1983: Gobless us every one.



6:15 A.M.

He wakes to music, always to music; the shrill beep-beep-beep of the clock-radio's alarm is too much for his mind to cope with during those first blurry moments of the day. It sounds like a dump truck backing up. The radio is bad enough at this time of year, though; the easylistening station he keeps the clock- radio tuned to is wall-to-wall Christmas carols, and this morning he wakes up to one of the two or three on his Most Hated List, something full of breathy voices and phony wonder. The Hare Krishna Chorale or the Andy Williams Singers or some such. Do you hear what I hear, the breathy voices sing as he sits up in bed, blinking groggily, hair sticking out in every direction. Do you see what I see, they sing as he swings his legs out, grimaces his way across the cold floor to the radio, and bangs the button that turns it off. When he turns around, Sharon has assumed her customary defensive posture - pillow folded over her head, nothing showing but the creamy curve of one shoulder, a lacy nightgown strap, and a fluff of blond hair.

He goes into the bathroom, closes the door, slips off the pajama bottoms he sleeps in, drops them into the hamper, clicks on his electric razor. As he runs it over his face he thinks, Why not run through the rest of the sensory catalogue while you're at it, boys? Do you smell what I smell, do you taste what I taste, do you feel what I feel, I mean, hey, go for it.

'Humbug,' he says as he turns on the shower. 'All humbug.'

Twenty minutes later, while he's dressing (the dark gray suit from Paul Stuart this morning, plus his favorite Sulka tie), Sharon wakes up a little. Not enough for him to fully understand what she's telling him, though.

'Come again?' he asks. 'I got eggnog, but the rest was just ugga-wugga.'

'I asked if you'd pick up two quarts of eggnog on your way home,' she says. 'We've got the Aliens and the Dubrays coming over tonight, remember?'

'Christmas,' he says, checking his hair carefully in the mirror. He no longer looks like the glaring, bewildered man who sits up in bed to the sound of music five mornings a week - sometimes six. Now he looks like all the other people who will ride into New York with him on the seven-forty, and that is just what he wants.

'What about Christmas?' she asks with a sleepy smile. 'Humbug, right?'

'Right,' he agrees.

'If you remember, get some cinnamon, too—'


'—but if you forget the eggnog, I'll slaughter you, Bill.'

'I'll remember.'

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