Friday, December 18, 2015

28 Xmas Stories 21: Ain't no other way.

Rudolph The Regular-Nosed Reindeer Falls In Love On Xmas Eve, 3:
“… he said it was magic,” Rudolph muttered to himself. Or so he thought. The woman stopped looking at the envelope and the streetlight and the snow and the general scene, and looked at him.

“What’s that now?” she said.

“Nothing,” Rudolph said. “I just… nothing.”

“That’s good, because it sounded like you said someone said something was magic,” the woman said, turning back to the envelope, “Which means that you would be crazy.” She started forward a bit, as the envelope got caught in a gust of wind and blew across the street.  “Well, come on,” she said to him.  “I’ll help you get it.”

They both darted into the street and across it. The envelope was lying on the sidewalk, a little damp, near the stoop of a building. The woman reached down and grabbed it before Rudolph could.  She read the back of the envelope:

Seriously Do Not Open Until Xmas Eve Or The Magic Won’t Work
Then looked up at him. “So…”

Rudolph shrugged, reached for the envelope.  “It’s a friend. He’s got a weird sense of humor.” Rudolph didn’t know if Chad had a weird or a regular or any sense of humor. He barely knew Chad. But what was he supposed to say? He was the one chasing after a … magic envelope. There was just too much to explain.

She started to turn the envelope over, and Rudolph made a more concerted effort to get it before she could read that side, too. Just as he grabbed the envelope, a man’s voice shouted:

The woman looked up, startled. Rudolph did, too.  Down on the end of the street, on the opposite side where they’d just come from, was Chad, next to a woman Rudolph didn’t recognize.

“Oh no,” the woman said.

“What?” Rudolph asked.

The woman took off running just as Chad and his companion started sprinting towards them.

Rudolph looked at Chad coming towards him, and the woman running away from him, and then for some reason he looked down at the envelope.

Then he took off running after the woman, as fast as he could.

The snow was making the sidewalk slippery already and when he got to the corner, about a half-block ahead of Chad and the other woman, Rudolph skidded a bit as he tried to slow down. He bumped into several people who yelled at him to watch where he was going, not drink so much next time, have a merry Xmas too buddy, as Rudolph looked around for the woman.  He spotted her about halfway through the intersection, weaving her way at a near jog between taxis and car service cars escorting people to and from holiday parties and department stores.

“Wait!” he yelled. He looked back. Chad was coming up fast, looking grim.  Rudolph leaped into the street, right behind a bus that was pulling out into traffic. Two cabs swerved around the bus and a bike messenger wavered crazily as Rudolph half-ran, half-walked across the street, trying to keep his eyes on the woman and the traffic, and wondering how close Chad was behind them.

He made it across, and the woman was already halfway up the next block, making her way through the thronging people, her silhouette barely glimpsed in the flares of red and green light from shop windows.  Behind Rudolph Chad and the woman were halfway across the four lanes of traffic, horns honking now at the people crossing against the light.  Rudolph again started running after the woman, his shoes skidding more now on the snow.
He made it to the next corner, but their pursuers were gaining on him. He had lost the woman, and looked wildly around the intersection.  Traffic lights, cars, busses, a limousine, a giant group of college-aged kids, behind him Chad only 20 feet back.  Rudolph took a guess, turned right and ran as fast as he could.

He’d gone only five feet when a hand reached out and grabbed at him. He was nearly yanked off his feet as the grip on his arm tightened. Rudolph was spun around and felt himself lifted bodily off the ground by his elbows, and was then looking up at the face of a large bald man with a goatee, wearing an eye patch. He put Rudolph down and nodded to his right. Rudolph looked and saw a barber’s pole and a small door in the building down three flights of stairs. The large bald man nudged him and turned around, and Rudolph took the hint. He skittered down the stairs and threw the door open.

Inside were three old-fashioned barber chairs and a short man bent over a broom. He wasn’t sweeping. He was just resting on it. He looked up at Rudolph, and shook his head.

“You look a wreck,” he said. He tsktsktsked Rudolph and put the broom off to the counter. 

“But no time to worry about that. I expect you’ll be wanting the door.”

The door? Rudolph thought.

“The door?” Rudolph stammered.

“The door,” the man said, with a matter-of-fact sigh.  “Go on in,” he pointed towards the back wall, where a small door stood slightly ajar.

Rudolph looked back up at the door he’d come through, then at the door the man indicated. 

“I…” he said.

“Go on,” the man said. “Ain’t no other way,” he added.

“No other way… what?” Rudolph asked.

“Look, you seemed in a hurry. You think my son can hold them off forever?” the man said.

“Son?” Rudolph said.

“Go on now,” the man said. “And mind the drop.” Rudolph felt himself pushed by the man’s wrinkled but insistent hands. The door was pulled open and he was ushered in. It was shut behind him and he stood there, eyes adjusting to the gloom.

There was a shape across from him. He squinted. It was a person-sized shape. When it moved he realized it was a person and nearly yelped in surprise but before he had even processed this all, the shape said:

“I hope at least you have your envelope.” 

No comments: