The Midnight Service Second Place Our Holiday Fiction Winners

December 23, 1990|By DAVID HEALEY

My name is Slats Hennessey and I just turned 19 years old. My real name is Matthew, but everybody calls me Slats because I used to be so tall and skinny. I'm six-foot-three and the joke in high school was that you could count my ribs right through my shirt. But two years of college and sitting around not playing basketball or baseball gave my body a chance to fill out, so that now you can't see my ribs anymore and I have a sort of potbelly when I slouch.

I'm thinking of my ribs, and how they used to stand out like the thin wires of a bird cage, because I'm home for Christmas. No sooner do I walk in the door than my mother gives me sugar cookies shaped like angels and stars, colored with sprinkles of green and red sugar. She's a great mother, short, wearing an apron, and when she hugs me she smells like baking and apples and perfume. She's always wanting to "put meat on my bones," she says. I know I'm home.

"You grew." She looks up at me and smiles. "You must be taller than your father by now."

"I don't know," I say, talking around a mouthful of cookies. "You look great, Mom."

I haven't grown, of course. I haven't gotten any taller since last year, just thicker. My father and I are exactly the same height.

So I sit down and my mother carves slices from a cooling ham to make me sandwiches on fresh-baked bread. She pours herself a cup of black coffee and sits down across from me with a single cookie while I tell her about school, final exams, my crazy roommate. At 5:30 we hear a car pull into the driveway and my mother jumps up to get the door. I sit at the table, sipping coffee, and I hear my father striding through the house on his long legs, yelling "Slats!" until he comes into the kitchen all grins and handshakes. The three of us fill the kitchen that smells like baking cookies and ham, smiling and laughing and not really hearing what anyone else is saying. My dad throws his briefcase and coat into the corner and we sit down to eat, the three of us together, talking and eating for hours until we begin to yawn and it's time for bed.

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PICK UP: "LOOK WHAT YOUR FATHER brought me," my mother says,

d of midnight

By David Healey

My name is Slats Hennessey and I just turned 19 years old. My real name is Matthew, but everybody calls me Slats because I used to be so tall and skinny. I'm six-foot-three and the joke in high school was that you could count my ribs right through my shirt. But two years of college and sitting around not playing basketball or baseball gave my body a chance to fill out, so that now you can't see my ribs anymore and I have a sort of potbelly when I slouch.

I'm thinking of my ribs, and how they used to stand out like the thin wires of a bird cage, because I'm home for Christmas. No sooner do I walk in the door than my mother gives me sugar cookies shaped like angels and stars, colored with sprinkles of green and red sugar. She's a great mother, short, wearing an apron, and when she hugs me she smells like baking and apples and perfume. She's always wanting to "put meat on my bones," she says. I know I'm home.

"You grew." She looks up at me and smiles. "You must be taller than your father by now."

"I don't know," I say, talking around a mouthful of cookies. "You look great, Mom."

I haven't grown, of course. I haven't gotten any taller since last year, just thicker. My father and I are exactly the same height.

So I sit down and my mother carves slices from a cooling ham to make me sandwiches on fresh-baked bread. She pours herself a cup of black coffee and sits down across from me with a single cookie while I tell her about school, final exams, my crazy roommate. At 5:30 we hear a car pull into the driveway and my mother jumps up to get the door. I sit at the table, sipping coffee, and I hear my father striding through the house on his long legs, yelling "Slats!" until he comes into the kitchen all grins and handshakes. The three of us fill the kitchen that smells like baking cookies and ham, smiling and laughing and not really hearing what anyone else is saying. My dad throws his briefcase and coat into the corner and we sit down to eat, the three of us together, talking and eating for hours until we begin to yawn and it's time for bed.

"LOOK WHAT YOUR FATHER brought me," my mother says, leading me through the house. On the dining room table there are flowers in a vase, an arrangement of reds and whites.

"That's nice," I say. "They're perfect for Christmas."

Dad is in the living room, reading the paper. The news is on TV. He's still wearing his tie, though it's loosened, and there's a bottle of beer on the table beside him, making a puddle on the coaster.

"I can't believe you still buy Mom flowers."

"Your mother's a wonderful woman," he says, looking up from the paper. "I like to show her I haven't forgotten."

"I think it's good, how you two get along."

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