The trouble started last night when a shallot got crushed in the car door as we were unloading the groceries in the dark, which is why I didn’t realize it until the next afternoon. My son, Porter, and I were doing some Christmas deliveries, and my car smelled like garlic chicken had been wrapped in old socks and stored under the seat. Porter is a super smeller who can stand at the front curb and know our neighbor is growing chives in his back garden. This was not going to end well.
We actually like shallots, and Porter had been experimenting with them not two hours earlier, making a good fried chicken with an amazing pan sauce that kind of made you want to lick the plate. But when the shallot is amputated by the car door and left to sit all night, something definitely gets lost in translation. If only we had smashed a little butter, lemon, and chicken stock as well. The moaning started about five minutes in.
“Oh, the motion sickness is kicking in.”
“You’re fine, hang this candy stick on the door, ring the doorbell, and come back.”
Porter has often pointed out that making small talk really entails some version of him shifting from foot to foot until the other person realizes the words have run out and walks away. I had only convinced him to accompany me with the assurance that covid meant he could avoid the awkward doorway moment. To make it easier, sometimes he went to the door, and sometimes I would, though decked out in my black mask and dark sunglasses, I probably looked a tad sketchy. “Howdy, I’m here to rob you . . . I mean bring you a present.” Porter looked much friendlier, but he was very busy being sick.
“Oh the curves, my stomach.”
This from a boy who rides roller coasters with names like “Cannibal” and “Wicked,” and says, “Wanna go again?!?” It was the shallot spinning his stomach, not the curves in the road. I was all heart and sympathy, with a side of stink-eye. “I’ll take this one, you take that one. Let’s go,” I said.
At the next house, the suffering only increased. “I’m not wearing socks in my shoes. I didn’t know we would be out so long. This is going to hurt my feet.”
“Get the gift bag out of the back, and ring the bell.”
“Hang the candy stick on the door.”
“I have no socks and my legs hurt.”
“AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!” I thought, but it must have showed on my face because he hung the candy stick on the door and rang the bell without being asked.
Our deliveries complete, we toodled home without further evidence of plague boils or blistered feet. “It’s the smell, Mom, I hate being in cars.” I already knew this, and as soon as I saw that smashed shallot, I’d started to worry.
The reality is that no creature is without a little weirdness, like the neurotic macaw which is deathly afraid of heights. It belongs to Porter’s friend, and the other day it was just doing its bird things, stealing Porter’s pretzels and crumbling them down his pants, but eventually it tired of the game and felt the better option was to climb Porter’s arm and go straight for his eyeball. Just before Porter got into the market for an eyepatch and pirate hat, his friend snatched up the bird, calling it “BAD BOY!” and decreed it must atone by getting upstairs by itself. For an acrophobic bird, this is apparently a fate worse than shallots in the car, and it spent twenty-five minutes squawking and suffering as it shimmied up the long, winding bannister, roughly the same amount of time Porter was moaning in the car.
But I digress.
Once we’d returned from delivering our holiday cheer, Porter managed to make a miraculous recovery, and is now in the basement playing a video game and talking so loudly, it’s like he’s upstairs in the room with me. That boy’s got some super lungs to go with that super nose of his. Thanks to his friend and her long, winding bannister, he also still has two eyes, which really is the optimal number, and as long as I can keep the vegetables out of the car door, he’s actually great fun to be around, so the ending isn’t quite so bad as the middle.
I don’t know how much trouble Santa has with his reindeer as he delivers on Christmas Eve, but smells being what they are, there may be a reason he drives an open sleigh rather than an enclosed car, even in the filthiest of weather. If you have a teenage helper, but decide the open sleigh option may be a little nippy, let me save you a bit of trouble. Leave the shallots at home, tuck a pair of socks into the glove compartment, along with a little Tylenol for aches and pains, and Dramamine for motion sickness. You just never know what tribulations you may have to face when delivering a candy stick.