Monday, November 28, 2016

Harold's Holidays (Part 1): Thankful

Happy holidays, WYMOP readers!
Thanksgiving morning I woke happy, looking forward to dinner while my head was still on the pillow, and actually wondering what I was going to do for a blog post this week. I was going to start something early, I really was, but when I sat up in bed and pulled the Chromebook onto my lap, I decided to check FaceBook first—and what to my wondering eyes should appear? One of those FaceBook Memories things, showing a link I’d posted to a holiday story way back in 2011.
A holiday story from 2011? I clicked the link and read on. It seems I had a Thanksgiving story I’d forgotten all about, buried in the depths of my somewhat labyrinthine website. No, wait, it was a whole series of stories, I recalled, and as I clicked through the connecting links, I saw I’d remembered correctly.
Five years ago I accidentally wrote my first episodic story. I don’t mean I wrote the stories by accident, like I tripped on a stick and a short tale fell out; but for a little while that year, every time I sat down to write, this character Harold showed up. I kept thinking I was finished with him, but then he’d turn up again. And then again. When it was all said and done I had four stories, running poor Harold from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
This year, in honor of poor little Harold, I’m updating the stories (five years ago my editing was terrible) and sharing them with you, one per week, the same way they were written. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you all—and Harold—have happy holidays.
~ ~ * * ~ ~
(Harold’s Holidays—Part 1)
Poppa stood looking out over the great table. Better than three dozen faces looked back at him, each scrubbed shiny and rosy cheeked for the occasion. Food spread before him in an almost panoramic display; each year Momma tried to outdo the last, and as far as he could tell, she always succeeded. Turkeys—not one or two but six, each huge and golden brown—were spread evenly along the board, hemmed in by great bowls of everything she had been able to think of. Potatoes (baked, mashed, and au-gratin), vied for space with sweet potatoes, squash, and corn. Huge baskets held breads and rolls, there were tureens of gravy scattered about, and more little side dishes than you could shake a stick at.
Poppa had quite a honker, and he made use of it now, taking in a great pull of warm air so thick with good smells it was almost a meal unto itself. He gazed about the bright, festive hall at all of his family. He ran a business, but it was a family business, and if you worked with Poppa you were his family. A slow ripple made its way around the table as, according to their tradition, each member of the family stood to say one thing they were thankful for this year.
“Ice skating!”
“The Malibu Barbie DreamHouse with the attached garage and swimming pool that comes with a—”
The ripple passed around the horn as he liked to say, the small extra table set at the far end of the main table, where all the newer additions to the family sat. It continued on up the side of the great dining room toward Poppa, but hit a snag about halfway. It stuttered, then continued, folks rising, speaking and sitting—all except the reason for the stutter: Harold had thrown thrown the people around him off a bit by refusing to stand and give thanks. There was no time to think on it, however, as beside Poppa, Momma spoke.
“I’m thankful for all the happy faces I see at this table every year!”
She sat down, beaming. Poppa cleared his throat, smiled, and then his rich tones rolled out across the gathering.
“I am thankful for all you here with me today. I am proud to work alongside each and every one of you, and I am extremely thankful for all the good that you all help this organization do every year, and all the good it lets me see in the world.”
They applauded his words, and Poppa smiled widely, but as he sat there was one of those strange coincidences that sometimes catch people unawares. Everyone stopped clapping at almost exactly the same time, and in the sudden silence a voice could be heard.
“—unch of bullfeathers.”
Poppa recognized the voice. “Harold? Is there something on your mind, son?”
Halfway down the table, Harold, who had refused to rise during the speaking of thanks, now shot to his feet. “You bet there is.” He glared at Poppa, and the folks to either side of him looked disconcerted.
Poppa raised an eyebrow. “Well?”
There was silence in the hall. Harold looked nervous, but serious. “Well, it’s just that . . . it’s just that you’re all happy with our good works, but I don’t get to see it the way you do.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but—”
“I don’t feel thanked! This is a pretty big operation, and we do an awful lot. You know that.”
“Of course I know that,” sputtered Poppa. “I work right there beside you!”
“Yes, you do, and I don’t fault you for that, but I never feel thanked by the people we work so hard for. They thank you all the time; we see it in the press you get.”
“But Harold, this is a not-for-profit outfit for kids! It’s not like the children we work for are going to know everyone in the business! I’m the boss, so I’m the front man. They get to know me, but it’s not like a child is going to search out everyone involved!”
Harold fumed. “Well, it’s not fair. You know what we do! You know we’ve already worked hard all year, and our busiest time of that year starts tomorrow! We’ll all work through it, and then you’ll collect all the perks. What about us? What do we have to look forward to?”
“Look, Harold, I’m sorry you feel this way.”
Poppa looked about the table in frustration, seeing the disagreement had halted the festivities. All up and down the table eyes looked studiously away, their owners obviously uncomfortable and wishing they were anywhere but where they were. This was not something Poppa wanted for his Thanksgiving dinner! He looked back to Harold, who still stood, staring at Poppa, arms folded angrily across his chest.
“Harold, I am sorry. Is there anything I can do to show my appreciation for all the hard work you do?”
Harold was the one who looked away now. “Well . . .
But Poppa saw Harold watching him out of the corner of his eye and knew that Harold did have a specific aim, a particular goal in starting all this. He dialed for his command voice.
“Out with it, Harold.”
“I want to drive the sleigh.”
“What?” said Poppa, caught by surprise.
“You heard me. I want to drive the sleigh.”
Poppa looked down the table at Rupert, who cared for the reindeer and had been his regular driver for years. He raised his eyebrows. Rupert shook his head and shrugged, then shot a glance at Harold’s thunderous expression. He looked back to Poppa and nodded energetically.
“All right, Harold. Thirty nights from now, you can drive the sleigh.”
“Thank you.” Harold sat. His arms were still folded over his chest, but Poppa thought he saw the ghost of a smile touching the elf’s lips.
Honestly, Poppa thought as the sound and energy of the festivities began to crank up once more. I’m thankful it was something that simple. Imagine if he’d wanted to make the deliveries!
And with that, the Kringle family Thanksgiving Day feast continued into the night.
~ ~ * * ~ ~

And so it begins . . .
Come back next week for the second installment of Harold’s Holidays: “Old Saint Nick.”

(If you like serialized stories, check out my other 4-episode tale, A Fortune in Ink, over at The Storyside.)

Talk to you later.

No comments:

Post a Comment