Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 5

Stave 5: Christmas at Last!

It was a blanket, and I had it wrapped tight around me as I lay next to Wife. I could tell it was cold outside, baby; but thanks to the blanket, Wife’s love, and Kitty sleeping and purring by our feet, I had plenty of love to keep me warm.

I opened my eyes just a little to check on Kitty, who had lifted its head and started to look around. We both heard footsteps heading in our direction. They got louder as they got closer to our fortress of slumber. Kitty got up on all fours and leapt off the bed. Just in time as The Boy made his appearance. He had a smile on his face and air underneath his body before crashing down on the bed between us. I think Kitty still has PTSD.

Wife jolted awake. She was ready to kill him, but the boy gave her a big, tight hug and said, “Merry Christmas!” This festive greeting reminded us that we needed to be extra vigilant in controlling our homicidal urges in the spirit of the season.

“Merry Christmas,” I said as I rolled over to give The Boy a hug. He pushed me away and resumed hugging my wife. The Oppressed came into our room with a smile. Wife saw her.

“Merry Christmas,” Wife said to her.

“Merry Christmas,” she said back as she ran to our bed and hugged me.

“Merry Christmas, Daddy,” she said.

“Merry Christmas,” I replied. I asked The Boy if I could have a hug, reminding him it was Christmas. I saw the back of his head shake, indicating, “No,” and continued hugging his mother.

Lovie then entered our room. She had an even bigger smile than The Oppressed.

“Merry Christmas,” Wife said to her.

“Merry Christmas,” she said. “Can we open presents?”

“Can the adults have coffee, first?” I asked.

“How about we make coffee first?” I suggested “Then, we can open presents while it finishes, and we can drink coffee while you kids open presents?”

“How about we open presents and then you can make coffee?” Lovie suggested, ever the humanitarian.

Wife told her to wake her other brothers. I took this opportunity to go downstairs and let Doggie out of her crate. As Doggie raced to the door to answer the call of nature, I heard what sounded like a drug raid taking place upstairs. Lovie flew the door open to the boys’ room unannounced. I heard yelling from the room.

“Wake up! It’s time to open presents!”

“Oh my God, what time is it?”

“It’s time to open presents. Stop sleeping!”

“Shut up! I’m tired.”

“Sleep tomorrow!”

I was in the kitchen at this point making coffee. After a few minutes, I answered the scratching on the door, signifying that Doggie had finished what she needed to do outside. The love and spirit of Christmas continued down the stairs as Lovie led the charge into the living room to see the loot Santa Claus had left for everyone.

“I want to give my presents to everyone first,” Lovie announced to everyone. The rest of the children stumbled into the living room, including The Gaggle, who was staying with us for the week. Wife was the last to come downstairs, barely able to keep her eyes open. We hugged each other and wished each other a Merry Christmas. The pot of coffee had just finished brewing, and I poured her and myself a cup before entering the madness that was unfolding in the living room.

Lovie was arguing with Slugger, who, apparently, had taken her seat. Lovie wanted the seat closest to the tree so she could supervise the handing out of Christmas presents. Of course, presents from her had to be opened first, and if anyone else was handing out presents, there was a chance hers wouldn’t be opened first.

Slick made his appearance and took a seat on the couch. He didn’t care whose presents got opened first. All he cared about was someone rudely woke him from his slumber, and it was Christmas Vacation.

The Gaggle took a seat next to Slick. Lovie was able to muscle Slugger away from the tree and assumed her role of gift-giver. The Boy sat next to Wife and The Oppressed sat with me. Presents were exchanged and opened. It was a nice Christmas morning filled with secrets that had been protected for weeks. Packages that had been smuggled into the house and locked away from prying eyes were finally allowed to see the light of day. Children were excited to try their new presents. Wife and I thanked each other for our presents. I got some nice clothes and, after a shower, I was eager to put on my new clothes and continue the celebration of Christmas.

After a few hours at home, we rounded up the cohort, packed the car with more gifts, and drove to my in-laws. There we handed out presents to relatives and shared in the joy of the Holidays. Dinner was then served, another fantastic spread put out by my mother-in-law, who is always cooking incredible food, especially during holidays.

Dinner. Dessert. My diet went off the rails again and it was going to be back to carrots and protein shakes soon enough. But for today, I partook in the feasting and festivities.

