THE CALL – RICHARD PASCHALL

By Richard Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Sunday was the day to stay near the telephone, the computer too for that matter.  Robert was not about to go anywhere before receiving his phone call.  He always stayed where he could hear the phone.  The computer was also a possibility for calls but in truth Robert only received one call on it and that was more in the way of a test.  His son, Corey, set him up with Skype and then called him when he got home just so they could test it out.  That was the only time Corey called him via Skype in the six months since their brief trial run.  Now he either called on the landline or not at all.

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Robert tried diligently to be a good father to Corey after his divorce from Corey’s mom.  Corey was in his mid teens then and the boy seemed to follow the divorce with making his own plans and avoiding family obligations.  Robert could never figure out whether this was a teenage thing or a reaction to the divorce, but either way Robert did his best to be a dad whenever Corey needed him.  Corey needed him less and less as time went on.

Now that Corey was in his twenties, Robert and Corey had hatched a plan to keep in touch.  This was more Robert’s doing, of course.  If they did not get together on the weekend, then they would at least share a call on Sunday afternoon.  The problem with this plan was Corey rarely called and he preferred that dear old dad not call him as he was usually “busy.”  So Robert waited patiently in his small four room apartment for a call that was not likely to come. Perhaps if Robert had been more outspoken, even demanding, maybe Corey would be more dependable.  At least that is what Robert thought.  But it was not in Robert’s demeanor to be pushy so he waited patiently every Sunday for the call.

In Robert’s own mind he had convinced himself that waiting on Sunday’s was a good thing.  It would keep him at home to take care of the often neglected chores.  He did the dishes, made the bed, swept the floor, looked at all that junk mail he tossed aside all week, but he never took out the garbage.  That would mean leaving the apartment for a few minutes and Robert certainly did not want to do that.  What if the phone should ring and he did not hear it?

Finally in late afternoon on this super cold, super Sunday the phone rang.  Robert was on it like a shot.  “Hello,” Robert announced in his cheeriest voice.

“Robert, it’s Bill.  How about we go somewhere to watch the game?  You know, wings and beer!”

“Uh, OK,” Robert said reluctantly.

“Good, I can be there in a half an hour.”

“No,” Robert said quickly, “I am in the middle of something.  Give me at least an hour.”

“Fine,” Bill replied.  “I will be there in about an hour.”

In truth, Robert was not in the middle of anything.  He just wanted to leave extra time for Corey to call.  He never gave a thought to the possibility that Corey had already gotten together with his friends to watch the big game.  He just figured that if he left too soon, he would miss his Sunday call.  So he placed his coat, scarf and hat on a chair near the door and sat down to wait for Corey.  Robert worried about missing the call and not having enough time to talk.  He thought of the most important things he should say if they only had a short time.  He thought of nice questions to ask, without prying too much into Corey’s personal life.  After all, Corey was all grown up now and he needed to be treated like an adult.  At least, that was the thought running through Robert’s head.

When just over an hour had elapsed, the phone finally rang again.  “Hello?” Robert said tentatively, fearing it was not Corey but actually Bill again.  “It’s Bill.  I’m out front.  Are you ready?”  “That darn Bill,” Robert thought.  “He’s always rushing me.”

“Yes,” Robert said.  “I will be out in a minute.”  “Poor Corey,” Robert mumbled.  “If he calls I won’t be here.”  Although he felt a little guilty, Robert threw on his outer wear and headed out the door.

When Robert got in Bill’s car, Bill immediately started talking about the game.  “This should be a great game this year.  The teams seem evenly matched.  Whoever has the hot hand will win.  It could be either one.  What do you think?”

“Yes,” Robert replied.  “I think so too.”  He obviously was not listening to Robert, his mind was on Corey.

As they drove away, Robert did not hear the phone ring in his apartment.  It rang seven times before it went silent.  Robert never even knew there was a call as the caller did not leave a message.

A TUESDAY FANTASY WITH HAROLD – RICH PASCHALL

The Wizarding World of Harold, a neat and mostly organized man


Harold needed to get back on track. He would not let A Tuesday Mystery throw him behind his perfectly planned schedule. He finished dressing by selecting socks from the mystifying sock drawer, then hurried to the kitchen where coffee had been waiting an hour for his arrival. He poured a cup, set it on the table and opened the porch door to collect the newspaper.

