LYLBTB Advent Event 2013 : Nicole Kimberling
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
by Nicole Kimberling
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From Peter Fontaine’s Guide to Great Gift-Giving:
As the winter holidays approach, the gentleman’s mind turns inevitably toward acquisition of perfect presents. By clever observation, he may glean what desires lie in the hearts of those around him. He might, for example, see that his father’s favorite shearling slippers are worn or that his boss stares longingly at a shop window displaying a bong made in the shape of Jerry Garcia’s head. He may find himself spoiled for choice upon discovering his best friend’s three-hundred and fifty-seven item long amazon.com wish list.
But there will always be one tough gift to buy—not what to buy the Man Who Has Everything. Nay, this most irritating creature is the Man Who Wants Nothing.
A clever, yet uninformed reader might ask, “Who is this mythical individual? And where can I find this man who never decides he needs to purchase a new six thousand dollar bike and hasn’t once gone out to buy milk only to bring home a fascinating but broken pachinko machine? You should count yourself lucky, Mr. Fontaine, for your bank account shall never suffer the deep wounds inflicted by a man who likes stuff. If your man wants nothing, give him nothing. He’ll be happier.”
And to that I reply:
Dear Readers, don’t you think I thought of that already? What you fail to grasp is that the Man Who Wants Nothing is also the Man Who Can’t Figure Out Why Anybody Else Might Want Stuff.
He is, in short, the world’s worst gift buyer. And if one should ever have the misfortune to be married to this man during any major gift-giving holiday one must quash all hope of ever feeling child-like delight on Christmas morning. For lo, those perfectly wrapped boxes contain not Swiss watches, not plane tickets, not high-tech lightweight space-age cycling jackets. Disappointment lurks beneath every ribbon as box after box contains items such as gift cards for accident insurance, notes explaining that one now owns a Roth IRA or, worst of all, a 300 page handbook dedicated entirely to pachinko machine repair and upkeep.
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Peter leaned back and re-read what he’d just written. No, he’d gone off-track again. Why, he wondered did mastery of the puff piece elude him so? His thousand words of filler about buying gifts for guys had almost immediately deteriorated into a personal pity-fest that left him ashamed of his own shallowness. Sure, he’d filed a claim on the accident insurance three months after Nick bought it. But still…accident insurance? Could there be any more perfect buzzkill?
Peter ran a hand through his own shaggy dark hair, attempting to massage his brain into a more jolly mindset.
Why did it matter so much? Why couldn’t he behave like a grown-up about Christmas? How could he still expect to experience the magic of what Santa brought him when he was well into his thirties?
And yet the prospect of pretending to like Nick’s awful gifts left him sad and mopey as a third-grader. And he couldn’t even bring himself to retaliate with dull, pragmatic gifts of his own. Every year for three years he’d wracked his brains to find unique and unexpected gifts that Nick ultimately didn’t care that much about.
“What I really need is socks,” Nick would say. And Peter would search the online shopping world-over for the most exquisite and perfect sock. And, at the end of the day, it would be not that much more interesting than any other sock—not to Nick anyway.
So now, on year three, he’d finally given up. This year he’d bought a gift certificate for Nick to have his car detailed and twelve pairs of identical, interchangeable socks.
Not exactly the stuff of Christmas miracles, but at least it was done.
He turned his attention back to his puff piece, wondering if soap-on-a-rope still existed and whether or not it could still be included on a list of good gifts for men, given the inevitable homophobic “don’t drop the soap” joke.
He decided to omit it and went on, grimly, into the year’s darkest days.
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Wintertime in Bellingham, Washington is not usually white and this year’s Christmas Eve proved no exception. Wan drizzle pelted the vast windows of the Castle at Wildcat Cove. Inside, the gas fireplace threw merry light over the shining silver of the Hadar tree sculpture that they’d made festive with the addition of hand blown glass baubles. Constructed of recycled bicycle frames, the tree had been Peter’s first contribution to their extensive art collection. Now surrounded by boxes the tree shimmered in the flickering light. The scent of cut fir emanated from a wreath propped on the mantelpiece.
