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'Twas the night before Christmas
in an unknown town,
and an old man nicknamed “Coop”
had sat himself down.

He'd gotten his mail and through
it all he did sift,
and each bill-like letter
made him look a bit miffed.

He set them aside
and chose instead to read through
the cards he'd been sent that had
pictures in them too.

Ones with friends he hadn't seen
for quite a long while.
Seeing those old faces with
fam'lies made him smile.

Some cards let him know who
was still hanging around,
while others let him know
who was now in the ground.

Such things were the norm when one
reached his advanced years.
But his mem'ries of them helped
him through any tears.

At the end of each card was,
“Merry Christmas Coop!”
A name he had earned
from a mishap with the group

of friends he grew up with
who were there on the day
the chickens his parents owned
had all run away.

He'd left the chicken coop door
open by mistake,
and quite a bit of trouble
is what it did make.

For two days, he had to run
all over the town
as he tried to track each one
of those chickens down.

He had managed to do it,
but not before he
was nicknamed “Coop” by his friends
for eternity.

And so Coop read the cards
and put them all aside
and mulled over some mem'ries
that they had supplied.

But one particular card
stopped him in mid-thought,
and confusion to his face
was what it had brought.

He knew it had to be from
people that he knew.
But the names of those people
just couldn't punch through

the fog that was in his mind
as he thought back for
a time that was sev'ral
minutes long, if not more.

It wasn't until he'd
picked up the envelope
and saw the return address
the sender had wrote.

But even as he saw
the name of who'd mailed it,
how he knew them, his mind
continued to omit.

But those thoughts vanished as
the sound of two women
brought his mind back to the
here and now once again.

His daughter had arrived
just the day before last,
and planned to stay with him
'till the holidays passed.

Her name was Natasha
and she was 52.
He was so very proud
of what she'd grown into.

She worked as the principle
at a local school.
She was kind, loving, funny,
and she was no fool.

Ev'ry single year she would
come down to visit.
She'd spend each Christmas with him,
and never missed it.

And this year was no diff'rent.
She'd come without fail
with her 20 year old child;
a sweet girl named Gail.

Gail was a bit diff'rent
from her mother, 'twas true.
She dressed like a punker
with hair that was dyed blue.

She liked to wear blue lipstick,
and wear spiky bands
around her slender wrists
just below both her hands.

Her shirts were torn and her pants
were all much the same.
A wild child to many
that could never be tamed.

She could swear like a sailor,
and laugh at it all.
She loved to take hold of life
by its hairy balls.

But when she was with her mom
and her Grampa Coop,
she showed a diff'rent side
to her loved fam'ly group.

She was feisty and smart mouthed,
but sweet to her core
and showed lots of love
to both of them, to be sure.

Those girls were his pride and joy.
They brightened his life.
And both were there for him
to aid him through his strife

when the woman he'd loved
had passed away after
giving him 40 years
of joy, warmth and laughter.

Natasha had been there at
anytime for him.
To talk on the phone,
or come over on a whim.

And Gail was always ready
to give him a hug
when she felt he'd been bitten
by the sadness bug.

In the 14 years since,
they'd remained very close.
They were there for one another,
through highs and lows.

But there were no lows ahead
as Coop stood up and
took hold of his oak cane
with his withered right hand.

Standing from his seat,
Coop walked out to the kitchen
where the game of “dinner”
was about to begin.

As he came in, he could see
Natasha and Gail.
The former was cooking
while the latter's arms flailed.

Gail stood beside her mom,
and “C'mon!” Gail did say.
“It was my turn to cook up
some eggs for today.”

“The last time I let you
try that,” Natasha said,
“you gave Grampa the shits
and left him sick in bed.”

“You can't hold that against me,”
Gail laughed. “I was four,
and I'd never tried making
scrambled eggs before.”

“Like that mattered to Grampa,”
Natasha smiled back.
“Come on now, Natasha,” Coop said.
“Cut Gail some slack.”

The two women looked over
and gave Coop a smile.
“Hi Grampa,” Gail said before
hugging him awhile.