“Where is it?” Harold wondered. Was this another schedule attack? He looked around. The paper was leaning against the house behind a shrub. “I will have to talk to that paper boy about his accuracy,” he thought as he hurried back to the kitchen.

During Harold’s working years, his schedule had been periodically disrupted. Machines broke down, employees took leave or got sick. Materials ran short. And then there were the inevitably unproductive meetings,  more obstacles in Harold’s path. If these events had taught Harold anything, it was time lost could be regained if you stayed your course and focused on your goals.

Harold left home more or less on time, a small personal triumph. A blast of the hot, humid Florida morning greeted him. The heat was not part of Harold’s plan. When he had moved south for pleasant year-round weather, tropical heat wasn’t what he had in mind.

With the car’s air conditioner on high, Harold headed straight for the library. He parked and entered the foyer of the modest building. He paused to think about his next book. It is not as if he did not think about it in advance.  He had a list in his pocket of the books in the library which might interest him. He had read most of what the small library had to offer about engineering or design, so it was probably time to move to another genre.

Maybe history was next. There were great books about World War II to read. Duty by Bob Greene, The Greatest Generation Speaks by Tom Brokaw were on top of Harold’s list as well as a few others acquired by the library. But which one shall it be?

As he approached the history racks, he noticed a handsome young man, perhaps in his 20’s, reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He could tell by his face he was absorbed by the story and quite emotionally involved in the final book on the young wizard.

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“I wonder what’s the big deal with those books,” Harold thought to himself. He guessed he was one of the few people who had neither seen any movies nor read any books about the boy wizard.

Harold was aware of the phenomenon, of course, but spending time on the books and movies didn’t fit into his idea of a well-ordered life. He could not imagine devoting hours to stories about a magical boy who could fly on a broom.

“Excuse me sir,” Harold said impulsively. “Where are the Harry Potter books?” The man just pointed. In a most un-Harold fashion, he went to the shelf and started scanning the titles.

When he spotted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harold froze.  Should he take the book and start reading … just to see what the fuss was about? Harold wasn’t sure he could let himself read a book not on his list — a children’s fantasy at that. Caught on the cusp of a dilemma, Harold stood there, mentally paralyzed.

After an internal debate, Harold pulled the book from the shelf and went to the table where the handsome young man had earlier been seated. He had disappeared, as if under an Invisibility cloak. Harold sat in a different seat, lest the man come back and wanted his chair. He opened the well-thumbed book and began reading — “Chapter one, The Boy Who Lived.”

A few minutes later, a boy of perhaps eight who held no book, took the empty seat opposite Harold.  As Harold read, the youngster just stared at the picture of Harry Potter on the cover. It made Harold uncomfortable. He was awkward with children, never knowing what to say. So he asked a question instead.

“Can I help you son?” The boy shook his head. “Perhaps you’d like to find a book to read … for yourself?” Harold would have continued, but the boy gave him a sad look and sat there quietly.

Harold returned to the book, but even while he read, he could feel the little library lad’s eyes on him. It made him so uneasy, he soon got up to leave. It was earlier than he had planned.

He had found the Potter story so engrossing he decided against all logic to take it home. He checked it out at the desk, then went to the small parking lot along side the library.

“This certainly has been a strange Tuesday,” Harold declared to no one in particular. The mysterious lost egg had equally mysteriously reappeared. Now he had impulsively taken a book home from the library which was not on his reading list.

When he got to the parking lot entrance, something made Harold look back toward the library. The boy who had been staring at Harold was now standing on the sidewalk watching Harold leave.

“I hope that little guy has a good home to go to,” Harold thought as he moved out of sight of the boy. When he got to his sweltering car, Harold thought he should check on the boy. Something wasn’t right though he couldn’t figure out what.

When he got to the sidewalk and looked back toward the library, the boy was gone, as if someone had thrown an Invisibility Cloak over him too.

Related: The “Harold stories” in order: “Soup and Sandwich,” “The Case With The Missing Egg,” “Come Monday, It Will Be Alright,” “A Tuesday Mystery

A TUESDAY MYSTERY – RICH PASCHALL

The continuing story of  The Case With The Missing Egg

Tuesday started out like every day for the perpetually prepared Harold. The morning shrill of the alarm clock announced the beginning of another well planned day for the Premier of Planning, the Overlord of Organization and the Lord of the Library. After his normal morning duties, Harold looked forward to his next reading selection from the local library.  It was the standard Tuesday plan.

