The Diary of St. Nicholas, part one
A dull day turned bad
At one time Will Freely had been a good writer, living for the written word, but things change. At this stage in his life, the rigors of time were beginning to take their toll, and the quality of his work had been questionable for some time. His desires and dreams were all but forgotten, and the ambition to fuel them long dried up. He was now tired of chasing a story, tired of feuding with the editor, simply put, he was tired of life itself. Now the only thing that kept him going was the thought that retirement was just around the corner, if he could only tolerate the job and his fellow co-workers for another month.
His current job as a research writer for the New Town Press was cushy, and even though Will had become complacent, it was hard not to notice all of the newspapers going belly up across the country. He was about to reach for a bottle that he kept in his bottom desk drawer, when someone knocked on his office door, and then without waiting for a reply, his boss stepped inside.
Melvin Days could be a hard person to work for, but for the most part he was honest. He frowned, and then cleared his throat. “Look Will,” he began woefully, “I hate to tell you this, but your column has been given to Perkins.”
“That pip squeak!” Will blurted out angrily, “why he’s just a kid!”
“I know that,” Melvin replied, “but he has the kind of energy and enthusiasm that we need to keep this paper alive. I’m sorry, but it’s effective starting next week. For the time being you, can keep your office. You were planning on retiring in a few months anyway. ”
Will expelled a heavy sigh, “why not today?”
“I have one last job for you to cover,” Melvin said softly. “I suppose that you have heard that The Golden Book Store is closing. Well, I wanted to do an article on it. The owner agreed, but insisted that you had to be the one to cover it. Besides, this will give you a chance bow out gracefully with your readers.” He paused for a moment, and then cleared his throat a second time. “For your remainder of time here you can help out Sally with the classifieds.” Melvin turned around then, and walked out the door.
As soon as the door closed, Will reached for the drawer again, pulled it open and stared at the bottle of liquor inside. Then reaching for it, with his fingers almost upon it, he suddenly drew his hand away and slammed the drawer shut. “Bow out gracefully,” he chortled, “now that’s going to take some kind of magic for sure.” He stood up then and headed out the door for his last assignment.
Thomas Pots had spent his entire career working in The Golden Book Store, first as an employee, and then for the last twenty years as the proprietor. He had witnessed the store’s grand opening, and now he would see it close. He was lost in a faded memory when he was suddenly alerted to the sound of the bell on the front door ringing as it was opened, a sound that he rarely heard anymore. “Mr. Freely,” he greeted as the grizzled reporter stepped inside, “nice to finally meet you.”
“Likewise,” Will mumbled halfheartedly. “So you’re closing?”
“Yeah,” Thomas replied, “as much as I hate to, I have no choice.”
“But you’re the owner,” Will countered, “you have a choice.”
“No, it’s all beyond my control now,” Thomas said stoically, with his eyes wandering across the room of book filled shelves. “I haven’t made a profit in some time you see, so I really don’t have a choice. I will miss this place.”
Looking around the old book store, Will’s appraisal of what he saw was less than that of the owner. He saw an old dilapidated store that should have probably closed years ago. Expelling a long tired sigh, he tried to decide what angle he would use in covering the store’s closing. Turning to Thomas he asked, “why me? My boss said that you insisted that I had to be the one to cover your story.”
Thomas smiled then. “I have been a fan of your column since you started writing at the New Town Press twenty years ago,” said fondly. “You have a style of writing that’s just different than most, even though I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it has suffered from mediocrity for the last few years. I think your downfall began after you split up with Mrs. Jenny.”
“Well now, let’s not hold anything back,” Will retorted. “If you don’t think my writing is up to par anymore, then why did you ask for me?”
Again Thomas smiled, “Like I said before, I have been a fan of yours for a long time, and I wanted to give you a chance to retire with dignity. Now I have to run to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Look around the place while I’m gone for anything that might help with your story.” The old man grabbed his coat then, and walked out before Will had a chance to say anything.
