Oh, the weather outside is frightful. But you should see the barometer inside . . .

I DON’T KNOW if there’s anything more awesome, more aggravating, more loving, than a

The Family Feast of Dysfunction . . . On sale for less than a buck!

family get-together. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it just isn’t Christmas ’til your cousin chases your little sister into the house with a full-on garden hose. And yeah. It happened. Sorry, Scott. I ratted you out. In your defense, she had it coming.

Bear with me on this . Because while it starts out bleak as autumn in the beginning., it ends like GrannaLucie’s aluminum-spangled Christmas Extravaganza.

So here goes.

Seasons change. And so do families.

Families change shape, size and often color, but the foundation, the spirit, remains. Like my Daddy’s tombstone. GrannaLucie (my Daddy’s Mama) used to take me out to his grave, spread out one of Ma’s old quilts, smoke a cigarette, drink a beer, and tell him everything my mama, my five-year-old self, my four-year-old sister, and my teeny tiny brother were up to.

Autumn (even though my birthday is in October) has always been the bane of my existence. Leaves dying and piling up like pyres on the dry, yellow grass. Bare, gnarled tree limbs stretching toward a low-clouded sky. It still kinda makes my skin crawl.

But I realize now that autumn is Rest Time for plants. A time to slow down, take a breath, and start again. Really, it should be a rest time for all living things.

Through spring and summer, living things spend so much energy growing and blooming and fruiting, that we all need a break. A season of respite. Of growing roots to support the stalks and stems that will bloom in the spring. In that spirit, the next installment of A MacKinnon Christmas.

*It’s funny, I promise.

When we last left our heroine, Cauley MacKinnon, she was battling her job. And the looming MacKinnon Christmas Feast of Dysfunction.

A MacKinnon Christmas (from where we left off yesterday)

***

Chapter Two

Talk about burying the lead—in newspaper lingo, it translated that I was starting my list with secondary information and postponing the most essential point. But I had a good reason.

The fact that I’d made Tom Logan number four on my To Do List didn’t have anything to the priority I’d assigned that little project and more to do with the fact that Mama would actually see my list at some point, and my mother has zero boundaries.

I didn’t think I could bear her meddling in my pseudo-love life with tips, tricks and pointers on how to catch a man.

Moreover, it would almost certainly cause her to revamp her own To Do List to include dropping everything to drag me to Victoria’s Secret for some emergency lingerie shopping. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want your mama tagging along when you’re trying on peek-a-boo panties. Besides. I didn’t want her to know I’d already taken care of that little errand …

Not to mention, Number Four on my list might actually be attainable, since Logan was back from shooting bad guys, interrogating perps, and whatever else it was FBI agents did in the line of duty, in some undisclosed, I-could-tell-you-but-then-I’d-have-to-kill-you hell hole.

I did a whole body grin as I glanced up at the big clock on the wall and my heart skipped into a delicious little sprint of anticipation.

Logan was due to pick me up for lunch in less than an hour.

In preparation for Number Four, I’d worn my favorite little misdemeanor of a skirt, a blood red tight little summer sweater and a pair of murder red sky high heels that’d cost a month of my salary.

But what’s a month of salary when true love is at stake?

I glanced over at my reflection in my boss’s glass-enclosed office, studied my image a moment, then gave an Oh well, shrug. The reflection in the glass showed me blond hair that was slightly tousled in a Chic Magazine style that was supposed to reminiscent of a roll in the hay, my favorite tight little red sweater and sassy little black skirt that was accented by a respectable pair of C-cups.

Probably I wasn’t going to send Kate Hudson into a jealous rage, but at least I’d give her a run for her money.

I was having a lovely little daydream about lunch—and the possibility of dessert with Agent Logan when my desk phone rang.

“MacKinnon,” I said into the phone, and it came out sounding a bit like Lauren Bacall due to the lingering effects of said daydream.

“That’s not a nice way to answer the phone, Cauley,” my mother scolded.

Funny. With her soft, lyrical East Texas drawl, even a scolding came out sweet as molasses. Then again, in the south, you can say any mean thing you want, so long as you preface it with a little bit of sugar and a big dose of “Bless her heart … ”

For example—so long as a soul is sufficiently blessed, a “bless her heart, that woman’s butt is as big as a Butterball Turkey,” comes across as kind and nurturing and almost well intentioned. The equivalent of giving a girl a Bowflex for her birthday.

I considered giving my mother a blessing or two.

But, reason prevailed, and I kept my mouth shut, waiting for her newest addendum to “our” Christmas list.

Without seeming to notice my silence, Mama said, “I need you to add some things to our list for the soiree.”

Funny how our list always began as my list, but with Mama’s additions, notations and numerous postscripts, the list was eligible for the Library of Congress.

Not to mention that our list was primarily executed by me.

Which was fine, because that meant that I’d gotten at least the majority of my Christmas shopping done early for a change.

“I need a nutmeg,” Mama said. “And it has to be a nut. That pre-processed powdered crap doesn’t do the nog justice.”

“Right,” I muttered, scribbling nutmeg in the margin of her list. “One more nut for the party.”

“Don’t be smart, Cauley,” she said, and I said, “I wouldn’t dare.”

“And don’t forget the bourbon!” Clairee, Mama’s best friend caroled in the background. “We can’t have eggnog without the bourbon!”

A streak of alarm skittered up my spine.

Mama’s famous Knock You Nekkid Egg Nog is banned in 48 states and half of eastern Mexico.

“Mama,” I said, “do you have eggs for the nog?”

Through the phone I heard the familiar groan of Mama’s old, comfy Fridgedaire door, followed by the crinkling and shuffling of ingredients.

“Well, no,” she said over the sound of the door snicking shut, “but that’s okay. We’ll just have nog.”

“We are not having just nog,” I said firmly, scribbling eggs and cream onto my mounting list of chores.

And while I was at it, I jotted a case of half-n-half and appetizers to delay the effects of Mama’s lethal nog.

And, in the interest of self-preservation, I added, aspirin and a half a pound of Prozac.

Experience has taught me that if Mama and Clairee partook only of nog, before the evening was over somebody would be shouting, “Whiskey for the women and water for the horses!” and someone was going to wind up naked in the rose bushes.

The dead last way to get Logan to fall in love with me was to have him see one of the ladies from the Charity League naked in the rose bushes.

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10 Responses to Oh, the weather outside is frightful. But you should see the barometer inside . . .

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