Christmas Dinner with the Russos

He’s such a smoothie, Johnny is – inviting the Hornbachers to the Russo’s Christmas dinner and all. And think that Mrs. H actually agreed to it. Johnny’s apparently got her by the gonads on account of what she’s told him in therapy sessions. And, just like he said things would play out, Billy’s not getting kicked out of school and his grades in her class have gone up from F’s to C’s.

Yeah, Johnny sure knows his stuff, but considering all those marriages he has saved he should. I wonder if he could have pulled it off with my parents. That would have been one for Guinness. Their fighting had gone carnivorous before Dad finally split. Anyway, I’m gonna ween out of Johnny sooner or later who Mrs H. had her affair with. I know he can’t hold out telling me for long.

I had a dream about Johnny last night. I mean – like, so disgusting. Okay, Johnny’s not really disgusting, but to dream about him? Ugh! It was an unmerry start to this Christmas ordeal. Not only are the Hornbachers coming, but Reverend DeVos and his wife as well. I could think of a lot better combos to celebrate Christmas with, but Mom and her dipshit are doing the holidays in Cancun and Dad’s in Montana, so here’s little me, sharing Linda’s room and family for the holidays. Ostensibly, Linda’s my best friend, which should make this a great stay, but she spends all her time chatting with fuckface on her phone. We used to be so close before he came along.

I wish her brother had someone or something to keep him occupied as well. Billy’s still a pain with no gain. Like, he three times tried to get into the bathroom with me this morning – Oh, sorry, Xena. Didn’t know you were in there. Sure, Billy.

The day’s events began with a prayer breakfast to which everybody was expected to contribute. I’d worked out a climate change piece which Johnny congratulated me on – and justly so, for I had put some real effort into it, while Linda just read some stupid Nativity poem on her phone straight off an internet site. Billy prayed for God to help the needy, a category which obviously included Billy, as made clear in his stirring plea for awesome Christmas gifts for himself, which, by the way, wasn’t going to happen.

You see the Russo tradition is to only give one present to one family member who’s name’s been drawn out of a hat. I was included in this year’s draw because it was already known that I would be staying here and I had drawn Billy. It’s supposed to be kept secret who gets who, but it didn’t take long for the little rat to find out I was his ‘main man’ and phone me up.

– Xena, I hope you don’t think I’m out of order saying this, but you would make me the happiest kid in the world if you’d consider getting me a hoverboard.

– Uh huh?

– Do you mind me thanking you in advance?

– Piss off, Billy.

After breakfast we moved into the living room to gather around the tree. It’s a real tree – not plastic like at our place, but it looks kinda oversized against the skimpy pluck of Christmas gifts under it. I know families who put fake packages under their tree just to enhance the Christmas spirit, but that is not the routine here.

Let me give you a short rundown of who got what from whom:

Johnny to Laura – an apron patterned with angels which she immediately put on and wore right up until our guests arrived. (I know aprons are practical items, but Mrs. R. wears it like a domestic worker’s uniform. A statement about her role in the family. Johnny sports a jacket and tie even when he’s in leisure mode.

Linda to Johnny a framed picture of herself. (Technically speaking this was just as much my present as hers since I took the photo and I did the instagram filters. She just ordered the print from some website using her dad’s credit card.)

Billy to his sister – a promissory note: This is to certify that I, William Russo, will do 5 (five) hours of your housework chores during the upcoming year. (A promise which Linda and everybody else knew wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.)

Mrs. Russo to Xena – A two year subscription to ‘Christian Teen‘. (I thanked her mucho times for this wonderful present, even if I couldn’t stretch myself so far as to say it was exactly what I had wished for.)

Xena to Billy – A hoverboard? Dream on, Billy. I gave him a Judy Blume book. (Too bad he doesn’t read.)

The entire gift exchange process took, like, ten minutes max, and though I suppose most American families would now spend the rest of their morning doting over their presents, doting was definitely at a minimum here.

After a short prayer, the frequency of which in this place has gotten on my nerves, everyone took off to his and hers and I ended up in the kitchen alone with Mrs. R to help make the dinner, well at least my part of it, since nowadays I’m a vegetarian, you know.

Mrs. Russo is a good cook – not like my mom who usually just warms up frozen TV dinners in the microwave, even on the hollidays. Mom has this thing about how we should eat to live and not live to eat. And she doesn’t allow salt, pepper or ketchup on the table either because, One) If extra flavor was needed the experts at Swanson’s would have added it and Two) It would be an insult to her cooking.

The Hornbachers and the DeVoses show up around five and both couples seem surprised that the other has been invited. Johnny takes the Hornbachers, who are here for the first time, on a tour of the house and then we all gather in the living room and have eggnog and everybody compliments Mrs. R on the wonderful job she has done with her Christmas decorations. Linda and her brother made lamely excused getaways but I had to stay and listen to a lot of meaningless, polite conversation until it was time for the main event.

Mrs. R’s diningroom spread was pretty impressive, with candles and flowers and miniature pine trees and angels and reindeer and santa clauses and a lot of other shit with metallic glitter spread all over it. All the traditional stuff was on the table plus my little soybean thingamajigs which kind of ruined the mien and had everybody saying ‘how interesting’ and then Mrs. R brought out the turkey and Johnny carved it right there at the table. Our guests made a big deal out of Johnny carving the stupid turkey, like that somehow matched up all the work his wife had done to make the dinner. I mean, like, how hard is it to carve a turkey?

Reverend DeVos, since he’s a pro, did the blessings and he drew it out long enough so that the food got cold and I had to hold hands with Billy in our ‘circle of fellowship’. The little weasel was doing that scratching thing on the inside of my palm the whole time.

I hope it’s not a sin me thinking so, since he is after all God’s representative, but I got to say there is something rather slimy over DeVos, and his purple trousers, yellow blazer and reindeer tie has to be the worst color combination since dog barf.

We discussed the new school building, some upcoming church events, the price of gas and other stuff, and Mrs. D, while sucking away on some disgusting turkey organ, told me how ‘awesome’ it was me becoming a vegetarian, and then Billy, out of the blue, asked DeVos if he thought Muslims would take over America one day. Reverend D laughed and said that was extremely unlikely, but he was sure that people of different faiths and races could get along as, after all, at the end of the day, we believe in the same God even if we address him by different names. He pointed out that Johnny and Laura’s marriage was an excellent example of how different races could get along together and threw in something about what wonderful children their union had produced.

Then Billy came up with this weird thing about how dog kennel owners must be racists because it was so important for them to keep their animals purebred, to which Mrs. Hornbacher pointed out that there were considerable differences between dogs and humans, but you could tell she was being cautious about criticising Billy even for such an idiotic statement.

DeVos told us that there was much to be said for the preservation of species when so many are dying out and how important is was to protect our heritage in many areas, but not to forget that humans, though separated by national borders, race and religion, are all the same. Which led Billy to ask DeVos if he thought all the races would eventually combine and turn into mongrels – a mix of all the Chinese and those other people in Asia and even the Arabs and Mexicans and Bulgarians and all, you know, like mesh together so that we are all the same muddy color with dark hair and slightly slanted eyes. I’m quoting Billy verbatim here in case you wondered.

Everybody laughed and Mr H said that sounded pretty unlikely but reminded Billy that it’s what’s inside us that counts and not the color of our skin.

I thought it rather strange that DeVos and Mrs H avoided contact with each other. All in all she was pretty quiet. Her husband when prompted by Johnny, in an effort to change the subject, told us about an invention for cars he was working on called the Hornbacher DynoHorn. He said it was a shame that all honking came off at the same intensity when though sometimes you did need a hefty blast to avoid a serious accident, at others you might just want to nudge someone on at a stoplight or get the attention of a friend on the sidewalk. Hornbacher DynoHorns were loud and brash or soft and harmonious depending on how hard you pushed them.