We went home that night. Children resumed playing with new gadgets and toys. Occasionally, one child proudly approached us to show us a gadget and what they learned to do with it. It got later into the night, and one-by-one, children started to go to bed. It was Christmas, but I still had my Daddy Duties. I read to The Boy and hung out with The Oppressed, who briefed me on the joy she felt on this most wonderful time of the year. She fell asleep, and I left her room. I made my way through the rooms of the house, shutting off lights as I made my way into the living room to turn off the Christmas tree. I surveyed the mass of Christmas goods strewn about the floor. More things around to test my agility as I try to negotiate my way from one room to another.

I made my way to the Christmas tree. Something caught my eye before I made it. It was a bottle of beer, much like one of the bottles I saw when The Ghost of Daddy Present haun- I mean – visited me. It had a nice red ribbon tied to it and a tag tied around the neck of the bottle. The tag read “The Christmas Spirit” and I smiled. I wasn’t going to drink it tonight. It was late and Daddy needs his beauty sleep. I would put it in the refrigerator and chill it proper for the following evening. After all, we should all keep the Christmas spirit year-round, right?

It’s time to open presents. Stop sleeping!

Lovie

A car slowly made its way past my house. It looked like Mr. Farley’s car. A horn sounded as it drove by. I smiled and waved just before the car disappeared from my sight. The Christmas tree went dark as the car disappeared.

I went upstairs, turning lights off as I made my way to my room. Wife was already fast asleep, as were the rest of my children. I head Doggie snoring in her crate. Kitty was curled up at the foot of my bed. It was just Wife in our bed until I climbed in to join her. I wondered how long this would last before another child decided to join us. It didn’t matter. I was tired and I was going to fall asleep fast. I would know someone else was in the bed when I wake up and try to look over at Wife.

And just like that, another Christmas came to an end. Mr. Farley didn’t visit me again, which I thought was rude. None of the spirits visited me again, but between the love my family has for each other, there’s plenty of the Christmas spirit to go around. And between all of my children, there’s enough haunting without ghosts.

Oh, well. That’s the life of a parent. You understand, I’m sure. Thanks for reading this irrefutably true story of the Christmas I shared with ghosts and spirits. I hope this story found you well and kept you company as you made your way through your own madness of preparing for Christmas at your home.

Oh, yeah… And God Bless Us, Everyone!

Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 4

(With apologies to Charles Dickens)

Stave Four: The Ghost of Daddy Future

I looked and saw a figure about my height, a little taller. He was dressed elegantly in a three-piece suit that looked like it came out of a steampunk store. I liked it.

I looked down at myself, I was anxious to see if I was wearing the same clothes I had on when I was with the last spirit. To my surprise, I had on nice clothes: slacks, a nice shirt and a sweater. At least now I didn’t feel out of place… Not that anyone could see me.

“Let me guess,” I said. “The ghost of Christmas future.”

The ghost nodded with a smile. “Right you are,” it said. “Are you ready?”

“I guess so,” I shrugged.

“Well then,” he said. “Have a seat.”

I took a seat in the room I found myself in. I looked around. I had never seen this room before. I noticed it was decorated nice for Christmas. There was a tree, decorations throughout the room and, from what I could see, in the next room. There were some voices coming from the kitchen. I saw someone come into the living room, a man. Something about him seemed familiar. An older man followed him into the room. I could tell it was me! I still had some hair and I had finally lost some weight.

“So, how’ve you been, Dad?” the first person asked.

I couldn’t believe it. It was The Boy. He was grown up and he had finally gotten out of the house. It really was Christmas.

“I’ve been well,” my shadow said to him. Both were talking for a minute when two kids came into the room and began to climb on The Boy. It didn’t take much for me to figure out these were his children.

“Ow!” The Boy said. “What the… Will you get off me?”

I smiled. The Boy was finally getting a taste of his own medicine. It took a couple of decades, but he was figuring out what it was like to try talking to someone and be pestered by children. As my uncle told me when kids were hanging on me when trying to talk to someone: The torch has been passed.

The Boy continued to rid himself of the monkey-child while talking to his father. I was enjoying the interference he was getting while trying to do something. “Oh my God!” The Boy said, “Will you go bother your mother, please.”

While all of this was going on, a woman came into the room. She was dressed nice for the occasion. I could tell it was The Oppressed.

“What are you doing to your father?” she asked the child. The child didn’t answer. He just laughed while he continued to throw himself at my son.

A man, the husband of The Oppressed followed his wife into the room. A girl also came into the room and approached The Oppressed. She informed her mother she wanted to watch something.

