Friday, December 20, 2013

“Roundtable Holiday”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a chilly morning at Geauga Gas & Grub.
Lines of sleepy patrons streamed from the registers. An aroma of coffee and breakfast foods filled the air. By the front windows, a small group huddled over their mobile devices and old-school notepads.
An informal meeting of the Geauga Writers’ Roundtable had been called, to share holiday cheer and newspaper ideas. Carrie Hamglaze, erstwhile elected official and award-winning tennis coach, called the meeting to order.
“Good morning, everyone!” she said while fretting with the brim of her red hat.
My eyes did not want to focus. I kept drinking coffee.
“Good morning, Carrie!” chirped Sandy Kimball, Bohemian editor of the Claridon Claxon. She adjusted her horn-rimmed glasses. “Festive winter solstice to you all!”
Mack Prindl, chief at the Parkman Register, huffed with irritation.
“There ain’t nothing festive about this season, yinz know,” he protested. “The Stillers have a losing record!”
Carrie nodded, while grinning. “No Superbowl this year?”
“Hah!” said Martha Ann Reale, of the Newbury Siren-Monitor. “I should say not!”
“We got six already,” Mack hissed.
“Good thing,” I observed. “It could be a long time before you see another...”
“May the wise crone show you mercy,” Sandy cackled.
“Crone?” Mack roared. “Hey, I’ll take my miracles from God, okay? Not some old witch!”
“You’ll need God to save the Steelers season,” Martha Ann observed cheerfully.
Carrie gestured like someone hailing a cab. “Please, everyone! Let’s get down to business!”
“A great idea,” I agreed.
Martha Ann flipped through her notebook. “With the season upon us, I am running a front-page article about finding bargain gifts in Geauga County.”
Carrie was pleased. “A useful offering. What about you, Rod?”
“My lead story is an interview with Paula Horbay, or the ‘Christmas Tree Lady’ as we all know her,” I said. “She has been part of our local culture for a generation.”
Carrie smiled. “Very good. What about you, Martha Ann?”
“I have another installment in my series about Geauga history,” she warbled. “This particular chapter talks about how the holidays were celebrated a century ago.”
Sandy frowned like a sick child. “Boring subjects, I must say. Can’t any of you break out of the typical holiday mold?”
Carrie gritted her teeth. “Please! Show more respect for your fellow writers!”
Mack bowed his head. “Not to mention Superbowl champions!”
Martha Ann snorted loudly. “Be quiet, Pringle!”
“That’s P-R-I-N-D-L!” he bellowed.
“You say that every time,” I reflected.
Carrie took a sip of her Irish tea. “This is the season of goodwill and peace. I would like you all to consider that as we discuss our writing projects.”
“Peace, schmeese!” Mack groaned. “I want to talk Superbowl trophies!”
“Give it up, friend,” I chortled. “You won’t even make the playoffs this year.”
“Blasphemy!” he roared.
“Hu Dey!” Martha Ann cheered. “The Cincinnati Bengals are leading this division. All you can do is watch them run!”
“Not true!” he disagreed.
“Is too!” she insisted. “Beaten by a cat! How about that!”
“Heyyy!” Mack complained. “I didn’t know you followed NFL football!”
“I don’t,” she explained. “But it is worth anything to shut your mouth!”
Carrie shook her head angrily. “Please, please, please!”
Sandy closed her eyes. “So much for holiday joy, eh? You’d all be better off listening to the truth of science than some ancient fairytale.”
“Why don’t you just move to Cleveland?” Martha Ann frowned.
Mack shuddered. “Yeah, so yinz can follow a losing team like the Browns!”
“Come on, Pringle!” Martha Ann bleated. “You grew up in Parkman. Quit acting like you came from Pennsylvania!”
Carrie was about to faint. “Pleeeeeeease!”
I sat my coffee cup on the table. “You know, the holiday season makes me thankful to live in Geauga County. A place protected from the turmoil that is sweeping neighborhoods in cities across America. Worry clouds the horizon for so many. Worry about the economy. About healthcare costs. About personal safety. About the decline of our society. About the look of tomorrow. We are lucky to be here. I give thanks for my place in this little part of the world.”
Silence descended over the group.
Finally, Carrie breathed a sigh.
“Amen!” she proclaimed, stirring her tea.
“Amen!” Martha Ann agreed.
“Affirmations!” Sandy echoed, reluctantly, while twisting the sleeve of her hemp blouse.
“Amen!” Mack cheered. He lifted his Steeler mug in the air.
“Amen! Amen! Amen!”
“I call this meeting adjourned,” Carrie declared. “Good luck with your newspapers. May all of you have a blessed holiday season!”
“See you in January!” Martha Ann added.
“No, in February,” Mack said with a grin. “For the next Stillers Superbowl appearance!”

Postscript: Here’s wishing a blessed holiday season to all of you, from the Icehouse!

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