Christmas Eve was always the big day for us – the fasting, the fish feast, the gifts opened under a tree. We still do that, although the fasting consists of having a braided raisin bread, “vanočka,”and coffee. Life is good. We are healthy, my cymbidium orchid is in spike (that’s first for me – it rebloomed from last year!), and the three-tiered cookie tray is all set up by my cookie-baking husband. I wish you all Happy Holidays, and just for fun, I’m including a holiday-related short story about Asbjorn and Sean from Breakfall. This is what happens when the boys take their Christmas break in Iceland 🙂 This takes place after the whole Fall Trilogy.
The Smell of Christmas
The TSA drone checked Sean’s documents, then Asbjorn’s. “Step over there, with the others.”
He wanted to grab Asbjorn’s hand and run for it. Leave the JFK re-entry security checkpoint behind. Leave their luggage – especially their luggage – and make their Boston connection.
Obediently, following his husband, he took his place with their fellow passengers. As long as they didn’t attract attention. As long as they didn’t smell like their luggage did. As long as the SWAT team didn’t show up with sniffing dogs. Would the horrid stuff even wipe out the dogs’ sense of smell? It sure had done a number on him when Asbjorn had opened one of his precious cans. The reek had oozed across the room like a genie let out of a bottle, inescapable.
Fucking Asbjorn and his idiotic culinary experiments. Rotted canned fish? Seriously? (“Not rotten, just fermented. Try it, Sunshine, you’ll like it!”) Had they gotten some Akvavit or Oban in the duty-free like regular people. But no, it had to be cans of the stuff. Enough to inflict upon their unsuspecting friends, who’d expect an Icelandic delicacy and get a snoutful of a week-old litterbox.
How the fuck did the Vikings even figure out they had to dig a hole to put the fish in, piss on it, and bury it for months to render it edible? And, no it wasn’t “like that runny cheese we had in Paris, except stronger.” No matter how much umami or terroir or whatever it had, it hadn’t been worth it and it took two regular tooth-brushings on Asbjorn’s part before Sean agreed to kiss him ever again.
When fish ferments in an enclosed space, pressure does tend to build up. And had these been the sturdy, antiquated 16-gauge ration cans from World War II, there might’ve been a chance to bring Asbjorn’s precious prize home. Except these piece-of-shit modern aluminum tin cans probably exploded in the unpressurized luggage compartment within an hour after take-off.
He fought the urge to reach for Asbjorn’s hand.
Think. Think hard. Asbjorn had put it into a separate backpack. It had just dirty laundry all around it for padding. Nothing sentimental, nothing important. No identifying marks – and since it had been a last-minute decision at the gate, no name tag, either.
Had they not had to evacuate the plane, had the authorities not called the bioterror unit… Sean looked around. The underground corridor was still. Even the luggage belts had stopped moving minutes ago.
In the deafening stillness, his stomach twisted with anxiety. He’d lie, lie through is teeth and claim he’d never laid his eyes upon that stupid, reeking backpack before. He’d not have Asbjorn torn away from him, separated, sent away. He wondered what the weather at Guantanamo was like.