Because they’d spend the following day hosting Nick’s cousin Kjell and his family, Nick suggested they open their presents early. Peter poured some expensive whiskey into a couple of mugs of cheap cocoa and steeled himself for the forthcoming revelation. Nick sat on the floor next to the fireplace. Hunky, blond and dressed in a rather tight red cashmere sweater, he almost passed for a Christmas wish brought to life—a sexy young Kris Kringle. And this was how Peter decided to view him.
In fact on closer inspection, Nick’s outfit seemed designed to be very Santa-esque. He wore a black jeans accented by a wide black belt with a square gold buckle and square-heeled black leather boots despite the fact that he was indoors.
Probably no one else would have noticed Nick’s subtle, yet plainly premeditated nod to his namesake saint. But Peter had never known Nick to abandon the comfort of his ratty old painting sweater for no good reason. Peter found the fact that he’d dressed up oddly touching. He did try, after all.
How many holidays had he spent as a singleton at this parent’s house in Texas, getting presents from no one but his mother? Perhaps the greatest gift that he could have received was having a man to spend this time with at all.
Warm feelings restored, he sat down next to his man.
As with the previous year they began with presents from their parents. Peter’s mother sent her usual assortment of small gifts and food items as well as sets of matching fleece pajamas—one for him and Nick each. Nick’s mother sent very thoughtfully assembled first aid kit, which Nick delved into immediately, with Christmas stocking-level delight.
“Aw, she even included rehydration salts,” he remarked, smiling fondly at the packet.
“Oh thank God for that!” Peter clamped a hand to his forehead melodramatically. “We’ll be well-prepared when the cholera comes.”
Then came boxes addressed to their cat, Gigi. He and Nick enjoyed a tremendous rivalry over whose gift la fille féline would enjoy more. Would it be Nick’s feathered fishing pole or Peter’s rabbit fur jingle mice? The persnickety feline chose neither, chosing first to savage a wad of wrapping paper then claiming the mailing box Peter’s mothers’ presents had arrived in as her own personal fort.
Then the fateful moment arrived.
Nick handed Peter what looked like a shirt box covered in expensive-looking silver art paper. “I hope you like it—I read your article.”
Alarm zinged through all relevant parts of Peter. He’d deleted the paragraphs of the article where he complained hadn’t he?
Nick’s rueful expression told him he hadn’t deleted enough.
“Don’t pay attention to that I was just being childish. Having Christmas with you is enough, baby.” Peter planted a kiss on Nick’s freshly shaven cheek. He smelled like cedar soap.
“Go ahead and open it.”
Heart filled with dreadful anticipation, Peter tore away the paper and opened up the box. Nestled within red and green tissue paper was a hat. A green felt hat with a gaudy red feather. It looked like something Robin Hood might wear. He glanced up quizzically at Nick.
Peter removed the next layer and found a very small green felt vest trimmed with fake fur. Beneath that lay a pair of green felt shoes with pointy toes. At the very bottom of the box was a pair of very expensive green boxer briefs. Peter gazed at the garments laid out around him in awe and wonder. Finally he said, “Is… is this a slutty elf costume?”
“You didn’t just read my article. You read my mind!” Peter grinned at the costume. Only one thing could have made the gift more perfect.
Then Nick reached beneath the tree and produced a Santa hat and a fake white beard. Peter thought he could feel his eyes lighting up with delight. Nick flushed slightly as Peter ogled him, but then he slipped on the beard and hat. The adoration in his expression transformed silly props into something wonderfully playful and sexy.
“So, is there an elf who’d like to help me with my package?” Nick managed to deliver the line without laughing, but it looked like a struggle.
Peter could not get his clothes off fast enough.
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About the Author :
Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mysteries. More information is at: www.nicolekimberling.com
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