Día de los Muertos

“I don’t want to be a part of this family any more,” I said, and I saw the look of anguish, of anger, of frustration, of disappointment on my Father’s face. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself, you never have, and the only reason you want me around is to control me.”

And with that I walked out the door and slammed it, and moved to Mexico. That was in 1987.

I told myself I’d never feel bad, never regret it, and I never did. When Dad fell sick in the 90’s, somehow Catherine found my mailing address, I don’t know how, and told me to come as soon as I could. I put the letter in a drawer and forgot about it.

The funeral invite came two months later. I threw it in the trash with a banana peel.

It’s November 2nd now, a big day here in Mexico, Día de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead. I’m out in the market and I see people everywhere, their faces painted like grotesque skulls, all black and white.

In the distance near a stall with bananas I see a figure that is strangely familiar, something about the shape of it, the way it moves, the slow deliberateness.

I watch in horror as it makes it way toward me, and the thing locks it sightlessness face onto mine and does not stray. There is no make-up, no pretend, there is only the bone white of skull and dark empty pits. I see the shirt of the thing is open and there are white ribs poking through rotting flesh and insects wriggling out of burrowed holes.

My feet are frozen in place and I cannot run. The sun beats down on my head, and the spectre makes its way toward me. I see its bleached jawbone waggle and I hear the word only in my mind: Son.

For the first time, I feel bad. But it is too late. Now there is nothing I can do.

Christmas Eve Gift

“I’m too excited!” I said. “There’s one I want you to open now.”

“But it’s only Christmas Eve!” she said, finishing the last of her hot chocolate. “Surely it can wait until the morning.”

“Oh come on! Just this one,” I said, scrambling over to the pile of presents beneath the tree. I found the one I was excited about – the big, square one I’d wrapped in red foil. I brought it over and set it down on her lap.

“Ooof! It’s heavy!” she said. She shook the box back and forth and the contents thudded around inside.

“Go on, open it! Open it!” I said.

She smiled widely and with excitement began tearing off the festive paper.

“Oh, what could it be? What could it be?” The paper crackled noisily as she crumpled it away. Finally she opened the cardboard flaps at the top.

The dead eyes of her ex-husband stared up at her, still frozen wide in terror inside the head, just as they’d been the moment I’d severed it with the swing of my machete.

She squealed with delight. “Oh, how did you know?!”

I smiled and draped my arm around her, and she kissed me on the cheek.

“Merry Christmas, honey.”

Christmas Lights

It had always bothered me that we’d got those Christmas lights from our neighbour, Mr. Dupont, after he died. He’d taken the passing of his wife hard – it’s tragic to lose a loved one, especially during the holidays. But that still didn’t make it any less shocking that Christmas when he was found hanging from the ceiling fan in the den, a tangle of those lights around his neck his festive executioner.

Some next of kin came over in the New Year, grandchildren, I think, and cleared all the things out of the house. They left a lot out on the curb for passerby to take away, including all the decorations. After all, how could anyone who knew use them after what happened, with the thought of his dead body hanging from those coloured lights?

Didn’t bother my husband though. He’d take the clothes off a dead man before seeing them go to waste. But I’ve got to say that when the rest of the family came to visit they were never quite comfortable, knowing about Mr. Dupont and having those lights hung outside, given that they had choked the last life out of another human being.

When they took my husband’s charred body down from where it hung, the coroner said the electrocution hadn’t killed him. He’d snapped his neck when he fell and became tangled up in the strands of lights. When I ran outside that was how I found him, swinging back and forth like a pendulum against the siding of the house, much like how Mr. Dupont must have looked those years ago.