Candles and Fir Trees and Foil, Oh My!

by Rifka

Title: Candles and Fir Trees and Foil, Oh My! Author: Rifka
Notes: This is just a short story in response to Joanne's Holiday challenge. It's very lightweight while we wait for the second part of Aline's fic to post. Beta assistance: Thank you Sandra, for being my sounding board and my parachute. Posted: TS, TSXF
Feedback: Yes

He swung his legs over the side of the bed, hands on the outside of his strong thighs and hung his head low. He took three deep breaths and with the heels of his hands he rubbed his eyes to help dissipate the cobwebs from last night.

He could smell it.

`Fuck, he's already making them.'

For the past five years it's been the same obsession during the holiday season. And every year he became frustrated with his partner because he never learned the lessons they significantly paid for year after year.

He stood up, walked into the bathroom, shut the door and started to brush his teeth. He turned on the water and waited until the room was nice and steamy. When perspiration covered his toned body and he couldn't see the mirror anymore, he stepped into the shower. After he finished brushing his teeth, he spit into the shower drain and rinsed his mouth. He tossed the toothbrush over the shower door and bingo! It landed in the sink. It had just taken a couple of days practice and now his aim was perfect every time. Resting his hands against the inside walls of the shower, he peed. He washed his body and spent extra time on his hair, making a shampoo Mohawk. It was a habit left over from his childhood. Most times he wasn't even aware of it until his lover did it for him.

He stepped out of the shower and reached for the warm cotton towel. He quickly dried off and returned to the bedroom with the towel wrapped around his waist. The bedroom door opened and the love of his life walked in. He pulled the towel off, grabbed his manhood, shook it and made the manly 'woo-woo' sound.

"Not now Toby. Do you think Holly's awake yet? Or is it too early to call."

"Ooh, someone cranky this morning?"

"I'm not cranky, I burned the first batch. Maybe the oil was too hot."

"Chris, it's only 7am! Even if you make a batch that comes out good, we'll wind up eating it and then you'll have to do more for tonight. Or even if we don't eat them, you'll still have to make more. And if that batch is good they'll be soggy by tonight." Toby said. "And it's way too early to call Holly, she was probably up all night with the baby."

"What's wrong with the baby?" Chris suddenly shifted gears and paid attention to grandpa.

"Nothing's wrong with the baby, she's teething." Toby chuckled.

"When did that happen?"

"Jeez Chris! Is there any coffee left? Or did you screw that up too?" Toby asked as he put on a pair of sweats and thick white socks.

Toby looked around the kitchen and thought he had walked into someone else's nightmare. Chris had simply made a mess. Not only had he used all the paper towels, but the garbage can was overflowing. He quickly took care of that situation knowing it would help get rid of the odor of burnt oil. After he came back into the house he saw a new plastic bag in the garbage can and thought the Cleaning Fairy had visited. He could smell the aroma of a fresh pot of coffee and Chris had obviously cleaned the counter top. The sink was full of bubbles and underneath it were the two dirty frying pans and utensils that Chris had used. The little cooking island still had remnants of salt, pepper and onion that had not been put away and the grater still had little bits of vegetable stuck to it that had turned brown.

"Toby, can I make you an omelet for breakfast? How `bout a Western omelet since I already have the onion out?" Chris asked hesitantly since he was reasonably sure he had two feet in the doghouse already.

"I don't think I can handle a Western Omelet this morning. For some reason, Chris, my stomach is churning."

"Oh, okay. Then how `bout a cheese omelet and some rye toast?" He was already at the refrigerator taking out the egg carton, butter, milk and grated cheeses. Next he pulled one of the frying pans out of the sink and quickly washed and dried it. He poured a fresh cup of coffee and put it in front of Toby who still didn't look too happy.

"Can I have a kiss?" Chris asked.

"No, you smell like onions!" Toby huffed.

Chris sulked but made the cheese omelet for his unhappy partner who had gone outside to pick up the newspaper that had been delivered earlier. The paper was a little damp from the snow but it was still readable.

They both arrived back at the table at the same time. Chris pulled the chair out for Toby and set his breakfast down in front of him.

Toby had to laugh. Chris was actually pouting, something he never saw him do.

"If you take a shower while I eat this, there might be a kiss to be had. That's only if the omelet's any good." Toby teased him.

"Any good? I garnished your plate with Heirloom tomatoes and used green onions that were grown in the US of A. There's cheddar and Swiss cheese in it just like you like it. I'm getting a kiss when I get out of the shower; I deserve a tip!"

Toby ate his breakfast listening to Christmas music playing on the radio.

"Okay, Simon? Okay!
Okay, Theodore? Okay!
Okay, Alvin? Alvin? ALVIN!

The Chipmunks were singing and he had to smile only because it was the first time this season he heard it. After 2 or 3 times it would grate on his nerves, just as Chris was doing today. He could hear the upstairs shower as Chris tried to rid himself of the onion odor. He finished his coffee, wiped the crumbs from his face and decided he needed to talk to one of his closest friends, someone that understood this relationship, albeit not always agreeing or understanding it.

He dialed the phone and was surprised when Ryan O'Reily answered on the second ring and he didn't get the answering machine.

"Yo!" Ryan brusquely said as he put the receiver to his ear.

"Hey Ryan! I need you man and I need you bad. You've got to come to dinner tonight."

"Why? So I can watch you two get all lovey-dovey like you always do this time of year? I pass."

"Come on, I'm calling in a chip." Toby pleaded with him.

"You ain't got any chips left, pal. You cashed your last chip in when I convinced the PO that Chris was with me that night remember?"

