Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nurse the Hate: The Christmas Photo Story

  They went to the hockey game with the best of intentions.  My friend Johnny is a huge hockey fan, and there is nothing he likes better than drinking beer with his brothers and watching a good game.  Well, to be honest, there is nothing Johnny likes better than "Johnny Time", which is essentially drinking beer in any social setting.  I've seen him in rare form knocking back beers at Sesame Street On Ice while his kids run around a luxury suite like wild animals.  Maybe he just likes to drink at any event held on ice.  I'm not sure.  

This particular night was a couple days prior to Xmas, and he went to a Cleveland Lumberjacks game with his brother and brother-in-law.  Like all minor league hockey games, they hoped to drink a heroic amount of beer and watch Eastern European hockey players fight each other while pounding on the glass and screaming obscenities.  They were all in good spirits with the holidays being so close and really tied one on at the game.  When the game was over, no one wanted the fun to end.  They decided to go to a working class tavern on the way home.  Johnny favors those type of bars as they tend to accept his loud and sloppy behavior as just the cost of doing business. 

The night took a turn over by the mechanical bowling machine.  Even now it is not clear how the events transpired.  Depending on who you ask, Johnny's brother-in law shoved Johnny.  Or maybe Johnny's brother-in-law slipped into Johnny.  Or maybe Johnny's brother was just standing there next to the mechanical bowling machine minding his own business.  Regardless of the circumstance, Johnny turned around and clocked the brother-in-law in the face.  As the brother-in-law collapsed on the ground holding his flattened nose, blood pooling by his nose, he yelled out "What the fuck did you do that for?". 

I think we can all agree that being punched in the face for no real reason without warning by a guy you have been laughing and hanging out with must be a great surprise.  Even to this day, Johnny isn't 100% sure of what happened.  After the quick outburst of unprovoked violence, Johnny attempted to soothe the nerves of the obviously unnerved bar staff while his brother attended to the brother-in-law.  After a brief debate with the bar personnel, the guys agreed to leave the bar and not continue the debate with members of the law enforcement community.  They walked outside into the parking lot to hatch a plan.

It was quickly agreed that the wives of the principal participants of this little episode would be less than enthusiastic with The Truth.  I would agree with that decision as The Truth was probably not going to be well received.  The Plan became that the brother-in-law would claim to have slipped on the ice, breaking his nose.  Yes, they had too much to drink, but accidents do happen...  They agreed to stick to the story much like perpetrators of a robbery do after being arrested by police.  "Stick to the story!  Agreed?  Agreed?"  They agreed to stick to the story and ride it out.  They went home in three separate cabs.

Morning came particularly early for Johnny.  As I recall he used the word "destroyed" to describe his condition.  He dragged himself into the shower and slunk downstairs to the kitchen where his wife calmly sipped a cup of coffee.  "How was your night last night?"  Oh, it was fun.  "Really?  Anything interesting happen?"  No.  Not really...  Oh, Brother-in-law slipped on some ice late when we were leaving.  He was kinda banged up.  "Hmmm.  That's interesting, because my sister just called and said you punched him in the face for no reason and broke his nose!"

The Plan had failed.

The brother-in-law had sung like a canary.  His wife had totally freaked out.  This is pretty understandable as you don't expect your husband to be attacked by a member of your family.  It was especially understandable in this case as they had a family tradition of assembling the extended family for a photograph prior to exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve.  This year's photo would feature her husband with bandages across the bridge of his nose and eyes blackened like a raccoon.  She was really not pleased as the photo and gift exchange was scheduled for later that night.   

Johnny drove across town that night to his brother-in-law's house in a tense and silent car.  His wife stared straight ahead with lips almost white from the pressure of her clenched mouth.  Even the children remained quiet, sensing trouble while strapped into the backseat. Johnny tried to fill the car with upbeat small talk.  "Are you looking forward to Christmas honey?"  The child warbled an answer as his wife shot him a cold dagger of a look across the no man's land of the center counsel of the car.  Although the drive to the Brother-in-law's house was 40 minutes, Johnny said it felt much, much longer.  I recall the length being referred to as "three days".

They arrived.  Tense small talk was exchanged.  A public apology given.  A photo hastily taken.  The sisters conferred privately in the kitchen.  Gifts were handed to the children.  The children then herded back to the car with their still wrapped gifts to be opened later.  They were there about ten minutes.  The door closed and the car was backed out of the driveway.  The drive home didn't seem as long.

I would do anything to see that photograph.



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