Shoot That Frog: A Christmas Comeuppance

onrjk1do10-rhbmuhlmd7g_r“He’ll come down the chimney tonight,” Father grumbled, his hand caressing the barrel of the Frog Shooter on his lap.

Father was sitting in Mother’s little chair in front of the fireplace. His dollar store sunglasses hung crooked on his honker. He was six-foot two, or had been before developing his post-divorce slouch, and 240 pounds. In Mother’s little chair, he looked like ice cream spilling over the sides of a too-small cone.

“How could you possibly know that?” John asked. He was zipping his coat, his back to Father.

“I just do,” said Father, shaking his jowls as if it ought to be perfectly clear. “Am I not allowed to know things anymore?”

John pulled the curtain aside with a finger and glanced into the blackness outside. “I only know known knowns.”

Not the response Father wanted. I knew it. John knew it.

“There you go again,” snarled Father.

“What?” said John. He had a way of saying what that was part question, part dare to question him. He knew exactly what, and he knew better than to ask.

“You know what. Knnnock it off!” Father had a way of emphasizing individual phonemes of one-syllable words.

“Roger that. Knocking it off, sir,” said John, checking his watch. He was in rare form tonight. Not caring how far he pushed Father.

“Where do you think you’re going,” said Father.

“Out,” said John.

“With whooom?”

“With Ella. That’s whoooom.”

“Who’s driving?”

“You mean whooom’s driving?”

He was really pushing it. Good thing Father was distracted.

“There better. Not be. Any. Drinking,” said Father. Whenever Father came to a full stop between words, we knew he himself had been drinking. It was his trick to avoid slurring his words. He didn’t know he wasn’t fooling anyone.

“You’re not fooling anyone,” said John.

I didn’t appreciate John saying that. He was going out. I wasn’t.

At that moment came the clatter of metal against metal, from the general direction of outside the house and against the gutter.

The ladder, I thought to myself.

“You see?” said Father to John.

“Great,” said John.

The ladder rattled as a mass ascended it. A human mass. A human male mass.

A rumble and a curse, as a body pulled itself onto the roof.

Footsteps as feet crunched across shingles.

Father gripped the handle of his Frog Shooter and gave it a pump.

“Like an old pro,” said John, his back to Father as he peeked out the window.

“John, please,” I whispered.

The Frog Shooter was an air pistol Father had bought to shoot frogs that got into his swimming pool. After he bought it, the frogs stopped coming. Father was disappointed that he never got to use his Frog Shooter to shoot frogs, but he said it was money well spent. The purchase had been efficacious, he said. It had solved the frog problem, he said.

John said there was a pretty significant hole in that logic.

Father didn’t appreciate John’s take on the matter.

Scratching and scraping sounds puttered down from the chimney and out the fireplace. Coughing and wheezing followed.

Father had not moved from Mother’s little chair. Still wearing his dollar store sunglasses, which he called “shades,” he swung the barrel of his Frog Shooter towards the fireplace. Debris fell from the chimney. Dust billowed into the room. Boots dangled, then landed. A pair of bare, pale buttocks hit bottom. A torso wrapped in a red and white Santa coat came last. A head was likely involved, but not yet visible.

Father pulled the trigger. The Frog Shooter went ph-pop.

“Ow!” came a voice from the flue, and a cough.

Father pumped the Frog Shooter, his eyes probably on John (hard to tell, covered as they were by his shades) then swung it back towards the fireplace.

Ph-pop!

“Ow! Son of a –“ cough. “What the f-“

“Oh, knnock it off,” said Father.

Ph-pop ph-pop!

A soot-covered face poked out of the fireplace. “Pete? That you? What are you -” ph-pop! “Stop shooting me!”

“Step. Out. Of That. Hearth. Charley,” said Father. It was a good trick, speaking that way, even if we all knew it was a trick.

My Uncle Charley elbowed aside the black mesh screen of the fireplace and tumbled out onto the carpet, his soot-covered bottom leaving black trails across the carpet. A cloud of ash followed him, and the room began to stink of smoke. I fought back a cough. I didn’t want to be the first to cough. Neither Father nor John had coughed yet.

Uncle Charley stood up, dusted himself off, and said, “Merry Christmas, guys.”

