Story:Deck the Halls, and Do the Dishes
Deck the Halls, and Do the Dishes
Written by Mitch
Deck the Halls, and Do the Dishes
Saturday, December 26, 2020
The Christmas tree still stood in the lounge, its fairy lights gently fading in and out, illuminating a selection of cheap ornaments and tinsel which hung from its imitation boughs. At its feet, the crumpled and torn remains of wrapping paper lay where they had been discarded, while plates, cups, and cookware dirtied the kitchen counters, and dessert plates and a pair of wine glasses littered the dining table. One of them smelled of prosecco, while the other carried the sickly-sweet odor of non-alcoholic sparkling cider. And all of it glittered in the intense morning sunlight which slashed through the blinds of the lounge’s east-facing wall.
Adge surveyed the state of his condo from the doorway of the master bedroom, leaning against its frame as he sighed. Christmas had come and gone, and while he had not spent it alone, the company of just his brother paled against the memory of Christmases surrounded by his whole family, or his friends from uni. The Ghost of Christmas Past cursed him with memories of warmth brought not by the freakish nature of Florida weather, but from joy and fellowship, from laughter and belonging. What simple joys he knew from years gone by were replaced by the manufactured, sterile loneliness a superstore could deliver under a time crunch. The sort of Christmas which has all the right trimmings, but none of the heart, because heart can’t be bought from a Wallah-Mart, delivered by Amazon, or supplied by a meal kit service.
Yet Adge had tried his best. Were it just himself, he might not have gone to as much effort. After all, he’d only have to meet his own expectations, and he could come in aiming low. But it wasn’t just him, anymore; not since his younger brother, Simeon, had moved to Tallahassee to attend university, and subsequently move in with Adge. And make Adge pay for his tuition. And food. And incidental expenses. And… whatever else, until Adge just set up a bi-weekly “salary” for him, so he could manage things on his own.
It didn’t seem fair, to have to pay for his brother’s education, and everything, and then give him money on top of it, when his own path through university required a scholarship, hard work, an actual job, and going without. Easing up from the doorframe, Adge sighed. He’d done it so that he could help his family. He’d sacrificed so that they could gain, so wasn’t this exactly what he had expected? It wasn’t fair, no, but it also wouldn’t be fair to deny Simeon the help he could now give. But knowing that your Christmas present was paid for with your own money did sting a bit.
It was a nice gift, he supposed; a tool kit with a power drill-diver, and impact driver. Reputable brand, quality case for it all, and Adge knew it would come in handy. But he also knew that Sim was going to ask to borrow it, as he was going to school for agricultural engineering, and that knowledge cheapened the gift a bit. Technically it was for Adge, but Sim was going to use it, too. Rather like Adge’s paycheck. And his home. And his food. And everything else Adge owned, it seemed.
Turning back to his bedroom, he could see his other two Christmas presents laying on his dresser. His parents had sent him a wool jumper his mother had knitted, made of some of the last of the wool they had from the sheep on the old farm. It fit, which was a minor miracle, and Adge smiled as he ran his paw over the thick strands of its knit, knowing care and love had gone into it, then felt his smile fade as he knew he’d never have the heart to tell his mum that it didn’t ever get cold enough in Florida to need a sweater.
His paw stopped before it ran over to his other present, which he eyed with a small amount of confusion. Underwear. It was his gift from the HoVo Secret Santa gift exchange, and he’d received four pairs of Union Jack underwear, with “Greatness Comes From Great Britain” on the waistband. And that was it.
The hare had tried to think of a good rationale for it. He’d combed through his tweets to see if maybe he’d mentioned something, or if he’d somehow dropped something which could be considered a hint in an interview, but there was nothing. At first he thought they must have been from D’Angelo McQuilkin, who was also in the exchange, but as they weren’t from his RAWR brand, he ruled that out. Was it just because they had the Union Jack? Had Adge made so little impression on anyone other than his nationality? Or maybe someone expected him to be like some other players and get his picture in them to show off his body on social media. No, that wasn’t the kind of attention he wanted as a rookie. So… why?
