“DAD!” the sing song voice of my youngest daughter called down to me, “Steve’s cheating!”
“Steve! For crying out loud, it’s Go Fish, and besides, she’s eleven.” I yelled back up the stairs.
“But she’s a bloody genius at it.” The four foot five inch demon called back to me.
“Ok, come on down both of you. Steve, what’s with the English accent?” The demon appeared at the top of the staircase. “And my top hat?”
The look in Steve’s eyes told me he was contemplating sliding down the banister again. He knew how much I hated that. “Well, you wanker, it’s almost vacation time, and I was going to go visit some friends.”
“First off, never call me wanker again.” I started.
My daughter giggled, having come to the top of the stairs. “Excuse me Steve.” She pushed past the Demon of Inspiration.
“And second,” I continued, trying to keep my cool in front of my daughter, “what do you mean vacation?”
“Hello, Demon here,” Steve said, pointing to himself. “Did you really think I was going to hang around for Christmas?” He shook his head as he slowly made his way down the steps.
“Dad, what’s a wanker?”
“Um,” I stalled, and then stumbled upon the best answer in the world. “Go ask your mom.”
“MOM!” She ran off across the house to find my wife. I knew I would pay for it later, but I had Steve to deal with currently.
“So you’re going to England then?” I asked.
“If we ever get done with this interrogation…”
“Oh, you’re leaving today? When were you going to tell us?”
“Really, we’re having this conversation?”
“Well, yeah, I was kind of hoping that you could spend the holidays with us, you know, it’s Zachariah’s first Christmas, and your first Christmas with us. I was just thinking, you know, one big, happy family.” I made an effort to keep my mind free of any snarky remarks, for fear that Steve would read my mind and use them on me.
“Wow, this is not the first time I have found your head empty,” Steve said.
I can’t win I thought to myself.
“Nope.” Steve said. “Thanks for playing though.”
I reached out and snatched my hat from atop his head, and then gingerly placed it back. “What the hell is that blue stuff inside my hat?”
“Oh, pool chalk. It shines the horns up real nice.”
“So, will you stay for Christmas?”
“Well, we could go caroling,” and then a picture of Steve caroling popped into my head. Something about a demon singing “Hark the herald angels sing,” didn’t sit right with me.
“Oooh, I know a demon named Rudolph, he’d love some shiny horns….”
“Stop right there, caroling is out. But you could help me decorate the house with lights.” No, I thought, an image of myself cocooned in Christmas lights hanging from the roof dancing in my head.
A smile crossed Steve’s face long enough for me to strike that idea too.
“What about presents, I could get everyone presents.” He offered.
“Sure,” I agreed to fast.
“Then it’s settled, I will stay!” The demon said quickly, before I could change my mind.
How bad could it be I thought to myself.
“You’ll see,” Steve said, ominously.
The remaining two weeks until Christmas passed without further incident. I had a few more ideas for stories, but was too preoccupied to do more than just write them down.
Christmas morning showed up and after the coffee was brewed and the muffins were baking, we all sat down in the living room near the tree.
“Ok, since Steve is our guest, he gets to open the first present.” I handed the demon a small package, which he took and shook.
“More pool chalk, thanks Jon,” Steve said without opening the gift, setting it to the side.
I sighed and picked up the next present. The wrapping paper was red, and the label read ‘To Zachariah, from Steve.’
My wife unwrapped the gift for my two and a half month old son. “A thesaurus, um, thanks Steve.”
“Well, he has goo and gah down, this way he can work on the rest of his vocabulary.” Steve smiled.
I grabbed another package wrapped in the same red tape, figuring I would get all of Steve’s gifts out of the way. I handed it to my eleven year old who tore it open.
“Dad, isn’t this a pair of your socks?”
“Yeah.” I glared at Steve.
“What did you expect, I don’t have a job!”
I handed my older daughter another red wrapped offering, which was opened without any fanfare. “Great, a pair of dad’s boxers…”
“Give me those,” I reached out and snatched them from her hands.
A glass red rose was inside the box to my wife from Steve. “That would have been very thoughtful if Jonathan hadn’t already given this to me.”
“I remembered how much you liked getting it last time…” The demon’s pointy tail swished back and forth.
“And finally, to me from ‘The Demon Inspiration,’” the last red wrapped gift read.
Cautiously I removed the wrapping paper to reveal a brown box, which I opened. Inside, wrapped in what felt like a whole roll of bubble wrap was a small inkwell, pen and stand set.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, and I meant it.
“Glad you like it. It belonged to Sergei Petrov” Steve replied.
“Who? I’ve never heard of him.”
“Oh, he was a writer, much like you, but he never managed to get over his writers block. He wasn't using it.” Steve smiled. “Merry Christmas!”