*At some point in the early morning of Saturday the 17th, as I careened into my eighth consecutive hour of blissful unconsciousness, subsequent to arriving at my parents’ house, a man entered a convenience store about a two or three minute drive away.

*Sitting down to eat with relatives on Saturday evening, they relayed to me the latest information to emerge from the beauty shop that afternoon.

They said the little girl working at the cash register at the convenient...”

The one at the fork?”

Yes... no, the one on South Main. Two big men came in and they cut her throat.”


Yes... Uncle was driving by to get the morning paper and the state police were all around, and their tape was all up.”


They said she’s in the hospital now. They were big black ones.”


The men who cut her.”

At this point, my impressions as per the reasonableness of the entire narrative tend to seep, I must confess.

Oh, ok.”

It’s going to be on the news at six. It’s too bad we’re going to miss it.”


*It was quite a spread at Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve.

There were sausages.

And pepperoni.

And peppered cheeses.

And a strange olive mixture.

And candies.

And pretzels.

And bread.

And homemade red wine.

And Seagram’s VO.

Upon my second shot of VO, my mother elected to offer up a story concerning Cousin Johnny, who lives down in a Carolina or another. He’d somehow discovered the secret of preparing Lupini beans, despite his seemingly limited aptitude at all other aspects of food preparation. It’s a surprisingly attiotion-demanding procedure, such preparation, requiring the beans to first be hammered into submission via pressure cooker (the mere operation of such provided my mother with much satisfaction as to the development of Cousin Johnny’s abilities), then soaked in water, which must be changed day after day, the immersion continuing for weeks in order for the beans to attain the correct texture.

When water used to be free,” my mother explained, “Papa would just leave them in the tub, running water over them all the time. You didn’t have to watch back then - it didn’t cost money.”

So Cousin Johnny pulled off the preparation, and he took the beans with him, all up from whatever Carolina it was, and stopped off at my auntie’s home with his dog, to drop the stuff off and rest for a while before taking off to see yet more relatives, even farther up.

That dog... she doesn’t like dogs.”

What kind of dog is it?” I asked.

A mutt. Its name is Sandy.”

Like in Little Orphan Annie?”

Yes! That’s where it came from! How did you know?”

We went into the other room after that to listen to some records in Italian.

*So I called up a friend of mine, or rather he called me, and we made some plans to go out and hear some live music at a hole in the wall.

Ok... we’ve gotta wait for my friend after he gets off work. He’s gotta go home and dye his hair.”

I paused.

*Look at the police blotter on Sunday morning, I only saw that the cashier at the convenience store had been ‘assaulted’ with a knife. There was only one assailant. Assault can mean a lot of things. Not just being slashed ear to ear.

*Don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t feel a charge of righteousness. Don’t don’t.

*So we’re all climbing up a hill on one day in the middle of the week. I forget which one it is. It’s been decided that it’ll be a good togetherness exercise for us all to see an outdoor nativity play. There’s apparently a very lavish one being held outdoors at the grounds of a local church.

They’re Protestants,” I’m told, “I don’t remember which kind.”

So we park the car (not the new one, the old one) on the side of the road, and we begin to hike up this steep hill, impossibly steep. It looks like it’s been lavished with salty attention - fortunate, as even the slightest trace of winter ice could send someone flying head over heels down foot after foot of blacktop, hallowed grounds or not. It’s a pretty long trudge up.

Good thing your aunt isn’t here, or you’d be carrying her on your back.”

There’s lights in the distance. I look off to the southwest, and from my heightened vantage I can spot this bar I’ve been to in the past, and which I’d go to in the near future.

*My friend keeps pouring me shots of something resembling vodka, only blue and pleasant. I keep downing them as the blues are played from the corner of the room. There will be no blues show next week, as there’s going to be a Christmas break.

Fuck. Christmas. Fuck. Fuck. Christmas. Christmas. Fuck fuck fuck. I ought to do some shopping later; I only have about four days in which to do it. I can probably get a column out of the experience too, since I’ve already been planning it that way.

I need a break,” says the blues man from the microphone, explaining his soon-to-be-absence.

