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Christmas Noir: Day Six



My traveling companion had given up before I reached Folwerville, where I decided to pull over and put some gas in the tank. I probably stayed longer in Folwerville than I needed to, but I was curious to see if I might come up behind a brown Buick if it had indeed followed me that far. Would the driver be confused if he had known where I was going and got there firs to discover I wasn’t there? I suppose really I just wanted to see if perhaps I might see him. If he fell back far enough, he might still come up while I was waiting. I'd thought about getting some donuts, just to taunt him, but I passed on the idea.

When I got on the road though, I was the only car on it for some time. There wasn’t anyone else driving along the barren highway, no one else looking at the blighted landscape with his bare trees and empty fields. I found myself wishing it would snow, just to cover up the emptiness that had come after the fall colors had passed. There were no colors now, beyond the dead colors of brown and gray.

When I got into East Lansing though, things began to look a little more lively. There were young people walking around, there was color from decorations, although some people had no sense of style or imagination. Once again in many places the holiday season had simply vomited its brightly colored regurgitation onto the lawns of the unsuspecting.

My complaints to this end were mollified when I hit the student zone. East Lansing was a college town after all, and the closer one got to the college the better chance on had of seen the young women in their winter gear. I’ve always preferred look of fall and winter fashions to those of spring and summer, probably some attachment having to do with looking at young ladies rumps that I formed in the eighties. Of course there is just a lot more one can do with the extra layers, and there is more that has to be left to the thoughts and imaginations of the individual viewer. I didn’t watch the young women walking too and fro so closely that I crashed the car, but I did have to make sure to remind myself that I was driving a few times.

I drove past the college and down a side street, winding my way through the passages until I came to a small two-story house that looked like the sort of place you’d want to visit. I pulled into the driveway and looked around for a brown Buick amongst the student cars, but either my eyes are failing me, or they switched cars.

The house had been decorated for the season as lights were strung about the roof and in all the windows. There were lights on the trees and shrubs in front of the house and I could see a tree in the front window. I knew she hadn’t decorated the place, she’s not exactly decrepit, but neither is she as sprightly as she used to be. No, the students come and do this for her every year, it’s like a tribute for them.

Solstice is a recognizable type. Kids come to college, learn that she was the one who originated most of Christmas’s tricks and get all excited about her. So they come to see her, because she lives near the college, and she’s the sort of old time show biz gal who always has a hundred stories about anyone you can think of. She’s clever, witty, funny, a natural at keeping your attention while she’s on. Even now, in her elder years, there is a lot of sparkle left to her and that causes people to want to come and see her.

I walked up the steps and as I got to the top step the door opened and two young women came out of the front door and stopped when they looked at me. I asked myself again when the college aged girls got to be so much younger than me. I wasn’t that much older than them, but looking at the two of them made me wonder if I hadn’t been doing this job when they were still playing with dolls.

“We’ll see you Solstice.” One of them said and turned to kiss the old gal on the cheek. The other one waved and they started down the stairs. I moved to one side to let them pass and caught the mingled scents of their perfumes as they went down the stairs.

When I looked back, Solstice’s smile had faded and her face looked more careworn than I’d ever noticed before. She looked up at me, and I could have sworn a tired sigh escaped her lips. It was possibly the saddest sound I had ever heard up to that point.

“Well, c’mon in.” she said. “I’ve got some lunch ready for you.”

We went into side and I smelled something immediately. I took my hat off and hug it up on the rack and then took off my coat and hung that up as well. Solstice’s house was filled with dark furniture that was covered with a tasteful amount of knick-knacks. It looked like the sort of place you’d want your grandmother to live in. Had it not been the middle of the day, I would have even expected there to be a fire in the fireplace. As it was though, there was just a large orange cat stretched out in front of the fireplace, waiting. I followed Solstice into the kitchen and sat down at the old dark wood table.

