Winter GiftsA Story by Samuel Dickens
Story number six in my Charley and Buster series.
December 3, 1960
Charley walked briskly through the evening chill, headed for the movie theater. As he approached Main Street, the bright Christmas decorations came into view.
Wow, look at that! They’ve got decorations everywhere!
Oakville may have been a small town with limited revenue, but the whole three blocks from the courthouse to Minnie’s Café was ablaze with Christmas lights. In addition to the usual decorations adorning each shop and storefront, huge, illuminated, red and white plastic Christmas bells were strung across the street, from one side to the other.
I’ve never seen anything like this…it’s just so Christmas-ee!
Enthralled by the magnificent sight, he started across Main Street in a daze.
Oh, crap, Mr. Savage almost hit me. I’d better pay attention to what I’m doin’.
Charley darted across the street to the theater and jumped into the already-forming ticket line. He’d stood there for about forty-five seconds when, “Corn-fed” Corbett walked up to him.
“Hey, Charley--how’s it hangin’?”
“Oh, hi Corn-fed. It’s goin’ okay. How are you?”
“I’m here to see this good movie!” said Corn-fed, half snickering.
Not sure of exactly what he meant, Charley replied, “It’s just one of those Alfred Hitchcock Movies, isn’t it?”
Loud enough for everyone within thirty feet to hear him, Corn-fed replied, “Hell, I don’t know! I just know you get to see a nekid woman takin’ a shower and she gets stabbed a whole bunch of times and the blood runs everywhere!”
Charley noticed hard stares from several grownups in the line, and in an almost inaudible voice said, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
“Heh-heh!” giggled Corn-fed, loudly, “Yeah, I saw it last night, and now I’m gonna see it again!”
Corn-fed, you chub-butt…..you’re embarrassin’ me.
Suddenly, Charley heard shoes slapping the pavement fast and knew it had to be Buster arriving. Sure enough, there he came, flying across the street as if hungry lions were on his heels. When he reached the curb, he clumsily leapt onto the sidewalk, tripped and almost fell, but recovered. Hopping on one foot, trying to straighten out the shoe that he’d almost flung off, he announced, “Well, I made it!”
Seeing an opportunity to get away from Corn-fed, Charley dropped out of line and joined up with Buster down at the end.
“Ya want me to save your spot?” asked Corn-fed.
“Nah, that’s okay. I’ll just stand back here with Buster,” answered Charley, and then he turned to his buddy and said, “Hey, daddy-o!”
“Hey, Charley! Man, would you look at these Christmas lights?”
“Yeah, ain’t they nice? They didn’t have those big bells hangin’ across the street like this last year.”
“Nope, they sure didn’t--must be new.”
As Charley and Buster stood admiring all the attractive lights, something even more attractive came walking by. It was Vicki White; the girl that every boy in Oakville fantasized about. Wiggling up the sidewalk with her prominent chest puffed out, she commanded far more attention than any Christmas lights.
“Hi Vicki,” said Corn-fed with a sly grin across his chubby, red-blotched face.
Vicki squinted her eyes at him and replied, "Hi, Corn-fed."
Then it happened; right there in front of everyone, Corn-fed pointed his finger at her chest and asked, “Is that a camel sweater you’re wearin’?”
Vicki looked down at her sweater and replied, “No, I think it’s made out of wool.”
“Well then, what are those two big ol' humps doin’ there?”
Charley and Buster’s lungs ceased to expand and contract, their jaws hung open, and their balance faltered.
“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Corn-fed, quite amused by it all.
“Oh, Corn-fed,” giggled Vicki, slapping him on the shoulder and proceeding on her way as if it was no big deal, or worse yet, as if she may have actually enjoyed the joke.
Charley and Buster were aghast. Corn-fed Corbett, the ugliest, most offensive kid in town had just said what he said to Vicki White and wasn’t struck by lightning or turned into a pillar of salt or anything! Were there no laws governing such things? Was God or Mother Nature or the ghost of Rudolph Valentino not going to intervene? Shocked and bewildered, Charley and Buster exchanged horrified looks and steadied themselves against the theater building.
Corn-fed looked around at all the eyes that were upon him and declared, “It was just a joke!”
Finally, tensions eased, as the line for tickets began to move. Miss Irene, the ticket lady, took Charley and Buster’s dimes and asked the usual question, “You two are still eleven?”
Charley, the best liar, replied, “Yes Ma’am,” and then added, “but we’re gonna be havin’ birthdays pretty soon.” (Admission was ten cents up to the age of twelve, then it increased to twenty-five cents)
Raising one eyebrow, Miss Irene said, “Uh-huh,” and handed them their tickets.
Once inside, the boys went directly to the concession stand and purchased their obligatory Cokes and popcorn. Of the two doorways into the cinema, they entered the one on the right; that being the one they always used. Additionally, they sat in the right-hand seating section. Sometimes they’d venture over to the middle section, but not too far. (Only those who were serious about watching the movie sat in the middle.)