When she stepped back, Coop looked at
Gail's dyed and spiked hair,
noticing that something looked
a bit diff'rent there.

As Coop studied her hair,
“That a new shade of blue?”
“Yeah,” Gail said smiling. “Thought I'd
try a diff'rent hue.”

“I thought so,” he said
after a moment or two.
“I think that new color looks
real spiffy on you.”

“Spiffy?” Gail chuckled.
“What in God's name does that mean?”
“It means it looks fine,” he smiled.
“It looks really keen.”

Gail laughed again with Coop's use
of an older term
just before she gave him
a quick hug that was firm.

“Thanks, Grampa Coop,” she said
with a kiss to his cheek.
“I'll have to use those words when
I get home next week.”

“So when'd you do that?” Coop asked
as he took a seat
at the table so he
could get off his sore feet.

“This morning,” Gail said
before grabbing a few plates.
“Thought I'd wait 'till I got home,
then figured, why wait?”

“What's that mean?” Coop said.
“I've got a blue bathroom sink?”
“Big time,” Gail replied
as she gave Coop a quick wink.

“Joy,” Coop chuckled as he
shook his weathered old head.
“It could be worse,” Gail quipped.
“Could be hot pink instead.”

Coop laughed with a sigh
as Gail set up the table,
getting ev'rything in place
so she was able

to join Coop as Natasha
finished up the meal,
then doled out their feast of
some scrambled eggs and veal.

Once the food was gone
and they'd all gotten their fill,
Coop took his day's last
required little white pill.

The three stood from the table
and cleaned the kitchen.
And if any complained,
they were told, “Quit bitchin'.”

With that done, they retired
to the living room, where
Coop picked up a book
he'd previously set there.

“Got a few letters from friends,”
Coop mentioned. “Although,
one of them is from someone
I don't really know.”

“Can I see that letter?”
Natasha asked her dad.
Coop gave her the letter
and photo with a, “Yeah.”

Natasha looked at
the photo, and soon after,
a frown came to her as Gail
let out some laughter.

Natasha looked up and saw
Coop trying to get
the fly near his face as
he said, “I'll get you yet!”

With two swings of his hand,
Coop swatted the fly down,
then squashed it as he began
to swear up and down.

“Damn thing's been in here
all of the damn day,” he said.
“But I got the damn thing!
Now that little prick's dead!”

Natasha smiled as he basked
in his victory.
But a sadness came to
her smile eventu'ly.

Saying nothing, she simply
put the letter back
and placed the photo on
Coop's opened letter stack.

Gail saw how her mother
was looking a bit down.
But Natasha saw this
and tried to hide her frown

as she gestured for Gail
to sit down on the floor,
and joined her daughter there
after a moment more.

Getting himself comfy
in his old recliner,
Coop took up the role of
that night's tale designer.

It was all about how
the brothers Dave and Ray
tried to get their mom some presents
for Christmas day.

In short stanzas of seven
and five syllables,
Coop told of a night where
the brothers tried to pull

a little robbery to
get their mom something
for Christmas, since money was
what they were lacking.

But their heist went poorly
and they got little dough.
Yet Santa stepped in to help
them out a bit, though.

At first the brothers didn't
think Santa was real.
But St. Nick proved he was
and made those men a deal.

He'd help them if they both gave
back what they'd taken.
If they did, he'd ensure
their mom would awaken

to find presents that would fill
her up with much joy.
But only if each brother
remained a good boy.

The brothers did so,
and on the very next day,
their mom's eyes lit up
when she saw what Dave and Ray

had given for her on that
early Christmas morn.
Three presents that made tears
in her eyes become born.

Once Coop finished his spin
on the holiday lore
of Christmas Eve as told
by one Clement Clarke Moore,

he bowed his head a bit
to Natasha and Gail
as they gave him some applause
for his Christmas tale.

“How do you come up
with this stuff?” asked Natasha.
Gail added, “You've got too much
time on your hands, huh?”

