Simon Lescart woke up on his last day,
plugged in the coffee maker,
and sat down at the computer to check his email.
There was the usual spam and forwarded jokes,
which he deleted without reading.
The sixth message subject line read “Final Notice”,
and the sender was an acronym, “T.P.T.B.”
He started to dump it as spam, but for some reason he clicked it open.
The message was this: “NOTICE OF EXPIRATION.
“Dear Mr. Lescart,
“This is an automatic reminder that your life expires at midnight tonight.
Please do not try to reply to this email.
Have a nice day.
Very truly yours,
The Powers That Be.”
Simon tried to reply anyway,
but his email bounced back from the “unknown recipient”.
He knew it must be a stupid joke,
but he couldn’t stop thinking about it
as he fought the city traffic on his way to work.
What if this really was his last day?
He’d often heard the old saying,
“You should live every day as if it were your last.”
What should a person do on his last day, anyway?
Get drunk? Smell some flowers? Confess his sins? What?
He didn’t have much of a family to visit,
just a brother up in Akron and an ex-wife in Atlanta.
They hadn’t spoken in years.
He couldn’t think of any old sins offhand.
Maybe he should commit some?
He knew that the weird email was a fraud,
but he decided not to go to work today, just in case.
He pulled off at an exit and got back on the expressway,
going the other way, toward the ocean.
This is nuts, he thought.
He couldn’t think of anything really important to do,
befitting a persons last day on the planet,
so he just sat on the beach for most of the day and drank a few beers.
He felt a little nervous, like a high school truant,
but he also felt something else he couldn’t define. Was it freedom?
He had some guilt too, for wasting the day looking at the ocean.
Someone sat down beside him.
The man was obviously homeless,
in his ragged black suit and dirty torn sneakers.
The man said, “Are you okay, friend? You look kinda lost.”
Simon said, “That’s an odd word… ‘Friend’.
Now that you mention it, I guess I don’t have any of those.
Just a bunch of acquaintances.”
“Maybe you never really tried”, said the man.
“I’ve been pretty busy”, said Simon.
“You must have accomplished great things, being so busy”, the man said.
“No great things. Just keeping even. Paying the bills”, said Simon.
“Do you think you have any great things in you”, asked the man?
Simon said, “Maybe. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.
If I had the time I’d do things differently.”
That’s when the chest pain struck and the world faded to black.
He heard voices. “What Happened?” “Get back!”
He was being carried.
Then a blinding light above. People working over him.
“We’re losing him! CLEAR!”
Then a huge shock and the world was gone again.
The smiling nurse said, “Welcome back. You’ve had quite a day.”
“What time is it”, he asked?
“Almost midnight”, she said.
“I have to call my brother”, he insisted.
“We’ll contact him for you. You can talk to him in a few days.”
“I wish I HAD a few days”, he said!
A cell phone rang.
“That sounds like mine”, he said. “Where is it?”
“It’s beside your bed, but you need to rest.”
He reached for it, but she stopped him.
“I’ll answer it for you”, she said. “Lie back down!”
She said, “It’s just a text message.”
“What does it say?”, he groaned.
The letters on the cell phone screen said this:
People who tell us that it’s a pagan holiday,
just because it’s near the winter solstice,
may not realize what an intrusion that is upon our enjoyment.
We can each bring our own thoughts to the season,
and make it our personal non-pagan celebration.
It’s in the spirit of the beholder.
It’s hard to work up the spirit here in Florida,
but we give it a shot every year.
Misty decorates a tree,
and puts Christmas stuff all over the place.
We listen to Christmas music with the air conditioning on
and with palm trees lurking in the yard.
Television doesn’t help, with reports of all night sales,
talking heads urging us to be good consumers,
stranded travelers sleeping in airports,
and carolers singing “Happy Honda Days”.
I toss up futile prayers for snow here in the subtropics,
but this is the time of year
when we just get a cheap imitation of early autumn.
A couple of trees around here get a touch of red,
and I go look at them.
I get sentimental about Christmas,
probably because I had real Christmasy holidays years ago,
with folks who are no longer with us,
and my childish subconscious thinks it will happen again.
I think next year I’ll write a letter to Santa,
and ask him for one more snowfall in Buffalo,
where the night is silent, the homes are warm,
and Christmas is strong in the air.
It was the day before Christmas.
We were road tired and traveling westward through Illinois or Iowa…
on our way to another show somewhere.
We tried to cheer each other up,
and said we’d celebrate our Christmas at a later date.