Other people got amazing things, like trips, premium workout gear, unique experiences, jet skis, and heck, one person even got a classic convertible hot rod! While Adge got… underwear, and no idea who from. Surely whoever sent it must have had good intentions, or some sort of thought process Adge didn’t get, but as he stared at them, knowing how hard he’d worked on setting up his own gift for the exchange, he felt like he did back at Elion University. He felt outside, not part of the club, despite all his best efforts. Yes, it was still technically early in the season, but had he made that little impact?
Everyone talked about Zack and Berty, or about Kyler, or Saphira. Nobody was talking about Adge Martin. No one was talking about the Typhoons at all, and if they were, it was mostly about the big lion on the bench. Maybe making a scene on social media was the way to get noticed, but that wasn’t the sort of notice Adge was after. He wanted his game to speak for him, yet that wasn’t panning out as he’d hoped. Nothing seemed to really be panning out as he’d hoped.
As he donned a pair of shorts, and pulled a shirt over his head, the big hare at least hoped his next adventure that morning would result in some better appreciation. He’d already gotten Simeon a few Christmas presents, including a powerful laptop which he could use for school, as well as games, but the big gift was still yet to be purchased: a car.
Teammate Clarity Immers had struck a sponsorship deal with the local Hounda dealership, Procyon Lotor Hounda, and she’d managed to get Adge hooked up with a salesman there who could get him a solid discount. With luck, he’d find something suitable for Simeon, and that could bring Christmas to a happy close.
An app-based car service later, Adge found himself on the dealership lot, surveying all the gleaming examples of automotive reliability they had in stock. Simeon had given Adge some suggestions for things he wanted in his car, and so the older hare went through the lineup, testing for his own criteria as well. Fitting into it was Adge’s first concern, for as long as he was buying Sim a car, he was going to expect to get rides in it when needed. For that reason, the Fit was counted out early on, as was the Civet. The Ridgeback was considered, until Adge discovered it wasn’t actually a pickup truck, but an Octossey van, with a body-formed bed.
The Pilot felt good, but was an SUV, which Simeon didn’t want, and had a back seat big enough for Sim to get in trouble in, so that came off the list as well. One by one, the models fell, even Hounda’s luxury line. The only thing that did feel right was the Accord. It was large enough to fit him in a front seat without too much hassle, was comfortable to drive, economical, and carried Hounda’s legendary reliability, but Adge wondered if it would be useful enough for a student of agricultural engineering, who might need to carry large pieces of equipment at times.
Naturally he was steered back toward the Pilot and Ridgeback, until a third option entered the mix. Once he saw it, Adge knew it was perfect, and started negotiations. Half an hour later, he was driving home in his new purchase, and Simeon’s first car.
“Wot is it?” Simeon asked, practically bouncing with excitement as Adge led him outside.
The older hare just grinned. “Yew’ll see. Think Ah did roight well, in moy pick.”
Simeon followed his older brother along, scanning the parking lot for something slick and sporty, bearing paper number-plates indicating it was a new purchase. Nothing but Florida plates, and one from New York, on anything interesting. Adge was deliberately taking him on a long path, prolonging Sim’s anticipation.
“Will you at leat tell me wot make?” Sim asked, his brown eyes still scanning the area.
“Got ‘ee a Hounda,” Adge replied.
Sim’s ears cocked with surprise, then started to lean back as his eyes narrowed. “Didn’ get me no Fit, did yew?”
The larger hare barked a hearty laugh. “‘Eavens no. Ah didn’ e’en begin t’ fit in one o’ ‘em!”
“Thank the stars for that,” Sim breathed a sigh of relief. “Is it a five-door hatch, though?”
“Aye,” Adge nodded. His smile grew as Simeon’s own began to beam. He’d done right. He knew it! “Tis ‘round ‘e corner, ‘ere.”
A few steps more, and the pair cleared the coroner, to see Sim’s new car parked in a mostly empty row. A white, 2018 Hounda Accord CrossTour, it sat with poise and power, gleaming from its trip through the car wash at the dealership that morning.
“Wot the hell is that?” Were the words which fell out of Simeon’s mouth as he stared at the car with almost a sneer.