“You watched something on the way to your uncle’s,” The Oppressed informed her daughter. How about you spend some time playing with your cousins?”

I think that was one of the worst things the child could have heard, and she lost her mind. She was furious and threw herself on the couch and began to cry.

“I just want to watch something, Mom!” she protested. “Why can’t I?”

The Oppressed rolled her eyes and muttered, “Oh my God!” I was enjoying this, and I could tell my shadow was enjoying it as well. I thought back to many times when I thought I could do something, and my children wouldn’t have it.

The Boy looked at my shadow and asked, “Dad, what’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” my shadow said as it sipped on some Christmas cheer. “Absolutely nothing.”

The Oppressed left the room, followed by her daughter who was continuing to clamor for a screen. Just then, Lovie entered with a carrying case in her hand. She met everyone with the greetings of the season. After extending the warmest of wishes to everyone, she set the case down on a table and removed her coat. An impatient meowing could be heard from the case.

“Alright,” she said. “Alright, let me get my jacket off.” She took off her jacket and hung it up. She then opened the case and removed her cat and held it close to her, praising her for being such a good kitty during the ride. She looked around the room and greeted everyone individually with a smile and a, “Hello.” After greeting everyone, she took a seat and continued to hold her cat. People asked where her dog was. She told them the dog was home alone and she would be back in time to be able to feed and walk it.

While The Boy was trying to talk to Lovie about how things had been, his son kept jumping on him, not giving a minute’s peace to hear the answer to her question. I was enjoying this and asked the spirit if it had any beers with it.

“Beers?” the spirit asked. “Why would I have beers? I’m a Christmas spirit.”

I was going to mention the previous spirit, and the many generous gifts that adorned my house compliments of that spirit, but I didn’t. There was too much going on in front of me, I didn’t want to take my eyes off of the action going on at The Boy’s house.

The daughter of The Oppressed continued to protest her cruel life without a screen. In the middle of the lamentations, Slick and Slugger made their appearance. They drove together in Slick’s car. Everyone said hello to the boys, even the younger children who were pestering their parents much to my delight. The Boy was about to say something to me, but his son continued to assault him. The Boy saw me laugh.

“It’s not funny, Dad.”

“Yes, it is,” I corrected him.

“How is it funny?” he asked me. “He doesn’t do this until I need to talk to someone.”

“You don’t say,” I said, pretending to be surprised. “You mean things are quiet, and then you want to say something and then, suddenly, he needs to run his mouth over you?”

He opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but nothing came out of his mouth. He looked like he was about to think of something, but his son crashed into him again, much to the delight of me and my shadow.

“Tell you what,” The Oppressed said to her daughter. “Let’s play with the present you got for Christmas. You brought it with you so you could show everyone and play with it.”

She didn’t want to. She wanted to play with a screen that The Oppressed had brought with her.

“This is why I don’t have kids,” Lovie said with a smile. “I just have my kitty, and she loves me!”

“Your cat’s stupid,” Slugger said.

“Shut up!” Lovie said. “I’ll teach you some manners in front of our nieces and nephews.”

Slick didn’t say anything. He just sat down and talked to my spirit about his job and how life was treating him. The Boy’s son proceeded to run across the room and just missed the wall as he left.

“Crash!” The Boy yelled. “Will you take it easy indoors?”

I saw Wife enter the room with The Boy’s wife. She took a seat next to my shadow. The Boy moved over to make room for his wife to sit down. As soon as she did, their son got between the both of them and pushed his father away. The child wanted time with his mother.

“Sweet justice,” I said.

The Oppressed and her husband announced to the guests that it was time for dinner. Hostess, host and guests made their way into the dining room. There was a large table beautifully decorated and set, with food from one end to the other. There was a beef roast, mashed potatoes, three different vegetables. Bottles of wine were placed here and there on the table. Some of the men were having a beer before dinner and brought their beers to the table instead of having wine. The kids were drinking Coca-Cola. Everyone sat down to dinner. Adults helped children make their plates. The Boy helped his son make a plate. His son took one bite of the food and started to run around the house.

“Oh my God,” The Boy said. “Will you sit for five minutes and eat?”

I was enjoying this. I could tell my shadow was enjoying it too. Wife reminded him that he did the same thing when he was his son’s age.

“Stop!” my son said. “You’re going to get hurt.”

“Our time grows short,” the spirit said. “We must leave soon.”

