Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Christmas to remember

I was living with my brother in California and got sick and went home to Chicago and into a hospital. I got out three weeks later, it was the last of Fall. As was my habit I rode a bus to the Lincoln Park Zoo. On the way the bus stopped and in stepped the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and to my astonishment she took the seat directly across from me. It was impossible not to try and look at her. She must have been a model or actress. If only I could make contact. I had my arm resting on the top of the bench and felt someone gripping my arm. I spun around and there was an old down and out man wearing a filthy pea coat and he was gesticulating to me in a incomprehensible way. His rummy blue eyes were protruding and his face was turning chalky gray. I yelled to the bus driver that we have a problem, it looks like a stroke or seizure.
I placed him down on the bench and loosened his belt and collar, then noticed his dentures were obstructing his breathing. I got them out and placed them in his coat pocket. He rolled over and proceeded to vomit. Now the other passengers who were watching this began to pull towards the front of the bus. He had a blue knit hat that had fallen off and was now resting in the pool of discharge. I sat down on the bench and pulled him into my body so he won't choke. We made eye contact again and with a shudder and a gasp he slipped away. All this happened in a matter of seconds. The driver came back, I told him he was dead and they called for an ambulance. I don't know why but I reached down and got his cap. Outside people were milling around and I drifted towards the park. I felt a tap on my shoulder and there was the girl, her eyes filled with tears and her beautiful face drawn tight. We walk for quite a while not saying a word. We began dating after that.
I was born on Christmas Eve and my birthday was celebrated at my parents home. This time my brother and his wife, my cousin and my girlfriend Priscilla would all be there. As is the habit we are generally a loud family. Priscilla on the other hand came from a reserved, remote family that seldom raised a voice let alone use profanity. We got through the cocktails and salad and main course and then it started. "Michael, Michael play something on the piano." By now Michael's wife was starting to weave and my cousin was nodding into his plate. "Come on Mike play." More often then not he would simply let this slide and knock out a few tunes. With a devilish gleam in his eyes he said, "OK, I'll entertain you right now." With that he jumps up from the table and runs to my parents bathroom, next a closet and then a cabinet under the sink. He then goes to the guest bathroom and locks the door. We are all waiting in apprehension for what is to follow. "Allen cue up East West." I stand ready to drop the needle and in comes Michael with a wire hanger twisted around my Mothers sanitary napkin and a can of lighter fluid. He looks at me and says,"My man hit it!" With that he saturates the torch, takes a mouthful of light fluid and sends a flame up to the ceiling. He shoots out another flame expelling all the fluid and then extinguishes the torch in his mouth. He then grabs his wife and their coats and you can overhear him saying, "that ought to hold them."
What can you say after that. I took one look at Priscilla and saw shock. Cousin Chucky was stumbling to the coat closet, my Mother went into her Loretta Young character and my Father was cold and distant.
I tried to explain what had occurred to deaf ears. I dropped Priscilla off at the Young Woman"s Hotel, no kiss, no happy birthday, just a see ya.
About a week went by and I decided to call her at her parents place in Lake Forest. Her Mother answered the phone and before I got a word out she told me Priscilla never wanted to see or hear from me again.
The funny thing is Miss P. was short on heart and I am glad I saw it early on. Also my brother could sure eat fire, best I ever saw.
Happy Holidays,
Allen B.