by Gordon Henderson

Growing up, every year we went to the Floods for Christmas, it was family tradition. The Floods loved Christmas. As children, we loved going to the Floods; they always had a huge tree with piles of presents under it.

But that changed when we became teenagers.

We had no reason to want to hurt Mr. Flood, a kind and decent man. When I was nine and cried because I didn’t get the Hot Wheels set I’d asked for, the one with the loop, Mr. Flood had personally gone out and gotten it for me. He was a nice guy.

My brother and sister and I we were not nice, we were rotten (spoiled rotten) and we were dead set on spoiling Christmas.

But that wasn’t easy with Mr. Flood, he was a patient man; if a teenager was stoned, left a fake poop by the Christmas tree, brooded, said, “shit” really loud at dinner, talked dirty, talked back, mocked or otherwise belittled the festive spirit of Christmas, it didn’t bother Mr. Flood, he still believed. He was irrepressible, or so we thought.

One Christmas we discovered that there was a place where Mr. Flood drew the line and that place was with Milton. Milton was the Flood’s dog, he was a small brown, sort of Dachshund or other. His legs were so short that his big belly dragged on the ground. His mouth was always grossly wet and smelled. He was Mr. Gross Mouth.

The Floods had no children of their own and Milton was like their child.

My parents and the Floods were drinking eggnog or maybe Hot Toddies. My brother Kevin, a really obnoxious self-satisfied jerk, and I, were vying for who could be the most vile. My sister Merle was the judge and puppet master. She was the oldest and we regularly competed for her approval. She said to Kevin, “Tell Mr. Flood we’re going to eat Milton.” So Kevin went up to him and said, “Mr. Flood, why not this year, instead of having a Turkey why don’t we roast and eat Milton?”

Mr. Flood put down his drink. He sat for a moment, thinking about it, then he got up saying, “You know son, that’s a great idea.” He picked up Milton and marched into the kitchen. Giggling, we followed.

Once in the kitchen he put Milton down and put on rubber gloves. He took the Turkey out of the roasting pan and put it on the counter. “Let’s get prepared,” he said, taking out a large carving knife. He put the cutting board over the sink, leaving space between the edge of the board and the sink. He looked at me with a gleam in his eye, “For the blood. We don’t want to make a mess now do we?”

“No, no you’re right,” I said.

He picked Milton up and put him on the cutting board.

Milton had a thing he would do. He would roll over on and surrender if you were too rough with him. Mr. Flood is holding him, on the cutting board with one rubber gloved hand, so he’s lying there, surrendering. Mr. Flood is explaining where he’s going to make the cuts, lightly tracing a diagram on Milton’s with the knife.

We were freaking out! Nothing in our experience of Mr. Flood had prepared us for this moment. He was out of his ever-loving mind and I was at least partially responsible. He was really going to do this. I didn’t even try to stop him. I just was standing there with my mouth open. I had started to cry. He said, “Let’s make our first cut.” Kevin lost it, pleading, “Mr. Flood, no! I, I, I, I was kidding. I was just kidding.”

Mr. Flood put down his knife and looked at Kevin intensely. A smile was slowly spreading over his face. He said, “So was I son! So was I! I wouldn’t hurt Milty.” He picked him up and kissed him, right on his gross mouth. He shouted, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!