“Just wait there.” She said and went into the swinging door to the kitchen. She emerged a moment later with a plate of perfectly prepared roast beef and potatoes. I won’t go into the details of the heavenly meal, because what interest could you possibly have to read about how grand my short meal was? Suffice it to say, my lunch was superb.

When I was done I leaned back and pushed my plate away a few inches. Solstice seemed to stiffen herself up a little as she waited for me to begin, not because of anything I did or even that she thought I might do. She did it because she had to steady herself before we started. I turned in my chair to face her more and then, tapping the table with my fingertips, I started.

“Any thoughts?” I asked.

“How are you funding this venture?” She asked.

“The fat man is going to send me a check.”

“You’d take his money?” She asked, a disgusted look crossing her face.

“I’m not working for him he’s just paying the tab. I’m working for Christmas here.”

“But still.” She said leaning back in another gesture of disgust. “To even touch that filthy pervert’s money. Why not come to me if you need money?”

“I don’t need money.” I said defensively. “But part of the deal is I’ve got to take jobs that I can reasonably be expected to complete.”

“Yes.” She said, “I remember, but I’d feel better if you took my money instead. Has he paid you a retainer?”

“Supposed to get a check in the morning.”

“I’ll give you a check before you leave.” She slapped the table. “Rather you take my money that that pimp’s money. It was that fat child molester’s fault we ever left for here.”

“When did you two meet him?” I asked.

“When Christmas was still married to Church.” She said. “You might not remember but I was still working with her in those days, consulting mostly. She’s taken over the show by then of course, but back in the day you could hardly tell her from me. I was a bit older sure, but if you saw each of us in our hay day you’d be hard pressed to say which one was which.”

“The fat man was working for Church in those days?”

“Oh yes.” She nodded. “You might not be old enough to remember that, when he was one of Church’s guys. He worked in Turkey, but he got chased out of Turkey for messing around with kids. Then he came north and saw me and Christmas performing in London and Paris. He introduced Church and her you know.”

“No.” I said. “I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “Then they got married, and things were alright for a while, but then the fat man left Church and went into business for himself. Then he lured Christmas away from Church and he went bat shit like he did. You of course remember those happy days.”

“Yeah.” I nodded, trying not to mention that some nights I wake up in a cold sweat remembering those days.

“The fat man got Christmas hooked on that junk she’s been on since the divorce. That crap that’s taken her away.” She looked sad for a moment and then wiped her mouth with her palm. “You seen her lately?”

“I sort of saw on TV last year, and I talked to her on the phone for a little while.” I shrugged. “No, not really.”

“She got bloated.” Solstice said standing. “That garbage he keeps shooting her up with, it expanded her into something that she shouldn’t be.”

She walked away and I noticed that while age had added some softness, Solstice Yule was still the wasp wasted fit thing she’d always been. She’d always kept fit, not even for the crowd, but for herself. But then, she hadn’t had the fat man giving her the kind of stuff he was said to be giving Christmas. She had acted differently too, only demanding what a person could actually give rather than more than they could give.

Christmas not only demanded you all, but then demanded more. You would quickly get exhausted if you had to be around her too much. What made it worse was that she had a way of making you think you could do the things she wanted you to do, so you’d actually think she had a valid complaint for being disappointed when you failed her.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
ciarrainic
Dec. 6th, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC)
"It was that fat child molester’s fault we ever left for here.”

Should there be a comma in here somewhere or missing word. I'm not sure if it's the sentence or me, but it just plain confuses me.
greyweirdo
Dec. 6th, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
If you put the word "that" after fault and before we it should make sense. I was trying to use a particular dialect of michigander talk for Solstice, which is sometimes hard to understand I'll grant.
ciarrainic
Dec. 6th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
Adding "that" helps. The last part of the sentence "we ever left for here" sounds odd to my ear (michigander dialect?). So the sentence is in general, "it's the fat mans fault that we came here".
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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