Archive for November, 2012

Christmas Pontiac (Part 4)

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“Rash would presume something not seriously contemplated.  Would it not?” he replied.

“And what have you been contemplating?”

 Santa set down his coffee and fingered the rim of the cup.  “That there’s really no point to continuing in a life that was meant for the two of us now that she’s gone.”

 “But you’re still alive.  You can go on and meet someone else.  Many people have found love after tragedy.”

 “But they have something I don’t.”

“What’s that?”

“The desire to go on with their life,” he replied.  “I have no yearning to trudge forward with some new woman by my side.”

“Yes, but then cancer wins,” I insisted.  “Are you going to let it kill your wife’s memory as well as take her life?”

 Santa looked at me curiously.  “My dear man, I sold my home and car and gave all the money to cancer research.  The only thing I have left is that old Pontiac and the clothes on my back, ragged as they may seem.”

“And now you’re going to kill yourself?”

“Kill myself?”  He smiled wryly.  “Yes, I die a bit more every day, but there’s a much larger picture to consider.”

“And that is?”  I couldn’t decide if he was purposefully confusing me or had some grandiose delusion that suicide was noble.

“The man I mentioned, the cabinet finisher, inspired me to do something.  He and his wife ran that motel for years, but when she became sick, they closed it down.  After she died, he had nothing left.  When he lost purpose, he lay down and died.  I lay down to live again.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“There’s so much work to be done in this world and so few to do it.  I travel from town to town to mend the tattered homes of those too poor from illness to do anything more than feed me.”

 I stared into the eyes of the grand old gentleman and saw his sincerity.  He had become a hobo in memory of the woman he loved.  “So you’re living out of your car to help the less fortunate?  How long will you keep that up?”
Santa sipped his coffee and smiled.  “As long as there are those who need it, I’ll give what gifts I have to bring some joy into their lives.”

“How do you pay for the supplies you need like wood, nails, and paint?  Where do you get the money?”

“Donations from a select few provide all the materials.  I simply ask strangers to help and they always do.”

“Do you ever get the door slammed in your face?”

“Never.”

“People never do that?”  I found that rather odd considering his shabby attire and the state of giving in the world.

 “They go to the project, see the need, and buy the supplies without my ever touching the money.  It works that way every time.”

“But how do you find people who’ll donate so willingly?”

“Quite simple, dear man…I merely ask the One upstairs to tell me which home to park in front of.  We usually settle the matter over coffee.”

(The End…But a New Beginning)

Christmas Pontiac (Part 3)

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“Who was inside?” I asked.

“You enjoy rushing things, don’t you?”

“Sorry, please continue.”  I brought Santa a cup of coffee and watched as he shoveled four teaspoons of sugar into it.  He took a sip before adding one more spoonful.

“When I saw the light, I presumed there must be some vagrant on the premises.  So I crept to the window and peered inside.”  He paused and looked at me expectantly, then tilted his head.

“Who was there?”

“Thank you,” he replied with a slight grin.  “It was an old man, sitting on a bed with no sheets.  He listened to Christmas music on the radio while putting a coat of polyurethane on a restored old wardrobe.  Realizing he was no threat, I knocked on the door, startling the man.  He sprang to his feet and peeked out the window, holding his hands around his eyes to get a better look.”  Santa took another sip of coffee and glanced at the fruitcake on the counter.  Noticing this, I offered him some.  After all, I had no intention of eating it as mahogany never appealed to my palate.  He gratefully accepted.  Santa dipped the cake in his coffee and I saw his eyes brighten at the taste.

“Then what happened?”

“Hmm?  Oh yes, the story…The man opened the door and asked who I was.  I told him of our predicament and he graciously invited us inside.  I fetched my wife and daughters who entered the motel room with a slight apprehension.  After all, we knew nothing of this man.”

“Yes, he might be a serial killer or something.”

“Really?  Does that seem the most logical conclusion?”

“Well, no, not really.”  Santa smiled at my backpedaling and took another bite.

“The man told us that he was finally restoring the cabinet for his deceased wife.  I found that most intriguing.  When I asked why he was doing it now, he told me that she rarely asked for anything, but when she did, he often did not act on her wishes.  For years he took her for granted and now that she was gone, his life lacked meaning.  Fulfilling this one wish became his purpose since her passing.  I admired his honesty, though I did not see the point of completing it with her gone.  At least at the time, I didn’t.”

“Yes, she wasn’t there to appreciate it.”

“Precisely.  What was really the point, right?  The man then did a very gracious deed.  He allowed me to borrow his four wheel drive vehicle to drive to the gas station and call for help.”

“Why didn’t he drive you?  That was very trusting.”

“He said he needed to finish the cabinet or it would not be evenly coated.  Therefore he loaned me the truck.  I drove to town with my family, phoned for a tow, and returned with the truck.  When we arrived, the cabinet was finished and the man lay on the bed.  He was dead.”

“Dead?  How did he die?”

“The coroner said it was a massive heart attack– the ‘widow maker,’ if you will.  There was no foul play involved.”

“How sad.”

“I thought that at first, but then it occurred to me that the man lost the one person around whom his life had meaning.  With her gone, he lost his will to live.  Perhaps it was more romantic than sad.”

“I suppose that makes sense.  So, if I may be forward, how does this bring you to our town?”

“My wife died of breast cancer a year ago.  I tried to go on without her, but nothing made sense.  The house was hers.  All of the things I worked for all of my life were for her.  I simply didn’t see the point in continuing without her.”

“But what of your daughters?”

“I was constantly working.  My life was about providing everything except time.  Neither of my daughters feels close to me.  I was the stranger who lived in the home in which they grew up.  No, life loses purpose when we’re alone.  I know that now.”  Hearing this, I grew nervous.  He’d obviously come back to end things.

