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Print: $12.00Story illustrations:T. Lee HarrisThe Maltese Groundhog, Holiday, Who Needs Roses?, Francis, Lonnie Me and the Battle of St. Crispin’s Day, Feast of the Dead, Goldie, The Cautionary Tale of Silas RockportPaula HarrisFishing HolidayJoy KirchgessnerThe Christmas Pool, The Christmas People, The Touch of a ChildJoanna Foreman(Not So) Happy New YearJoy Kirchgessner and
T. Lee Harris
original cover of CHRISTMAS BIZARRE, Tradition
~The Maltese Groundhog
~I Love Cats
~Who Needs Roses?
~Matin Pour Les Tombés
~Lonnie, Me and the Battle of St. Crispin’s Day
~Trick or Treat Night
~Feast of the Dead
~Flor de Muerto
~The Cautionary Tale of Silas Rockport
~The Christmas Pool
~The Christmas People
~A Child-like Christmas
~The Feast of Stephen
~When It’s Christmastime Down South
~A Tree out of Season
~Visions of Sugarplums
~Christmas in July
~Away in a Manger
~The Touch of a Child
~(Not So) Happy New Year
~Recipe for Limoncello
|The Maltese Groundhog
by T. Lee HarrisGrabbing Carroll’s hand, the little man shook it enthusiastically. “I am Gustav Schwarzkatze — but you have probably already deduced this. Your brother tells me you are a detective. Most exciting!”“Not usually. Mostly, it’s very boring.”Covering his ears with both hands, Mr. Schwarzkatze said, “Nein! Do not disillusion an old man. I love the American detective writers Herr Hammett, Herr Van Dine . . . und the cinemas! James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson. Ach, but we waste time. You have a long journey ahead of you. The groundhog, he is still in the workroom. Come. Help me put him in his box and you can be on your way.”
Carroll followed him through a curtained door into a cluttered workshop. “So you like S.S. Van Dine, huh? I dunno, I always thought Philo Vance needed a good sock in the nose. Sam Spade’s more my kind of guy.”
The groundhog stood in the center of a worktable, posed on its hind feet, front paws curled against its body with head slightly cocked.
The young man was of no certain age; he might have been overgrown for minor years or stunted in full growth. His eyes brimmed with delight and sparked with impersonal malice. He had with him a bow which he alone could pull, and a quiver of red-fletched arrows. The silver arrowheads were barbed, and dull with their dried coating.
There were no targets in the park that midnight; a damp cold — not bitter, but sour — had turned even the romance of random cruelty in upon itself.
The boy settled in, unwrapping and eating the food he’d brought from home, and waited.
Who Needs Roses?
Billy and I have been married thirty-eight years. Now don’t get me wrong, Billy is a good man and I love him — but a romantic he is not. He has never given me flowers or a box of candy, or even a card for Valentine’s Day. We’ve never gone out for a fancy dinner by candlelight. And when I tried to have one at home, Billy got up and turned on the lights. “I like to see my food,” was all he said, so I never tried it again. I love Billy, but a girl sometimes craves just a little romance.
Francis, Tunnel Rat and Me
Most everyone at the kitchen knew him as Tunnel Rat, a nickname he’d earned while serving in Vietnam.
The first night Marty showed up at the soup kitchen with Francis by his side, the director told him that Francis could not stay. Don’t get me wrong. We never turn away a hungry person, but Francis wasn’t human. He was a dog, and not just any dog. He was a beautiful white pit bull, probably two or three years old. He had one brown eye and one blue eye and both of them looked up at me with the same longing as the children I saw from week to week. I lived next door to the church, so I told Marty I had an idea. We went over to my house. I was searching for a way to secure Francis when I heard Marty say, “Stay.” I looked over and Francis was curled up on my front porch like he belonged there.
We are all in the kitchen, in various stages of getting breakfast.
“What do you say we head for the lake this weekend?” my husband sings out, bubbling over with enthusiasm.
I should have anticipated something like this. A three-day weekend is coming up and for him; liberation is open air — wet, dry, cold, hot, whatever the season offers.
Four little voices toss hoorays in the air and dance around the room as if their Rice Krispies had caffeine. –Baby girl doesn’t really get it, but bounces enthusiastically. When you’re two, three older brothers can’t be wrong — very often, anyway.
“Yay!” I submit. If she can catch the fun in her dimples, it’s worth a try for me, as well.
Feast of the Dead
“Muriel, this isn’t funny. Where are you?” Jim called. Quiet.
Beth and I waited in the silence, which seemed forever. Muriel called out at the other end of the jungle. “Maggie! Beth! Are you in there? Something’s happened to Jim.”
We didn’t say anything. Beth squeezed my hand.
“Maggie. Beth. Please answer. I need help.”
Beth whispered, “Where is he hiding?”
“I don’t know.”
It was easy to be quiet; we were both scared, and I was still thinking about the Feast of the Dead and Uncle Harry. Glimmers of moonlight made the jungle spooky. The rustles nearly and overhead didn’t help.
The Feast of Stephen
Dad burst through the front door with Stephen and a tiny black-haired woman in tow. She was dressed in a brightly colored robe (Miyuki later told me, the red and blue robe was a kimono).
Pandemonium ruled the next ten minutes, while our clannish family passed Stephen and his bride around from one kissing relative to the next. Poor girl.
From the midst of the melee, I picked up Miyuki’s words. Bowing deeply, she said something like: Ken itchy wa. Don’t touchy mustache.
“Okay,” I wondered to myself, “Who’s this Ken, why’s his wa itchy, and who cares about his mustache?” Miyuki told me later, she’d said Konichi wa . . . Doetashi Mashita, which was simply part of a traditional Japanese greeting for her new family.
A Tree out of Season
“No don’t cut it down,” Kate implored. “Let’s dig up a small tree and replant it after we’ve used it for Christmas.”
“All right Kate,” Jim said as he laid down the axe. “You’re a hopeless romantic but I’ll do as you like. I’ll have to go back to the barn for a shovel. When
I do replant the tree I’ll put it right outside your bedroom window so that when you look out it will remind you of me when I’m gone off to war.”
(Not So) Happy New Year!
We’d slept right through the burglary, as difficult as that was for me to believe. Our first clue that something had gone wrong was when my husband got up and went to pull on his jeans.
“Where did you put my pants?”
I sighed. (Why do men think women know where everything is at all times?) I wanted to say that his pants would be right where he’d dropped them, but I would’ve been wrong. They were later found on the ground on the other side of the motel, sans hand-tooled leather belt and wallet.
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