"If you're not really writing," he asked, pausing to sip his eggnog, "what do you do all day?"
"Plot the deaths of people who ask me that question," I hissed.
I'm kidding. I thought it, but I didn't say it. I'm terminally polite, especially in public and particularly when making small talk at holiday parties with my husband's business partners. And besides, it wasn't the poor guy's fault. Instead of saying "fine, thanks," when he asked how my work was going, I blurted out something about being at a bit of an impasse.
This is what happens when she of the gumball machine mouth drinks Merlot.
"How do you handle that?" He continued, hopping up to get more of the frothy, cream-colored concoction. "Rewrite what you've got? Scrap everything and start over? Completely give up and kill yourself with a corkscrew?"
I'm kidding. He didn't make that last comment. I just imagined it as he peppered me with questions. I mean, if I knew what to do I'd do it. And then we wouldn't be having this conversation.
"I'm uh, I'm taking a little break," I mumbled as he slid back into his seat, swooning over the eggnog and offering me a sip.
Dear God no, I thought, shaking my head. A glass of wine and my filter's gone. Add brandy and I just might start to blubber, Boohoo, I have writer's block. Boohoo! Boohoo!
But back to his original, force me to face the painful truth query: "What do you do all day?"
"I do Christmas," I replied, flashing on the wrapping paper, ribbons, tissue paper, tape, sharpies, handwritten lists, Amazon boxes, scissors, gift cards, pictures, picture frames, velvety-soft jewelry pouches, receipts, books, catalogs, mailing labels, packing tape and one exorbitantly overpriced PS4 strewn all over my office floor, a place typically reserved for my notebooks, my laptop, my butt and my Golden Retriever, Tug, who keeps me company while I cry and curse my way through cobbling a sentence together.
Or maybe I should say Tug used to keep me company while I cried and cursed my way through cobbling a sentence together. It's been ages since I've done my job. Instead, I've been doing Christmas.
And I didn't even do it all the way.
There's no tree in my living room, no stockings over the fireplace, no candles in the windows. I planned to decorate. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I hauled the boxes out of storage, blew off the dust and the dead stink bugs, and began laying things out on our pool table. I didn't think I'd use everything, just a few of my favorite pieces. Maybe the cute little reindeer candle holder and the maroon-colored, crushed velvet tree skirt. Maybe the red plaid bows I bought the year I surprised my late husband with a quasi-Scottish themed Christmas tree (quasi because there was no way the tree would pass muster without his collectible Joe Montana and Mickey Mantle figurines hanging from it). Maybe the silver glitter-on-oak tag hand print ornaments my sons made every year in elementary school. Maybe this, maybe that.
In the end, I stuck a wreath on our front door and offered a silent apology to Martha Stewart. And then I got on my computer and shopped 'til my office looked like Santa Claus lost his cookies in it.
It's all over now, of course. The gifts have been wrapped, sent, unwrapped and, quite possibly, returned. My office floor is bare and beckoning.
Well, almost bare.
Tug's laying there looking at me like What's the holdup, lady? Sit down and get to work. Damn dog's right, of course. Tomorrow night is New Year's Eve and the only way I can tell people I'm "doing Christmas" is if I suddenly land a position at the North Pole.
As I see it, I have three choices: Follow up on that query letter to Saint Nick, cancel our plans to attend a party or get crying, cursing and cobbling. I'm going with cobbling. After all, I like parties. I love Merlot. And sometimes I get just enough material from the surprises that fly out of my mouth when I drink the stuff to start writing.