“You aren’t thinking of doing anything rash, are you?”

(To be continued)

Christmas Pontiac (Part 2)

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As I escorted the old gentleman into my home, I noticed he favored his right side.  “Is your leg hurting?” I asked.

“My leg? Oh, the limp.  I’ve had it for so long, I don’t think about it anymore.”  He stepped into our foyer and glanced around.  “You have a very nice home.”  I wondered if he meant it or if he was just being polite.  It amused me that it mattered what the vagrant thought of my home.

“Thank you.  Would you like to take your coat off?”

“No, I shall be fine.”  His voice seemed nervous at the suggestion of removing his coat, so I simply moved forward to the kitchen.

“Is that you, P.J.?” asked my wife as she entered the room.  She looked at the tattered Santa Claus and almost dropped her basket of laundry.  “Hello.”  An awkward pause followed.  “Do you have a name or should I just call you Santa?”

“Santa will do nicely,” he replied, smiling.

“O-OK,” she shot me the same glance she gave me whenever I let an insurance salesman in the house, which I considered a good sign.  It meant she thought I was crazy, but was not alarmed by him.

“Coffee,” I said abruptly.

“Coffee?” she asked with a furrowed brow.

“Yes, we’re going to make some coffee.”

“I thought you were going to the office.”

“Yes, after we have some coffee.”  Fortunately I am self-employed, so I set my own hours.  My wife took the laundry down to the basement as I prepared our drinks.  I could sense her head shaking with every step.  Reaching into the cabinet, I pulled out the can of Folger’s and a filter.

“We don’t have fancy coffee.  I hope this will do.”  Santa grinned at me.

“That will do nicely.”  I quickly set up the coffee to drip and asked Santa to have a seat.

“So what brings you to our town?”  Santa studied me for a moment.  I was not sure if he trusted me, yet, but he flickered his eyebrows as if to say “oh well” and began to tell me his story.

“It was ten years ago this Christmas Eve when I was driving through here.  We were traveling to my wife’s parents’ house with our two teenage daughters, Alyssa and Shannon.  You may not recall, but there was an ice storm that day and the roads were quite treacherous.”  As soon as he said this I prepared myself for the news of a tragic accident.

“Oh dear,” I muttered.

“Something wrong?”

“No, no, please continue.”

“Anyway, we decided to stop at the local motel for the night, so they could clear the roads.”  I breathed a sigh of relief.  “As you well know, the motel here has been closed for twelve years, so there was no place to stay.  Unfortunately, the parking lot was so slick, I could not even get the car up the little hill to the road.  So, we were stuck at a deserted motel on Christmas Eve.  We had a quarter tank of gas, no food or water, nor a cell phone to call for help.”

“What did you do?”

“I decided to stay in the car with the family and periodically start the car to get some heat.  It was going to be a long night.  Then I noticed a light on in one of the rooms of the motel.  Someone was inside.”

(To Be Continued)

Christmas Pontiac (Part 1)

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It was ten past six on a blustery Tuesday morning when I saw a car parked on the curb by my home.  Guessing it was a neighbor’s guest, I dismissed the vehicle’s placement as one of those occasional suburban occurrences.  This appeared to be the case, for when I arrived home from lunch, someone had moved the car.  The next morning, however, the car was once again parked on my curb, slightly on my grass.  I looked to see which neighbor had a full driveway, but all had at least one vacancy.  It seemed rather impolite to park on my lawn when they had space.  I resolved that if it happened again, I would mention it to my neighbors and request they not use my property for their overflow parking..
The following day, the same thing occurred.  There sat the car, just as before.  I took a closer look and saw that it was an old Pontiac Lemanz, possibly from the seventies.  The pigment of the green paint had hazed over long before and its rusted bottom was filled with holes.  It had to belong to some kid.
My thinking was flawed, however, as I discovered when I approached the Pontiac.  When I peeked inside, I saw an old man with a white beard.  He wore a Santa Clause outfit while he slept in the back seat.  Some vagrant was squatting on my property!
I knocked on the glass.  The old man stirred.  He sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes.  As soon as he looked at my face, he nodded his head and put up his hand.  The old bum knew he was caught.  Rolling out of the back seat, he exited the opposite side of the car and tried to open the driver’s door.  It was locked.  His pocket jingled as he fumbled in it.
“Sorry to bother you,” he said as he dropped his keys on the ground.  He quickly stooped to pick them up and banged his head on the door.  A small trickle of blood dripped down his balding forehead.  As he opened the door and got in, I felt guilty.  I knocked on the window.  He rolled it down slightly and gazed at me with a furrowed brow.  The smell of unwashed vagabond filled my nostrils and I nearly winced.
“You have blood on your head,” I said.

He wiped his head and looked at his red fingers.  “Yes, I do.  May I go now?”
“Would you like a bandage or something?”
“No that won’t be necessary.”
“You’re sure?”
“I will be fine, but thank you.”  His proper speech threw me for a moment.  He sounded more like a college professor than a bum.
“So are you working as Santa Claus nearby?”
“No, this was just the warmest thing I could find.  Some Santa must have procured an upgrade.”
“Are you from around here?”
“No, are you?”  I found that a rather odd question, considering he was in my driveway, but I answered politely.
“Yes, I’ve lived here since high school.”
“That is very nice.  Is there anything else?”
“No.”  As he started the knocking engine and rolled up the window, I could not help myself.  I tapped on the window.  “Would you like some coffee before you go?”  The old man stared straight ahead in deep thought.  He turned off the motor and eased out of the car.
“That sounds delightful,” he replied with a smile.

 

(To Be Continued)