“This spot is good,” said Charley, choosing appropriate seats on the right side. Properly and strategically positioned, the boys slurped Cokes, munched popcorn, and kept a close watch on all the theater goings on.
“Uh-oh, here comes the big corncob,” whispered Buster, upon seeing the unwelcome one approach. Corn-fed paused at their row, but then waddled on past and sat down two rows ahead of them.
“Whew, I thought he was gonna sit here!” said Charley, and then added, “I tell you, he just makes my butthole crave a dip of snuff.”
Buster thought a minute and replied, “He makes mine crave…..uh, he makes my butthole crave a bowl of sauerkraut!”
“Dang, Buster, that’s a good one! I’ll have to remember that.”
“Heh-heh, yeah, sauerkraut,” snickered Buster. Looking back over his shoulder, he spotted Shirley Kautz, sitting by herself about three rows back.
Charley saw her, too, and elbowed Buster. “There she is, lover-boy; you’d better go sit with her.”
“Quit it, and don’t elbow me!”
“Buster, you’d better do it now, before someone beats you to her.”
“In a little while--after the movie starts.” grumbled Buster, fidgeting in his seat.
“Yeah, sure, but I think you’re just a chicken.”
The screen lit up and a Woody Woodpecker cartoon came on, providing Buster with a temporary reprieve from Charley’s harassment. Five minutes later, Woody did his final wa-ha-ha-ha-hoo, and the movie began. Amidst all the tense drama at the Bates Motel, Charley remembered to give Buster an occasional nudge, only to hear him say, “Not yet!”
Then, just as Charley had predicted, the unspeakable happened. Corn-fed Corbett, that walking slab of repulsiveness, got up from his seat, marched right down the row and planted himself right beside Shirley. Horrified, Buster crushed his popcorn box and spilled half his Coke. When he saw Corn-fed point his meat-stick of a finger at her breasts and laugh, he thought his head would explode.
Charley, noting Buster’s unstable, possibly volatile condition, wisely withheld the “I told you so” that he desperately wanted to issue.
So disturbed was Buster from having witnessed the whole, sorry event, that when the shower scene in the movie came, he barely even noticed the revealing glimpses of Janet Leigh. Throughout the theater, boys and girls squealed, but Buster sat silent, imagining Corn-fed's head on a pike one minute, and contemplating life with the circus the next. Life was confusing and unfair, he thought. How could any self-respecting girl like Corn-fed Corbett? None of it made any sense. Charley felt almost as bad as Buster, and wished for some special words that might make him feel better. Finally, as the movie ended, Buster looked over his shoulder once more and saw that Shirley sat alone. Did she run him off? One could only wish. He and Charley exited the theater, as did everyone.
A crowd of young folks formed on the sidewalk in front of the theater, many of them waiting on parents to come pick them up. Charley and Buster lingered and milled about as always, that being a last minute chance to socialize and maybe, just maybe, talk to a girl.
Looking up at the Christmas lights, Buster asked Charley the 60-dollar question. “God, Charley, I don’t get it. Why do girls seem to like Corn-fed, and how does he keep from gettin’ his ugly face slapped off?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Charley told him, “Heck, I don’t know. I can’t figure it out.”
“There just ain’t no justice in this world--huh, Charley?”
“Nope. It sure don’t seem like it.”
Once more, Corn-fed popped up in front of Charley and Buster, winked at them and said, “Hey fellas---watch this. This is gonna be real funny!”
Dotty Jasper stood nearby, and Charley and Buster looked on as Corn-fed made a bee-line for her. Their natural urge was to say Wait…don’t do it, but something held their tongues. Perhaps, they quickly realized, the possibility existed of them seeing something good. Something really good, in fact.
Bouncing up to her with all the confidence in the world, Corn-fed began springing his joke du jour on Dotty. As soon as he pointed at her large breasts, her teeth clinched, and when he asked if she wore a camel sweater, she doubled her fist and summarily planted it right square on his big nose.
“Ow, ow, ow,” cried Corn-fed, hopping about and holding his flattened schnoz.
Everyone in front of the theater laughed, and some even applauded.
Buster heard a voice behind him say, "Thanks, Dotty--that was great!" He turned around to see who it was, and there stood Shirley Kautz with a huge smile on her face.
Charley looked at Buster and thought to himself, 'Well, now, ain’t this somethin’? Maybe there is justice in the world, after all'.
Unknown forces caused Buster and Shirley to gravitate toward one another. Being so close and somehow feeling it was safe, Buster said, “Hey, Shirley--these Christmas lights sure are purdy, ain’t they?”
Shirley looked at Buster, smiled, and replied, “Yeah, they look real nice. I’ve already got the Christmas spirit, but seein’ these decorations makes me feel even more Christmas-ee.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“What’s Santa Claus gonna bring you for Christmas, Buster?”
