Christmas Season in Carbons Creek:a Short Story
It was raining yesterday. When the temperature dropped the rain turned to sleet. When I went to bed the temperature had dropped several degrees below the freezing point. I woke up to a two inch snow cover over slick ice. Well maybe John would take me ice skating on the pond after work.
I was really grateful that John had helped me get a firewood supply ready for winter. I took a couple of pieces of that wood now and threw into the stove and stoked the fire. I was shivering getting into clothes for the day. I decided on a wool shirt and a long buckskin skirt. Maybe not fashionable but on days like this I prefer practical. I'd put a pot of coffee on the stove and looked forward to a hot cup. John typesetter at the paper and my new suitor was supposed to stop by this morning and I was sure he would appreciate the warm brew as well. Real coffee without chicory. The house, along with the newspaper was left to me by my Uncle Jake and once more I am grateful that he looked out for the practical and functional. The house had good solid wood cupboards and cookware he got from a mail order catalog.
What happens to the house if I married John. What would it be like sharing everything, including my bed. Or would he expect me to move into his house. Then what happens to my house.
“Oh! Oh!” The troubling thought hit me. We hadn't talked about where we would live. John had built a small cabin for himself. Maybe he expected me to live in his house. But it's so tiny. Thinking about it, there were a lot of things we we hadn't discussed yet. I guess we were too overcome with just finding we wanted each other.
“How about the paper?” I thought.
Uncle Jake had left it to me but there were a lot of ways that claim could be challenged. In fact the people who want to shut down the paper would do that in a minute. It was in his will but almost anything can challenge a woman's right to owning property. Luckily the property doesn't have a mortgage on it. Never the less about the only thing stopping them is that I stand up for myself so I make it more trouble than they really want. That and the fact that the people like what I am doing with the paper and they those who want to shut us down is they don't want to mess with public opinion too blatantly.
Where do I stand if my husband to be wants to take over the property. Only our respect for each other I think. I was just think about how questionable a woman’s right to property was when my thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. “Ah. There's John now.' I guess I said it aloud because my little dog Buddy perked up at the mention of his name.
“Come on in John,” I shouted to be heard through the thick door. I finished dressing and slipped my little 'lady-like “pistol into my pocket. Instead of John coming in, there was another knock on the door. I went over and opened the heavy door and instead of seeing John, there was a heavy set stranger with a heavy white beard. His clothes were a dark brown with a reddish hue..He had on a floppy kind of hat with a tassel. Well, anything to keep warm, I guess.
I asked him why John hadn't come himself and he told me that John had gone to the wood to chop down a tree for Christmas. I thought that was kind of odd because there was a pine tree about 6 foot tall that we always decorate for Christmas in a small lot next to the Newspaper office. But, I didn't mention it to the stranger. I got into the sleight
“I don't believe I've seen you around town,” I told him.
He lit up a corncob pipe and said between puffs, “I'm just here to visit. Folks call me Nick.”
“Alright, Nick, You said John asked you to pick me up. Why didn't he pick me up himself?”
“John said that after he got the Christmas tree he was going to set up the story you wanted him to do.”
“I'm glad he remembered that,” I said wondering what story he was talking about. I felt in my pocket to make sure the little gun was still there.
There was a layer of snow over the walk despite the overhand when we got to the Sentinel office.
“Nick, I wouldn’t want anybody falling because of the ice. Would you do me a favor and shovel away the snow while I get some ashes for the ice that’s underneath?”
What I really wanted was to keep Nick busy until I figured out what was going on, and where John was. I went into the office and found a shovel which I graciously handed to Nick. Then I checked the type case. Good thing that Nick can't read backwards. The set type is a mirror image of the printed page made from it. John had set a couple of routine stories about Christmas but added a few words saying roughly that there was danger. Somebody was plotting to take over the paper and above all else don't sign any papers.
What Nick didn't know was that the printing equipment in the office was a blind, a decoy. The real thing was in the underground area beneath the shop.
I emptied the hot ashes from the fireplace into a scuttle and carried it outside. Nick, here's some ashes to put on the ice.”As I held the scuttle up to Nick my foot slipped on the ice and I lurched against the big man who,in turn, toppled over into snow that drifted into the street.
“Are you alright Nick?” I don't know how I could be so clumsy. Here, let me help you up.”
I started to help the big man up but then started to topple backward on the ice. A couple of short guys with pointed green hats rushed out to help Nick get up. They also started to slip and slide.
I went over to Nick but somehow I lurched forward again but went into sort of a spin around trying to get my balance back.
“Drop the the coals,” one of the men shouted.
“What?” I asked “you want the scuttle?”
“No. No.” the elfish little man shouted as I swung the coal scuttle toward them. The ashes were still hot.
The first one ducked to avoid the the scuttle that was swinging hither and thither.
“Darn. I'm not usually so clumsy,” I told them.
“Watch out! Those ashes are hot,” Nick shouted.
A crowd had formed at the newspaper office by this time. I saw Ed, the big burly Irishman who ran the a saloon in town. I shouted to him to go check to see if John had been locked in the basement. By this time Nick and his friends were lying flat on their backs on the ice and struggling to get up but I put down the coal scuttle and walked firmly over the ice with my little pistol in my hand.”Don't bother getting up Gentlemen. Somebody will fetch the sheriff and he can take you someplace where it's warm.
Ed found John OK. He said he would have helped me but I didn't seem to need it. Our friend Nick had seen stories in Harpers magazine by a certain illustrator named Thomas Nast about Santa Clause or St. Nickolas and thought he could pass himself off by playing the part of the new Christmas icon while some friends tried to do me out of my property.
Copyright 2011 Don Hoglund
© 2011 Don A. Hoglund