I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to see what else my grandchildren were going to do. I wanted to see what my children were going to do. I wanted to see what else people were going to say. I wanted to see what would be served for dessert. Would there be presents? There was so much I wanted to see, but I couldn’t see. I felt a yawn coming. I closed my eyes when I had to yawn. I was tired and I felt a blanket on me before I could open my eyes.

Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 3

(With apologies to Charles Dickens)

Stave 3: The Ghost of Daddy Present

I was back in my bed as if nothing had happened. I looked at my clock. It was 1:55. I had five precious minutes to rest before the next ghost came to visit me. Farley certainly didn’t care much if I got any rest on the night before the most wonderful time of the year. I put my head back down and thought of everything I saw and witnessed with the first ghost. These beings certainly had a lot of energy. I wondered why they were haunting me instead of my kids. The kids had more energy than me or anyone else in the house. Why should the ghosts haunt me?

As I was thinking about this, I noticed a bright light flashing from downstairs. The light made its way up the stairs, in the hall and under my door into the room. I looked at my clock just as my phone made the sound of the bell signifying 2:00. Maybe if I stay here the ghost will come upstairs and find me. That would give me a couple more minutes before I’m forced on to the next display of shadows I need to see.

A voice from downstairs boomed, “Gregory!”

Again with the “Gregory”. What is it with these people, or ghosts, or whatever it is Farley sent to me?

“Gregory!” the voice called again.

“What?!” I yelled back, remembering that no one can hear anything as long as the ghosts are around. It’s like asking my kids to do something. Say it as loud as you want, they’ll never hear you.

“Come on downstairs, and bring your robe. Polite company tonight!”

Wonderful, we’re leaving the house again. I got out of bed and put on my robe. I went to the stairs and it looked like all of the lights downstairs were on. Again, it’s like my kids are around.

The only thing was, none of the lights in the rooms downstairs were actually on. I followed the stairs to the living room. Whatever the light was that lit the whole house, it seemed to be coming from the tree. These ghosts sure liked messing with the Christmas Tree.

I looked out at the room and saw kegs and bottles of beer. everywhere. There were small kegs and large kegs. There were bottles of all sizes. I didn’t know where they came from. I didn’t care where they came from. Over the kegs and bottles were chilled glasses resting on shelves. I adjusted the belt of my robe and marveled at the sight before me. It was like Christmas. Wait… I reminded myself it actually was Christmas!

I briefly took my eyes off the hoppy glory and goodness to notice who the voice was coming from. He was sitting in a chair, dressed in jeans and a hoodie. He had his feet up. No shoes, just socks. I wondered where this polite company was coming from if he was just in jeans and a hoodie with no shoes. He was sipping from a glass. Judging by the looks of the glass and what was in it, he was drinking a dark beer, maybe a stout.

“Have a beer,” he said. “And hurry up. We need to go soon.”

I walked up to a shelf and grabbed a glass. I poured myself an ale. “Where are we going?” I asked as I poured.

“You’ll find out,” he said to me. These ghosts just love to keep me in suspense. Oh well. At least there’s a glass of something nice to keep me busy while I’m finding out.

We drained our glasses and he got up from his chair. “Let’s go,” he said. I put my glass down and went with him to the door. He opened the door and said, “After you.” I walked through the door and, instead of stepping outside, I immediately found myself at my in-law’s house where my family goes every year for Christmas.

I looked around. Everything was the way it is when we visit. The table was set. I could smell dinner cooking in the kitchen. I looked over at the ghost. It was dressed up for dinner. New pants, nice shirt, nice shoes. I looked down at what I was wearing. I was still wearing the same robe I put on when I got out of bed.

“Hey!” I said to the ghost. “Where are my nice duds?”

The ghost just shrugged. What was this about? Ghosts can wake me up. They can decorate my house as they see fit. They can transport me to different houses without me leaving my own house. Is it too much to ask for me to wear something nice even if people can’t see me? I mean, it’s important enough the ghost gets to change its clothes.

Spirit and I found our way to the living room where the family was seated. We were talking away about the year we had and what the kids got from Santa Claus Christmas. I could see everyone seated in the room, including me. I was on the couch with Wife.

Suddenly, The Boy came into the living room. He jumped on the couch, landing, between me and Wife. I tried to move The Boy so I could be next to my wife, but he wasn’t having any of that.

The ghost looked at me and asked, “Does this always happen?”

“Just wait,” I said. “We just got here.”

