A HOLIDAY TALE TO CLOSE OUT THE HOLIDAY SEASON IN FOUR PARTS-FROM MARK HALEGUA
The Night Before Christmas
by Mark S. Halegua
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house –
One creature was stirring. It was a louse.
An apartment in an apartment building. A railroad flat, and it was the front room. This apartment building was unusual as all the apartments had fireplaces. The fireplace in this one was dark and the flu wouldn’t completely close, so the room was colder than the others. The doors to the hall and the next room were closed to keep the cold in it.
A couch on the left wall, the fabric threadbare, between two round topped side tables, scratched and dull, each with an old lamp. Across the room from the couch the front wall with two large windows looking out onto the street, street lamps barely keeping away the dark, and the sidewalks covered with a thin layer of snow, a brisk wind blowing wisps of snow around.
Looking around the room, faded wall paper. A tree in one corner on the side of the room away from the fireplace, festooned with tinsel, strings of popcorn, and colored buttons. At the top an angel, old and cracked. Under the tree a few boxes, wrapped with newspaper and tied with string.
On the fireplace mantel five stockings, different colors with a narrow strip of white faux fur at their top. Each stocking holding a solitary candy cane and a small wrapped chocolate. To the side of the fireplace a table stood with a glass half full of milk and a plate with two cookies.
A man quietly moved towards the mantel, removing the candy from the stockings and placing them in a sack in his hand. Dressed in a watch cap, brown leather jacket, dark pants and work boots, he silently moved towards the tree and starts to pick up one box and place it in the sack …
“Ho ho ho,” he hears. “I think I see a naughty boy here. Taking the presents and the candy from this poor family I see.”
The man in the watch cap turns towards the voice, standing by the chimney, light from the street lamps dimly coming in the windows and showing a man with a white beard and mustache, dressed in a red suit and fur lined tassled cap, black boots and wide black belt.
“Who are youse old man? What are youse doing here?”
“What am I doing here? The better question would be what are you doing here? But, I already know that, just as I’ve had you on my naughty list for many years, Caine Marko.”
“How do you know who I am? And, who do you think you’re fooling dressed like that? You tryin’ to make me think youse is Santa Claus?”
“I know everyone who is naughty and nice. Now put those presents and candy back and leave here. Now.”
“And, if I don’t? What you gonna do, sic Rudolph on me?”
A sigh escapes the lips of the man in red, “I was truly hoping for once you could do a nice thing. No Caine, I won’t call Rudolph in on you. But, do you remember what naughty boys get in their stockings for Christmas?”
“Uh, I uh think … oh, yeah, Santa puts coal in my stocking. Ha, is that what youse is gonna give me, a lump of coal? Huh, ‘Santa’.”
“In a manner of speaking Caine, yes,” And the man in red whips his hand forward and Caine Marko is struck on the forehead by a hard lump of coal.
Groaning, Marko falls to the floor. The man in red takes the sack and replaces the presents under the tree and the candy in the stockings.
He walks over to the small table and takes one cookie and eats it, then taking a swallow of the milk. He walks over to the dazed Marko, swings him over his shoulder, opens a window, and climbs down the fire escape to the street below. Marko is placed on the ground and when he wakes up he realizes he can’t move his arms. Looking down he sees he is inside a giant red Christmas stocking.
“Hey, youse can’t keep me tied up like this. Let me out!”
“Ho ho ho. I think this is the perfect place for you. Now, why don’t you tell me who you’re working for? Is it for Tony Minetti? He’s another on my naughty list.”
“I ain’t working for anybody. I work for myself. I ain’t tellin’ youse nuttin.”
“So, you aren’t working for Minetti, but you’re too stupid to be doing this on your own. You aren’t bright enough to think about this yourself. And, you don’t work alone. Who’s helping you on this Caine? Are Joey Kuzincski and Al Browning in on this with you?”
Struggling inside the giant stocking, Kaine answered, “I don’t know what youse is talkin’ about. Let me outta this ting!”
“I believe you do know, Caine. So, what say you tell Santa?”
“I don’t know nuttin. Youse are crazy.”
“Hmmm. I know, it’s Christmas Eve and you haven’t had your candy cane. Here you are.”
The white bearded man in the red suit sticks a candy cane in Marko Caine’s mouth.
“I don’t want no cand … mfff.”I don’t want no cand … mfff.”
“You’ll like this one. It has a … special flavor.”
Caine tries to spit the candy out, but a red glove covers his mouth. After a couple of minutes, the crook’s head is lolling around.
“Now, Caine, where’d you get the idea to steal these family’s presents on Christmas Eve?”
“In … bar. Hoid some guys at the booth behind me … hoid them talk ’bout a caper tonight, takin’ presents from some … rich family … and maybe more. Hoid one of … ’em call anudder … Tony. Dats all. Figgered I could do same … around here.”
“Ah, I see. And what bar were you in, Marko?”
“M, M, Maxie’s. On … River.”
“I know of the place. Full of nothing but naughty boys and girls. They’re all on my naughty list. What say you go to sleep Caine.”
“What ya … mean sleep …,” and the last thing he saw was a giant candy cane swung at his head.”
“Huh, Caine was caned.”
A window sash opened from one of the apartments and a man looks out on the street, awakened by some noises he heard. He looks around and spots a huge red Christmas stocking, hung with care from one of the streetlights, stuffed with what looked like a man.
“What the …”What the …”
From down the street he hears, “on Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen, dash away dash away all we have naughty boys to talk to before the night is last call.”
To Be Continued