Yer always on vacation!” shouts some friendly face from the rear of the bar.

That’s the place where I’d exit the bar. The rear. There’s not many bars left in this place, not many for good live music (if such things are ever particularly good - the potentialities, at least, are diminished by the thinning of the herd). I don’t slip on the ice as my friend cracks open his trunk to reveal to me the results of the most recently-closed club’s unofficial liquidation sale. All sorts of things from behind the counter for only five bucks. I accept a plastic bottle of gin.

*Outside of a different bar, at a different time. We’re all talking to the band members who’d just been playing. The drummer is very very drunk.

Man... I been... all over from like Montana to Texas and shit... and now I’m twenty-four in a couple minutes and I always said I’d been old when I’m twenty-four and now I’m just old... I’m here and I’m in a band and I’m old and fucking twenty-four... that’s where my life is...”

We all nod. They play Rocket Man as the fellow’s birthday emerges from the Midnight jangles of glasses and maybe a clock in the back.

*Leaving the mall, after shopping, in the new car, my mom was confronted by a fellow who decided to run a red light.

He was not very quick on the draw, and badly underestimated the time he’d need to clear the intersection.

He hit another vehicle.

My mom said the front of it just went away.

It did not stop him.

He was in a truck.

The truck continued forward, now freed from the confines of rational human steering.

It hid the median.

It did not approach the side of the road my mom was on.

It took flight and tipped.

Beside my mom and new car, it came to rest on its roof, scraping the road like a monster.

THEY’RE DEAD!! THEY’RE DEAD!” cried my mom’s passenger.

Large men raced from their adjoining cars, abandoning their presents, and yanked at the doors of the fallen truck.



They were all right.

I hope they didn’t buy any fine china.

*Also, the girl working at the convenient store was all right. The news kept changing - it now appears that her neck was indeed cut by the assailant, but only ‘superficially,’ as the news now says. It’s like a middle ground was needed, and was duly provided. There were hints of attempted rape, but that’s all the new reports are suggesting right now. There is no activity, nor syllabi of events that might suggest the intrusion of such intent. But it’s suggested, the truth as I know it in flux as the holiday approaches.

*So we’ve settled down into our stadium seats, as the nativity thing is beginning. It’s a pre-recorded deal, with music and voices largely provided by the speakers, with the local church actors pantomiming their parts, lip synching. Did I mention it was a musical? Also: it was 15 degrees out. We all wore a lot of clothing.

The music was, as expected, a goulash of reverent orchestral cues and the very latest in Christian pop, with bits of gospel and the like thrown in. Satan was given a voice not unlike Draco Malfoy's. They have an opening confrontation, before the action spills out into the traditional Birth of Christ thing. There’s a lot of things going on. There’s live camels, for one. I had an interesting time watching their feet. One of them seemed to move with a limp, going down a big hill above the fabled manger, and I wondered if he’d fall, since the area didn’t seem all that well treated (historical inaccuracy?).

There were a lot of fireworks involved, a lot of children dressed as angels prancing about. Live horses dragging chariot equivalents, ridden by men in Roman garb. I whispered to my sister that the horses were on loan from the local race track, and she laughed. It was in some ways a strange production, as far as bible scenes go. There was a very quick crucifixion/resurrection scene, as if the story just couldn’t go without it, regardless of holiday. There were odd lines in the songs, lyrics about nations charging off to war; I wonder about when these things were recorded, what context in which they were released.

And there was this one part. The one kid comes out - kinda stocky, I can’t tell if it was a boy or a girl. And the kid’s dressed as an angel, and some power ballad about Jesus comes on, and the kid dances and sways and writhes without self-consciousness, clad in shimmering white and gold, glitter in the hair, glitter on the shoes. The kid dances to music not being played, to song not emanating from live lips. I can’t even see winter’s breath coming out of the kid’s mouth, but it’s hypnotic as the kid moves from one side to another, fists pumping and head whirling, as the kid recruited to play the virgin Mary stares in wonder. And god oh god I ignore the cold for a moment, and weather and the bar sitting over my shoulder and concern and everything. It’s pretty. It’s pretty. It’s pretty.