“What I said's true,” Coop laughed.
“These  came straight from the source...
with bits of embellishment
here and there, of course.”

“What source?” Gail asked with a grin.
“Santa Clause,” Coop said.
“Uh oh, Mom” Gail chuckled.
“I think he hit his head.”

“No joking,” Coop insisted.
“I tell you no lie.
I get all of these stories
from that jolly guy.”

“Uh huh,” Gail smiled. “And I bet
he hangs out here, right.”
“He sure does,” Coop replied.
“Ev'ry Christmas Eve night.

“We talk for a while,
and he tells me all about
how he's been before he leaves
and heads on back out

“to deliver the rest
of the presents he has
to hand out to all the kids
and all of that jazz.”

“You're goofy,” Gail smiled
as she went up to him and,
with a kiss on the cheek,
said, “But I have to hand

it to you, Grandpa Coop.
Your stories are the best.”
She then gave him a smile
and a pat on his chest.

Coop watched her walk out
from the room they were all in,
then looked to his daughter
with not even a grin.

“I'm telling the truth,” he said.
“That's where they're all from.”
“Come on, Dad,” Natasha grinned.
“My daughter's not dumb.”

“It's the truth,” he insisted,
seeming a touch vexed
as Natasha's grin faded
and she looked perplexed.

“Dad,” she said, “there's no reason
to get so upset
over her not believing
your biggest tale yet.”

“I see him each year,” Coop said.
“No lying or jest.
I share these tales with you two
at Santa's behest.”

“OK Dad, I believe you,”
she quickly exclaimed
before her father's ire grew
and got more inflamed.

“Let's call it a night, huh?”
she said, with a forced smile.
“Sure,” he said calmly.
“But I'll stay out here a while.”

“Alright,” Natasha said
with a kiss to his cheek.
“Goodnight, Dad” she added
with a smile that was weak.

Leaving him to his own,
she started down the hall,
with the small smile she'd forced on
beginning to fall.

At the short hallway's end,
she entered the guest room
where her daughter was sitting
and noticed her gloom.

“You OK, Mom?” Gail asked
as her mother came in.
Natasha just stood there,
not sure where to begin.

Turning around, Natasha
closed the bedroom door.
“Can we talk?” Natasha asked.
Gail then replied, “Sure.”

Natasha sat on the bed,
looking very blue.
“Gail,” Natasha started,
“I've something to tell you.

“Your grampa's getting worse”
Natasha said to her.
“There are things that he's starting
to not remember.”

“Like what?” Gail asked her
with much concern in her stare.
Natasha patted the bed
so Gail would sit there.

Once her daughter had,
Natasha let loose a sigh.
“His friends and their names,” she said.
“Like Louise and Guy.

“That picture and letter
he got was from those two.
But he didn't recall
their names, or faces too.”

“Maybe it was a brain fart,”
Gail said hopefully.
“He knew them last year,”
Natasha said painfully.

“He's known them for 40 years,
and now he can't recall
their names, or faces,
or the things they shared at all.”

Gail's eyes grew glassy looking
as she turned away.
“But those pills he takes,” she said.
“They keep it at bay.”

Natasha saddened more
as she said a soft, “No.
The best that those pills can do
is cause it to slow.”

Gail looked to her mom with
a tearful stare of plight.
“It's not fair,” she said sadly.
“This shit isn't right.”

“I know,” Natasha said
as she wiped off a tear
from her daughter's left cheek with,
“But Grampa's still here.”

“For how long though?” Gail asked,
her sorrow in clear view.
“How long before Grampa
forgets about us too?”

Gail's question was like a hard
emotional shot.
And for Natasha to not cry,
took quite a lot.

“That won't happen,”
Natasha said, doing her best
to seem very sure,
and calm her daughter's unrest.

But Natasha's brave facade
didn't stop Gail's tears,
nor did it quell Natasha's
own looming grave fears.

Yet out in the living room,
Coop sat in his chair,
looking a bit distant
as he sat alone there.

It was five minutes later
when a flash so bright
filled the room for a moment
with its blinding light.