The countryside looked like a Christmas card
through the windshield of our motor home.
Fine dusty snow was starting to whirl around.
and the Interstate Highway was just about deserted.
It began snowing harder.
We needed a place to pull in for the night,
but we hadn’t seen anything open for miles.
We started to get worried.
It was getting dark,
and the wind was blowing the snow into drifts.
We pulled off at the next exit,
but there was no sign of life except for an old barn.
There was a wooden sign over the door,
and Christmas lights were on inside.
It turned out to be a little store
with a few groceries, and some antiques for sale in the back.
The owner took us to a little room where they kept boots and snow shovels.
That’s where we plugged in our electric line.
Misty made a good deal…
One night, two dollars.
I dragged our small artificial Christmas tree out of the trunk.
She had it trimmed and lit in about ten minutes.
We’d been on a long hard tour
and we didn’t have any presents for each other,
so we looked around at the antiques and things in the store.
We picked out a few gifts,
but we didn’t have any way to gift wrap them.
Two or three at a time people from the town came into the store,
stomping the snow off their shoes
and saying “Merry Christmas” to each other.
They were smiling and friendly
and offered to take our gifts back to their homes and wrap them for us.
When they came back a while later our presents looked beautiful.
They brought along some cookies and eggnog,
and we had a little party with these unusual strangers.
We wanted to cancel all our future bookings and live here.
In the morning we woke up to snow covered cornfields
and a sparkling forest of winter trees.
An old rusty plow and a wagon
were half buried in the snow outside our window..
It was a perfect Christmas.
We don’t even know the name of the town,
or which state it’s in.
And we haven’t been able to find it on any map.
We just think of it as our Christmas Town.
Maybe it’s in the twilight zone.
By the time you read this it will not be current,
but I’m writing at the kitchen table on Christmas morning.
It’s a little chilly and the steam is swirling up from my coffee cup.
Carolers are singing softly and there are church bells.
I haven’t opened the curtains yet
but judging by the grayish light seeping through, it’s a winter day.
I haven’t heard any snow shovels, but it’s still early.
I think I’ll plug in the tree lights.
Even through the closed curtains
snow is visible in the corners of the windows.
Holly and candles add color to the room
and the silhouette of a Christmas wreath
can be seen at the front window.
As little as a couple of inches of overnight snowfall
can blow into deep white drifts,
so I feel around under the bed for my high top boots.
The ones with the knife pocket.
And I’d better get out my blue flannel shirt.
The checkered one.
That always feels good and warm on a winter’s morning
when the snow is squeaky cold.
We’d better hurry.
We’re due at Alan and Vivian’s house for Christmas dinner.
Funny, I can’t seem to find my high-tops,
or the flannel shirt,
or even my sheepskin mittens and earmuffs.
Grandma probably put them away somewhere.
I’ll ask her.
No, that’s right, I can’t ask her.
She’s not here. She’s been gone a long time.
Sometimes, especially at Christmas, I forget that.
I wonder what ever happened to those old winter clothes of mine.
Seems like I had ’em just the other day.
Or was it 20 years ago?
Got to go now, we’re late for dinner.
Don’t forget to turn off the tree lights and the air conditioner.
And, oh yes, the stereo Christmas music.
As I step out the door, Christmas presents under each arm,
the white glare makes my eyes water.
It could be snow. It really could!
But I feel the coral rock under my feet
as I step down from our motor home
and I hear the waves slapping against the shore a few feet to my left.
I wonder if they’re having snow up home.
Christmas has been my favorite holiday my whole life,
and I want to share it with you.
You don’t have to buy me anything.
Join me in toasting old Saint Nicholas,
if he will fit in our toaster. (Haha. I get jolly at Christmas.)
Cry with me at the ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Let’s boo and hiss together at Old Mr. Potter.
We’ll get sentimental listening to the Christmas carols at Walmart.
What time is Charlie Brown on?
Let’s all pray for snow even if we’re in Florida.
Enjoy new times with old friends.
If we don’t have any friends, let’s make some.
Find somebody who looks down in the dumps,
give them a big smile, and toss them a “Merry Christmas”.
If they just look at you funny and walk away, so what?
There are other people waiting to be annoyed with our Christmas glee.
Think about your home town, and try to recall the good times.
I think about Buffalo this time of year.
Not necessarily the real Buffalo, but the one that only I remember.
That’s where I got all my Christmas spirit to begin with,
shopping downtown… a lost art, and trimming the scotch pine
with people we loved more than we knew at the time.
I laugh and cry a lot as Christmas approaches.
I even cry at commercials.
I laugh easily at funny remarks, especially mine.
It’s embarrassing but I don’t much care.
Ten minutes after the joke has slipped into the past
I think about it and start laughing again.
Everybody tries not to notice,
and the more I try to stifle it, the more I laugh.
Tears come out of my eyes.
Christmas makes me weak.
So, whatever your religion or non-religion is, Merry Dang Christmas!
You don’t have to go to church if you don’t want to.
I probably won’t, but I might watch Midnight Mass on television,
and I’m not even Catholic.
It’s all part of the pageantry that is my holiday,
and I plan to eat too much, mellow out, and enjoy the feeling.
Call me on your holiday and I’ll join you,
What I’m saying to you right now is this:
“Merry Christmas to all good people.”
A long time ago Misty and I took a holiday season job in a Miami
department store in a poor neighborhood.
She was the photographer who snapped and sold the pictures of the
children on Santa’s lap. I was Santa.
The Santa suit and the whiskers were hot,
but it was an unforgettable experience.
Little poor kids would tell me their dreams,
which I knew could not come true for them, at least this year,
but they had faith in Santa,
and even a “maybe” from me made their eyes sparkle.
Somehow, I felt guilty.
One little boy asked me how come Santa Claus is white.
I told him I hoped he wouldn’t hold that against me,
and he assured me he wouldn’t.
There were always a few raggedy strays
wandering around the toy department,
giggling and touching all the magical things
that would soon belong to someone else.
Some of them laughed and pointed at me, but never came too close.
Others showed off to their pals by climbing right up on my lap,
as if they weren’t scared at all.
One little girl, dressed in filthy rags, was too small to climb up on my knee,
so I lifted her up. She weighed nothing.
I wondered if she was old enough to talk, as she just smiled at me.
Obviously, she was alone and uncared-for.
I asked her where her mommy and daddy were and she said, “Drunk”.
Then she confessed her love for me.
I asked her what she really wanted most for Christmas,
and she lisped, “New shoes”.
She wasn’t wearing any this winter.
“Merry Christmas! Ho-Ho -Ho”, I choked,
as she climbed down to be replaced by the next in line.
When business tapered off I searched the whole store for the little girl,
to buy her a pair of new shoes, but I was too late.
She had disappeared and I never saw her again,
except in my mind every Christmas.
When I was a department store Santa Claus
I tried not to cough or blink when anybody was around.
I knew they thought I was a life size Santa doll.
One lady had been browsing through the candy and toys at my feet.
When I moved a little she froze and stared at me for a long moment,
and then went back to looking at the toys.
I coughed and she did a fright dance.
Another time, in another department store,
I was waiting at the bottom of an escalator
for Misty to return from shopping upstairs.
I was bored, and drifted into one of my catatonic states.
I was wearing jeans, cowboy boots and hat, a denim shirt,
and a leather vest that was made for me at an Indian reservation,
on one of our western tours.
A lady was looking at some dresses on my right,
and happened to glance in my direction.
She casually came over and examined me.
I knew what was up and came back to reality, but I was afraid to move.
She reached out and felt the leather of my vest between her thumb and fingers.
I guess my eyes moved in response to her familiarity.
She seemed to go into shock and levitated a few inches straight up.
She put her hand over her heart like Fred Sanford having the big one,
and said, “Oh, my God! You’re alive! I’m SO sorry!”
I smiled and said, “No problem.”
I was beginning to enjoy these weird episodes.
Is that sick or what?
So, if you happen to come to my funeral, do me a favor…
Poke me a couple of times just to make sure.
Christmas is a time of sad happiness.
It gets more and more commercial,
but if the stores were closed wouldn’t it take away some of the fun?
Bar rooms are lined with the lonely, clinging to each other… like family.
Bartenders are parent images.
Displaced Yankees dream of gently falling snow that never turns to slush,
and wandering romeos often come home,
at least temporarily.
Telephone wires hum with long distance calls
between people who care about each other more in December,
which is better than not caring at all.
After-shave lotion is unwrapped with oohs and ahs,
toys are getting ready to be broken,
and puppies inhabit stockings.
Trees are always the most beautiful ever
if you just turn the bare side to the wall,
and eggs flow like nog.
Roaring hearths and good fellowship are for the very lucky,
but some will settle for a bag of groceries.
For certain people, this will be the first Christmas,
for others… the last.
“Merry Christmas” will be said in shacks,
castles, prisons, airplanes, battlefronts,
No matter what we say is wrong with it,
Christmas is a time when many people are a little nicer…
and that’s something.
