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Xmas Eve Eve ------------ 2:00 a.m. - Making his list and checking it twice, in a drafty Per- kins on Capital Boulevard. The hour, courtesy of an early-evening nap; the eatery chosen 'cause IHOP, Hooters, and the Wendy's drive- thru are closed. [ Insert own "Got Milk?" joke ] Chicken fingers, which he doesn't finish, a Diet Coke, and one slice of (chocolate) French Silk pie. Wearing (black) boots, too, from a failed attempt at post-ZZZZZ country dancing. Four pages of notes scribbled so far-- projects, goals, and other Things To Do during the week work is closed. (Item #112 - Drive on newly-opened segment of I-540 dur- ing day. Item #113 - Drive on newly-opened segment of I-540 after dark. Etc.) Hits proverbial hay by 3:30, but not before loading load of laundry and wrapping one last gift for the girlfriend, a paperback copy of "Jerry Springer's Wildest Shows Ever!" As pro- claimed on the cover, the stuffy, academic tome includes entries on "Christmas with the Klan," "I Slept with 251 Men in 10 Hours!," and the never-aired-but-boy-don't-you-wish-it-had "I Married a Horse." Giddy-yup. 10:30 a.m. - Currently running errands. Presently (Ha! Christmas pun!) queued at drive-thru ATM off Wake Forest Road. Observe, in mirror, a couple in the car behind mine. The passenger, a woman, appears to be crying. Her cheeks are flush; her mouth down-turned. And she wipes her eyes every few seconds. I smile, the discreet, silent display touching. She covers her face and half-laughs, ap- pearing to notice her rear-mirror voyeur. Wonder what he did? Won- der, too, why we always presume that the *guy* is to blame. I mean, she could be grieving... 10:40 a.m. - Idle in credit union parking lot, pausing to compile short stack of receipts. Feel kinda sad, now. Crying Girl and The Lout drive past. Wish I could hug her. Wonder what would *happen* if I hugged her and if it would involve pepper spray. Discover un- cashed check in wallet. Drive through ATM again. Park at Bojan- gle's, just down the road. Have unread sections of yesterday's pa- per in hand. Also purchase *today's* "News and Observer," just in case. (The author's personal version of Hell: eating alone, meal after meal, and without a single thing to read.) While waiting in line, an older, Southern-sounding gentleman attempts to make conver- sation, asking loudly about the "guy they found dead in the moun- tains." I ignore him, hoping he'll stop. He tries again, this time leaning into my field of vision. Grumble. He's asking about some- one from Chapel Hill whose body was discovered in the woods, some- where west of here. In my most-polite, please-go-away-tones, I mum- ble "I haven't gotten that far." He muses "I just can't figure out what he was doin' up there in the middle of the afternoon." He also adds "Humbug spelled backwards is Gubmuh." 12:30 p.m. - Discover ATM card is missing. Great. Recount recent events while again idling in credit union parking lot. Ordered a chicken filet combo with Diet Coke, no seasoning on the fries, and one cinnamon biscuit. Per usual, consumed filet and chucked bis- cuit. Left satiated, albeit with frosting-coated fingers. Began errands. Returned library books. Sold stack of CDs. Browsed Bor- ders. Returned to make another deposit. Discovered missing card. Hmmmm. Probably left it in the machine. Damn earlier, distracting drama. Haven't checked answering machine all day. Hope there's a message from some kind soul. That is, if the card wasn't "eaten." 12:45 p.m. - Arrive home. Greet cat. Check machine. Answering ma- chine blinking. Relief. Phone kind person back. Leave kinder mes- sage. Jot number in notebook. Head to movies. Attend 1:45 of MISS CONGENIALITY at the Carmike 15. Tote notes plus plastic folder con- taining old check registers. Theater is packed. Have to actually sit *next* to someone-- a kid, with his family, one member of which reeks of excessive garlic. Sigh. At least it's a aisle seat. Con- tinue expense recording during previews, until too dark to read own handwriting. Attempt to watch movie. Sucks. Leave early. 