He arose promptly and went straight to the window, as was his normal practice. He grabbed his glasses off the nearby dresser, opened the blinds and surveyed the weather.

“What a beautiful day,” Harold announced to himself and went on to brush his teeth, stare in the mirror a few moments and jump in the shower. Harold included shaving on the days he was to go out of the house. He always felt better if he looked better to himself. He did not really give much thought to what others may think of his appearance.

All through his working career, and right into retirement, the only one Harold ever tried to please with his appearance was himself. He felt perfectly comfortable at work with a pocket protector in his white shirt pocket. He gave little thought to whether his socks clashed with the rest of his clothes as he only purchased white and black socks. There were no colors to worry about. His shirts were solid colors as were his pants. There was little chance that he could wear anything that would clash. As everything was rather basic, he had little concern about clothes going in and out of style. It seemed like the most practical style tactic for the very practical Harold.

After donning the proper underwear, shirt and pants for the day, Harold went back to the dresser for his socks. As he stared in the drawer a moment he decided that something was not quite right. He felt instinctively that the items in the drawer were not as neatly stacked as usual and decided to take out the stacks of black socks so that he may return them to the drawer in neater piles. When they had all been removed Harold was surprised to spy something that certainly did not belong in the back of the drawer. You can not imagine the unpleasant feeling that ran through the body of the sultan of socks’ stacking when he made the curious discovery.

There is was!  It was in the back of the drawer, hiding behind the socks. Was it there since Sunday? Could it possibly have been there from the Sunday before that?

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Harold carefully reached into the back of the drawer and removed the Chinese porcelain egg. He placed it softly on the bed and went to get the step-ladder. He used the ladder to get the special box of porcelain collectibles down from the closet shelf and took the box and the egg to the living room.

As if it was Sunday, the day the lord made for Harold to clean house, he set the box down on the coffee table. He then set himself down on the sofa and studied the egg closely, just like it was the time of day on Sunday that was set aside for such things. Clearly Harold introduced a piece of the Sunday schedule into Tuesday morning. The discovery of the egg was both pleasing and perplexing.

Try as he might, and he did, Harold could not imagine how the egg got into the drawer. There would seem to have been no point in time over the previous 10 days that he could have accidentally placed the egg into the drawer. Was it out of the box or even in his hands the last time he was folding and putting away socks?  Could he possibly have dropped it into the drawer when he put away underwear? No! He would never have underwear and his precious porcelain out at the same time. What in the world happened?

Many minutes of mystery manipulated the thoughts of Harold, normally the master of minute manipulation.  He reran the tapes in the back of his mind that held all of the activities of the past ten days.

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The previous two Sundays seemed like the most probable times to have inadvertently placed the egg in the drawer, but how did he do it?  Nothing in his highly organized memory banks gave him a clue to the mystery.  Nevertheless, the beauty of the item also held the riddle Harold wanted sincerely … even desperately … to solve. How could it be that the vault of knowledge Harold secured in his brain failed to hold the key to this riddle?  Why couldn’t Harold recall how this had happened?

After too much time had passed staring at the egg, Harold knew he could not let Tuesday morning’s plan turn into Sunday afternoon’s activity. So, he placed the egg carefully in its box and returned the box to its shelf.

What should have been a happy Tuesday for Harold ultimately resulted in more than a bit of concern.

The mystery of Harold’s Missing Memory remained unsolved.

Related:
First Harold story:  “Soup and Sandwich
Second Harold Story: “The Case With The Missing Egg
Third Harold Story: “Come Monday, It Will Be Alright

SOUP AND SANDWICH – RICH PASCHALL

There were many stories about Harold, the great planner from the Midwest who retired to an orderly life in Florida.  This was the first.


Everyone who knew Harold would agree; he was an orderly man.  Everything about his well-ordered existence was, well, “orderly.” That would perhaps be the only word to describe it.  He firmly believed in the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  That did not just include things, but it also included time.  Harold ran on a strict schedule and parceled out his time for maximum efficiency.  He was dependable, likable and predictable.

