Conclusion of Christmas Tradition

Below is the conclusion of the short story A Christmas Tradition.  Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane.

As part of a project I was working on regarding some marketing efforts, I was required to look at the main protagonist in each of my books.  All of these books have supporting characters who are a vital part of the story and in some cases readers have pointed out that they actually were more interesting than the main person.  But just looking at the main character was an interesting exercise.

The Bootlegger's Legacy.  Joe Meadows.  Married CPA with two kids, age 44.  Unhappy marriage.  Drinks too much.  Always fighting money problems.  Generally not very happy with life but destined to plod along and not to do anything about it.  Of course all of that changes in the book.

Dog Gone Lies and Sky High Stakes.  Ray Pacheco.  Widowed, in his sixties, one grown son he never sees.  Now many people might say that the most interesting characters are Tyee Chino and Big Jack--and no doubt they are the most interesting; but it is Ray who makes the books believable and endearing.  A good person meeting new challenges late in life.

Murder So Wrong and Murder So StrangeTommy Jacks.  Young, early twenties, idealistic reporter with huge family baggage.  Insecure and uncertain about new relationships.  We explore the murder mysteries with Tommy but also witness his growth into a more complete human being.

Santa Fe Mojo and Blue Flower Red ThornsVincent Malone.  Mid-sixties, broken man with long history of cynical attitude about life and people.  Drinks too much.  Poor health.  Sense of humor that he most often hides.  Smart, tough and alone--by choice.  Finds new beginnings in Santa Fe but only by accident.

Some observations.  They are all men.  Diverse ages and occupations.  All in the middle of major life changes.  Couple of drinkers.  This is a little subjective but they are all good people who are flawed, some more than others.  Have any thoughts on these characters let me know.

A Christmas Tradition

Part Four of Four

Donny’s house was next.  Donny was a year or maybe a year and half older than the rest of us.  He was tougher, meaner and usually very sad.  Donny’s dad seemed mostly to drink and yell.  Donny had told his pals that his dad drank gin.  Nobody knew what gin was but it didn’t sound good and on occasion when his dad tried to talk to someone, it was obvious it didn’t smell good either.   His dad didn’t seem to have a regular job but would be gone for long periods of time doing something.  When his dad was gone his house was much happier; but then his dad would return.  His dad told everyone who would listen how horrible it was the bootlegger was arrested, by his own account one of the best people in the whole damn state.  We all knew he wasn’t supposed to say damn but didn’t have the courage to tell him.

Donny had a sister, Betty.  Betty was in high school and was a cheerleader.  Betty was the most beautiful person who lived on our street, she also had no modesty.  All of the houses in the neighborhood had one bathroom, this was a major problem for Betty.  Betty needed her own bathroom or maybe two.  She was always dressing and “getting herself ready,” whatever that really meant. This mysterious process seemed to involve her running around the house looking for some key aspect of being “ready” while dressed in her bra and slip.  It didn’t seem to matter who was in the house her needs were paramount over any other considerations.  Donny’s little boy friends sat around the tiny living room with their mouths agape and their eyes wide open.

Donny’s family seemed to have lots of money based mostly on the abundance of food.  We didn’t know but also suspected gin wasn’t cheap.  Christmas was a confusing place at Donny’s house.  They didn’t have a tree but they did have presents.  They weren’t church going people but they wished everyone a Merry Christmas.  Donny had participated in past gift ratings but each year he became meaner.  Bill had even told me that he was afraid of Donny and didn’t want to be around him anymore.  Donny’s anger at everyone seemed to come and go with the departure and return of his dad.  Even though Betty was an attraction for his buddies, Donny preferred to stay outside.  He would play basketball from morning to late night on most summer days.
As I approached Donny I could see he was in a bad mood.  “Nothin’ this year you little creep.”  It looked like Donny had been crying.  I asked him if he wanted to play a game of horse, he told me to get lost.  I left.

Now it was my turn.  I knew I had gotten some great gifts but nothing was going to beat Ernie.  The look on his face when he showed me that slide-rule said it all—he was the winner in more ways than just the kid’s gift rating game.  I gave myself a twenty-five and conceded defeat to the smiling Ernie.
As I walked into my warm, cozy home I knew the gift game was history.  Something had changed; maybe it was just everybody getting older or maybe it was everybody getting wiser.  In years past each one would have joined me to go to the next.  By the time we reached my house the whole group would be together and we would be laughing.  Today nobody was really that interested, except, I guess, me.  

Bill had to stay home and watch Timmy play with his Christmas stash, Ernie couldn’t take the slide-rule outside and he didn’t want to leave it, just yet.  Bobby said his mother told him he couldn’t cross Key any more without an adult, there had been a scare a couple of days ago with a kid almost hit on his bike.  Johnny was grounded for two weeks because he had fixed himself French toast while his mom was out shopping and almost burned the house down.  Donny was angry at everyone and seemed dangerous and no longer wanted any of the creeps around his house.

Kid’s games by their nature stop at some point. You stop being a kid.  I never won the kid’s Christmas gift rating game.  It had usually been Bill, no doubt because we trusted him to allocate his huge load of gifts between the two celebration days.  Donny had won once, back when he was friendlier, when he got a complete football uniform, with shoulder pads and a helmet.  He was happy that day.  Ernie of course got the prize with his beloved slide-rule, even though none of us really knew what it did.  Bobby didn’t win but often came in second.  Johnny had been close one year with a pogo-stick but lost to Bill and his new bike.  

Now I can see it wasn’t the winning, it was that we all got together and laughed.  It was fun to be together and talk about the gifts and argue about the scores.  It was a tradition.  A Christmas tradition.  I will miss that.

The End


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