In a modest house with a fair garden, nestled in the heart of Manhattan, there lived a family of three people and one photograph.
There was a mother, but not the kind that fit in with other mothers. Her hair was fire, a burnt sunrise caught in a color. Her nails were regularly painted a disturbing shade of red that never appeased the neighbors. Often she was seen sitting in the garden without a purpose, hands folded and ankles crossed, as if waiting for the willows to become something other than trees.
There was a father as well, who was just as odd as his wife, but better at hiding it. He earned a certain amount of respect regardless of his nature due to his status as the only doctor on a block that housed two lawyers and a politician. He was a solitary figure, save for his small family, which largely kept to themselves.
Both were charming and interesting to talk to (should you find them in such a mood) but alas, this story is not about them. It follows the workings and goings on of the third member and a photograph. The third member was a young boy and the photograph was of a woman.
Anthony Williams had always known he was different.
There were the little things, like the idea that he had two mums and two dads but only lived with one pair. Or the fact that he had come into school finding that he didn't quite speak like the other children. Maybe it was that he had mandatory bedtime stories that felt almost like school. Or maybe it was because Thursday always promised fish fingers in his lunch pail.
But if there was one thing Anthony couldn't understand about being different, it was why there was a picture on his mantle.
Robert Fisher had come for tea at the end of August, when the sun was still shining softly and the trees were still clinging to their leaves. Things had been going brilliantly – Anthony was about to show off the tree house his Dad was building him – when the guest had asked who was pictured on the mantle. It was, at first, a seemingly simple question to avoid; there were many pictures that crowded the small ledge over the fireplace. Most were of him, or Mum, or Dad, or some combination of the three. But of course Robert Fisher was pointing to the only picture that stuck out like an ice cream colored umbrella in July.
Needless to say, things had gone downhill from there. Anthony was only seven, and seven year olds didn't like being wrong. So he forged her – the elusive photographed woman – a false identity that spiraled into a lie far out of his depth.
Robert Fisher did not return again for tea.
After a failed attempt to sit with Robert Fisher and his other friends at lunch, Anthony returned home to find everything quite wrong. Dad was home for starters; the older man had been waiting outside the house in his weekend clothes, hacking at the weeds in the flower boxes. Usually, Mr. Williams did not find himself at home until dinner. And then, when the two wandered inside, his Mum was leaning up against the counter, staring far past the fridge at a point he could not see. He was used to Mum's staring, but the wine glass in her hand was the kind he only saw her use at parties. Not that they had very many parties.
Anthony was beginning to wonder if there was a secret party he had not been informed of, but decided everyone looked too somber to be festive. The only one smiling in the house was that darned woman in the photograph.
Tugging on his father's sleeve – which was as high as he could reach – Anthony whispered as quietly as any child could, "Is it a holiday?" Anthony was good at keeping track of parties, but holidays always sprung up on him.
Mr. William's smile was strained. "Yeah. Sure. It's a holiday."
Which made his mum cry. She left to go sit in the garden, which she often did when she thought no one was awake or at home. Dad made dinner, which was a piece of day-old pie between the two of them. Anthony alone was rather pleased with this unexpected holiday. He stayed up watching telly until he woke up in his bed the next morning.
Anthony Williams was used to being different, but there were some things that he was very good at being normal about. So when he mentioned smugly to Robert Fisher about how wonderful his Holiday had been – pie and telly – he expected the boy to be insanely jealous. Instead, the lot looked at him as though he was mad.
"There wasn't no holiday," said one boy at the table uncertainly. He looked vaguely familiar as the son of the only politician on the block. He looked around as to check that no other boys had celebrated a holiday before repeating, "Yeah. No holiday."
And suddenly one of the ruder boys picked up on the conversation and shouted to anyone that would listen, "Hey! Did you hear that Anthony Williams made up his own holiday?" This triggered a boisterous round of Liar, liar, pants on fire! until, by last bell, everyone was calling Anthony "Pants."
It was that day that Anthony grew up a bit more. He learned that there were certain things you didn't repeat from the Williams household. One was having a picture of a stranger on your mantle, and the other was when the family celebrated Odd Holidays. These were different from Even Holidays, which everyone celebrated. Even things were good and normal. Even number of numbers on a clock. Even number of eggs in a full carton. Even number of crayons in a box.
But Odd things were family stuff. And Odd Holidays were the Oddest.
No one every looked very happy when they arrived – often they were signaled by Mum crying and breaking out the nice wine glasses. Odd Holidays just made his Dad tired. For Anthony they meant something sugary and a few hours with the telly all to himself.
It was after a month or two of Odd Holidays that Anthony began to wonder if they had something to do with the picture on the mantle. So one Odd Holiday shortly before Halloween, when Mum and Dad were talking in the garden, Anthony approached the old photograph with his jelly donut oozing onto the carpet.
"Happy Odd Holiday," he said, nodding to her and raising his donut. She stared blankly back at him from a long time ago, all golden curls and piercing blue eyes. Anthony felt a bit foolish, but what the hell? It was an Odd Holiday after all. And so he trailed back to the kitchen for seconds, wondering if keeping a photograph as the fourth member of your family made you Odd or Even.
Author's Note: Reviews are especially helpful as we embark on this fic. I look forward to hearing what you would like to see as we explore the mad and impossible life of Anthony Brian Williams!