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December 21st

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No one could claim with any real conviction that their family was better united than Anthony Veazey’s. He and his wife attended every game, every concert, every recital, even every camping trip any of them participated in. Anthony himself made it a point of pride that he never missed a family event. In 2005, there was one time that he was five minutes late to Shelley’s dance recital, and he spent the entire ride home trying to convince her it was impossible for him to have arrived on time, although Shelley wasn’t actually angry with him.

Now it was nearing Christmas, and the oldest son, Rod, was finishing up his school football season as the second-string quarterback, with the region finals set for December 21st if the team could make it. Next in line, Shelley was playing the part of a Sugarplum Fairy earlier that same night. Vincent, this year having moved up to sixth grade, had somehow managed to make it to the State Spelling Bee Finals, though he was considered likely to go out in the first round. The finals were set for the morning of that same Friday as the other events, which started to really get Anthony and his wife in a tangle, but nothing overlapped so long as they could skip work. Then Amanda set things off by joining a piano class in late November, which had a recital of the best players scheduled for the exact same Friday night, wedged in-between and slightly overlapping the times of Shelley and Rod’s events. Anthony’s reputation was at stake, in his mind, and neither him nor his wife could miss a single event.

The different events were all set in entirely different places, but Anthony would be able to make it to them all if he just drove aggressively and cut in the ticket lines. He spent the week coming up with the road plan for that Friday and was convinced he could make it to everything. He had overcome days like this before, and his honor demanded he do it again. Still, it would make the day easier if a kid failed to make the cut. Rod couldn’t affect his team, because he never played, but it looked as though they’d make it to the finals. Shelley and Vincent were already entered in their competitions, so only an illness could stop them from performing. However, Amanda was by no means guaranteed to play at her piano recital.

Anthony tried playing several alternative instruments for Amanda to see if she liked playing guitar, maracas, or euphonium better than piano, but there was no luck. He then tried forbidding Amanda to play the piano until all her homework and projects were done, no matter when they were due. So, she simply did all her schoolwork the night it was assigned immediately when she came home, because her love for the piano was so great. Anthony even tried “accidentally” losing Amanda’s recital piece so she wouldn’t be able to practice it, but she always seemed to have a spare. The piano teacher also seemed very excited about Amanda’s abilities, so there was no stopping her from making it to the recital. Her part was scheduled just after the football game was supposed to end, but football games never truly end on time.

So the day finally came, December 21st. After going halfway through his morning routine, Anthony called in to work and say he couldn’t be there, so he could hurry off to the spelling bee. The boss’s reaction was a slight disappointment to Anthony. “No, you can’t take the whole day off! We’ve got glue to make here and you always just skip out for the last thirty minutes of work for some kid’s nonsense! Come to work or you’re fired!” This alarmed Anthony somewhat, but the spelling bee was clearly more important than his job at the glue factory. At least his wife got out of her work at the daycare with the boss’s consent.

After a relatively leisurely drive to the spelling bee, Anthony and his wife sat down and saw Vincent lose in the first round on the word “punctuality”. Their son knew this would happen, so consoling him didn’t take too long. Now they had to drive him back home then take themselves over to the football game, which just had to be away that night. They made it with plenty of time to spare, no line-cutting necessary. But everything seemed to be against them making it to Amanda’s recital. The game started late because of a pre-game injury in the middle of the field, then both teams used all their timeouts both halves in what was a really close, exciting game. However, Rod never played, and never would as his school lost the game in the last second and it was Rod’s senior year. On principle, Anthony and his wife had to stay until the game ended then rush out to Amanda’s recital, hoping that it was running long as well.

As luck would have it, it was. The couple got there (with a couple of car crashes barely avoided) to see their daughter play Ravel’s Bolero in its entirety, sixteen minutes long and really boring when not played by a symphony, but just a single piano. But Anthony clapped, kissed Amanda, then ran out as fast as he could, just a bit late for the his daughter’s part in the dance recital. He made a quick hop into the car, then had to get back out realizing he had left his wife in there talking to the neighbors. After very impolitely interrupting their conversation, (he punched his neighbor in the face, actually), Anthony ran out with his wife and started the car.

The drive was a short one, but it wound through some very thin roads and a tractor just barely turned in front of them. They had to follow a tractor all the way, with metal fence protecting both sides of the thin road. The tractor was just wide enough to prevent any attempts at passing it, and Veazey reconsidered not bringing his gun with him. Shouts at the tractor were to no avail, so the Veazeys were forced to show up late for their daughter’s part. They got to her high school for the show anyway, only to see her coming out and bowing onstage with all the other dancers.

First came denial. “See, she’s on stage, honey, we’re just in time, now where’s the lady selling the tickets?” Once Shelley moved off stage, the other stages came in. “Why? Why would that tractor ruin my reputation?! This is unforgivable! But maybe if I can show up for an encore and buy Shelley something, then everything will be fine. But what does it matter? I’m a terrible father now… Just like everyone else, nothing to distinguish me. That’s still okay. If I just go away for a while, everyone will forget this little episode and I’ll be welcomed anew, and I can rebuild my reputation. I just need to go away for a little while…” Anthony was clearly going mad, and his wife was trying to convince him that everything was still okay, that Shelley didn’t even care that he missed it. It was of no use.

That night, Anthony made his wife go home with Shelley (she had gotten her license just the previous week) and checked himself into an insane asylum. Those running the asylum listened to his story and decided that he must be insane if he would check himself in to be accepted again for such a trivial mistake. Anthony was certain that he would come back out a better father.





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