3:00 p.m. - The lines at Target are six-person deep. I'm there for the toys-- those harder-to-find, die-cast collectibles that aren't *quite* so hard-to-find at Christmas. Alas, nothing catches my eye. Loews Foods is nearly as busy. Stock such provisions as ice cream, potato chips, cookies, nachos, and a couple of small (read: cheap) steaks. While leaving shopping center, notice large tent advertis- ing fireworks at fifty-percent off. Small explosives have a Yule- tide function? Again phone person who found bank card. They're home. Pay quick, cordial, and thanks-giving visit. Marge Simpson plays in head, repeating that famous line from their famous parody of "A Streetcar Named Desire." 5:00 p.m. - Chores. Cooking. Greet Sweetie and leave for movie, the 7:15 of YOU CAN COUNT ON ME at the Colony. While en route, lis- ten to Thin Lizzy's "Thunder and Lightning." Companion casually in- forms that one of the guitarists once roomed with her. What!? In- terrogate while parking. Resume recording of expenditures during previews. The acclaimed, award-winning film is started and, within three scenes, I can tell it's gonna be good. Sweetie's enraptured as well. Film is great. The cast is great. And Laura Linney is a- mazing-- sunny, sad, and just earthy enough. (Sexy, too!) Film is also frequently funny; I screech often and often so spontaneously that there's a half-second of silence before the rest of the audi- ence "gets it." The ending is a joyous, potential tear-jerker. On a different day, I might be balling. Or bawling, if we weren't a- lone. 10:30 p.m. - En route to shoot pool at bowling alley, our chosen, post-movie activity. Hear call on car's scanner for house fire, closer into town. Change of plans. Stop car. Consult map book. Switch off the Brian Setzer Orchestra and their big-band rendition of "Rock This Town." Sweetie says she knows the area. Begin cre- eping in general direction of "Wade and Dixie Trail." Dispatcher confirms "multiple calls." First-due engine confirms working fire. We arrive after the fire trucks, but before the police can close off the street. Outside temperature in teens. One winter coat between us. And one glove. Lights, smoke, and lots of hose. Neighbors in small clumps, standing with arms tightly crossed. Companion points to flames still showing on left side of structure. "Why aren't they shooting water on it?" I answer "they are, but from the *inside*." Also take opportunity to continue her ongoing fire-scene education. Detail differences between pumper, ladder, and rescue trucks. Also describe duties of each unit's personnel. Fingertips hurting as I snap a roll of film. Retreat to car. Start car. Sit for a while, then begin moving backwards to make room for additional, incoming e- mergency vehicles. 10:50 p.m. (approximate) - Scanner screams that a firefighter has fallen through the floor. One, maybe two seconds pass and the com- manding officer switches focus. His voice is clear, firm, and ur- gent as he orders a "second alarm." And a head count. The trapped firefighter, we learn, has fallen *halfway* through the floor. We hear "command" caution the incoming "companies" that the individual isn't in *immediate* danger. Siren to the left as Engine #8 passes and parks 50 feet ahead. Three of the four crew members are already "suited up" (including air masks) and trotting (e.g. safely running) to the scene. The Chief has ordered everyone out of the building, except those keeping the fire from reaching the trapped person. We can't see a thing from the car-- only smoke and a general glow from behind the breathing-air truck that's blocking our view. I turn a- round and exit the now nearly-full street. Around the block we go, after an ambulance with the same idea as us: park at the *other* end of the street. 11:05 p.m. (approximate) - The trapped firefighter has been rescued, the scanner informs, and all other personnel have been accounted for. Parked again, catty-corner to the "Truck One." Heavy fire in attic now reported. Uphill we jog, camera in cold hand, fresh roll in cold camera. We follow the "supply line"-- the large-diameter hose connecting the hydrant to the pumping engine. Flames are sho- oting high into the sky. Numerous spotlights have also brightened the scene. Fingers hurting again as I fumble for "artsy-ier" set- tings-- flash, no flash, zoom, no zoom, normal frame, and panoramic. Within a minute, the flames are dying down. Clearing smoke reveals a broken, brick duplex, charred on one side and with a huge hole in the roof. The department photographer rolls