Adam McHorn was a legend in our house.
From my first year living there, I looked up to him. He had boundless energy, guts of steel, and a liver that must have been ripped from the bowels of an immortal Norse God. He was undying and invincible.
Sure, he was a raging alcoholic and massive tool. But he always had your back when it mattered. If your team in Beer Olympics was down, on the brink of losing to a bunch of dicks in other letters that would never let you live it down, that’s when he’d be there. McHorn would walk up to the table, open a fifth of Makers and drink an opponent into the emergency room in a one-on-one death match. Just like Achilles before the gates of Troy.
The only area of his life that McHorn dominated more than drinking was fucking. The dude wrote the book on cheap hookups, and was revered as the inventor of the Floor Mattress. McHorn only had three pieces of furniture in his room: a desk, a wardrobe, and a single, naked mattress in the middle of the carpet. When he took girls upstairs and they saw that thing, he’d know in half a second whether or not he was going to get anywhere. The women that didn’t run away screaming were exactly the kind of prospects McHorn was after. He was somewhere between Dennis Reynolds and Thad Castle, and he closed every night.
It was a year or two ago he met Amber. She was a seductress of strange and terrible power, and she held McHorn’s heart and balls like a witch’s spell. She tied him down with the Chains of Prometheus, and then cut him loose like a dance with the Devil.
McHorn was never the same again. He limped through our halls — a lean and hungry shadow. He’d be spotted only in the middle of the night, a pale phantom in front of the dim glow of the fridge.
We have a holiday tradition called “Fifthmas” in our house. We’d spend the week killing a liquor store and arranging its bones on a Christmas tree in our living room. That Friday, we’d gather around the tree, drinks in hand, and exchange gifts of shame designed to make the recipient tell their most embarrassing drunken stories. McHorn always used to be our Santa. He was above the game. A man who cherishes every one of his mistakes can never be shamed by them.
This year, we barely managed to convince McHorn to show his face. He wasn’t into it at all, and sat sipping his 40 in silence.
Finally, some of us had had enough.
“Stop being such a bitch, McHorn! It’s been like nine months. You need to get back on the horse!”
“McHorn, tonight you’re going to be visited by three goats…”
“We need to get Clarence up in this shit.”
McHorn sighed and went upstairs.
“What’s the fucking point?” he asked defeatedly, smashing his empty at the foot of the stairs. “I have to go study for finals. Leave me the fuck alone.”
Somebody remembered that McHorn was scheduled to graduate this year. The house was eerily quiet, and the Fifthmas party dispersed. Later that night, I sat with a couple other guys and we were going over the old stories.
“I wish we could do something for McHorn, man. This shit is so depressing it’s reminding me of my own mortality.”
We all agreed that sometimes a man breaks. And a man like McHorn, he broke harder than most.
“Face it,” I said sadly, “we’re never getting him back.”
That’s when I looked out the window and saw the snowflakes coming down. By the next morning, there was about a foot and a half on the ground. It was more snow than any of us had ever seen, and cars outside were frozen in place like useless toys.
“They’re going to cancel finals for sure!”
The celebrations were silenced as a gruff, hollow figure stumbled down the front stairs and into the dining room.
“Look, man. It’s snowing!”
McHorn glanced outside without answering, but he betrayed just the faintest ghost of a smirk on his lips. He went straight back up to his room. We all stared at each other wordlessly. None of us knew what the hell this meant. But not even minutes later, McHorn returned with a handle of Jim Beam and a Coke bottle in his hands.
“Which one of you pussies wants to get Stephen Hawking drunk with me?”
‘Stephen Hawking drunk’ is where you end up paralyzed, mumbling, and puking all over yourself in a wheelchair at the end of the night.
We all cheered. McHorn was back.
“It’s a Fifthmas Miracle!”
He ended up doing a 60-second chug, stripping down to his boxers and sprinting up Greek Row in the middle of a blizzard to “fucking feel something again.”
That night, around the big fire we built in the front yard, a beautifully blacked out McHorn smashed his handle, dead as high-waisted jeans, onto the burning logs and howled like a horny werewolf. As the glass splintered and the bourbon drops sizzled, I knew the darkness was long behind us.
Never let anyone tell you the magic of Fifthmas isn’t real. Never let them stop you from believing, because I have witnessed the most amazing and beautiful turnaround I or anyone else will ever see again.
Merry Fifthmas, and God bless us, everyone..
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