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Harold had been chief mechanical engineer at a plant that made small motors for big applications.

This work demanded designing a wide variety of parts for the many specialized applications.  Harold was up to every task.  He drew his special parts the old-fashioned way at his drafting table.

He kept copies of all his special drawings in a filing cabinet, organized by type of part.  His methodical brain could recall all the special requests to modify the little motors to power everything imaginable.  While you would have no idea all the appliances and machines and gadgets that required little motors, Harold could see them all in the depths of the storage places in his mind.

When Harold was approaching retirement, he knew instinctively that it was time to move on.  More work was being done by computer, and while Harold mastered the technique, he could not set aside his love of the drafting table itself.  A desk and computer were okay, but his computer-like mind held all the gigabytes he needed.  As for manufacturing the parts, that was now being farmed out to other places. He could no longer watch his creations made real in the machine shop.

The next phase of life brought retirement on the gulf coast of Florida.  This was not a retirement were you could just be lazy and do nothing.  Harold had imposed an orderly routine on his life.

There probably would have been no other path to happiness.  Harold’s road was clear and free from clutter.  His home was so neat and clean you would swear he had a helper.  There were few items out and on display as everything had a specific place to be put away and that is exactly what Harold did.  As for things that Harold did not think had a practical use, he threw them away, gave them away or recycled them.  He owned nothing that he could not imagine using in the near future.

For his weekly schedule, Harold chose Mondays for a walk on the beach.  A few moments admiring the Gulf was a retirement activity Harold felt worth scheduling.  If the weather was inclement, he drove into Sarasota for a little stroll through a shopping area.  He might look for items he previously recorded on a list.  Monday was the appointed day for picking up requirements, there would be no unplanned or hasty trips to the store.  Time was too valuable to spend wandering to and fro.  The only wandering of the week would be down the beach on the appropriate Monday morning hour for such things.

Tuesdays and Thursdays were spent in town at the local library.  Harold maintained a list of books he felt would be worth reading and set out to read as many as he could find.  If he did not finish the book at the library, he would check it out to make sure he had it on his next visit.  On a rare occasion he might continue reading at home when his schedule for the day was completed.  That only came when something he was reading really caught his fancy.  There certainly were a few good books on mechanical engineering and anything he discovered on the topic was a delightful find.

Fridays were for sports.  He read about the local high school and college sports in the morning.  He watched reports on the cable news channel, Sarasota Now.  In March, Harold carefully planned which Major League Baseball spring training games he should attend.  His love of sports was not quite the same as his love of mechanical engineering, but it came close.

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While Harold might declare Sunday to be his day of rest, it was anything but that.  He cleaned the small townhouse on Sundays and checked many of the drawers and boxes to make sure everything was put away properly.  He reviewed the contents of the closets to determine if there was anything that no longer belonged.  Cleaning and inspecting everything could take Harold most of the day, but he did not mind.  It gave him a great deal of satisfaction.

Perhaps most special of all the scheduled activities was Harold’s trip to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar every Wednesday and Saturday for lunch.  When Harold arrived at 1 pm sharp, cane in hand and smile on his face, every one greeted him warmly.  “Hello Harold,” the manager on duty would shout with glee, calling attention to his arrival.  At that the waitresses, would call out his name and people would turn around to see who entered.

“Hello Harold,” the bartender would say loudly so her “hello” was heard with all the others.  The broad smile on Harold’s face got even wider at all the attention.  It seemed the entire crew felt a bit sorry for Harold.  He was always alone.  He moved deliberately, carefully placing his cane down with his left hand every time his right foot took a step forward. While they considered Harold a simple, maybe even dim-witted but likable old-timer, and just wanted him to feel good, Harold was well aware that he got the added attention due to his apparent simple nature.

Once Harold found his table near the window, his usual waitress, Tiffany, came over to give him a hug.  “Would you like the soup and sandwich special?” Tiffany began.  “Yes, please, and I will have the chicken noodle soup.”  There was no need to ask Harold what he wanted.  It was ham and cheese sandwich with chicken noodle soup on Wednesday and vegetable beef on Saturday.

He enjoyed a bit of ESPN, a lot of attention and a good lunch. Then Tiffany brought the bill and wrote her name and put a big smiley face next to it.  So, twice each week Harold purchased attention and friendship for the price of the soup and sandwich special.