"Of course I remember but that's ancient history, Ryan. Chris is cooking for Holly's husband and he's making a mess of the kitchen, himself and I'm ready to kill him and it's only 9 am. Dinner's at 6:30. Bring beer or wine. I'm counting on you to be here."

Chris got out of the shower and dried off as fast as he could. He put on his black sweats and an old pair of thick red socks. He wanted to call Holly and it was a little after nine so he figured she would be awake by now, or at least her husband would be.

He picked the receiver up and just caught the tail end of Toby's conversation.

"Chris," Toby sighed. "Get off the phone, I'm using it!"

"When ya gonna be done? I want to call Holly."

"Now I'm done." Toby said and hung up the phone hoping Chris didn't hear him complaining about the mess.

Chris made himself comfortable on the bed with pen and paper in hand before he called Toby's daughter.

"Hi Holly, I'm glad you answered the phone." Chris said to her cheerfully. "How's the baby?"

"Good morning Chris. The baby's sleeping, thanks for asking. I bet I know what you're doing!" she said in a singsong voice.

"I know, every year I forget how to make latkes and I piss your father off big time." Chris confessed.

"He's already pissed? It's only a little after 9 in the morning!" Holly laughed and tried to control herself. "I thought we were coming to dinner at 6:30... tonight!"

"Yeah, that hasn't changed. I was just making a practice batch so they would turn out good tonight but I must have had the oil too hot and I burned half of them. And you know how the grated onion can smell real bad sometimes? Well, today it does."

"Well, that makes sense." She answered him.

"That the onion stinks?" Chris questioned her.

"Yes, no wonder Dad is pissed. Okay, Chris. Here's the recipe. Wash & peel 2 lbs of potatoes and grate them with an onion. Squeeze out any excess moisture and add 3 eggs. Then add just enough flour, about 2-3 Tablespoons, so it holds together. Then add some salt and pepper."

"How much salt and pepper?" Chris asked as he was writing all this down.

"I don't measure it Chris, you'll just have to figure that one out. Start with half a teaspoon so it's not too salty, okay?" `One of these days I'm going to copy and laminate this recipe for him.' She thought to herself.

"Heat the oil and put in just about a teaspoon of the potato mixture and if it sizzles, it's hot enough. And make them thin. Oh, and only turn them once so the edges are crispy. If the oil starts smoking, it's time to go to the deli and get some take out."

"There's where I screwed up. The oil did smoke a little. I know I only do this for your husband but you know how important it was to me when you guys welcomed me into the family. So tonight the latkes will be good." Chris promised.

Five years ago Holly had married a very nice man, Nathan Cohen. Tonight was the third night of Chanukkah and The Cohen family would be bringing their own Menorah to light the candles. Holly had made applesauce from scratch, using Nathan's family recipe. She always brought a large quantity just in case they had to mask the taste of scorched potatoes pancakes. She knew Chris did this every year and it was totally from his heart and she loved him for it.

At 6:20 pm the doorbell rang. Toby stood up and said, "I'll get it."

He opened the door and there stood Ryan O'Reily with a large pole covered in aluminum foil.

"What's with the pole?" Toby asked as he pointed to it.

"Can I come in? It's fuckin' freezing out here." Ryan said as he was shivering. The temperature was 10 degrees and it was still snowing.

"Yeah, sure. Now that you're in...what's with the pole?" Toby asked him again.

While Ryan was taking his coat off, everyone else noticed him and yelled out, "Hi Ryan."

Ryan leaned into Toby and whispered, "Did they do that thing with the candles yet?"

"Yeah, they lit the candles at sundown. Now Chris is thinking about converting. He likes the idea of Heaven and Hell here on Earth and not the hereafter. He says he's already circumcised so he's half way there. And he's only had one glass of wine." Toby chuckled as he relayed this to his pal.

"Hey, what's with the pole O'Reily?" Chris asked.

"Well Christmas has the tree, Chanukkah has the menorah. This pole is for Festivus." Ryan said proudly.

"What the hell is Festivus?" Toby asked as he stood there holding the pole.

"Festivus is for the rest of us! It's celebrated on December 23rd. According to the `Seinfeld' show it was started by Frank Costanza, George's father as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas."

"You're shittin' me. Oh, sorry Holly." Chris said and scrunched up his face to show he didn't mean to swear in front of her and the baby.

"No, for real. The pole hasta be tall, and skinny, and it has to be made out of aluminum. I didn't have an aluminum pole so I covered a dowel with foil. And ya can't decorate it with any tinsel or balls."

"And...what else?" Toby just knew there had to be more. He was a fan of the Seinfeld show but did not remember this.

"Well, on Festivus, like tonight let's say, Toby here can preside over the `Airing of Grievances.'"

"I think I might like this holiday. And pray tell, what is the `Airing of Grievances?'" Toby was getting into the spirit now.

"That's when family members share all the ways they have disappointed one another over the past year." Ryan was finally through with the explanation.

Toby clapped his hands and said, "Ok, everyone gather `round my chair in the den and we're going to celebrate Festivus. Chris, we're going to start with you."

"With me?" Chris acted shocked.

"Yes, my little feygala pickle. Come sit by my feet and tell papa how you disappointed me this year." Toby said with a glint in his eye.

"Oh ..." Ryan saw Holly and Toby stare at him. "Oh, fudge... you guys swore you wouldn't act this way in front of me this year. Ya know I'd rather just have a Vlassic!" Ryan said as he put his hands over his ears.

The end...Happy Holidays Everyone


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