Perfect

Fiction By Heather // 12/19/2007

(I have this thing with writing Christmas stories...this is the third I've ever written and the only one without animals)

Ivan was standing at the counter, whistling along with Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’.
He looked through the small apartment’s living room to the front window. By the light of the street lamp, he could see there was no snow—just cold, cracked pavement. He turned away, muttering under his breath.
“I’d really hoped for a white Christmas this year.”

(I have this thing with writing Christmas stories...this is the third I've ever written and the only one without animals) Ivan was standing at the counter, whistling along with Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’. He looked through the small apartment’s living room to the front window. By the light of the street lamp, he could see there was no snow—just cold, cracked pavement. He turned away, muttering under his breath. “I’d really hoped for a white Christmas this year.” Then he winced, feeling instant remorse for complaining. He looked at the counter. Two pies—one mincemeat, one pumpkin—lay there ready place in the oven. He touched the mincemeat’s crust so it lined perfectly with the pie plate. He still half-expected, as he slid the pies into the oven just so and turned it to exactly 350 degrees, for his wife to kiss him and his daughter to wrap her arms around his legs. They would giggle and beg him to tell what he got them for Christmas. He would laugh and threaten to take the presents back to the store if he heard those words one more time. He looked at the tree in the living room. He still put it up but there were no longer presents to put under it. Six months ago his daughter had died from cancer and he, already somewhat of a perfectionist, had felt the need to be a complete perfectionist in all areas of his life. Three months later his wife had left him—not even a full divorce—she’d just moved out, claiming she was tired of him trying to be so strict and perfect. Why? He wondered, walking to the living room window. Still no snow. I’ve been doing pretty good. My boss likes my new attitude. I never got mad at Amy. Little Cathy was so sweet and innocent—why shouldn’t I strive to be like that? Because I love you the way you were before, even with your faults. This obsession with being perfect isn’t good for you…it only causes stress between us and makes you mess up even more. His wife’s words rang in his ears. Deep down he knew it was only an excuse. Cathy may have been innocent, but she wasn’t perfect. So why did he feel this need to be perfect? Ivan gave up on the question and walked back to the kitchen to clean up. He picked up bowls and measuring cups. The memories of messing up came back to him vividly, with a vengeance. When he’d yelled at his secretary for some typing mistakes. He’d found out later she’d had her mind on marital problems and couldn’t concentrate. He’d tried to say he was sorry, even giving her a box of her favorite chocolates, but the guilt was still there. There were more times like that, and even smaller mistakes, that grated on his conscience. He couldn’t shake the guilt, which only made him try harder. The harder he tried, the more he messed up. It was a vicious cycle. How am I supposed to do this on my own? His friends told him to stay positive, but Ivan could recall times they’d messed up too. The burden weighed heavily on him, especially when he was alone in his apartment with his thoughts. I want to see Cathy again. Somewhere, maybe one of the few times he’d gone to church, he’d heard the opinion that little children went to heaven. He hoped this was true for Cathy, and maybe that was why he wanted to be perfect—so he could ensure his chance of heaven. But would that alone ensure him a place in heaven? Ivan smelled something burning. “Doggone it!” he growled, yanking open the oven, grabbing a mitt, and pulling out the pies. They were black. He slammed them on the table. One hit the edge, teetered, and fell. Glass crunched and pumpkin spattered all over the floor. He stared at the mess and groaned. The church bell down the street began ringing. Ivan stomped out of the kitchen, grabbed his coat, and left the apartment. * * * A few hours later a man stepped out of the church, smiling. He was whistling, not ‘White Christmas’ even though snow was finally falling like he’d hoped for. He ambled down the street and opened his apartment door. He ignored the snow on his shoes, tossed his coat on the coach, and went to bed, totally forgetting about the mess in the kitchen. Ivan had finally found what it meant to be perfect. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

copyright 2007 by Magical Ink (magical-ink.blogspot.com)