Dr. Maximilian Tundra was heading home again for the holidays, dread clutching his heart like an iron fist. He’d managed to avoid Thanksgiving, but there was no escape from The Feast.
The Feast, as it was known amongst Clan Tundra, was a toxic stew of carbs, fats, and pharmaceuticals that had a tendency to drive the family bonkers.
Not that they weren’t certifiable to begin with.
Dr. Tundra’s sister, Eugenie, was a brilliant “installation” artist, who was nevertheless, seriously bi-polar. His younger twin brothers, Xavier and Xenophon, had never really recovered from their childhood “incident” — as the family called it — following a plane crash in the Andes. His Da, Dr. Halvard Hemming Tundra, seemed perfectly normal; of course, the Great Danger of attending the Feast was that Dr. H. H. Tundra didn’t attend, and that he sent his doppelganger, Mr. Angry McBucktooth in his stead. His Mum, Beatrice Pelagia Tundra (nee Sweeney) was in denial, but otherwise safe to be around.
And that was just the nuclear family. Getting the extended clan together required a number of court orders, insurance waivers and to be on the safe side, Da usually hired off-duty members of the SWAT to patrol the grounds.
Perhaps it was for that reason, or perhaps it was the family’s iconoclastic nature, but The Feast was never celebrated on Christmas. It always happened on the Solstice.
The darkest day of the year. Of course, it also marked the start of days getting brighter and brighter. The rebirth of the sun, his Da called it. But when it came to the holiday, his family and The Feast, Dr. Tundra was definitely a glass-is-half-empty kind of guy.
The policeman checked his ID, and waved him past the checkpoint, a set of gates loomed ahead, which would let him into the Tundra compound. A high fence, razor wire atop, surrounded the area. Guards and German shepherds patrolled the grounds, checking the fenceline for weak points.
It would do no good. It never did.
He parked, put on his flak jacket and entered the Tundra mansion. The smell of roasting turkey and peyote stuffing filled the house, and Dr. Tundra shuddered.
An outside observer would wonder if that was a shudder of anticipation, excitement, or perhaps the thrill of visceral familiarity that we get when we return to our childhood places.
But no, it was dread.