Saturday, December 27, 2008

“Holiday Interlude”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was nearly five o’clock on a Tuesday evening.

I’d been at work in the Icehouse home office for several hours. And the day was about to end with a commendable ration of wordsmithing product. But now, my stamina was almost gone.

Even the aromatic signature of Colombian coffee could not hold my attention.

I had managed to catalog newspaper back issues from July to December, while writing a theatrical review of ‘A Christmas Carol’ as performed by the Thompson UMC Drama Group. Meanwhile, my personal reflections about owning a Japanese ‘Teisco’ guitar went online, at the ‘Thoughts At Large’ blog site.

It was an effort worthy of reflection.

I paused to take stock of my work. But the tantalizing breath of Java returned. Then, a delicate voice from the kitchen.

“Rodney, did you want a fresh cup of coffee?”

I jumped from my chair. “Liz? Heyyyyy, when did you get home?”

My wife giggled. She had already exchanged her work attire for a pink sweatsuit. “You were in a trance. I think that computer controls your mind!”

“Just working on some new material,” I explained.

“Work, work, work!” she complained. “You’re worse than Scrooge. Don’t you ever take a day off?”

“Well… no,” I said, after pondering her query.

“Do we ever go anywhere without you thinking of material for a story?” she hissed.

My face reddened with embarrassment. “Uhmm, no…”

“You wake up with the computer,” she observed. “You’re logged on throughout the day. And it’s your last thought before bed!”

I took a deep breath. “Yes…?”

“Rodney, you’re obsessed!” she concluded. “I think you need to relax for a change. Stop thinking about writing, and get in touch with your inner child!”

My redness deepened. “Ummm, but this is what I did as a child. I’ve had a home office since the age of ten.”

Liz shook her head. “Think about the holidays! And turn off that machine!”

I felt like a puppy that had been scolded for rowdy behavior. “Turn off the computer??”

Her pose was authoritative and confident. She gestured with a coffee spoon. “Yes!”

Suddenly, I felt short of breath.

My wife reached for the mouse. In an instant, she had maneuvered our desktop into ‘shutdown’ mode.

The air left my lungs. “Please!” I croaked. “Don’t take it away!”

“Try to get in the spirit of the season,” she said with encouragement. “You can do it!”

I took a seat at the kitchen table. My hands were shaking.

“Leigh and Soccer Fairy are spending the night with my parents,” she said. “Just think, Rodney… we’ve got the night all to ourselves! How about some Christmas shopping?”

“Great,” I replied. “Could I check the Icehouse Books e-mail before we get started?”

She pointed her finger with indignation. “No!”

I folded my hands. There was no use in continuing the argument.

“Forget the coffee,” Liz smiled. “How about some gingerbread tea? That will get you into a festive mood.”

“Sure,” I agreed. My stomach began to churn.

Liz started the electric kettle. A song formed on her lips. “Oh, the weather outside is frightful… but the fire is so delightful…”

I nibbled on a snowflake cookie for relief.

“And since we’ve no place to go,” she continued. “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…”

Now, the beginning of her familiar holiday tune was in my head. It swirled fancifully for a moment, then morphed into a creation somewhat different from the original composition by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. The song took on a bit of vintage ‘MAD Magazine’ flair.

I grabbed a pen, and began to write:

For dinner it’s ham and duck
After a ride in my pickup truck
Then maybe the Jerry Springer show
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

We’re almost buried here
But I’m stocked with snacks and beer
So as the cold winds blow
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

When I finally hit the road
I’ll be glad for my four-by-four
We’ll soon be watching a football game
With cheese dip and crackers, galore

We’ll gather around the Yule log
And mix our brew with eggnog
Thank God for O-hi-o
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

My wife raised her eyebrow. “Rodney, what are you doing?”

“Just jotting down a few notes,” I explained.

Liz puttered with mugs of tea. Again, she broke into song. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… Jack Frost nipping at your nose…”

Once more, I felt inspired. Words flowed onto the page:

Bratwurst cooking on a propane fire
Snow piled on your SUV
Out of work and you can’t get hired
But there’s a Taco Bell down the street

Everybody knows a steak burrito
Helps to make the evening bright
Selling chalupas for a week keeps us out of the snow
And we’ll sleep good tonight

Can’t get TV with your rabbit ears
But the VCR will do
Living day to day on a credit card from Sears
And duct tape on my shoes

So I offer you this simple phrase
For tots up to one-hundred ten
Though it’s been hyped in the Information Age
Merry Christmas, again!

She brought our tea to the table. “You’re supposed to be relaxing!”

I flipped the notepad over. “Just scribbling to pass the time. Nevermind.”

“This is my favorite month of the year,” she confessed. “I love to get together with our families and reminisce.”

I nodded in agreement.

Her face brightened. For a third time, she began to sing. “He's making a list, he's checking it twice, he's gonna find out who's naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town…”

Something clicked in my brain. I excused myself for a restroom break. Behind the closed door, more lyrics came from my pen:

Oh, you better not whine
You better not crab
The big man in red
Doesn’t need a cab
Santa Claus is hitting the road

He’s making a list
Better pass his test
His reindeer sleigh
Santa Claus is hitting the road

He sees you when you’re crashed out
He’s got surveillance tapes
And a camera in his beard
So be good for goodness sake

You better not gripe
You better not moan
Or old Saint Nick
Will be forgetting your home
Santa Claus is hitting the road

Back at the table, I nibbled another cookie.

“Isn’t this great?” Liz purred. “No responsibilities. No job stress. Just… us and the holiday season.”

I tucked the notepad in my pocket.

“See, it wasn’t so hard to forget about work, was it?” she said.

I shrugged my shoulders. “You were right, as usual.”

She finished her tea. “Let me get freshened up, and we’ll be on our way. Mall stores, here I come!”

Once she’d left the room, I started skimming through my crumpled papers. There were song lyrics, stray observations, and flashes of inspiration…

Plus, just enough time to complete my last feature before the holiday deadline!

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