I saw myself trying to say something to Wife. I was glad that at least my shadow had nice clothes. Every time I was talking to Wife, The Boy just had to say something. My mother-in-law announced dinner was ready and we all went to the dining room for dinner. We made our way to the room and found our seats at the table. I tried to take a seat next to Wife, but The Boy pushed me away and informed me that was his seat. I went to the other side of her, but I found Lovie already seated there. She looked at me with a smile. I needed to remind myself that it was Christmas.

The ghost shook his head. “Wow,” he said. “Do you ever get to see your wife?”

I told him that if I was lucky, we’ll get a night or two without children infiltrating our bedroom.

We all sat down to dinner. My mother-in-law is a great cook. We passed this, took that, and took, poured, and scooped food and gravy on our plate. The Boy insisted on a lot of this and a lot of that. The ghost noticed what The Boy was taking himself and what he wanted other people to put on his plate for him.

“Is he going to eat all of that?” The ghost asked me.

“Dear God, no,” I said to it.

We made our plates and began eating. The Boy got bored not long after we sat down to eat and started to walk around the room, and then the house. The ghost looked at me. I just shrugged.

I tried to say something to my wife, but every time I tried just happened to be the same time one of my children needed to say something. Even The Boy went back to the table to “say something” to my wife if he thought I looked like I was about to say something.

Dinner finished. Everyone helped to clear the table and bring things to the kitchen. After things were cleared, we retired back to the living room where we rested on chairs and couches with full hearts and stomachs. I thought this was my chance to sit with my wife, but The Boy and Lovie already settled in on either side of her. I found another place to sit that wasn’t as close to Wife as I would have liked. I asked The Boy for a hug. He said, “No.” I asked Lovie for a hug. She just looked away from me and snuggled in closer with my wife. Slick and Slugger were on their phones. The Oppressed was playing with one of her new toys.

I looked at the ghost to make my point, but it was gone. I looked around. No ghost. No house, even. I looked and saw a house I had never seen before. It was decorated for Christmas, alright. There was food cooking. I could smell it.

“Hi there,” a voice behind me said. “Merry Christmas!”

Next: The Ghost of Daddy Future

Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 2

(With apologies to Dickens)

Stave 2: The Ghost of Daddy’s Past

I woke up in the middle of the night. I looked at my clock. It was 12:59. It was dark and quiet. Wife was sleeping. I couldn’t tell if any supernatural beings were in the house. That was fine with me. Maybe the whole thing with Farley was just a dream. Maybe nobody or nothing was going to come visit me after all. I didn’t hear anyone coming up the stairs. I didn’t hear doors opening or closing. It was a nice, quiet night with Wife and no children.

Then, despite my eyes being closed, I could tell the lamp on my nightstand was turned on, although it wasn’t as bright as it normally was. I opened an eye and looked in the direction of the bright and gleaming interruption to my slumber.

I rolled over and saw a being no taller than The Oppressed. It was dressed in a heavy winter coat. Its cheeks were ruddy, as if it had recently been outside for a walk. Gloves were tucked into a pocket. It just stood there, looking at me like it was one of my children.

This one had woken me up so, like an idiot, I was waiting for it to at least introduce itself or maybe tell me why it had decided to come and disturb me in the middle of the night. Finally, realizing it wasn’t going to volunteer anything to me, I asked, “Who are you?”

“I am the ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long past?”

“No,” the ghost said. “Your past.”

“Well,” I said, “Things happened and I can’t do much about that now. After all, it’s in the past. I wish I didn’t take the ‘Over’ last week, but I did. That’s in the past now,” I said again as I laid down and pulled the blankets over me.

“Besides,” I continued, “I think Farley gave you the wrong house. I mean, I’m not saying I never met the man. I did, but I don’t think he meant to send you to me.”

I noticed the covers being removed I looked up and saw the spirit standing by an open window. I was trying to figure out if it opened the window from my bed or removed my blankets from the window. Either way, how was it able to do two things at once. I should introduce it to my children. Anyways, at this point I realized I wasn’t going to convince the prying poltergeist to leave me alone, and I was awake anyway. I got out of bed and put my robe on. I wanted a jacket but the ghost said I didn’t need one. I loved how the beings with the coats and jackets were telling me I didn’t need to wear anything to keep me warm. I was also trying to figure out why the lamp was dimmer than usual. The spirit could tell I was puzzled by the dim light by my bed.