Adge blinked, glancing between Sim and the car to ensure that he was looking at the correct vehicle. “It’s yew new car,” he replied, taken aback.
“Aye, but…” Simeon said, tilting his head as he took a few steps closer. “Ah said Ah wanted a sporty, five-door hatch. Ah thought yew were gonna bring back a Civet Type-R.”
That brought about a blurt of laughter from Adge, who shook his head. “Loike hell Ah’d be given’ ‘ee one ‘o ‘em! Yew ain’t e’en got yer loicense yet! Yew’d put it through a wall! ‘N they looks proper naff.”
“But at least they’re cool!” Sim protested.
Adge’s laughter evaporated, replaced by a hard stare. “When yew makes yer own money, ‘nstead o’ livin’ off moine, yew c’n buy yerself what’e’er cool car ‘ee c’n afford. Til ‘en, maybe yew moight jes’ want t’ say thanks, ‘n ‘preciate wot Ah done just bought fer ‘ee.”
Simeon opened his mouth to fire off some manner of retort, but Adge held up a thick finger to stop him. “Yew said yew didn’ want no SUV, so Ah didn’ get one. Yew said yew wanted a foive-door ‘atch, ‘n this is one. This also’s got all-wheel-droive, ‘n a V6, so she’s got proper grunt. Automatic gearbox, so’s yew don’t ‘ave t’ fret ‘bout ‘e clutch. Bloody ‘ell, Sim, this one’s even ‘e LX model, so she’s got leather ‘n satnav ‘n ‘e backup camera ‘n all ‘at! ‘E back ‘atch opens good’n woide, ‘n she c’n carry more payload ‘an Ah were expectin’! But if’n all yew wants t’ do is complain, Ah c’n take ‘er back, ‘n yew c’n keep roidin’ ‘e pushboike Ah bought yew, until yew c’n buy yer own car wit’ yer own money!”
As Adge went on, Simeon’s ears went down. At first it was defensive, then softer in shame. He looked over the car again, hoping to see the beauty in it that Adge did, but it was still an Accord CrossTour. A boring, somewhat awkwardly-proportioned answer to a question no one had asked. And it was white.
“Ah’m sorry, Adge,” he finally said. “Ah just… Ah thought you’d get me summat like wpt you’d have wanted when you were my age.”
“Ah didn’ e’en ‘ave a car at yer age,” Adge snerked. “Or a loicense, which we still done needs t’ get ‘ee.”
“Ah know you didn’t,” Simeon countered. “What Ah meant was, wot you would have wanted, though.”
“Wot Ah would’ve wanted ‘en were summat Ah could afford, ‘n wot got me where Ah needed t’ go, ‘n Ah could afford ‘e petrol and insurance on. ‘N Ah kept ‘at in moind when Ah were lookin’ fer this.”
Simeon’s ears went back up, and his face contorted in surprise. “Wait, Ah have to pay the insurance and petrol?”
“Too roight, yew do!” Adge fired back. “Same fer ‘ee ‘alf of ‘e mobile phone bill, come next bill, since yer on moy plan.”
“Oh, come on!”
“No, yew come on. Ah’m already payin’ fer yer schoolin’, yer room ‘n board, ‘n ever’thin’ else, plus givin’ ‘ee wot’s basically a salary, ‘n ‘at’s more’n plenty t’ cover it. So Ah suggest ‘ee start drawin’ up a budget. Ah’ll ‘elp ‘ee do it. Ah don’t gots an accountin’ degree fer nuttin, Ah’ll ‘ave ‘ee know!”
Simeon listened, knowing when he was beaten, but something else clawing at the back of the younger hare’s mind, and it finally escaped with a whine of, “But, girls are gonna see me in this!”
Adge’s train of thought nearly derailed, before diverting to follow that track. “Aye? And?” He asked.
Simeon bit his lip, looking at the car instead of his brother. “They are never gonna look twice at a guy in one of these.”
“Well, guess yew’ll jes’ ‘ave t’ get ‘eir attention out of it, now won’t ‘ee,” Adge replied with a smirk. “Ah didn’ e’en ‘ave no car t’ impress ‘e girls; ‘ad t’ do ‘at on moy own. Did fair respect’ble, too, moind.”
