The Christmas tree loomed large over the chair which Eddie stood next to. His dad plunked himself down, and pointed to his lap. Eddie knelt next to his father, like the good altar boy he was, and lay across his daddy's lap.
John pulled Eddie's pants down, curled the belt around his fist, and raised his hand up high. The smell of vodka and gin and beer sunk down to Eddie's nostrils as the hiss of the belt seared the air, ahead of the blistering impact of the belt. Eddie involuntarily tensed, his body nearly rolling off his father's lap.
Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssclap "If you FUCKING move again, I'm going to beat you twice as hard, boy!"
Eddie's left hand gripped the edge of the recliner tightly. Not only did he want to please his father, but he knew if he moved, the belt would catch parts of him that weren't so padded. He gritted his teeth and tried to hold back the tears as the belt drilled down on him five more times. His cheeks were shiny and wet, but he managed not to scream in agony. Much. That had gotten him the fifth strike.
As he stood up, and gathered his corduroys about him, his dad rolled the belt tightly around his fist and began to relax. "Do you think we're made of money, Eddie? I worked hard to buy you that bike, and this is the gratitude you show? Throwing it in the driveway? Why not just throw the damned thing away, Eddie? In fact, why don't we do that with all your toys? You don't need toys! You're a grown-up now!"
Eddie was mortified! His bike? His top? His hula hoop?
Eddie sniffled back his new-found tears hard, and said "I'm sorry, daddy."
"I have a good mind to tell Santa what a bad boy you've been. Now go wash up for supper."
Eddie stormed to his room to change his sweatsoaked shirt, then limped his way to the bathroom. He could hear bits and pieces of his parents arguing.
"Don't tell me you aren't drunk"...."what was her name? You're a creep!"..."And you're a whore, you fucking pill-popping whore!"
The next morning, December 24, was a Saturday. Normally, mom and dad slept in, while Eddie fended for himself, watching cartoons like "Crusader Rabbit," but this morning, he watched at his bedroom window as his father packed up the car with all kinds of boxes, some wrapped, some unwrapped.
Christmas morning was solemn and quiet. John and his wife and son dressed in suits, and drove the 3 miles to Our Lady Of Sorrows in Westbury. Their church, not the church three blocks from their house. Appearances must be kept! Eddie, still smarting from the spanking, stepped into the rectory and donned his white robe, and reported to Father Tom for altar service.
"No, Eddie. Your father told us what happened and asked that you be kept out of God's service today as punishment."
"Not a nice man, yer father. Didye ever wonder why?" Ian stood there, expressionless.
Ed shook his head. He was not one for psychoanalysis, even though two marriage counselors had tried to get him to go.
"Let's go find out, shall we?" And with a twinkle in his eye, Ian vanished in a flash, taking Ed with him.