By Mi West
“Damn Santa circus!” I roar, balancing on my toes on the icy veranda railing, and I continue, “Decorative chains are the worn-out ball and chain of dads in December.” I’d rather be balancing on my skis in the Scandinavian mountains instead. I hiss four-letter words toward a snowdrift in the garden.
Once forced into place, the lights don’t work. That turns me off even worse. Enlightened technology has taken astronauts way to the Moon, but geegaws lasting at least as long as a big pack of Christmas ginger cookies are still sci-fi.
Same procedure as last year: I fetch a spare bulb and try some swaps at random. Finally, light conquers darkness, and I consequently suppress the rest of my traditional, four-letter, juicy highlights.
I hear a teen voice behind me, the son of our neighbor Vatnberg, nicked Watson, “What’s up? Need some help?”
The teen has the gift of a detective and mystery solver. I reply while climbing down, “Thanks for asking, Watson. No, just got this monster up and running again, sweatshop junk, you know, a present from my grandma-in-law… What about you? Any cool mysteries around?”
“Our home is haunted.”
“Most interesting! Any ghostbuster leads, so far?”
“A supernatural creature sneaks around at night, farting, smashing doors, spitting into the bathtub, sipping off Dad’s expensive red wine until there’s only half a bottle left for Christmas, and my parents suspect me. Plus, pees rings around Mom’s rosebush below our balcony.”
“Astonishing! Some bottles in my garage were open yesterday morning, but it only stole a swig, probably because the wine is alcohol-free. It might be a vampire. It tried to bite off a bit of my raw turkey, but the bite marks are hardly distinguishable, probably because I keep it in the freezer.”
“The vampire? A pity it didn’t get trapped and frozen there…”
“No, I mean the turkey. There’s no room left at all in a freezer before Christmas. You can’t even squeeze in a frozen cowberry, not to mention strawberry.”
“I see. I’m not so familiar with seasonal cooking yet.”
”I think your pee lead takes the lead on our list of leads nevertheless. Any footprints in the snow?”
“None at all.”
“Do the flower bed and the balcony lead into each other?”
“No, they don’t. I’m sure it’s a ghost. By the way, the balcony is upstairs as you might remember.”
We quality-check a handful of pre-season ginger cookies each to boost our reasoning capabilities.
“No footprints… I see… Peeing perfect rings, from a balcony at the top story. A whodunit story of a supernaturally good marksman―at least, as a peeer… Extraordinary, Watson! What about finding and measuring any footprints just about anywhere? Length, width, depth; we need more hard facts about the case.”
We go to Watson’s garden. He fetches his LED flashlight and a magnifier, suspecting that a supernatural makes no traces but pee prints.
“Look at these mysterious deep pee holes. White Christmas, snow two feet deep, but holes all the way to the ground!” he says.
“Extraordinary, Watson! Let’s brainstorm it and think it through all the way, from the ground up. I’ll try to associate freely, going with the flow of ideas, information leaks, and other leaks. See you after lunch.”
Watson knocks the door in early afternoon, and we nibble another big pack of cookies.
I say, “Gender established. Belch.”
“And most probably, age: it must be a teen. Small kids dislike wine, and adults are fed up with wine in December,” Watson belches back.
“A good point! Bright conclusions and sober thinking―scarce indeed in Christmas time… Tell me Watson, has your teen brother ever talked in his sleep?”
“Yes, lotta insults. Mom lets him get away with those because he’s literally unaware, unawake…”
“Put your smallest webcam into his room, a wireless connection to your PC. Use one of my wine bottles as bait and a movement detector on the cam as usual. Next meeting of investigators tomorrow morning.”
No need to bark out all those orders, actually; Watson knows more than grown-up professionals.
Watson’s snowcat wakes me up early. He darts in and says,
“Morning. Thanks for great ideas. Bro is a sleepwalker, and I’ll show Dad overwhelming evidence to prove I’m no wino.”
“Make sure you’ve a backup file,” I mumble. My mouth releasing a cloud of cinnamon odor from boiled pre-Christmas rice pudding and homemade ginger cookies.
“Another good idea, thanks,” he says as he saddles the snowcat again.
“Elementary, dear Watson,” I call into the cool twilight, and I ask, “By the way, why do you need a damn-roaring snowcat to cross a tiny, silent garden before daybreak?”
“Early-morning airspeed improves my power of deduction just as much as ginger cookies do. Plus, it’s fast and saves me a minute in the morning, a must on schooldays until the Christmas vacation.”
“You’re a born detective, Watson!”
My grownup son comes downstairs, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, nibbles a ginger cookie and yawns. “How the heck did you solve Watson’s Haunted-Christmas family mystery?”
“A detective’s trade secret: free association and logical exclusion, among other things.”
A more detailed recap of my path of thought would hardly improve the boys’ education. Skiing associations led toward gender because the complicated logistics and hydraulics make off-pist leaks in snow the last genderist bastion in pedantically equal-footed Scandinavia. Even an ancient Norse urban legend, politically incorrect today, mentions an aristocratic lady in need ―and in pity― whose ski edges slid right in the middle of an outdoor leak, which took her from the woods to an icy on-pist, still in a squat. Needless to say, both plot and person were rather undressed for the season.
This led straight into my brilliant conclusion: Perfect circles, pee-printed deep into the snow from an upstairs balcony are impossible unless the offender is a man with perfect PSA-test values, whose mind hasn’t quite grown up yet. This indicated age twelve and a half to sixty and a half, approx. and might indicate a ginger-cookie addict.
Mi West received an honorable mention in the 2012 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition and was among the five finalists in the 2014 Tethered by Letters Summer Flash Fiction Literary Competition. His story “The Ultimate Leak” was published in Paper Tape in 2013, and his work has also appeared in The Newer York, The Release, and The Magazine of the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Group. A father of two, he now lives in Scandinavia among humans, wild animals, lakes, gems of language innovation such as “ungoogleable,” and addictive ski trails that match his current slide into slipstream and humor. He can be found on the web on Blogger.
Image Credit: “A glass of tawny port,” Jon Sullivan