“You didn’t need a car; look at you!” Sim countered. “Tall, built, handsome, athletic. It’s not even fair!”
“Wot’s not fair?” Adge said, stepping up to him, towering over Sim with nearly a foot of height on him. “That Ah ‘ad t’ use this ‘ere body t’ get through school? That Ah ‘ad t’ train on top ‘o studyin’ ‘n workin’? That moy grades done suffered b’cause-”
“Oh fer fuck’s sake, shut up!” Simeon cut him off. “It’s not about that!”
“Then what izzit ‘bout?” Adge snorted, folding his muscular arms over his chest.
“Just… just look at you!” Simeon exclaimed. “Then look at me! Tell me, what girl would pick me over you? You won the looks jackpot, Adge, and there weren’t much left over for me! Ah mean, come on!” The younger hare pulled back his sleeve and flexed his arm, revealing an average-at-best showing of muscle.
“You c’n have any girl you want, Adge!” He continued. “Ah’ve gotta work for it! Hard! And now you’ve stuck me with… a geography teacher’s car!”
Adge had readied a comeback, but found it held back as Simeon’s outburst left him nonplussed. Blinking, he unfolded his arms. A glance was spared to the car, then back to his brother, as he reconsidered his choice that morning.
“Sim, tent loike ‘at,” he shook his head. “First off, Ah ain’t been laid since ‘e ‘Lympics. Second, y’know why Ah’m always at prac’is, or ‘e gym? B’cause ‘at’s wot it takes t’ ‘ave this build! Ah didn’ jes’ luck into it, o’er ‘an ‘e height. Yew wants t’ be build? Foine, Ah’ll ‘elp ‘ee work out. Yew c’n join Ah fer moy daily 6k run e’ery mornin’. ‘N yew c’n ‘ave ‘e same diet Ah does, ‘n know yew gots t’ keep at it e’ery day, b’cause this don’t last if’n yew don’t maintain it!”
Simeon’s ears went up like flags, then one cocked sideways, as he arched an eyebrow. “Wait, you haven’t gotten laid since the Olympics? I thought you were a big FBA star. Shouldn’t you, like, be getting some action after every game?”
“Wot, ‘n bring a girl ‘ome whoile moy little bru’erh is there?” Adge scoffed.
“You’ve got a hotel room for away games,” Sim countered.
“Aye, ‘n Ah’ve got a roommate at ‘e ‘otel, too, wot’s actually in ‘e room wit me.”
“Well, if you don’t have any girlfriends, who sent you pants for Christmas?”
“Ah don’ bloody know!” Adge roared. He could feel the hot blood hammering in his temples, while the cold, electric rush of adrenaline surged through his nervous system. “Listen, Ah’m troyin’ moy best, ‘ere, Sim! This job is proper ‘ard, ‘n there tent no guide t’ ‘ow t’ do it roight, unner’stand? Ah don’ get days off loike yew moight think. Ah’m either playin, practicin’, or trav’lin’, or sleepin’. ‘N wot spare time Ah do ‘ave, Ah’m troyin’ t’ spend wit’ yew!”
The big hare’s paws gesticulated with frustrated animation as he spoke. “Movin’ ‘ere, gettin’ set up, gettin moy loicense on moy own, learnin’ ‘e team, where ever’thin’ is ‘round ‘ere. Ah done lost moy startin’ spot, b’cause Ah weren’t focused enough, ‘n Ah ‘ad t’ work e’en ‘arder t’ get it back! Ah’m doin’ all Ah can, ‘n Ah’m sorry yew don’ loike ‘e car Ah bought fer ‘ee, but it be wot it be, ‘n it were ‘e best Ah could do! Ah thought it were a proper noice car. Sure, it tent no Mercedes, ‘n ‘e ‘ouse tent no mansion, ‘n sure, ‘e furniture is most all Ikea, but I’m troyin, Sim. ‘N yer jes’ gonna ‘ave t’ accept ‘at, because there tent no more Ah c’n do. Ah’m jes’ one hare.”
