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March 20, 2023

A July Christmas

By Dan Mulhollen

"Merry Christmas," Joe Hanley said, cheerfully as his Cousin Walter walked through the door.

"Merry Christmas," Walter Kaye replied, followed by the same greeting from his wife, and their two daughters.

Shelly Hanley greeted her husband's relatives half-heartedly. Seven months pregnant, and suffering through a particularly hot summer, she was in no mood for this silliness.

"Christmas in July!" seven-year-old Jennifer Kaye, said, repeating the advertising jingle.

"What a good idea," her mother Rachel said, somewhat less enthusiastic. "Once a year isn't expensive enough."

They walked into the Hanley's living room, all decked out with Holiday decorations. A seven foot blue spruce stood in the corner, with all the lights, tinsel and ornaments. The air conditioning did add a bit of a festive chill. And with the drapes drawn, one could almost forget it was summer.

"Shall we open gifts?" Joe asked, gesturing toward stacks of colorfully wrapped boxes spread under the tree.

Ten-year-old Miranda dashed toward the tree.

"Miranda!" Rachel Kaye warned, "show some manners."

"Oh, let them," Joe said, chuckling. "Everything is marked." He looked at the girls. "Do the two of you want to pass the gifts out?" The question was met with squeals of approval.

"Some parent you're going to be," Rachel said.

"One with happy children," Joe replied, smiling.

"This one," little Jennifer said, "says 'Walter'. That's you, Daddy!"

Walter Kaye broke out laughing. "So it is," he said, taking the long box. He carefully removed the wrapping paper to reveal a fishing pole.

"I think we can get a little fishing in before New Year's in August," Joe said.

"And not have to sit out on the ice. Thank you."

Most of the remaining adult gifts were more practical; things for Joe's and Shelly's baby, DVDs, and books. The gifts the Hanley's got for the Kaye children were more elaborate. Electronic toys, clothes, and the newest age-appropriate CDs.

"You know, you're making us look like bad parents," Walter Kaye said, smiling. "But then, you're the one pulling in the big bucks."

"Luck," Joe insisted. "Something to be shared."

A while later, the children were playing and the two women discussing pregnancy. Joe and Walter went into the kitchen to make drinks. Walter looked over at Joe, "How bad does it look?" he asked.

"It depends who you ask," Joe said, getting some tumblers down from the counter. "There is a chance that it might not happen."

"But you don't believe that," Walter said, getting ice from the freezer door icemaker.

"There will be fatalities," Joe said. "The question is whether it's a few thousand or two billion."

"It all seems so random," Walter said, watching Joe mix three of the four drinks--leaving the liquor from Shelly's

"The US and Middle East will be the hardest hit," Joe said, adding the ice. "The Canadian Prime Minister threatened to go public with the information. His contention was that as his people were only a peripheral part of the mess, they should not be at risk.. The President assured him that he did, that would cause more Canadian fatalities."


"I don't think so."

"I assume Shelly knows."

"It's really been tough for her," Joe admitted. "Bringing a baby into the world knowing the odds are it won't live see its first birthday."

Walter took two of the glasses. "I'm surprised the blogs have been so quiet."

"Special Order Fifteen," Joe said, glumly. "At least a dozen bloggers already have disappeared -- their blogs officially having never existed." He was quiet for a few seconds. "Technically, I could be terminated for what I've told you and Shelly."


Joe shook his head slowly, a sad frown on his face.

"You don't mean ... "

"Terminated," Joe replied.

Walter lowered his head., almost unable to look at his cousin as they walked back towards the living room.

Joe entered the living room and looked around. The tree, decorations, children playing. A perfect Christmas scene. He thought about those protesting Christmas in July as just another hare-brained Government scheme to distract people from the real issues. Sad that they did not realize this might be their last chance to get together with friends and family. The last chance to taste eggnog and fruitcake and exchange gifts. To remember the promise of peace on Earth and good will toward men.

"Here we go," Joe said, handing his wife her club soda. "Christmas in July," Joe said, raising his glass. "The first, and hopefully not the last."

-- Daniel Mulhollen

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-07-30
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