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Twelve Days of Christmas

Chapter Text

Set in 1959


  “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a Convair YB-60!” HM sang at the top of his lungs, throwing tinsel haphazardly over the tree.

  “Shut up, HM,” grumbled Templeton, shoving aside the wrapping paper BA had left on the floor. “This place is a mess. Dad is going to have a fit when he sees what you’ve done to the house.”

  “Done?” shouted HM, kicking a pile of tinsel, which proceeded to stick to his clothes and shoes. “What I’ve done is decorate everything absolutely beautifully. Dad said we could decorate the tree while he was at work today.”

  “Why does he even have to work on a Sunday?” snapped Templeton, sinking into John’s chair and crossing his arms. “It’s stupid.”

  BA entered the room and glared at the twisted wrapping paper. One look at Templeton told him who had done it, but he held his temper and knelt, straightening the paper and setting the box he retrieved from his bedroom in the center to wrap. “What’s wrong, Temp?” he asked, focusing on his work but tuning his ears toward his older brother.

  “What isn’t wrong?” groaned Templeton. “It’s almost Christmas, and Dad is working so much we barely see him. He couldn’t even decorate the tree with us. And on top of that, HM won’t shut up. What even is a Convair YB-65? There is no such plane.”

  “No, there isn’t,” agreed HM, picking tinsel off his pants and throwing it over the tree. “Convair YB-60, on the other hand, is very real. Convair built exactly one and a half for prototype bombers. Think of how much fun it would be to explore that baby. They were both scrapped in ’52. Santa could rustle one up, though.”

  “Santa?” asked Templeton, knowing his brother was being sarcastic but feeling very much in the mood to start an argument. “Oh, you believe in him still?”

  “Of course I do,” nodded HM, reading Templeton’s snarky tone and shooting back with a calm and collected voice. “Who do you think brought you that beautiful baseball bat last year?”

  “Dad, you moron,” mumbled Templeton, covering his face with his hands.

  “Listen, you know what your problem is, Temp,” said HM, loading an entire branch with an armful of shiny tinsel, “you never lighten up. You know, I think you enjoy pouting.”

  “I do not!” yelled Templeton, jumping to his feet. “You act like a baby all the time! Always shouting and saying stupid things and talking to yourself!”

  “You’re shouting right now,” said BA, though both of his brothers were ignoring him.

  HM put his hands on his hips and stared at Templeton. He looked like he was about to say something, but instead of speaking, he just stared until his eyes slowly starting crossing and his tongue began to push past his lips.

  “That’s it!” growled Templeton, practically stepping on BA in his attempt to get to HM.

  “Watch it!” cried BA, pulling the gift he was wrapping to safety as Templeton and HM connected and wrapped their arms around each other, each trying to wrestle the other to the ground.

  “Let me go!” yelled HM. “You’re going to knock the tree over and ruin my glorious decorating.”

  “Decorating! It looks like someone threw up tinsel and got it all over the tree and yourself,” shot back Templeton, using his right leg to sweep HM’s left knee and bring them both down to the floor.

  BA stood to the side, watching his brothers grunt and moan as they tested their strength against each other and landed several good jabs into one another’s guts. He shook his head, knowing all he had to do was step closer, and both boys would stop, fearing the wrath of their muscular brother. While he was currently the shortest of the three, BA was built much broader and bulkier than HM or Templeton, and he had proven many times he was the strongest of the three.

  “Ow!” shrieked HM when Templeton connected solidly with his ribs.

  “That’s enough!” ordered BA, grabbing the fighting teens by the shoulders and pulling them apart. The punches stopped instantly, but Templeton remained rigid while HM shrank back, whimpering and letting his lower lip protrude slightly. “Gonna tear this place to the ground and really give Dad something to stress about when he gets home,” admonished BA, shaking his head.

  The thought of stressing his overworked father out even more than necessary momentarily shamed Templeton, but his uncalled-for anger toward HM quickly raged back over him, and he started mumbling incoherently. Shrugging off BA’s hand and crossing the living room, Templeton thudded up the stairs to disappear into his bedroom.

  HM took a nervous step forward, rubbing his neck dramatically even though Templeton had never touched him there, and groaned, “Gosh gee, big guy, what do you think got into Temp?”

  “He’s worried about Dad,” said BA, watching Templeton disappear up the stairs. “We all are. He’s just more vocal about it.”

  “Yeah, I guess,” said HM. “I thought Dad would be happy to see the place all decorated when he got home tonight.”

  “He will be,” said BA. “Come on. I’ll help you finish up. Give Temp some space for now.”

  The two brothers spent the rest of the evening decorating the tree, cleaning pine needles and tinsel off the floor, and putting candles in the several windows visible from the street to give the house a homey, warm appearance.

  “Now that oughtta be a good welcome home for Dad,” grinned HM, peering out through the lace curtains at the softly falling snow. The ground was still visible as the snow had come and melted throughout the late fall, but the flakes falling now seemed to be sticking, and there would surely be a covering of white by morning.

  “We did good, brother,” said BA, slapping HM’s shoulder. “Let’s heat some supper for Dad. He’ll be home any minute.”

  “Should we check on Temp?” asked HM, following BA to the kitchen.

  “I think we should let him alone for the night,” said BA. “He’ll be too angry to talk.” HM nodded. Despite his teasing and poking at his older brothers, HM had great respect for both of them, and he knew that BA especially tended to be wise beyond his years. BA would know how to handle Templeton best.

  The two brothers heated leftovers from their supper and set the table with an inviting appeal for their father, including a cup of eggnog they had saved from the treat their neighbor Mrs. Varjak had brought them that afternoon. HM dropped into his chair, pulling the airplane book he had gotten for his birthday the week before from under the table.

  “Where did you have that?” asked BA, making a face.

  “I stuck it in the space between the edging of the table and the leg,” said HM. “Always handy if I happen to be sitting here.”

  “Sometimes I think you’re actually crazy, man,” scoffed BA, settling into his seat and shaking his head.

  “Could be, BA,” grinned HM, leaning back and resting his feet on the table. “But I ain’t certified, and therefore the term ‘crazy’ is a misnomer and should be used in jest and nothing more.”

  “As I said,” nodded BA, “crazy.”

  The sound of the front door opening brought both boys to their feet, and they ran to meet John, excited for the few precious moments remaining in their evening before all three had to retire and rest up for a long day of school and work starting early the next morning.