When the children aren’t too busy plotting against me or holding my head under water
for the darnedest long time they will ask me to tell them a story. They cornered me recently.
“And what yarn would my little illegitimates like to hear?” I asked. “A story about
our family business (counterfeiting) or a heartbreaking Christmas tale?”
“The shortest,” came the reply from one of the girls whose name I forgot years ago.
“It was Christmas Eve long past,” I began as I fell off the wagon and into my best
Dickens’ impression, “and I toiled in a large downtown hotel.”
“Is this before or after you let your weight get the upper hand?” asked little Missy who’s as cute as a bug and just as creepy.
“As only three of 550 rooms were occupied,” I said, “I thought it reasonable that I
should be able to leave early but my boss denied my request because he was the meanest,
vilest, most disagreeable man on Earth.”
“Let’s put him on the payroll,” snickered someone in the room. (It may have been me.)
“He was thick of neck,” (I’m sure I said this), “short on words and topped with an
abundance of anger. (But he bowled well.) So I wandered the vacant halls occasionally ducking outside on the 12th floor balcony to have a pull on the bottle of medicine Grandma Mumsy had mixed for my cold.”
“Probably a vodka tonic if I know anything about the old broom rider,” said Junior who with a little luck and a lot of hard work won’t amount to a damn thing.
“Do not denigrate your grandmother like that!” I scolded, “It was gin.”
“Cut to the chase!” instructed our youngest who has been encouraged by the authorities, clergy and her parents to run away from home.
“On my last stop up on the balcony I was visited by my boss,” I continued. “He was quiet but after a swig of gin he sang like a canary. He said his wretched childhood had brought him to his miserable adulthood. His parents were wealthy and lavished him with cars, boats, jewels or as he put it, ’Everything I wanted except….except what I needed.’
“ ’Love?’ I asked.
“ ’No,’ he said, ‘an island in the south Pacific.’
“He started to weep.
“ ‘What I have,’ I said, ‘can’t be bought.’
“ ‘Friendship?’ he asked.
“ ‘No,’ I answered, ‘my gin.’
“He gave me a hug and said something I’ll never remember, ‘This is the best Christmas I ever had.’
“He then added, ‘You’re fired for drinking on the job.’
“And as he finished the bottle I heard him exclaim, as I tossed him over the railing and
into the dark cold night, ‘Merry Christmas to all and to all a ……oh, oh …!’
“And that, my penitentiary-bound progenies, is that,” I said as I wiped a tear away.
Of course the children were gone as were my watch and wallet.