The Stupid 365 Project, Day 83: Christmas Story, Part 1

December 24th, 2010

A little while back, I announced to a global chorus of disappointed groans that I wouldn’t be doing a Christmas story because my book was arriving at a terrific clip, and I felt it was unwise to divert my energy from it just then.  So . . . no story.

But it is not to be, or. rather it IS to be.  Fresh from Oregon, still smelling of pine needles and dripping rain, came a NEW JUNIOR BENDER STORY, and it’s A CHRISTMAS STORY, and it was wrItten by EVERETT KASER.  And, I’m happy to say, it kicks butt.  So, without further ado, here we go with Part One:

Christmas Drizzle

by Everett Kaser, using characters developed by Timothy Hallinan

“This is beautiful country, Junior, especially in the spring. You should see it in the spring sometime.”

“You mean when God’s bladder finally runs empty and he stops pissing on it for month after month?”

“Well, it’s the rain that makes everything so green and… and… beautiful, you know?”

“You’re repeating yourself, Hog. You really shouldn’t use the same words so often, they wear out and stop working.”

“Well, excuse me if I’m not all smart like you! I was just passing time.”

Hog, or more formally Hedgehog, liked to talk, and after an 18-hour drive from L.A. to the god-forsaken, rain-soaked forests and dripping gray skies of western Oregon, I’d had all I could take and about a bushel more. But I immediately regretted letting my frustrations show. Hog had earned his name: one minute he was your friend and best drinking buddy, and the next he was as bristly as a hedgehog and ready to tear your arm off; a sensitive, touchy brute, with a ball of wiry hair the size of one of Jupiter’s smaller moons. We normally got along fine, but I was at my rope’s end after this trip to God’s toilet. I was afraid that if I didn’t start driving out of this country soon, I’d be enveloped in a moss cocoon.

“Sorry, Hog, I’m just tired, and I miss Rina. And Ronnie. And Kathy. And sun. Definitely sun. I can’t believe that two kids from southern California would actually go hiking in this miserable weather.” Water falls are nice, but it’s hard to steal them.

We sat in my car in the parking lot of the South Falls at Silver Falls State Park. A nice park, as parks go, but it was the morning of Christmas Eve, and I hadn’t even started my Christmas shopping. Not that I had that much to do. But what do you get for a teen-aged girl? Or a thirty-aged girl? I am a smart guy, but some knowledge seems to be forbidden to people who shave regularly. Maybe I should stop shaving? I rubbed my face, trying to squeeze the weariness out of my eyes. The stubble on my cheeks and chin scratched against my hands, and I realized that I hadn’t shaved since yesterday, so that probably wouldn’t help.

I feared that time with my daughter Rina was rapidly fading away, and there wasn’t much of it to start with. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel, and shifted in my seat, thinking about Rina’s boyfriend. How did that sneak up on me? So what do you get for a daughter who has everything she needs except a father?

And then there was Ronnie: what do you get a woman you’ve only known for a few months, and may not know for too many more months, but who’s filling a larger and larger slice of your life? Flowers? Clothes? Jewelry? I can do jewelry, I do jewelry very well. I just don’t usually buy it, and some women are finicky about wearing jewelry that belongs to other women.

“Here,” I said, tossing my keys to Hog. “I’m going for a walk. If they show up, block them in and honk the horn.”

“Stay dry, Junior, you didn’t bring no other clothes.” Hog snorted, amused by himself, as I climbed from the car. The slushy rain immediately started building an ice rink on top of my head. I turned my collar up and started walking along a blacktopped trail towards some log buildings with moss for roofs. The giant trunks of old fir trees climbed to the ceiling of boughs high above, hiding most of the gray sky, but the water and slush continued to drip from them.

I’d gotten into this mess because I owed a favor. A year before, I’d helped a friend get out of debt to a loan shark named Bonnie Tim Bright, who was threatening to have his enforcer, Robb the Rubber, do some rubbing with his eraser on my friend. No one called Bonnie Tim Bonnie to his face. He was the prettiest Irish lass with two balls—I assumed—this side of the Atlantic, and that had earned him the Bonnie sobriquet. As a counter-balance for the pretty face, the universe had contrived to turn him into the meanest, most vicious loan shark in California. He belonged in Boston or Chicago, but I guess he liked sunshine, too. Anyway, he was willing to let me pay off my friend’s debt, but only on the condition that I owe him a future favor, too.

Two days ago, my favor-debt came calling. Bonnie Tim’s sixteen year-old daughter, Beth Bright, had disappeared, and he wanted my help in finding her and hopefully bringing her home safe. Given his chosen profession, I didn’t hold out much hope for a happy ending, but after a few hours of checking around with her friends, I found out she’d run off with her boyfriend, Gary Lilstern, to Oregon. I couldn’t blame her: if Bonnie Tim were my father, I’d probably run away, too. But, unfortunately, I had to fetch Beth back, and somehow figure out how to keep Bonnie Tim from sending boyfriend Gary to sleep with the leprechauns. Who said being a thief was just stealing one thing after another? So, here I was, satisfying my favor-debt, but I was getting paid, too. I don’t even do favors for free.

Continued tomorrow

4 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 83: Christmas Story, Part 1”

  1. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Procrastinating from pre-holiday chores, I came across this very interesting story with an amazing cast of characters, and an intriguing story. Very nice, Everett, and I laughed which is always a gift. Merry to you all too.

  2. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Yes, only on this site do readers like Everett volunteer material as good as this. I also think the characters are especially interesting.

  3. Gary Says:

    The characters are more than interesting, Tim. Why, some of them are quite distinguished!

    Thank you, Everett. That was a lot of fun.

    So when do we see Chapter 2?

  4. Suzanna Says:

    Thanks for coming through with the xmas story, Everett! I really enjoyed it. Looking forward to the next chapter.

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