Christmas Carol

23. december 2011 at 19:50 | Thalia Contostavlos
This is my Christmas present for you. Nothing special, but written with love :)

One evening before Christmas spent in a local bar. No pairing.
Warnings: none
Disclaimer: Dear Santa, I really wish to own Archie Goodwin and his friends so badly. I know I haven't been that good, but can I at least borrow them?


.........The bar was empty. Not surprising considering that New York was being bombarded by the worst snowstorm the city had seen in over a decade. I was sitting in a corner, nursing my glass of brandy and watching Richie Ryan - young boy who occasionally helped anywhere he could to get a few bucks - sweep the floor.
.........He looked as if he didn't mind at all that Joe's was devoid of customers. In fact it made his job all that much easier. He told me that in an attempt to earn a little extra spending money for the holidays, he had allowed Joe to talk him into taking the position of bar grunt. If it needed cleaning, polishing, lifting or moving, it was Richie's job to see that it was cleaned, polished, lifted or moved. The lack of customers meant that there were fewer things to have to clean, polish, lift or move.
.........Joe Watcher stood behind the bar and watched his employee. Richie hummed tunelessly as he swept the floor of the main room for the third time in an hour.
........."Hey kid," Joe called. Richie stopped sweeping to look up at his employer. "Why don't you give that broom a rest. Let me buy you a beer."
.........A large grin swept across the lad's face. "I think I could be persuaded to set aside my duties for a bit of refreshment. You don't mind?"
.........Joe grinned at him. "No."
........."Well, far be it for me to deny the wishes of my employer, especially when he's buying the beer. Just let me put this thing away," Richie said indicating the broom in his hand. Joe nodded.
.........Richie quickly put the broom in the supply closet and made his way towards the bar. As he sat down, Joe placed a cold bottle of beer down in front of him. He picked up the bottle, raised it in salute to his friend and took a long draft of the beverage. As he sat the bottle back down, Richie glanced at his watch. 8:02 p.m.
........."Hey Joe, mind if I change the radio station?" he asked, using his best puppy-dog eyes on the older man.
........."You don't like jazz?"
........."No. Nothing like that. It's just that I would like to listen to something else." Joe looked at him intensely. Richie fought the urge to squirm. "It's not as if there are any customers to bother with it." He shot me a glare daring me to disagree.
.........I shrugged my shoulders.
.........Joe chuckled. "I guess it's ok. But we get any more customers it goes back to jazz, ok?"
........."Sure, no problem," Richie agreed as he leaned over the bar and fished blindly for the station button. Moments later he stood back up with a triumphant expression on his face.
.........Suddenly the bar was filled with the sound of Frank Sinatra's voice singing the famous White Christmas.
........."Aren't you a little old for Christmas Carols? I thought that listening to these things are outgrown around the same time that you discover that girls don't have cooties."
.........I laughed. "And is reappearing when girls really begin to have them."
.........Richie smiled but didn't comment on it, Joe on the other hand found my comment so funny, that I thought he would get a concussion from how he was hitting his head against the bar. When he was again able to breathe, he told Richie. "I bet Old Clancy's listening to Christmas Carols too."
........."No bet. At his age I'm sure that he's done just about everything. Some things he's probably done twice just to make sure he didn't like it the first time." Richie smiled.
........."You really like that?" asked Joe when the Silent Night started.
........."It's been one of the few constants in my life, Joe," the younger man said, turning his gaze towards his. "My entire childhood was spent hopping from foster home to foster home. There were some years that I didn't even have a Christmas. But every year there was some opportunity to listen to carols."
.........Before the two friends could debate any further on the merits of Christmas songs, we were interrupted by the door opening. I turned to face the door in time to see two snow covered figures trudge through the entrance. I smiled when I realized that the new arrivals were sergeant Purley Stebbins and his fellow sergeant Collins.
........."I don't care if I do own a Cadillac, Stebbins, I am not driving a block further in this," Collins protested waving a gloved hand towards the door. "It isn't fit for neither man nor beast out there."
........."But…" Stebbins started to protest.
........."Out there we face the possibility of freezing to death or worse. Here at least, we have warmth, friends, and most importantly an endless supply of beer." With that, Collins turned away from his friend and headed toward the bar.
........."Nice to see that something as insignificant as a weather emergency doesn't make you loose sight of your priorities," Stebbins mumbled as he followed him and sat down next to me.