“Where. Are. Your. Pants,” said Father.

Uncle Charley’s chest heaved while he tried to catch his breath. His eyes bounced from me to John to Father. To Father, he said, “Pete, what are you doing here?”

The part of Father’s face that was not covered by his oversized, crooked shades was expressionless. “I. Live. Here,” he said.

What Father said was true in part. Father did live here, in Texas. In fact, he lived down the street from Mother, in his own house that wasn’t this one, but was in the vicinity.

“But you don’t live here,” said Uncle Charley, stabbing his finger into the carpet. “Cynthia lives here.

Father considered this. Then he nodded. He said, “You live in Florida.” Then he pumped his Frog Shooter and took aim at Uncle Charley, who turned and covered his bare ass with his hands.

Ph-pop pop!

Goddammit! said Uncle Charley, jumping up and down and flapping his hands.

“You make love to my wife on Christmas Eve, that’s what you get!” shouted Father, who hadn’t moved from Mother’s chair.

“She’s not your wife!” said Uncle Charley. “You been divorced twelve years!”

Father considered this. Then he said, “You’ve been my brother longer.”

“Half-brother,” said Uncle Charley.

Father considered this, too.

“Touché,” he said, finally. He ran the tip of his finger under his shades and flicked away a tear. He wiped his finger on his shirt.

A car horn sounded outside.

“Finally,” said John.

I ran up to John and tugged on his coat-sleeve. “Please take me with you.”

John yanked his sleeve out of my fingers, then looked at Father. Then Uncle Charley. He shook his head and said nah.

“John, you’re my brother!” I said.

He considered this for a moment. And for that moment, I really thought he was going to take me with him.

Then he said, “Half brother.”

He walked out and shut the door behind him.

It was the meanest thing anyone ever said to me.

105 thoughts on “Shoot That Frog: A Christmas Comeuppance

  1. Oh my, That undercurrent … oh wait, the top note … of cruelty and mean in this story! I especially liked the “only know known things”. Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Those are the best endings, in my mind. I figure when you don’t know how it’s going to end, it’s either a huge hit or a massive miss, but never boring. Every time I write to an ending, I suddenly become mr. mediocre (not that I’m not that anyway).

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      • Now that I think about it, I probably write to an ending more often than not. But I’m also open to scrapping it or changing it when things go off in an unplanned direction. Sometimes all I start with is the opening, and that can be fun too to see where it lands.

        Well, judging by the comments on your site, it would seem you have a lot of fans who disagree!

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      • I have a lot of non-fiction posts I spent lots of time on that flopped. Then again, many of those were written when no one was reading. I will probably repost some of them in the new year.

        Hanker away on the new fiction if that’s where your hanker lies. I will be reading whether yay or nay.

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  2. I must say, I would never have considered teaming pince nez with a Santa hat, but you certainly do pull the look off. That, of course is the sign of a true gentleman – to be able to wear any combination of accessories with panache. 🙂
    I personally think Charley deserved pellets up the backside. Who in their right mind drops down a chimney ‘tackle out’ on Christmas Eve, or indeed any night of the year?
    Though, I think Dad needs some help – definitely with his drinking and probably psychological assistance too.
    The relationship between the brothers is so right here – it can be every man for himself in some families. Great story, Walt – Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight 🙂

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    • You know, I didn’t know it/they were called a “pince nez.” Never heard of such an animal. Had to google the thing, but now I know. The old fellow looks so smart and confident, I do think he could don just about any accessory and pull it off.

      “Tackle out!” Thank you for that, too! I’ll have to file that one away and pull it out next time I’m trying to fake my way towards the charm and wit I like to…well, to fake my way towards, sometimes.

      Pops is indeed a case study of his own. But then aren’t they all? Aren’t we all? Well, maybe not you, my dear. But most of the rest of us, I think. Maybe not the rest of us. Maybe just me. 🙂 By the way, this is the “one Christmas story” you may recall I mentioned a while back. I told you it was a little “twisted!”

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      • It’s a grand story for Christmas – an antidote for all the artificial ‘magic’ (cos apparantly you can make Christmas magic just by buying the right brand of mince pie and the latest electrical doo-dad), the gluttony …
        And we are all a case study. All a little warped. Some of us are good at hiding it or are just too uptight to let it show too much.