Simeon watched as Adge’s retort flared up with righteous indignation, only to cool and sink into introspective defeat. For a moment it felt like getting yelled at by their dad, but as Adge carried on, Simeon began to understand.
It had been easy to assume that since Adge was a pro baller, and was making millions, he had everything sorted out. Butler, maid, assistant, planning staff, the works. But Adge was right, he’d done it all on his own, with admittedly limited time. To Simeon, free time was in abundance, as his classes weren’t scheduled to start up for another week, but Adge had been gone days at a time, and been busy, or asleep, whenever he was home. And in that time, he’d helped Sim learn to drive, helped him orient himself in the city, and get used to American culture.
Over the last four years, the pair had grown disconnected with Adge off in London at uni, and Simeon at home, transitioning to more suburban life instead or life on the farm. Shoulders slumping, Simeon turned his attention back to the car. It was still ugly, it was still boring, and still not what he wanted. But it was his, and would suit his needs, and most importantly, it had been a gift. A gift certainly more impressive than anything Adge had received that year. An apology was in order, yet too much undeserved pride stood in the way of what was meant, instead leaving him finding only the bones of his sentiment.
“Ah’m sorry, Adge,” he said. “Guess Ah’ve just been watching too much telly. Ah, well, Ah thought it’d be like wot you see on MTV.”
“‘At sort o’ thing don’ ‘appen ‘less yer a superstar, wit’ ‘e gurt big contracts,” Adge shook his head. “‘N, besoides, ‘at’s not wot Ah’m ‘ere fer, remember? Ah’m gettin’ ‘e farm back, so’s we c’n be a fam’ly on it again. Tent gon’ be no Furarris, or proivate jets, or ‘e lavish parties. Wot we got is wot we’s gon’ ‘ave, alroight? Tent fancy, but it’ll do, ‘n we’re jes gon’ ‘ave t’ be ‘appy wit it. So, loike ‘e car, tent fancy, but it’ll do, alroight?”
“Alright,” Simeon nodded. Slowly a smile turned up a corner of his mouth. “Maybe it’ll change my mind about it with how it drives?”
“Ah ‘ope so, b’cause Ah’m not returnin’ it!” Adge laughed. Fishing the keys from his pocket. “C’mon, yew need a few more lessons b’fore yer ready fer yer test, ‘n Ah’ve only got ‘nother hour or two b’fore Ah’ve got t’ ‘ead off t’ prac’is.”
Simeon caught the keys as they were tossed to him, and climbed into the driver’s seat. It was more comfortable than he’d expected, and everything felt well-made, as one would expect from a Hounda. And the best part was, once he was inside, he didn’t have to look at the lackluster exterior styling. As Adge dropped into the passenger seat, Sim smiled and fired up the engine. “And while you’re gone, Ah can fire up some games on that new laptop.”
“After ‘ee cleans up ‘e kitchen ‘n does ‘e dishes,” Adge minded him.
“But you made half that mess.”
“Aye, but Ah paid fer all of it,” the bigger hare shrugged. “B’soides, feller loike yew’s got t’ ‘ave some respons’bil’ties. Ah’m ‘appy t’ ‘ave ‘ee here, Sim, but yer gon’ ‘ave t’ ‘elp out when Ah need it. Tis only fair.”
Simeon eased the car through the parking area, heading toward the exit to the road, and he nodded. “Fair enough,” he agreed. “But… seriously, who gives a guy pants for Christmas?”
Adge groaned. “Ah’ve got no ruddy clue, mate. Now, eyes on ‘e road, ‘n remember yer indicator, alroight?”
“Ah’ve got this,” Sim replied, and pulled out into traffic. “After Ah get my license, can I drive your Defender?”
“Not on ‘ee loife,” Adge chuckled. “‘At were moy dream car, ‘n Ah’m makin’ sure it stays proper safe. Someday it’ll go back t’ ‘e farm wit’ us.”
Simeon only nodded, trying to pay attention to the road, and make the most of his experience driving his new car. Maybe it was cooler than he thought. At least a little. Possibly.