Monday, January 02, 2012

“Christmas Caller”


c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(12-11)


Note to Readers: Not everything that follows here is literally true. Some of this may have been produced by too much holiday fudge or an abundance of Christmas ale. Do not be alarmed. Happy Holidays to you!

It was a slow day in the Icehouse home office.

Because Christmas was so near, I had become completely sidetracked by the season. Finishing any of the writing projects that lay on my desk seemed impossible. Bright sunshine reflecting off the snow outside didn’t help. More than anything, I wanted to adjourn to the kitchen for a glass of eggnog.

Riley and Quigley, my Black Lab and Pomeranian duo, were in the doorway. They slumbered while I sorted through the mess.

Suddenly, my telephone rang. The jingle it made had me jumping out of my chair.

“Hello?” I said.

A cheerful voice filled my ear. “Hey, Dad! Merry Christmas, old man!”

I was stunned.

“Hello?” he said, after a brief pause. “Are you there?”

My son hadn’t called since he was transferred to New York.

“Dad,” he laughed. “It’s me. Woody.”

Finally, a reply came to my lips. “Do you know how long it’s been since you called?”

He was perturbed. “C’mon, it’s Christmas. No complaining for the holidays.”

“What, has it been a year?” I wondered out loud. “Or two?”

“No complaining for Christmas!” he insisted.

“Two years?” I asked. “Or three?”

“Okay Dad, it has been twenty-seven months,” he admitted. “But can’t you wish me a Merry Christmas?”

My face reddened. “What I wish is that you remembered my phone number.”

“I’ve been busy,” he explained. “Tops promoted me to Regional Manager last year. I have been working to improve the stores in my zone. Right now I’m in Meadville, Pennsylvania, trying to solve issues with the staff.”

“Tops?” I said with amazement. “They closed up a long time ago.”

“No, Dad,” he disagreed. “Just in Ohio.”

“Nonsense!” I protested. “You’re out of work again, right? Is that why you called? Need a few extra bucks to get through the holiday season?”

My cell-phone chirped. A picture message had arrived.

It was a photo of the Meadville store.

“Look at the pic, Dad.” He said.

“Okay,” I observed. “You’re a chip off the old cube. Retail is in our blood.”

“Or as you used to say,” he remembered, “the cube doesn’t fall far from the tray.”

I chuckled to myself. “Yeah, that’s right. A sense of humor is necessary with a family name like ours.”

“So, you’re still writing for the Maple Leaf?” he interjected.

“That’s right,” I answered. “Almost fourteen years now.”

“And have you talked to Mom lately?” he asked.

“Woody Hayes Ice!” I shouted. “That’s a stupid question.”

“Sorry, Dad,” he apologized.

“We aren’t exactly best friends,” I admitted. “But I suppose that was to be expected. Career pressure never helps a marriage. I worked a lot when you were a kid. Once, I pulled a twenty-eight hour shift at Fisher’s Big Wheel.”

“Was that even legal?” he huffed.

“No,” I smiled. “A violation of company work rules, I’m sure. But I did it anyway. We were in the midst of wild holiday business. Had to get things done.”

“I understand,” he said. “Tops can be brutal at times. Every promotion means more work. Which leaves less family time in the balance.”

A silent pause filled the air.

“So, are you seeing your mom for Christmas?” I said at last.

“Yes,” he answered in a whisper. “Lisa and I are spending the holiday with her, in Cleveland.”

I felt a rock settle in my stomach.

“Well, it’s nice that you could call,” I observed. “Talk to you in another twenty-seven months…”

“Dad, wait!” he insisted. “We were thinking about stopping to visit. Lisa has never been to Geauga County. I wanted to give her the grand tour.”

I took a deep breath. “You want to come… here?”

“I want Lisa to see what it’s like at home,” he reflected. “Snow on the Chardon Square. A stop for Christmas chatter at Paula’s tree stand. Seasonal poems at the library. Maybe even an Irish supper with Carrie Hamglaze. All the things I remember.”

My mood softened. “Woody, you are always welcome here. Even after twenty-seven months.”

“No complaining for Christmas!” he yowled.

Another moment of emptiness elapsed.

“Okay,” I said after collecting my thoughts. “Come home when you can. I’ll make sure your wife gets the full measure of a Geauga County holiday season.”

“Thanks Dad,” he laughed. “I love you.”

The phone clicked loudly in my ear.

Without warning, an overpowering burst of quiet took hold. My computer hummed to itself. Nearby, Riley and Quigley were snoring out canine dreams, together.

I bowed my head with a silent wish:

“Merry Christmas, Woody.”

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