January 5

Twelfth Night


Alicia and Evan huddled by the fire.  They were doing their best to recall the numbered presents from a holiday song.

“Something about kings a-kinging?”

Alicia laughed.  “No, but you’ve jogged my memory.  It’s ten lords a-leaping.”

“Such a terrible, endless song.”

“Terrible gifts, too.”  She pulled her arms from beneath the blanket they shared, making the jazz hands gesture.  “Except for: Five. Golden Rings.”

“I like how everybody used to sing faster near the end.  To get it over with.”  His breath formed a frosty cloud in front of his face.  Evan found her hands beneath the blanket again, clasped them to keep them warm.

“Today’s the last day.  It’s like Twelfth Night.  Alicia had been an English major.  She wrote her Senior Thesis on Shakespeare.  “The point about twelfth night is that it needs to be a big party.  You’ve celebrated for a dozen days, but it’s bittersweet because tomorrow things will return to normal.  Going back to work after a vacation.  Back on the treadmill, after all the love and family and presents.”

“Ah, presents!  And what did your true love give you today?”

Alicia searched the littered floor.  She retrieved the empty tin of expired beans, and flipped it over.  “As I recall…you gave me…”  She snapped a small bone off the roasting stick, and tapped it against the metal bottom of the can.  “Twelve drummers drumming,” she said.

Not a partridge bone.  A strand of gristle dangled from the small femur; a few filthy black hairs stuck to it.  Probably a few of them showed in her teeth as she smiled.

Twelfth Night.  Tomorrow they’d need to abandon their indoor bonfire.

They’d walk outside the sanctuary of the collapsed building, face the ruined world.