“I turned it on but dimmed it for you,” it explained. “I know you’re always talking to the children about leaving rooms without turning off the lights and how high the electric bill is, so I dimmed the lights so you wouldn’t complain about the electricity.”

The ghost was right, but how did it know I was saying this. Who else was spying on me in my home?

“By the way,” the spirit said, “You kind of sound like your father.”

“Shut it,” I said.

The ghost floated out of the window. I was jealous. If I had to endure supernaturals and lose sleep, I should at least be able to do something different, like float or fly. I walked to the window like a mortal and looked down at the ground from the second floor. I looked at the spirit, who waved me over. I rolled my eyes, hoping gravity wouldn’t kick in. I stuck one leg out of the window and looked at Wife before bringing up the other leg.

If I had to endure supernaturals and lose sleep, I should at least be able to to something different, like float or fly.

I brought up my other leg and turned to face the window which had disappeared. I wasn’t sitting on the window sill in my bedroom in my house. I was standing in the living room of the apartment Wife and I had lived in. I looked around. Everything was decorated for Christmas. I looked at me sitting next to my wife – girlfriend.

“What’s this?” I asked?

“It’s Christmas Eve,” the ghost said to me.

It was late at night. I saw the shadows of me and Wife exchanging presents. It was late and we had decided to open our presents that night because it was going to be a busy Christmas Day for us. We’d be running around from our apartment to my family’s house to her family’s house; possibly visiting some other houses en route. Some things never changed for us.

I saw my shadow go to the kitchen and come back with two bottles. My shadow gave one to his girlfriend. They clinked their bottles wished each other a Merry Christmas.

Lights in the apartment turned off by themselves. Soon, only the tree was lit. I looked around as I noticed the lights turning off and I saw it was daylight. I looked back and saw the shadows emerge from the bedroom and make coffee. I saw my shadow enjoy a happy, pre-children tradition where I put a little something delicious in my coffee. Wherever we were going first that day, my girlfriend drove. I took advantage of this with said tradition.

“Not bad,” I said. “It’s nice and quiet.”

“Just the two of you… For now,” The spirit said.

“Yeah,” I replied. “The kids are coming soon enough.”

“That’s not what I mean,” the spirit said. I was confused. I turned to ask what the spirit meant, but before I could ask, I noticed the surroundings had changed again. This time, we were at my in-laws’ house. We were seated at the dinner table and about to eat. It was quiet; just adults sitting at the table eating their meals and having quiet conversations. No kids running around the table. No yelling. I was sitting next to my wife. I was talking to my wife. It was incredible. I didn’t remember the last time We were able to do that.

“This is nice,” I said.

“One more Christmas,” the spirit said, “and then we must part.”

“Wait,” I said. But before I could finish, the room changed. We were still in my in-laws’ house, but there was something different. We had a baby with us. This was when I realized it was the first Christmas Wife and I had with The Oppressed.

“Our first Christmas as a family of three,” I said.

“Your first Christmas Eve as a family of three,” the ghost reminded me.

“Christmas E -,” I started to say, and then I remembered something. “Wait a minute. What time is it?” I asked the ghost.

The ghost looked around the room. “I don’t see any clocks.”

“You don’t have a watch?” I asked.

The ghost shrugged. “I’m a ghost,” they said to me. I don’t really need to be anywhere. Besides, if I do need to be somewhere or with somebody, I’m summoned.”

“Well, summon a clock,” I said. “I need to know what time it is.” I looked at me and Wife. “Hey!” I screamed. “Check the time and start packing up!”

The spirit touched my arm and said, “Don’t bother. These are but shadows.”

I rolled my eyes. That wasn’t helping at all. I started knocking on the wall, hoping to get the attention of me and Wife. Wife’s mother thought she heard something. She went to the door and came back after a moment.

“I think there’s a fire on our street,” she said.

A fire? Wife’s mother opened the door when she thought she heard someone knocking. She saw and smelled smoke when she opened the door. I saw my shadow look at Wife. Wife looked at my shadow. Before anyone could say anything, a fire engine turned onto the street and parked right in the middle of the street in front of the house. That was it. No one was leaving the house for a while.

“I could have used some help,” I said.

The spirit shrugged and said, “They can’t hear us. These are-“

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said. “These are but shadows.”

The shadows of Wife and me stayed over my in-laws that night, just as we did with The Oppressed on that first Christmas Eve many years ago. Later that night, my shadow went to bed. I laid down on the couch. I looked over and I was in bed with my Wife, just as I was when the spirit had come into my room.