WONDERFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
by Gene Royer
January 1, 2003
'Twas the day after Christmas,
and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring,
or something like that.
'Twas the day after Christmas. As I was taking my customary two-mile dash through the subdivision--while a misty rain fell against my new eyeglasses--I came upon young Luis Gomez, breaking sticks by leaning them against the curb and hitting them with a brick. I stopped to watch and to tell him how I used to do the same thing when I was a kid.
In fact, I remember one particular day when I was distraught because my bike had a flat and my daddy was away for the day, I did just as young Luis was doing. But instead of breaking sticks, I had gathered up all of my mother's quart glass milk bottles (remember those) and took them out to a nearby shallow lake and set them afloat and sank them one by one with my Daisy air rifle. I felt better afterward, but not well enough to tell my mother what happened to the milk bottles she had searched for high and low.
Anyway, in my conversation with Luis that morning I learned that not only had he not gotten the Christmas present he wanted, but he had gotten nothing at all.
"Santa Claus forgot to stop by my house and give me anything," he said, with hardly a lift of his eyes.
Now. Luis is about eleven - old enough in these days to have stopped believing in Santa years before. But I accepted his dubious explanation because it was likely the only way he had of coming to grips with the circumstances caused by his father's recent lay-off from work. I shook my head and mumbled something like, Well, those things happen.
And then I went on my way.
But the last mile was difficult because I suddenly had this huge lump in my throat that grew even larger in my stomach each time I swallowed it. Finally, I stopped running and walked the remaining few blocks to my house where I related the incident to my wife.
As usual, she had the answer. "Why don't you buy him something nice?" she said.
Like something all young boys want, she said with a shrug. Whatever that is. What did you want most when you were his age?
Shirley Temple, but my parents got me a BB gun instead.
Then get him a BB gun, she said.
Ten minutes later I was standing in front of the gun shop waiting for it to open. A few cops were standing around too, anxious to go inside and purchase appropriate weaponry for the new, leather accouterments slung across their shoulders or protruding from gaily decorated paper gift-sacks.
When the door opened, I was quick to make my way to the counter and tell the clerk what I wanted.
Pump or lever action? He asked. I fondly remembered my first gun from more than half a century in the past and told him, Lever. And then I added, And about a half-dozen packs of BBs.
Then it was back to the subdivision with the gun wrapped in plain Kraft paper. Luis was still there, but now he had a broom and was begrudgingly sweeping up his mess as his mother stood on the porch with her hands on her hips. I got out of my van and walked up to her while Luis watched me from the corner of his eye.
When I explained and showed her the BB gun she was shocked at first. Then she choked up and told me that Luis had always wanted one. Without another word, she took the package and called Luis to her. With it under her arm, she kissed him and took him inside.
After I finished sweeping I went home.
© 2002 Tocqevillian Magazine