Christmas is fast approaching and many of the women in the town of Holly are bracing themselves for stress, overwork, and little understanding or appreciation from the men in their lives. But then inspiration hits. Joy Robertson, Laura Fredericks, and their knitting buddies decide to “go on strike” and give the men an opportunity to see firsthand what it takes to make the holidays merry and bright. Soon other women are joining in and husbands all over town are getting a crash course in decorating, shopping, and what to wear to see Santa, and are searching frantically for an interpreter to translate the mysteries of holiday recipes. The men may just come to appreciate the holidays after walking a mall in their wives’ high heels. But maybe the women will learn something, too.
ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS EXCERPT:
Glen Fredericks slapped the back of his last departing Thanksgiving dinner guest. “Good to see ya. Thanks for coming.”
“Hey, man, great time,” said the mooch. “Thanks for having me.”
“No problem. We’ll do it all again at Christmas,” Glen promised.
Behind him, Glen’s wife Laura suddenly envisioned herself going after her husband with the electric carving knife he’d used earlier on the turkey. “In your dreams,” she growled. She stepped around Glen and shoved the front door shut. Having made contact with a hefty male hind end, it didn’t shut easily, especially for a woman who was five feet two and a hundred and nineteen pounds, but she managed.
“Hey,” Glen protested. “What was that all about?”
“You need to ask?” Laura gave her over-chewed gum an angry snap. He did this to her every year, and every year he promised that next year things would be different. But they never were.
“Mama, Tyler’s in the ‘frigerator,” called five-year-old Amy.
Laura marched toward the kitchen, Glen trotting after her. “Today might have been your idea of fun, Mr. Invite the Whole Planet Over, but it sure wasn’t mine.”
No woman in her right mind would volunteer to have her house turned into the city dump by the invasion of family, friends, and Thanksgiving freeloaders her husband had invited into their home. Before the invasion, this room had looked great, decorated with little gourds, cute ceramic pumpkins, and her two prettiest vases filled with mums. Now everywhere she looked she saw mess. CD’s lay scattered on the floor in front of the entertainment center. Her new leather couch was littered with a plastic football, Glen’s socks, magazines, and an open can of nuts (half-spilled). Glasses and bottles were strewn every which way across her coffee table. The little hand-painted, wooden Pilgrim couple that she’d set out on the sofa table now lay on their sides as if taking a nap, not that you could really see them anyway in the litter of napkins and appetizer plates and other party leftovers. And it was hard to ignore the towel on the carpet, evidence of an earlier wine spill mop-up.
People said you shouldn’t have cream colored carpet when you had little kids. Well, people were wrong. She managed to keep the carpet clean just fine with two kids. It was Glen’s moocher co-worker who was the problem. And of course Glen had been too busy yucking it up to tell her about the spill. She only discovered it when she stepped on it in her stocking feet.
“Come on, babe,” he protested. “It’s the holidays, and it only comes once a year.”
“It’s a good thing because it takes me a whole year to recover. In case you didn’t notice, Glen, we’ve got two children, a big house that I clean, and I work thirty hours a week.” Before Glen could reply they heard the distinctive crash of a dish breaking followed by a startled cry. “Oh, great. Now what?” Laura muttered, and picked up speed.
She found five-year-old Amy hovering near the doorway, a golden haired cherub. “I told him not to,” Amy said, already the bossy older sister.
Behind her, by the fridge, stood two and a half-year-old Tyler – nickname, Tyler the Terrible – whimpering. At his feet lay a fluffy pile of whipped cream fruit salad, broken shards of ceramic bowl sticking up through it like mountain peaks through the clouds.
Laura walked over to where her son stood and surveyed the damage. “Mess, Mama,” Tyler told her.
She had been going non-stop since six in the morning and it was now eight at night. She sat down on the floor behind her son and began to cry. That set Tyler off, and he started wailing. She pulled him to her and they both went at it.
“It’s okay, baby,” Glen said and knelt beside her. He was a big, kind-hearted teddy bear of a man. Most days. Today, he was just a big pain in the butt.
He reached out to put a beefy arm around her and she gave him a shove. “Bite me. Do you have any idea what this day has been like for me, Glen? Do you even have a clue?”
“You made a great dinner,” he tried.
“Yes, Imade the dinner. No one brought anything except your mother, and all she brought was soggy pumpkin pies. I stuffed and baked the turkey, I made the fruit salad, the candied yams, the smelly rutabagas your lazy cousin loves, the green bean casserole, the mashed potatoes and gravy and the home made dinner rolls from your mother’s recipe. Why can’t she make her own damn rolls?”
From the other side of the kitchen, Amy gasped. “Mama said damn.”
“Mamas can do that on Thanksgiving,” Glen said, thinking fast.
Yeah, he had a comeback for a five-year-old, but he couldn’t think of anything to say to his wife. What could he say, the big turkey? “I cleaned and decorated the house, set the table, and made the whole effing dinner. And, while you and your family and those freeloaders that you call friends all sat around afterward like beached whales and watched the football game, your mother and I got to clean up the big, effing mess you left. I don’t care how much football you played in high school and college. You could miss fifteen minutes of one game to help.”
He frowned. “Hey, I was watching the kids.”
“Yeah, right. When, during the beer commercials? Tyler ate almost an entire candy bowl of M&M;’s. It’s a wonder he hasn’t thrown up yet. And if he does, guess who’s dealing with it.”
Glen held up a hand to cut her off. “I will, don’t worry. But you know it’s not entirely fair to say I did nothing. I helped.”
She glared at him. “Oh, yeah, you put the extra leaf in the table and brought up the folding chairs. Real big of you.” She got up and steamed out of the kitchen, calling over her shoulder. “I’m taking a bath. After that, I’m going to bed with my mystery novel. I don’t want to see you or anyone for the rest of the evening.”
Glen’s voice followed her. “That’s a good idea, babe. Take a break. You deserve it.”
That was an understatement Laura decided, looking at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. The makeup that hadn’t worn off was now smudged and runny from her crying jag, and her hair was a mess. She looked like blonde roadkill. She felt like it, too. The labors of Thanksgiving had almost crushed her.
And in just four weeks her husband expected her to do this all again. Four weeks? Who was she kidding? It would all start this weekend with cleaning up the mess Hurricane Glen had left in his wake. (Naturally, he’d help . . . for about two minutes until he got distracted horsing around with the kids or finding a football game to watch.) Then they’d start hauling out the Christmas decorations and begin the Christmas shopping. The day after Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year – she couldn’t face it. Maybe she’d just stay in the tub until she turned into the world’s biggest prune. Or until Glen got a clue.
Except Glen was terminally clueless, so she’d never leave the tub again. If only his brain size matched the size of his heart. Maybe he needed glasses. He obviously couldn’t see how much he dumped on her this time of year . . .