Johnny told Mr. H that this was a great idea and that he should get a patent on it before telling too many people, but I’m not sure if Johnny really meant that. He’s had a distant look on his face all day like he’s dreaming about being someplace else. He’s more fun in our bible studies where I can get him pissed off and jive with him.

Linda spends most of the dinner chatting with Fuckface on her phone under the table and faking her attention as to what is being said. I think Mrs. R’s asked her to put it away half a dozen times.

After desert we’re back in the living room to sing carols together. Mrs Russo has one of those organs with a rhythm section so she can play to waltzes and tangos and so on. As a teenager of the world I am well aware that standing around Mrs. R’s organ singing Jingle Bells and Silent NIght with the Ds and the Hs is not cool. I am being sucked into this uncool behaviour on account of me being a guest in the house and Linda is taking advantage of this by filming me with her phone, making snapchat videos for the amusement of Fuckface and other evil friends.

Mrs. D, as the lead singer in our church choir is both loud and annoying, but she covers up how bad the rest of sing. Billy just moves his lips like those athletes in the Olympics who don’t know their own national anthems.

We are in the middle of Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland when right out of nowhere Mrs Hornbacher hauls off and punches Reverend DeVos in the face.

Jesus Christ! Unbelievable. Totally unbelievable.

At first, Mrs. Russo just keeps on singing and playing along like nothing has happened while the rest of us are zonked to our socks. When she finally turns around to see what’s going on she forgets to turn off her drummer thingy, so there we all stand around blown out of our minds to the rhythm of what, according to the LED display on her organ, is a RHUMBA.

Everybody’s paralyzed except Linda, who continues to film away like she was documenting police brutality or something, focusing in on Reverend DeVos who covers his face with his hands and checks for blood.

What now? Well, it turns out Mrs H hasn’t had enough yet. She breaks out of the restraining arms of her husband and delivers a karate kick to D’s solar plexus.

(I don’t actually know what a solar plexus is, but that is how Mrs Russo was later to describe this second assault. If you ask me Mrs. H was aiming for – successfully so – Reverend DeVos’s dickydolittle. Nomenclature aside, this brought him down withering in pain on all fours.)

At this point Mrs. DeVos springs into action and appears to be making a lunge at Mrs. H, only she is actually just fainting, luckily for her close enough to Johnny so that he can catch her from also falling to the floor.

All the time I am thinking, can Johnny fix this situation? Johnny can patch up anything, but this? Can you guess what’s the first thing he says to Mrs H? He says: That’s a no-no Lillianne.

A no-no? Jesus, Johnny, is that the best you can come up with? She almost kills the poor slob and you call it a no-no?

By now Mrs. R has shut off the Rhumba and says she thinks it best if Lillianne were to leave, which was unnecessary as the Hornbachers were already going for their coats. Mr. H apologized for his wife’s behaviour and even managed a ‘thank you’ for the wonderful dinner.

After they’ve gone and DeVos is given a towel to wipe the blood from his face, which was only a tiny scratch, everybody is wondering what in the fuck this is all about, DeVos, rather than giving us some sort of explanation as to why Mrs H would want to harm him, has us all get on our knees to pray for her.

Despite my age I am fairly blasé to fighting. I’ve seen quite a few in my day, handed out some blows myself, but the unexpectedness of this, and the rage shown by Mrs. H really really was a shock.

Shocking, but sort of thrilling as well. You can’t deny the entertainment value of terrible events. Even tragic events are exciting. You can’t get around that. Just look at how TV stations cover mass shootings and atrocities and what people are looking for on the internet and what we want to talk about.

The reverend is going to be okay, but I can’t imagine how this is going to affect Mrs. H’s life. Her job? What made her do it? What sort of a grudge could she hold against DeVos. Where did the hatred come from? I guess we’ll find out pretty soon.

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