Coop shielded his eyes with
his right hand that he'd raised
'till the light vanished and left
his sight a bit dazed.

“You know,” Coop said, “you could give
me some warning when
you're about to blind me
for a moment again.”

He lowered his hand
and saw standing before him
was someone who wasn't close
to being called 'slim.'

The red coat and red pants
with the white fur lining,
the black belt and boots that were
polished and shining,

the red cap with a fuzzy
small ball on its end,
the bushy white beard
and white hair that did extend

around and from the smiling
man's chubby old face...
it all told Coop that Santa
had come to his place.

“Now where's the fun in that?”
Santa said as Coop stood.
“Have to let you know when I'm
in your neighborhood.”

Coop let out a laugh as he
when up to St. Nick
and gave the jolly man's hand
a shake that was quick.

“It's nice to see you,” Coop said.
“Have yourself a seat.”
“Wish I could,” Santa said,
his tone not as upbeat.

“Oh?” Coop said. “You can't stay
for very long tonight?”
“Afraid not,” Santa said.
“I still have a long flight

ahead of me to finish
dropping ev'ry gift.
So my visit with you
will have to be quite swift.”

“That's a real shame,” Coop said.
“I enjoy each visit.”
“I know, Coop,” Santa said.
“But this visit is it.”

“It?” Coop repeated.
“What are you talking about?”
Santa smiled sadly and said,
“Coop, without a doubt

I've enjoyed coming here
and telling you these tales.
The things that I've witnessed
in all of their details.

“But there's a diff'rence between
you and me, my friend.
My time here will last ages,
while your time will end.

“You've listened to me
and shared what I told to you.
You told your family
and wrote a few books too

so that others could hear
all the things that I've seen.
Things that were goofy or gross,
and all in-between.

“From places on The Web,
to the ones that were real,
you did your very best
to make the readers feel

like they were there with me
ev'ry step of the way.
But on this Christmas Eve night,
I came here to say...”

It was at this point,
Santa felt a small lump form
in his throat, while he gave
a sad smile that was warm.

Santa finished with, “Coop,
I won't be coming back.”
“What?” was all Coop said
as his jaw went a bit slack.

Santa put a hand
on Coop's shoulder and then said,
“It's time for you to focus
on fam'ly instead

“of trying to relay
all the things I've told you.
Natasha should be
your main focus, and Gail too.”

“But they enjoy the things that
you give me to tell,”
Coop said pleafully
as his emotions did swell.

“I know,” Santa said.
“And I enjoyed it all too.
Taking a little break
so I could talk to you.

“You willingly did it all
for year after year.
But I think that it's time
for it all to end here.

“Spend the time you have with them
before it's too late.
Don't lose that time due to a
cruel twist of fate.”

“Cruel twist of fate?”
Coop repeated, even though
what Santa was speaking of,
he really did know.

“Do I have to say it?”
Santa softly replied.
Coop just shook his head gently
as “No,” he then sighed.

It was then that Santa reached
into his thick coat
and pulled out a gift
on which “Gail” someone had wrote.

He took a second gift from
the very same place,
but this one had “Natasha”
written on its face.

“Before I go, do something
for me,” Santa said.
“In a very short time,
they will have gone to bed.

“Give these gifts to them when
they wake up tomorrow.
I feel they'll need it
after a night of sorrow.”

“What's in it?” Coop asked
as he took hold of each gift.
Santa said, “Something that will
help their spirits lift.”

When he saw Coop look confused,
Santa gave a smile,
then came up to Coop
and hugged him for a brief while.

After a couple seconds,
Santa let Coop go.
“I have to go, Coop,” he said.
Coop replied, “I know.”

“Thank you for helping me
with all this,” Santa said.
“For writing down all of the
stories in my head.

“For giving them a life
so that others could see
the kinds of bizarre things
that have happened to me.”

“You're welcome,” Coop said.
“It was fun while it lasted...
even with the tales that left
me flabbergasted.”

Santa gave a small laugh
and a smile; sad but warm.
“Take care, Coop,” he said right
before light hid his form.

