Christmas Captures

By Michael J. Legeros

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."

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-

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,



Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros


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