Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Monday, December 24, 2012

Saint Nick

by Ed Markowski

Every  day,  night  and  day,  for  the  past  five  days,  we’ve  had  rain,  rain,  rain,  rain
and  more  rain.  A  total  of  thirteen  inches  since  Monday  has  turned  an  entire  state
of  immaculate  snowmen  into  an  ocean  of  mud.  I  lost  my  eyes  this  morning  in  a
rising  tide  of  blacker  than  black  black  sewer  water  flowing  from  an  endless  black
hole  that’s  blacker  than  black,  and  blacker  than  the  blacker  than  black  liquid  filth
cresting  the  lip  of  the  sump  crock.  I’m  trying  to  figure  out  why  the  dog  damned
sump  pump  keeps  on  quitting  and  spitting  up  on  us.  Yesterday,  Laurie  and  I  took
thirty – five  bags  of  sewage  soaked  paper,  cloth,  and  wooden  memories  out  to  the
curb.  Thirty – five  garbage  bags  that  contained  Jesse  and  Becky’s  baby  shoes, two
programs  from  the  1934  World  Series  autographed  by  Goose  Goslin  and  Ducky
Medwick,  Laurie’s  wedding  dress,  a  first  edition  of  The  Old  Man  And  The  Sea
signed  by  Hemingway,  a  blue  paper  lei  Elvis  allegedly  wore  during  the  filming
of  Blue  Hawaii,  Barbie  and  Ken’s  entire  wardrobe,  decades  of  joy,  decades  of
tears,  and  the  tangible  history  of  a  family  that  no  one,  including  the  Red  Legend
who’s  due  to  arrive  at  midnight,  can  replace.

With  my  face  still  searching  the  sludge  for  my  eyes,  a  late  December  mosquito
plants  its  flag  in  my  left  cheek.  I  say  to  my  co – pilot,  cheerleader,  apprentice,
tricycle  king,  and  three  year  old  grandson,  “ Nick,  go  get  your  old  Oppie  a  roll
of  tape,  a  hammer,  and  a  screwdriver.  I  hear  Nick  shuffle  off  to  Oreo.  Then  I
hear  a  metallic  symphony  of  thuds,  pings,  booms,  and  bams.  I’m  mesmerized  by
the  song  of  wrenches,  screwdrivers,  levels,  and  concrete  trowels  falling  from  their
pegs.  In  perfect  harmony  with  the  bangs,  my  mind  screams,  “ You  better  be  sure
the  boy  is  ok.  For  Christ’s  sake,  what  are  you  waiting  for? “  Next,  a  scorching
duet  composed  of  Laurie’s  voice  and  Becky’s  voice  geysers  up  from  the  depths
of  the  sump  crock.  “ Maybe  the  hammer  fell  and  broke  Nick’s  foot.  Maybe  he
cut  his  hand  on  that  rusty  razor  wire.  Maybe  Nick’s  skewered  on  a  screwdriver.
Maybe  he’s  sipping  a  cup  of  cotton  candy  pink  anti – freeze.  Maybe  you  should
take  your  finger  out  of  the  dike  and  make  sure  he’s  ok  you  irresponsible  ass.”

When  their  voices  fade  I  hear  the  triumphant  footfalls  of  a  tiny  warrior  marching
back  to  Bataan.  I  hear  Patton  parading  through  Paris. I  hear  fifty – thousand  Yankee
fans  cheering  a  Mickey  Mantle  walk  off  moon  shot.  I  hear  Nick  coming  closer.  I
hear  Nick’s  laughter.  I  feel  Nick’s  excitement  soaked  words  temper  the  damp  cold
air.  “ I  found  four  hammers  Oppie,  four  Oppie,  that’s  good  Oppie,  isn’t  that  good
Oppie,  Oppie,  can  I  have  a  donut  now ? “

I  look  over  my  shoulder  into  the  dim  seventy – five  watt  light.  Both  of  Nick’s  hands
are  Good  and  Plenty  pink.  With  each  step,  Nick’s  hands  shift  from  bubble  gum  pink
to  Pink  Panther  pink,  to  pink  grapefruit  pink,  to  the  undisputed  heavy  weight  champion
of  pink,  Polyurethane  Pink  Flamingo  Pink.  I  turn  my  back  to  Nick.  My  eyes  are  still
lost  in  the  foul  puzzle  flowing  over  the  sump  crock’s  lip.  When  I  turn  to  face  him,
Nick  drops  four  hammers  on  the  floor.  His  face  and  voice  blossom  into  the  shape,
sound,  color,  and  scent  of  pure  joy.  “ Oppie,  I  found  these  too  where  you  didn’t  hide
them  so  good.”  Nick  points  to  the  sump  pump’s  plug  that’s  sagging  in  the  wall  socket.
“ Here  Oppie,  put  some  of  this  over  there.”  Nick  hands  me  two  pink  eggs  of  Silly
Putty  that  he  and  his  big  brother  Matthew  were  going  to  find  in  their  stockings. The
Silly  Putty  cements  the  plug  in  place  and  the whir  of  the  sump  pump  becomes  the
sweetest  Christmas Carol  I’ve  ever  heard.  Up  in the  kitchen  I  set  two  powdered  sugar
donuts  on  a  paper  plate  for  Saint  Nick.  Then,  as  the  rain  changes  to  snow,  I  dial
Santa’s  number  and  order  two  dozen  for  tomorrow  morning.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant writing. Since I cannot write as well as this, I am going to sit down with a donut and read it again, and again.