Like when he'd arrived,
Santa left in a bright flash,
leaving Coop standing there
holding the girls' small stash.

“No more tales to tell,”
Coop said in a quiet tone,
looking at the room in which
he now stood, alone.

But just down the hall,
with the door slightly ajar,
Natasha and Gail were
listening from afar.

“Well?” Natasha asked
with a clear look of concern.
It took Gail a few moments
before she could turn

and face her mother
with an emotion-filled stare.
“He stopped talking,” Gail said.
“But no one else was there.”

Natasha's face saddened
as she closed her eyes tight.
“I can't deal with this,” she said.
“Not now. Not tonight.”

Gail watched as her mother tried
to retain her grip
on the strong emotions
causing her bottom lip

to quiver a little
as she sat in silence.
It wasn't long before her
mom's tears did commence.

Quietly, Natasha cried
into her right hand;
the pain within her heart
just far too much to stand.

Gail came over and sat down
beside her mother.
The two hugged where they sat,
consoling each other.

“I'm right here, mom,” Gail uttered,
keeping her mom near
as her own pain ran down
her cheeks within each tear.

They did all they could
to not let Coop hear how they
were fighting to contain
their heartbreaking dismay.

But in time, their emotions
had settled enough
to try and get some sleep;
though it proved to be tough.

Yet though they were filled
with their concern for ol' Coop,
exhaustion set in.
And into sleep, they did droop.

Their dreams were fitful at first.
They both turned and tossed.
But after an hour,
their restlessness was lost.

The pain on their faces
as they lay with eyes closed,
had melted away
as they continued to doze.

And as they slept in their room,
Coop too went to bed.
Resting for the day
that was waiting up ahead.

The next morning soon came
and it didn't take long
before Natasha and Gail
woke up to a song

that was playing from
somewhere else inside the house.
Gail groaned and asked,
“Why am I hearing Mickey Mouse?”

Natasha brought forth a smile
as she laid in bed.
“I don't believe he did this,”
Natasha then said.

“Did what?” Gail mumbled
as she sat up with a yawn.
“Assault our ears with that stuff
first thing after dawn?”

“Be quiet,” Natasha grinned,
getting to her feet.
“I haven't heard this in ages.
This is damn neat.”

“Uh huh,” Gail said groggily
as she stood from bed,
stretching a little
before she then scratched her head.

The two of them put on
the bathrobes that they'd brought,
and went to the living room
where they both did spot

Coop in his chair with
his old record player on,
as the air filled with the start
of “The Chipmunk Song.”

“Where did you get this from?”
Natasha asked her dad.
He looked to her and said,
“It was something I had.”

“Had where?” Gail asked.
“Stored in a museum somewhere?”
Coop chuckled as he stood
and came up to the pair.

“Found it up in the attic,”
he said presenting
the worn sleeve of the vinyl
music recording.

Natasha took the sleeve and
looked at its worn face
with a big nostalgic smile
as she stood in place.

“Disney's Merry Christmas Carols,”
Natasha grinned.
“I haven't seen this since you
used to tuck me in.”

“I thought you might like it,”
Coop said with a warn smile.
“Now let's open some stuff.
I've been waiting a while.”

Without an opposing word,
they went to the tree
and began opening
their presents in a spree

that yielded torn paper
and comments full of joy
exchanged between the two girls
and the older boy.

But when the trio had seen
the gifts that were there,
Coop got to his feet
and went over to his chair.

He came back with the small gifts
Santa had asked him
to give so Natasha
and Gail would feel less grim.

“These are for you,” Coop smiled
as he held out each gift.
“They're from Santa,” he added,
which then brought a shift

in the girls' expressions
as they shared a quick look;
one that mixed with worry
as their presents, they took.

“You open them,” Coop said.
“I'll go make us some food.”
“Thanks,” Natasha said in
a voice that was subdued.

Both women shared a second
look filled with unease,
'fore Natasha took Gail's hand
and gave it a squeeze.