At first Will was somewhat stunned by how much this Mr. Pots knew about him, especially the part about his private life. How did he know that Jenny Pines had been his girlfriend? Then there was the comment about his retirement. How did the old man know that he was essentially being canned? Will's face flushed red with anger. Melvin must have been talking to him. No doubt the whole town knew about it by now. He could just imagine Thomas discussing his incompetence with the pharmacist at that moment. Trying to put it all out of mind, he tried to focus on the purpose of his visit. He had intended to get a brief history of the store from Thomas Pots, along with the biography of his career there, but for the time being he was left to his own means. Exasperated, Will began to walk up and down the aisles of books, looking for anything of interest that might be used in his final story.
Will was about to call it a day and head home when he noticed something out of place. Lying on the floor beneath a shelf was an old hand bound book. He leaned over and picked it up. On the front cover were the words, The Diary of St. Nicholas. Will chuckled to himself, “how ridiculous.” The book was obviously a fake. Of course in his own time Nicholas would not have been given the title as saint. Mr. Pots had no doubt planted the book there for him to find, then using the pharmacy as an excuse to leave him there to find it. Perhaps it was an advertising ploy, or just a prank designed by Melvin to make him look like a fool. Well, it was not going to work. He laid the book down on the counter by the cash register, and was about to leave when Thomas Pots returned.
“Sorry to leave you like that,” Thomas apologized, but I was out of heart medication. “So tell me, have you come up with any ideas in my absence?”
For a moment Will just looked at the old man, doing his best to hold back what he actually felt at the moment. “Sure,” he finally said testily. “I found something alright.” Then he shoved the old book towards Thomas. “I’m not sure exactly what you had in mind leaving this for me to find, but I’m not biting.”
Thomas looked at the book with an expression of bewilderment upon his face. “I’m not sure as to what you are referring to Mr. Freely,” he said, losing the smile that had been ever present upon his face. “I have never seen this book before. Where did you find it?”
“On the floor beneath a shelf,” Will answered, a bit less sure of himself now. “You didn’t put it there?”
“No,” Thomas replied bluntly, as he thumbed through the pages with interest. “I’ve never seen an old Latin book this before. I would have remembered it for certain.”
“Latin,” Will scoffed, that’s written in English, but the old man just shook his head in disagreement. Will took the book then, and looked at it in disbelief. Now on the front cover there was nothing but the name Nicholas, and indeed the entire contents were written in Latin. “You swapped books!” he said accusingly.
“Now look here,” Thomas snapped back, “I will not be talked to that way in my own store. I’m beginning to wish that I had never asked for you to cover the story now.”
“Well that makes two of us,” Will grumbled. “I have a good mind to call the owner of the newspaper and tell him about Melvin demoting me, and then spreading rumors about my personal life as well. You know I should sue the two of you both for slander. You have no right spreading all of this gossip about me, especially anything about Jenny.”
At that Thomas shook his head, a slender smile returning to his lips. “Look, let’s both just calm down. First of all, Melvin didn’t want to demote you, it was Jim Needles, the owner’s idea. He wanted to let you go over a year ago, but Melvin talked him out of it. As for Jenny, well, she’s my wife’s cousin, and Jim Needles is my wife’s brother.”
With that information divulged, Will expelled a long breath, and smacked his forehead with the palm of his right hand. “I didn’t know any of that,” he confessed with embarrassment, “but that book was clearly written in English, and titled The Diary of Saint Nicholas.”
“I’ll give you this much, it is ironic that you should find it on today of all days,” Thomas said.
“What’s so special about today,” Will asked.
Thomas chuckled then. “Today is the sixth of December, St. Nicholas Day. You know, the first day of Christmas.” He waited for Will to reply, but he could tell the reporter was truly dumbfounded by the book. “Look, you probably just read it without ever noticing that it was written in Latin,” the old man offered.
Will shook his head negatively then. “That’s impossible,” he said. “I don’t know how to read Latin. I’m certain that it was written in English.” Completely miffed, he shook his. Now for the first time he looked at the book with earnest curiosity. “If you don’t mind, I would like to take this book home with me.”
“I don’t mind,” Thomas replied, “but it will not do you much good since you don’t know how to read Latin.” Suddenly his smile grew into a broad grin. “Of course we both know someone well versed in Latin don’t we?”
Click onto the link below for part two,