IT WAS the face pressed against his storefront window that first caught his attention.

“Pressed” might have been too delicate a word. “Mashed” is better, Kris thought idly, admiring the spread of pink skin sticking to the glass before his brain latched on to the thought spinning and tumbling at an increasingly alarming rate.

The litany of words shoved their way to the tip of his tongue, rushing to spill over and out of him in a waterfall of frothing adjectives: smushed, squashed, scrunched, crunched, crushed, squished, pushed, flattened, pancaked…. He’d barely been able to throw on the brakes, limiting the torrent to a barely audible whisper until the words dribbled to a halt.

Crap. It had been weeks since the last time he lost control of his own peculiar form of Tourette’s.

He looked around the tiny store to see if anyone had noticed, but was quickly drawn back to the spectacle outside. The little voice teasing at the edges of his mind suggested a few more words that he ruthlessly rejected, fully alert to the insidious nature of his own brain. The person outside was an impossible mélange of old and young, tiny and broad, all brown and pink and white and fluffy red. Was that a scarf and hat?

Pompoms in July seemed off to Kris, and the noise came rushing back—odd, unusual, unexpected, surprising, strange, weird, astonishing, peculiar…. Gasping, he stuttered back a breath, choking in the words and squeezing eyes shut tight.

Twenty-five cleansing breaths. Twenty-four, twenty-three…. His head noise kept pace with his diaphragm until petering out around number twelve. Kris paid attention, waiting to open his eyes again until the countdown reached number one… or was it zero? He felt another tingle of panic try to erupt. Shit. If he wasn’t careful, he’d be off to the races again, and he could feel the happy little ponies inside him bouncing in delight at the thought.

This time when he opened his eyes, his world was still. No strange visions at his window, no customers with pity or contempt in their eyes, no rampaging word strings waiting to torment him. With shaking hands he put up the Out to Lunch sign and locked the front door.

Not for the first time, Kris felt like he was living inside one of his own snow-globe creations—never knowing when something was going to yank him upside down and shake him. At least for now, all the blizzarding shards seemed to have settled back to the bottom.

 

 

“NO, BUN, we’ll be late for Eddie’s appointment.” Tyr ran his long fingers through his white-blond hair as he silently begged for patience. His cousin was having one of her “days,” and she wasn’t in the mood to go along with “the plan.” Insisting that they go back to the little Christmas shop across the square. Gently he pulled out the yellow, lined paper, carefully unfolding it to show the pair. At least no one had started wringing their hands. Yet.

“Look, Bun, this is the step we’re on.” He’d gathered them next to a convenient mailbox, carefully laying it on the top so that they could all see. Bun jerked forward to smooth and touch every inch of the paper and run her fingers over each of the meticulously printed words.

They’d referred to it numerous times since leaving the farm. Tyr hoped this would be enough to get them all back on track with enough time to get his uncle to his cardiology appointment. Monthly trips into town had always been stressful, but his uncle’s declining health and Bun’s advancing age seemed to be making them worse.

Sighing, he carefully pointed to item number two: Eleven thirty appointment with Dr. Morgan for Eddie. “See, Bun, Dr. Morgan is expecting us in….” A quick glance at his watch showed that they were already ten minutes late. “Well… we have just enough time to make it if we walk over there now.”

A flash of movement from across the way drew his attention. There was a God. Someone in the Christmas shop had just put up the CLOSED sign. From across the street, he caught just a glimpse of long dark hair before the figure disappeared. It only took a few nudges and a promise to stop by later to get them all moving again.