Caroline Giammanco: Hank’s First Christmas

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Hank’s First Christmas

By Caroline Giammanco 

Hank Smedley hated Christmas. Well, not the holiday itself, but certainly all the “honey-dos” he was forced to tangle with during the hectic days around it. His wife, Merry (and oh, how she thought it was hilarious to tell everyone she wished them a “Merry” Christmas), had never-ending lists of work for him to do. All Hank wanted to do was relax.

His job at the factory wasn’t bad. Monotonous? Yes. Bad? Well, not really. He had spent the past fifteen years with a screwdriver in his hand, securing Part A to Part B on the assembly line. Maybe that was why he resented the “Assembly Required” warnings on each box he opened that quiet, snowy evening. 

How would she like it if I made her be a secretary here at home? Huh? I’ve never told her that she needs to take dictation or file paperwork when she’s on vacation. Why can’t she ever give me a break?

The clock tick-tocked on the wall, and sweat formed on Hank’s forehead. He sat in silence, staring at the screwdriver in his hand. It fit perfectly. Tonight that had been useful. The red on the handle reminded him that he still had much to do before the morning arrived. There would be people coming to the house over the next few days. The red just wouldn’t do.

Why does she insist on buying toys that have to be assembled? Why couldn’t she let me enjoy the holiday?

With each turn of the screwdriver, his frustration mounted. Years of resentment and anger caused him to lean in with every rotation.

Hank shrugged. He knew he shouldn’t complain. Not really. Tonight was like all the Christmas Eves he’d spent since their oldest, Libby, had been born eight years before, but he was certain this wouldn’t happen again. His time had come to enjoy Christmas too. 

His thoughts drifted to the year Libby opened her little, pink, motorized convertible. 

I swear I thought this screwdriver was going to give me blisters that night.

Hank had to smile, however, at the vision of his Libby giggling with joy. 

The smile left his face when he remembered Merry’s harping the year he didn’t tighten the training wheels on Lib’s bicycle. Five stitches at the emergency room on Christmas morning hadn’t been how she wanted to spend the day. As if it was all about her? No thanks for the hours he’d spent putting it all together. No concern about Libby’s forehead that had whacked the pavement on the driveway as the bicycle tipped over. 

Damn it, Merry. Why did everything always have to be about you?

The clock chimed 12:30.

Hank knew if he’d gotten started on the toys sooner, he wouldn’t be in the rush he was now. If it hadn’t been for Merry nagging about one thing and another, he’d have gotten these toys assembled hours ago.

But there was the issue of Merry.

Turning the television set on with the volume low, he searched for the Weather Channel. 

“Accumulations are expected to be in the eight-to-twelve-inch range this evening with a coating of ice to be added in the early morning hours of Christmas Day. Stay tuned for updated forecasts for your area.”

Eight inches should be enough. Hell, twelve inches will be even better. 

Hank returned his thoughts to the diagram laid out before him. One side of the directions was in Chinese. The other in English. None of the diagrams made sense to him. The only thing that kept Hank going was knowing how excited Libby and Joey would be in the morning. 

Once I’m done with this, I’ll finish cleaning up the mess.

After an hour of assembling and reassembling the pieces, he completed the last toy of the evening. His knees ached as he stood. A good stretch and a yawn helped clear his head. 

The smell of bleach still permeated the room, and he knew that had to go. He quietly slipped into the kitchen pantry where Merry stored the Scentsy wax. “Apples and Cinnamon” sounded delicious. Opening the door to the garage and turning on ceiling fans, Hank hoped to remove the antiseptic smell while he went from wax warmer to wax warmer depositing double doses of scented magic into each one.

Breathing deeply, Hank quietly said, “Ah, that’s much better.”

He washed the screwdriver carefully—meticulously—and placed it in the dishwasher for good measure. 

“That should take care of that.”

He stepped into the garage to take inventory. The set of clothes he’d worn earlier in the day was secured in the large black trash bag. Yes, he had both gloves in there as well, and he had properly disposed of his boots by double-wrapping them before putting them in the bag. Slipping into his vehicle, he left the lights off as he drove out of the subdivision, turned onto Highway 205, and went to his favorite getaway spot. He was glad he had thought to put the camper shell on the back. He hated nosey neighbors.

Within forty-five minutes, he was back home. The snow was really falling now. Looking out the kitchen window, the tire tracks into his driveway were almost erased already. 

At around four o’clock, well before his children would awake to see what Santa had brought them, Hank, sleepy and spent, stumbled into his bedroom where he saw the king-sized bed Merry had insisted he put together five years ago. She’d said the mattress would help her back. Hank crawled under the covers, stretching out fully in this bed that he now had all to himself.

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