'd be finished by midnight with just enough time for a glass of wine and a few chapters of a book before bed.
Around 11 p.m. the lights flickered out once, came back on for a minute, and then went out for good. In the distance, I heard sirens.
After a check to make sure the kid was OK and a call to CenterPoint to make sure that they were aware of the outage, I decided to put on my late grandfather's big coat and see if I could scope out what exactly had happened. There wasn't much else to do. I couldn't follow the instructions by candlelight and my wife had already laid claim to the 3DS. In any case, the sirens worried me.
As I trudged down West Road several things occurred to me. The first was just how incredibly dependent we have become on the ambient light of civilization. The power was out for what seemed like miles in every direction, and the lack of the landscape of twinkling holiday lights that I had grown accustomed to left the area in a sinister darkness. The only light I had was smog-shrouded stars and the hypnotic flashers of emergency vehicles up ahead near Gleason Elementary.
The second thought was that I had heard idiots letting off fireworks right before the power was cut. I was praying to whoever was listening that whatever bro in mandles had been lighting them off hadn't started a fire that could spread to my apartment complex.
There was no fire, but there was assuredly carnage out in the gloom. Wreckers, police cars, CenterPoint trucks, ambulances, and a line of pissed off commuters honking and flashing their headlights in anger at the closed road lit things up well enough. Four light poles and several signposts had been toppled and the grass in from of the school was torn up something awful. One wrecked car was being pulled away just as I came up. Three officers stood quietly in the cold near me.
"What news, constable?" I asked, because I tend to get archaic and anglophilec when under stress.
Piece continues on next page.