Christmas, 1995. Presents had been opened. Dinner had been consumed. My sisters were squabbling over the last few holiday cookies. Mom was pretending to both appreciate and be surprised by the shitty macaroni sculptures we had made her, with her help, for the sixth year in a row. I lay under the dining room table in a diabetic torpor, my Power Ranger pajama top failing to fully contain my pie-swollen belly.
My dad, in an inexplicable fit of motivation roused himself from his nap on the couch, finished his beer and then, fortified by Busch heavy, began shoveling the mangled and shredded remnants of our gift wrappings into the fireplace. Modern wrapping paper is more plastic than paper, and ours was no exception. Before long, thick, viscous smoke began swirling through the living room and yet dad, with almost maniacal enthusiasm, continued feeding every tinsely bit he could get his hands on into the flames.
I’ll be blunt. It smelled like Satan’s greasy asshole, and from a ten year old’s point of view, it was definitely the end of the world.
Terrified, my sisters and I ran to the other end of the house and barricaded ourselves in my bedroom. My mother, in her infinite goodness, came to console her young and foolish children and tell us that the evil stanky smoke would be gone before we knew it.
Just when we were beginning to calm down, and entertain the idea of life beyond the stinky bad time, my dad came stumbling down the hallway from ground zero to my room, his hands around his throat, wheezing like he couldn’t breathe. After breaking my door open with his trembling body he fell to the floor, had an impressive seizure, and died.
To say that a ten year old witnessing his dad die in a particularly gruesome fashion on Christmas is traumatic is a understatement. I lost my fucking mind.
After twenty solid minutes of screaming, crying, and saying goodbye to my innocence, I realized that the rest of my family was dealing with their grief differently than I. They were all laughing at me. Including my very healthy and alive looking dad. Who had never died at all.
Instead, he had tricked me. Because tricking a young child into believing you are dead, and that the child was maybe the indirect cause of that death by asking for so many garishly wrapped presents, is wholely appropriate.
I learned two things that day.
1) My dad is a dick.
2) I can’t wait to ruin my children’s lives with tasteless pranks.
Also, I wrap all my presents in newspaper now.
I can take small consolation in the fact that Karma is a magnificent bitch however. The stench from the burning plastics refused to clear from the house that night, and we all ended up spending an uncomfortable evening sharing a room in a very expensive hotel. I don’t think dad was laughing so hard when he had to pay the bill in the morning.
Happy Father’s day, you fuck.