Spoilers: "Pulp Turkey."
"Can you smell it, Doc?"
"Smell what, Mr. Wiseman?"
"Can't you smell Christmas in the air?"
"Christmas is just a day. It doesn't have any special 'smell' attached to it."
"Sure it does. The smell of a cracklin' fire. Freshly baked Christmas cookies. Pumpkin pies. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire-"
Too late, Dr. Theodore Morris saw where this was going. "Don't you dare even thin -"
"Jack Frost nipping at your nose-"
"Yuletide carols being sung by a choir. And folks dressed up like Eskimos." Michael Wiseman could feel the intense stare, even though he couldn't actually see Dr. Theo's face. Smiling, he asked, "What? You're the only one that's allowed to sing around here?"
"Will we be treated to more caroling?"
"Until December's over. Or I get tired. And with this new body you gave me, I don't tire easily."
"It's 5:30. I want 300 leg curls and then we'll call it day." Michael could have sworn he heard the Dr. Theo mutter "Mercifully" under his breath.
"Careful Doc. You wouldn't want to be mistaken for Scrooge and end up with a lump of coal in your stocking, would you?"
Michael finished his routine for the day at 6:00 p.m. After the Doctor had left, Michael showered and ate a quiet, solitary dinner. He loudly sang Christmas carols because he knew "they" were listening. It amused him to irritate whomever "they" were.
Plus, he'd always liked Christmas. It was his favorite time of the year. To occupy the stretch between 6:00 p.m. and "lights out" at 11:00 p.m., Michael thought back to all the other Christmases of his past.
He could remember Heather's first real Christmas. She had been delighted with the wrapping and the ribbons more so than the dolls and such. Michael laughed comparing Heather's first Christmas to the last one he'd shared with his family. Heather hadn't liked anything. Being a typical teenager, all of the presents under the tree had been too childish, too boring, too nerdy, too.. whatever.
How long had that been? Not last year, he knew, although he had no memory of that time. It would have been almost 2 years. Time had certainly flown Michael thought wistfully. I wonder what Lisa and Heather are planning to do this year? For Thanksgiving, they had decided to go ahead and celebrate it the way the Wisemans had always. Lisee had even made for spicy pecans.
They would probably celebrate Christmas the same way too. Which led Michael to wonder what would become of him this December 25th. Would he go to Dr. Theo's house, as originally planned for Thanksgiving? Would he spend the holiday alone in this prison he'd come to see as "home?"
To ward off these thoughts, Michael continued remembering Christmas pasts. He liked remembering. It helped keep Lisa and Heather's faces clear in his mind. The other day, when he was working out, he tried to remember something Lisa used to do and he couldn't picture her face.
For a split second, he couldn't remember what his wife looked like. And he had almost panicked.
The Doctor had noticed something was off about Michael, but Michael shrugged it off. Not very well, though. Dr. Theo knew something was wrong with him. Michael knew there was something wrong with him.
It was the holidays, he supposed. They were a time to be with family. To partake in traditions. To drink eggnog. And all those other things Michael had said to Dr. Theo earlier that day. Like stringing up Christmas lights around the house.
Michael paused. He had done that every year. Who would do it this year? Michael sat up a little in bed. Who would do it this year? he thought. Maybe Roger. Yeah, probably Roger. Michael, feeling a little better, lay back down.
But, of course, Roger couldn't do it every year. Maybe Heather would start doing it from now on. She was growing up fast. Soon, she'll graduate from high school. This made Michael pause again. Heather will be graduating soon. Michael had already picked out Heather's gift. He would more than likely not even be there for that important moment in his little girl's life, let alone buy her that beautiful watch he's seen at Tifany's.
This thought led Michael to another. After high school, Heather would start college. Michael had been looking forward to helping Heather get ready for college. Michael felt his relationship with Heather had been strained in the last few years. He chalked that up to "adolescence." He'd figured that once Heather left home for college, they would once again be close. Now he may never share that closeness with his daughter again.
Then, a bigger thought made Michael sit up again. What about when Heather meets a boy. A man, probably, he corrected. And got engaged to this man. And married him. Who would give Heather away?
And, when Heather goes away to college and eventually marries, Lisa would be all alone. In that big house Michael fought to save. He hated the thought of Lisie being all alone. She won't be all alone for long, he thought. She probably has men lined up at her door already. Soon, she might even forget him. Not forget, he amended. Just move on. With her life. Just as the Doc wants her to. Just like he wants me to.
And the thoughts began crowding his mind, faster and faster. All the things he'd been missing. All the things he'll miss. The thoughts picked up momentum, until Michael couldn't stand it any longer. Tomorrow was Christmas. He should be home!
That was all he could think. He should be home!
Without even realizing he was doing it, Michael got up. He picked up a chair and threw it through the glass panel in his bedroom. The sound of shattering glass filled the room.
Within five minutes, two men, with guns came rushing in. Michael was waiting for them. He knocked them both out instantly, a little harder than he'd intended. Sometimes, he forgot his own strength. After checking to make sure they were both going to be fine, and wincing a little at the bumps on their heads, Michael ran out the door.
It took him 35 minutes to run to his house. The lights were all out. After a quick inspection, Michael realized no one was home.
A wasted opportunity! Next time it would be harder to break out.
Dejected, Michael began to make his journey back, when he suddenly realized - it was Christmas Eve. And he knew exactly where they would be.
Walking the blocks quickly, Michael came to a building, with lights on. He walked up the stairs and quietly entered the room. And all the fears and doubts that had been crowding his mind suddenly stilled.
There, four pews from the front, were two heads, close together. One silent and still. The other fidgeting and glancing at her watch from time to time. Lisa and Heather Wiseman.
The minister asked everyone to think about what they were all thankful for this year. Michael kept his eyes on the back of Lisa's and Heather's heads. He knew what he was thankful for. He was looking at them.
Taking a few more precious minutes to secret away, he then walked quietly out of the church before anyone could notice him.
Michael decided not to worry about graduations, college, weddings and men lining up. It would all work out. He was sure of it. He didn't know the how's or the why's or the where's. But that didn't matter.
It was Christmas. And he had gotten the only thing he wanted this year. Next year would resolve itself.
And, just as he knew it would be, a long, back limo was waiting for him in front of the church. Taking one last look around, Michael climbed inside.
He was greeted by, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Wiseman," as the limo pulled away.
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