I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Southern California was unseasonably warm for this late in December. With the Imperial Beach Pier’s lights dotting the nearby skyline, the ocean breathed salt into the building dusk. Mr. Mistletoe stood in the deepening shadows between houses on Ocean Ln. trying to avoid direct light. That wasn’t his real name. It was Darren Edding, Mr. Mistletoe is what they called him at that hell hole and he hated it. A car’s headlights swept away the darkness. As he ducked behind a bush, his mind flashed back to the first day after the incident.
A door opened and closed. A sharp light blinded his left eye and then his right.
“Welcome back, Mr. Edding. We administered a mild sedative, so things may feel groggy for awhile,” said Dr. Grey, “Do you know where you are?”
With a tongue that felt as heavy as a sea cow, he muttered, “Hospliblah?” A spider-silk line of drool descended from his lip to his shoulder.
“You’re at Cal State Mental Hospital. Do you remember why you’re here?” she said.
“Muh wifle,” he paused, “Sufn haffn wi ma wifle?”
“You came to us in quite a state. My apologies, I guess you’re not quite ready to talk. We’ll pick this up tomorrow. Good night, Mr. Edding.”
A door opened and closed.
Certain the headlight’s glare was gone, he stood once more. A gust of wind whipped his gown up and exposed his bare skin. He hadn’t had time to grab any clothing while escaping the hospital and making his way home. What a funny word, home. The structure beside him once carried that name, that feeling. Now it meant nothing since his wife, Cheryl, took it from him. The neighbor’s interior lights pierced the windowpane and sent him scrambling like a cockroach.
A door opened.
“Whatcha say, Mr. Mistletoe? Time for group.” said Kevin.
Donning his robe, he shuffled out ahead of the burly attendant. Darren hadn’t bothered tracking his time in the hospital. Passing through the halls into the common room, he spotted the staff making the area as festive as possible. The radio played indistinguishable holiday songs. The group session began and, as he listened, he recalled Cheryl’s betrayal. It clung to him like tree sap coating an unsuspecting insect. His anger welled and he erupted from his chair sending it skidding across the floor and knocking other furniture over. As attendants subdued and escorted him away, song lyrics pierced the din. “I’ll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me.”
“That was a mistake.” said Kevin as he thrust Darren in his room.
A door closed.
Lights filled his former home followed by laughter. As he peered inside, he heard familiar music playing.
“Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents by the tree
Christmas eve will find you
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams”
His gaze dropped to the sharpened branch gripped in his tight and trembling hand.
Inspired by Bing Crosby – I’ll Be Home For Christmas