........."Hey Goodwin," he started, "whatcha doing here?"
.........I sighed. "Certainly not waiting for you."
.........He laughed and asked: "For who then?"
.........I smiled and downed the rest of my brandy. "Let me surprise you."
.........He snorted.
........."What? You don't like surprises?"
........."I do, but not from you," he paused when Joe came to us to take orders, "Brandy."
........."Make it two."
.........Joe nodded and went to pour us two glasses and whatever Collins had ordered. When he returned, Stebbins looked at him questioningly. "Christmas carols? Really?"
.........Joe shrugged. "Don't ask. Who am I do deny a friend the opportunity to fulfill a holiday tradition?" the Watcher said as he handed us our brandy's.
........."It's nice," said Collins sipping his beer.
........."Do you mind?" asked Richie, "it's only ten minutes till the program ends. Can you wait until then with your chatter?"
.........We exchanged startled glances. "Sure, kid," Collins said before taking another drink of his beer. We sat quietly after that. Ten minutes later Richie went back to the bar and tune back into the jazz station.
........."Thank you, Joe."
........."No problem, kid. To be honest, it was a nice change," the bartender confessed.
........."It's good to listen for a while and think about the meaning of Christmas. Plus it's a great lesson for kids that Christmas is more than material good," Stebbins chimed in.
........."Have you read that story about a man who wanted to steal Christmas?," Collins asked.
........."Yeah, it's a great story. He learned that lesson Purley was talking about, too.
.........Collins shrugged. "He was a fool." he muttered. He looked up when he felt two pairs of eyes staring at him. "Well he was."
........."Just what do you mean by that?" Richie demanded.
........."He didn't think his attack out. That's why he failed. He rushed headlong into the scheme without thinking it out first," Collins pointed out.
.........Joe put a hand on Richie's arm to stop him from leaping out and attacking the older man.
........."Well, in the man's defense - what was his name, anyway - it was a spur of the moment plan." I added.
........."Which is exactly why it didn't work. I don't blame the guy in the least for wanting to shut this annoying little business up. Here he is, coming close to retirement age. All he wants is to be left alone, and he gets stuck with noisy neighbors who refuse to take into account that not everyone follows their Christmas excitement. After fifty-three years I would have gone nut as well.
........."But after fifty-three years, he should have seen that there was a much more obvious solution to his problem," Collins observed.
........."Then tell us, Oh Enlightened One, how would you have done it?" Richie snapped.
........."Cut off everyone's hands," Collins said matter-of-factly.
.........They stared at him, shock and horror warring on their respective faces. Richie just sat there and blinked at him, refusing to believe he had heard what he had just heard.
........."Oh, come on. Are you telling me that I'm the only one of us that has read the story? They specifically say 'Christmas day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp'. Ergo, no hands, no Christmas."
.........Richie moaned. "Great, now I'll never be able to sit and listen to Christmas songs ever again without imagining morbid pictures." He turned to Collins. "Thank you so much for ruining one of my few happy childhood memories."
.........Collins had the good graces to look ashamed.
.........Purley looked at me. "I had always wondered what he did to keep himself busy over the eons. Now I know." He turned his attention back to Collins. "Anyone ever told you that you are one sick man?"
.........Collins looked over at me and grinned. "The same person who called me 'one calculating son-of-a-bitch'."
.........I smiled. "Let me guess, you rooted for Ebenezer Scrooge too."
........."Don't get me started on Dickens, Goodwin," Collins warned. "Scrooge was nothing more than a senior citizen who was doing what he had to do to survive. But somehow the Powers That Be decided that that wasn't enough. They had to go and turn him into the poster child for philanthropy."
.........I laughed and Stebbins opened his mouth to start arguing back when Joe interrupted him. "Give it up, Purley. You're not going to win."
........."It's an utter nonsense, " Collins continued as if he didn't notice that he had won the argument. "No one would ever change that radically just because of a few ghosts."
.........Richie turned to Stebbins and me. "Remind me that Collins is not invited to Easter dinner. Next thing he'll do is try to squash my dreams about the Easter Bunny."
.........We all chuckled just as the door opened to let my friend Saul Panzer in.
........."Hey, Archie. Collins, Purley." He nodded at us and ordered a glass of Scotch.
........."Panzer, what do you think about Christmas carols?" asked Collins completely ignoring our moans.
.........Saul looked confused. "Do I look like a Santa Clause or what?"
.........I shook my head. "No, but you're not that far away from Mr. Scrooge."
 

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