YOUR STORY BY RICH PASCHALL

Why It Is Important By Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


From time to time, I have had the opportunity to post a few small works of fiction.  They were just little stories that I hoped would make a point.  While they are no one’s story in particular, they all contain elements that are familiar to me.  I filled in the details with characters and descriptions that would make each a story.  If you read any of them these on past Sundays, I hope you found some enjoyment.  Now I would like to recommend to you a more important story.  It is one that only you can fill in the details, and it is imperative that you do it soon before the chance slips away.  That story is your story.

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How often have you wondered about the details of your ancestry?  How often did you wish to know more about your parents’ lives or your grandparents’ lives?  Where did they come from? How did they meet?  How did they fall in love?  What did they do before you were around?  Perhaps you have parents who were around at pivotal points in history.  What do they recall?  Did you wait until it was too late to ask these questions or is there still time?

It is not that my brother and I did not think to ask our parents about their earlier lives, we just did not get good answers.  Of course, we did not press them on anything, especially when we were young.  My mother lived through the Great Depression. The family was so poor that a wealthy relative offered to raise my mother. She feared my grandmother could not properly feed all her children (six, although one died as a child).  Apparently my grandfather was not a good provider.  Details of his bad habits are sketchy.  My mother was not given away and they struggled through the 1930s.  As for the war years, I have no idea.

My father was born into rural American farm life.  He joined the war effort (WWII) as soon as he was old enough.  Like many of our “greatest generation” he said little about it.  “What did you do in the war, dad?” we might ask.  “I learned to peel potatoes”, he would usually respond.  Even if that were true, it does not tell the story.  My father was a member of the army air corp. 509 Composite.  That is the group that was on Tinian Island.  There the secret mission of the group there was to drop the atom bomb on Japan.  Did my father know any of that?  Probably not as records indicate he was trained in first aid and medical support.  Remaining documents are a matter of contradiction.  Some of the record may have been untrue to cover what was the actual story.  We’ll never know.

Late in dad’s life it was futile to recover any details.  My brother tried to get some information and did a lot of research that allowed us to only confirm a few things.  We have medals, his discharge paper and the 509 Composite book with some pictures as the only definite facts.  The rest of the story was my father’s joke or dismissive answers.  Of course, we have heard that many who came back from the war, did not want to talk about it.  In my father’s later life we did attend some family reunions and travelled to the rural community where he was born.  My grandparents are buried there.  We learned some of his past, nothing about the war.

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I tell you all this to remind you that you may want to learn as much of your ancestry as you can.  It is part of your story.  You may have heard of ancestry.com or the PBS television series that traces the ancestry of famous people.  These have become popular because of our desires to know who we are and where we came from.  If your parents and grandparents are alive, ask them your questions now, before it is too late.

When my grandmother was still alive and in her 90’s, there was a picture taken with her holding her great-great grand-daughter with her daughter, grand-daughter and great grand-daughter behind her.  I wonder if there is a copy of that photo for the infant in the picture.  More importantly, can anyone recount the stories of those in the picture?  Save your priceless photos too.  There may be no telling how valuable these pictures will be to future generations.

What about the most important story of all?  That would be your story, of course.  You may not think it now, but your story may be important to the future.  Consider what your friends and offspring may wish to know.  Tell the stories as honestly as you can.  That does not mean you have to tell everything.  Some things are best if they are not passed along.  Tell the things the next generations will want to know about you, and who and what came before you as far as you know.  You will be honoring the future generations in this way.  What you wanted to know about your past may be what your offspring will want to know about you.  Toss the dirt out the window and do not be tempted to give “alternative facts.”

National Public Radio has featured stories from Story Corps.  Over 100,000 people have recorded their stories there, some more than once, years apart.  Some are absolutely moving accounts of where some people have been in their lives.  I heard one on the radio of an elderly couple who told their story on-line and then updated 10 years later before the husband’s death.  Then he recounted how he wrote love letters to his wife every day for over 40 years and their love had never died.  Did following generations know this?  They know it now.  Do not leave your story untold and unwritten.  It is your legacy.  It is the most important story you know.

A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

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It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

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Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

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Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

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Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTION

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.