“Uhhhh, I don’t know. What’s he gonna bring you?”
“I don’t know, either. Did you write him a letter yet?”
“Well, of course. Who’d you think I meant--President Kennedy?”
“Oh, uh, well, not yet.”
“Well, you’d better do it soon, or it never will reach him in time. It’s gotta go all the way to the North Pole, you know.”
Buster replied, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Shirley’s father pulled up in his Oldsmobile, she said 'Bye, Buster', hopped in, and left. Watching her disappear down the street, Buster smiled dreamily and waved. A full 90 seconds later, Charley nudged him and said, “She’s gone, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Charley asked him, “You ready to go home?”
“I guess so.”
Charley and Buster left the brightly-lit Main Street area and walked toward home in the chilly night air.
“Do you believe in Santa Claus?”
“I think so.”
Gazing up at the star-filled heavens, Charley told him, “Me, too.”
As they approached Charley’s house, Buster told him, “See ya later,” and continued on down the street, his lightened feet barely patting the ground.
Charley saw the blue ’54 Pontiac in the driveway, and so knew his dad was home.
God, I hope he doesn’t have Sandine in there with him. She’s so skinny, she looks like a skeleton. I think she must have TB or somethin’.
Charley entered the house and saw his father,Clyde, sitting in a chair next to the tiny gas heater, reading one of his health books.
Clyde looked up from his book and said, “Hi son. Did you go to the movie?”
“Yeah; me and Buster did.”
“I got you some of that chocolate milk that you like. It’s in the refrigerator. Sandine made some pumpkin bread, so I brought you a piece of it. I thought she made it a little too sweet, but you might like it.”
Charley wasted no time going to the kitchen and getting the treats Clyde had brought. Seconds later, he returned to the living room and sat on the couch, enthusiastically consuming the pumpkin bread and chocolate milk.
Clyde laid his book down and asked, “Was the movie any good?”
“It was okay. I tried to get Buster to go sit with Shirley Kautz, but he was too chicken.”
“He’s young. Give him time.”
Charley took a big gulp of chocolate milk and said, “Yeah, but he likes her, and she likes him.”
“Things will work out eventually. If she’s wanting a boyfriend, he’d better not wait too long, though, because some other guy will beat his time with her.”
Charley raised his eyebrows and replied, “Yeah, that’s what I’ve already been thinkin’. Hey, dad, did you see all those Christmas decorations they put up down on main street?”
“Yeah. They do that every year.”
Charley threw the last big bite of pumpkin bread in his mouth and mumbled, “I think these are new decorations, though. They sure look nice.”
“Yeah, they’re nice to look at.”
“I remember when you and mom were still married; she used to decorate our whole house up!”
“Um-hmm. She was good at that.”
“Why don’t you decorate, dad?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t know how. That’s more of a woman thing.”
“I could do it if you’d give me some money for the decorations.”
“I’m kinda short on cash right now, Charley. Besides; that’s not what Christmas is really about. When I was a kid, my mom didn’t decorate. We just hung our stockings up over the fireplace on Christmas Eve. When we got up and checked ‘em the next morning, we were lucky to find an orange or an apple. One time I remember, I found a piece of chicken that was left over from supper the day before.”
Charley frowned and said, “Yeah, you told me that story already.”
Clyde continued, “All this stuff about Christmas trees and shiny glass bulbs and presents is just part of a scheme to make some rich person richer--that’s all. I don’t know why you’re so interested in it, anyway. You found out the truth about Santa a long time ago.”
“Yeah, how can I forget? You told me there was no Santa Claus when I was seven!”
Fustrated with his father, Charley got up and went to bed. Early the next morning, he walked two miles to the wooded area west of town and cut down a small cedar tree. Having pretty much the right shape, it would do. Charley hoisted it over his shoulder, carried it home, and stuck it in a bucketful of wet dirt and gravel. Strings of popcorn, paper stars colored with crayon, and a ten cent package of icicles from Black's Five and Dime completed the job. Content in his efforts, Charley stood back and admired the tree.
It doesn’t look so bad, and I don’t care if I only find a piece of cold chicken under it on Christmas. At least we have a tree.
When the big morning arrived a few days later, Charley found, much to his surprise, three presents. The first was a very gaudy pair of red terrycloth socks from Buster, the second, a new Timex watch from his father, and the third, a shirt from his mother.
A present from mother? I can't believe it!
Eying the treat he'd left for Santa, Charley saw only a bare chicken bone.
© 2012 Samuel Dickens
Added on August 13, 2012
Last Updated on August 13, 2012
Lick Skillet, AR
AboutGreetings, all. I'm a sixty-five year-old father of three sons, amateur writer, artist, musician and sometimes cook. Also a motorcycle buff, I've been riding/working on them since my teens. Retired fr.. more..
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