At first he had resentments toward me and tried to hide them,
but we both felt something needed to be resolved.
For some reason it was hard to talk directly at the REAL subject.
I knew that he had heard a lot of things about me from his mother…
not all good.
Some were probably true.
Then he went away for a few more years before we tried again.
The next time was better.
We both had had time to think things over.
People told us we walked and laughed exactly alike.
We understood each other’s humor.
We were sitting with our wives in a barbecue restaurant
on one of his visits.
We both reached for the check, and I said,
“I’ve never done a damn thing for you,
so I’m going to do this one thing, and then THAT’S IT!”
He said this: “Aw, gee, pops. I wanted to go to college.”
We all broke up laughing.
That was the last time Misty and I saw him alive…
at least I think so.
That whole period is sort of mixed up in my mind.
He was riding his motorcycle in traffic
when the car in front of him hit the brakes.
Donn’s bike hit the car and threw him.
We rushed from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale to the hospital,
and he looked perfectly healthy,
except he was brain dead.
I talked to him anyway.
After that it’s all a blur.
Somebody pulled the plug and Donn died,
There was a little funeral in northern Tennessee.
I keep thinking of things I should have said and done differently.
I guess that’s natural.
Maybe someday we’ll get another chance to hash it all out.
Ed was a pessimist.
He said, “With all the crime in this city, I’m scared something will happen to it.
I never owned anything this expensive before.”
“Think only positive thoughts”, Denver said,
“and nothing bad can happen to your car.
Ed said, “You think you can do anything if you believe it?”
Omlit said, “You’re reality is a product of your thoughts.”
Ed was thinking a violent thought about Denver right then.
“OK. Let’s see you fly”, said Ed.
“I don’t want to fly”, said Denver.
“But you could, if you set your mind to it, right?”
“Yes, definitely. You are what you think”, said Denver.
“Then prove it, bigmouth!” said Ed.
The optimist wasn’t around for several days,
and then he was seen on the roof of their seventeen story building,
carrying out several large items toward the 47th Street side.
The items were: two light-weight balsa surfboards,
a large cardboard carton,
and a garbage bag with something lumpy in it.
He took a can of quick drying spray glue from the bag,
and sprayed both sides of the boards.
Then he dipped the boards into the box one-by-one,
and brought them out covered with feathers.
He leaned the boards on the foot high wall at the roof’s edge,
and while they dried
he got some other equipment from the box…
a football helmet, goggles, and two rolls of industrial duct tape.
He put on the helmet and goggles first,
because according to his plan it would be difficult later.
A crowd was gathering down on the street.
He turned back toward the roof entrance door and clapped his hands twice.
Three musicians came out,
carrying a bass drum, an accordion, and a police whistle.
They gave a raggedy fanfare as a young lady in a bathing suit twirled out,
did a circus curtsy like a magician’s assistant,
and began duct taping the feathery wings to Denver’s arms.
The bass drum beat slowly to raise the suspense.
From the garbage bag, the assistant retrieved a bullhorn,
and held it to Denver Omlit’s mouth as he spoke to the crowd below.
“If a bird can do it with a brain the size of a pea,
I can do it with my wonderful walnut of a brain.
I believe with all my heart that I can fly.”
He spread his wings with a flourish and stepped off the roof.
As he fell straight down he pep-talked himself.
“I can do it! I can soar like a mink!”
He looked down and saw the flagpole on the 14th floor.
It was coming at him right between the legs.
He hit it like a wishbone and the flag staff broke off
and started falling with him.
“Embrace the pain”, he shouted! “The pain is our friend!”
At the tenth floor his pants caught on a window air conditioner,
ripped off, and flew away.
“Ah, that breeze feels good”, he yelled!
The flagpole and the air conditioner had slowed his descent slightly,
and he imagined he had planned it that way.
At the fifth floor, the optimist said “So far, so good.”
The updraft was gathering under his football helmet,
causing a slight parachute effect.
He hit a small window awning on the third floor,
and then the big awning at the street entrance to the building.
It became a trampoline that bounced him toward the street,
where Ed’s Corvette convertible was parked… with the top up.
The convertible top crushed nicely,
affording Denver a comfortable landing in the red leather upholstery.
The above account is reported here
as it was presented at Ed’s trial for attacking the optimist.
When Denver testified from his wheelchair
that he was thankful because he would soon walk better than ever,
Ed had to be restrained.
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan…
© Jack Blanchard,© 2007, 2012, 2019