by, deftly raising his wheelchair over the hose. Fingers *really* hurting now. Back to the car we head, back down the hill, and rushing just slow-enough to circumvent any freshly frozen patches of pavement. A window breaks behind us. Loudly. Xmas Eve ======== 8:50 a.m. - Lacking the consumptive capabilities of a certain S. Claus, a breakfast of (Diet) Coke and chocolate-chip cookies sends Yours Queasy to Target, to purchase a bottle (or two) of pink bis- muth. While en route, observe small truck cruising neighborhood. Same is accompanied by three heavily padded individuals, each plac- ing little white bags along the curb. The bags, waxed, contain sand and a single candle. Residents of Brentwood are instructed to light said candles at an appointed time. And donate money. I choose not to participate. Never have, in fact, despite enjoying the fringe benefit of hearing Engine #11 occasionally racing to discipline some unruly point of light. 9:10 a.m. The lines at Target are considerably smaller. See some- one I know; thank myself for remembering my mop-cover (Seattle Port Authority Fire Department ball cap). Also haven't shaved in a week; she asks about the "scruff." I'm giving my face a break, I reply, adding "it isn't really a break, though, 'cause I keep trimming the sides." Purchase generic brand of "pink stuff" and one Matchbox Collectibles, 1:64-scale replica of a New York City Police Depart- ment Suburban. Have film from last night, too. Drive next door to Sam's and discover that the photo lab is open. Wohoo! Drop off film. Drive away. Get idea for this essay. Stop car. Begin fev- erishly scribbling notes. 10:30 a.m. Check e-mail. Receive after-the-fact notification of a successful Seattle gift delivery. Talking Cornholio action figure, from "Beavis and Butt-head." Read online that an *earlier* fire last night displaced nine people. Sigh. Mom visits in a couple hours. House only *slightly* less of a disaster than yesterday. Trash in backyard. Trash bags on back porch. Raking not started. Floors dirty. Bathrooms stinky. And a refrigerator filled with strange-looking science experiments. Pause to ponder question of rare, chocolate-marshmallow-graham cracker concoctions and, if a person wanted to purchase one via an online auction site, would they be exhibiting... s'more bid curiosity? 3:30 p.m. Mother stares at Norman Bates, his right arm raised and holding a kitchen knife. The eight-inch action figure doesn't ex- actly resemble Tony Perkins, but the (removable) gray wig and pad- ded (blue) dress are dead-on. Wish they made a Martin Balsam doll to go with it. Mom cackles and wants one for her own. I tell a story of the spare bedroom and the shelf where said figure is dis- played beside picture of my ex-wife (and I). One day, I discover- ed "Norman" turned to face the photograph, arm again extended and holding that big, bad knife. Was my girlfriend trying to tell me something? No, I chuckled, realizing that the figure had moved by *itself*, from the vibrations of the *drums* played in that room. Mom cackles again. Girlfriend also amused. Leave shortly there- after, for the 4:30 of CHOCOLAT at the Colony. I last forty-five minutes and spend the remainder of the movie in the lobby. 9:00 p.m. (estimated) - While Yours Fidgety is out and about and en- during the increasingly oppressive, Christmas Eve silence-- stores now closed, scanner activity diminished, Deadsville (pop. 20) at the country bar-- Santa leaves a gag gift at the house: "The Dr. Laura Game." Quoth the brightly colored, still-shrink wrapped box: "It's all about Character, Courage, and Conscience in this talk-provoking game of ethical and moral dilemmas!" And it's even based on actual calls! "My 13-year-old lives with her father," an excerpt examples, "When she comes to visit, she wears a spike collar..." Oh boy, oh boy! In addition to the scary color photos on the box, the game in- cludes 1 board, 1 die, and 600 "Preach, Teach, and Nag dilemmas." (What, no WWDLS bracelets!?!?) The piece de resistance, however, is newspaper clipping taped to the original wrapping-- a photo of five guys shoveling snow while dressed as... Elvis. Thankyouverymuch, Santa. Xmas ---- Merry. Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
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Copyright 2021 by Michael J. Legeros