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  3. Oh I really liked that, especially the collapse into the living room with the smell of smoke. I find myself wondering what is the sex of the narrator – I suspect it’s a woman, Cynthia, right?
    I didn’t find it cruel at all, but I pity the frog that falls in that pool. Listen to me, I’ve gone all Doctor Seuss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well thank you, sir. But no the narrator is John’s half-brother. I’m not sure where Cynthia is or what she’s up to in this. Probably something I should have thought of. Going Seuss is a good thing. The world would be a better place if more people did that.

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  4. Pingback: Shoot That Frog: A Christmas Comeuppance — waltbox | Rachael Kigbu blog

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    • Thank you! As I’ve said in other comments, I found this one to be mostly humorous myself, but others find in it a cruelty which wasn’t necessarily what I intended to leave them with. Anyhoo, glad you liked it. Thanks for the read.

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  6. Any time you can get comeuppance into a title man, that’s like Scrabble jackpot there hoss, duder. I remember reading this when it came out but it’s like A Christmas Story or one of the classics, it gets better. The image of him spilling out like an overstuffed cone, that’s good. I see the Quaid brothers acting this out on stage.
    Merry Christmas, was happy to see this, something cruel and unusual in the stocking this morning. Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Bill! I thought it was mostly funny when I wrote it but others have said it’s cruel, too. Dug it out the other day and gave it a re-read and it kind of cracked me up so I re-posted it thinking what the hey. Was surprised when one of the WP editors picked up on it, but she said it made her laugh too so here we are, my third time to be freshly discovered. Nice Christmas surprise for old duder here. Hope some others find the humor in it. Hope you’re enjoying your day with the fam. Merry Christmas!

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  7. What i get out of the gist of The Christmas story is it’s in your heart and in your memories of your childhood the tale of Old Saint Nick with no hesitation in thought of mind of how wonderful the night will be when you go to bed knowing that Santa Claus will be coming down the chimney and leaving you gifts like a magical night with the tree all aglow, and put your feelings aside towards people that won’t honor what you have experienced as a child and what you now know, there is no excuse for a person to make fun of or fumble the childhood tradition in anyone’s life, and from what i have read from this author, he was trying to explain that some people try to take these memories out of a grownups mature life, on Christmas we all have that childhood makeup that is embedded in our hearts for that one special day called Christmas we all do it when it comes to the secret shopping and waiting for the intisipation for that special someone you want to be surprised, and ” Merry Christmas 🎄 To All Because We Are All 🎅 Santa Claus 🎅 When Christmas time 🎄 Is here

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  8. Pingback: Shoot That Frog: A Christmas Comeuppance — waltbox – ibrahim7777blog

  9. Great story- expertly interlaced topics of children’s fairy tales, and real family struggles. I enjoyed the plot twist, where Santa is actually there for a very different reason than delivering presents!
    The piece is darkly comedic, but not overwhelmingly so. If you do get a chance to read this, I would be interested to know what inspired you to write this story, and how you develop your characters. Thanks!

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    • Thanks for asking, I’m always up for shoptalk! The beginning popped into my head, I had no idea what was going to happen or how it would end. The end surprised me, and I’m not sure it works 100%, but it felt like the place to end at the time. It should probably have ended more “darkly comedic” than just dark, but oh well. The characters are just exaggerated cartoons of people I know in real life. I have a half-brother who who once introduced me to someone as his brother, then corrected himself to “half-brother.” It wasn’t nearly as big a deal in real life as it is in the story, but it was part of the fodder. And my dad did have an air pistol he bought to shoot frogs, and he wore broken sunglasses inside the house. No one ever came down the chimney though. Not that I ever saw, anyway. And though Uncle Charley was entirely made up, my dad did live down the street from my mother after they divorced. May sound weird but it wasn’t to us. All just bits and pieces of real life, entirely fictionalized and made ridiculous. Catharsis, in a way. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I hope itvhelp you as much as it does me to tell our stories. It is good for my soul to know there good and bad aspects to my childhood and I survived as an imperfect human being, just like my parents and my family. Thanks for sharing

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