Then their attentions turned to
what Coop'd given them;
the gifts from Santa,
from which their worry did stem.

They opened them up
and found that folded inside,
was a piece of paper
which they warily eyed.

Natasha looked to Gale,
who shrugged with questioning.
Natasha took out hers,
and after opening

it up, she just stared at it
in a confused calm.
But soon Gale quietly asked,
“What does yours say, Mom?”

Natasha looked over.
“I'll tell you,” she decreed.
And soon Natasha began
to quietly read.

“Dear Natasha,” she began.
“This letter's for you.
It's for your piece of mind
and what I hope you'll do.

“First, know I am aware that
your father is ill.
I know why he's forgetful,
and takes that small pill.

“But when you heard him talking
to himself last night,
I know you and Gale cried
as you stayed out of sight.

“But he wasn't alone,
like you seem to believe.
I was in the room too.
He was talking to me.

“Only he could hear the things
that I said to him.
So you see Natasha,
things are not quite so grim

as you and your daughter
both believe it to be.
Now, I hope that you both
will please listen to me.

“I can't stop what's coming,
but I can tell you this;
don't keep looking ahead
or both of you will miss

“the times here and now that
all of you can still share.
The times you'll lose if you
focus just on despair.

“Like all those we love,
he won't be there forever.
So enjoy the time you still
have left together.

“I have to go now.
Goodnight to you, Natasha.
Give my best to your fam'ly.
Sincerely, Santa.”

Natasha looked to her dad
as he stood in place
before the stove with a kind
smile upon his face.

He looked over at her
and gave her a small wave.
A warm smile and a wave back
is what she then gave.

She looked down at the letter
and grew wide-eyed when
she saw that the paper
had become blank again.

“What the-?” she uttered
and held the paper up so
she could see both sides, saying,
“Where did the words go?”

“What?” Gail asked as her mother
looked very confused.
Then Gail looked at her letter
that was still unused.

She read the text and looked
bewildered, like her mom,
as she got to the end
and saw who it was from.

“Mine says almost the same thing,”
Gail said in surprise,
then gawked as its words vanished
right before her eyes.

She stared at the blank page
in complete disbelief;
speechless with her thoughts stolen,
as if by a thief.

“I don't believe this,”
Natasha said quietly.
“Did Santa write a letter
to both you and me?”

“C'mon girls!” Coop called out.
“This food will get cold soon.
So get your butts out here
and grab yourselves a spoon.”

Gale and Natasha shared
a very puzzled look
that told of how their minds
had been thoroughly shook

right down to their core
as the girls got to their feet
and went into the kitchen,
where they took a seat.

Fried potatoes and some eggs
that were scrambled well
filled the room with a tasty
and wonderful smell.

They ate in silence
'till the food had been eaten.
Before long, Natasha teared up,
and that was when

she got onto her feet
and came up to her dad.
He looked up at her and asked,
“Why are you so sad?”

“I'm not sad,” Natasha smiled.
“Will you stand for me?”
Coop did as she had asked,
and within seconds he

received a big hug from her;
one that he returned
with an expression which showed
that he was concerned.

“You OK, honey?” he asked.
“I'm fine,” she replied,
holding him close tightly
as she quietly cried.

They stayed as such for a time,
'till she let him go.
Then Gail hugged him next
before both girls let him know

that they loved him so much
as each fought back their tears
and tried so very hard to
push down on their fears

that had taunted both of them
just one night before,
as they'd cried for a while
behind their bedroom door.

Though he now looked a bit lost,
Coop told them no lie
when he said, “I love you, too,”
and watched them both try

to regain their composure
'fore they lent a hand
cleaning up and getting dressed
for what they had planned.

They all went out into
the cool air for a walk.
Their stroll was an excuse
for them to simply talk

about yesterdays and the
moments that made them
laugh and smile as if each one
was a treasured gem.

They had lunch and dinner,
and enjoyed a few flicks
'till the 10 o'clock hour
was just a few ticks

away from striking
and ending their Christmas day.
That's when the girls decided
to be on their way

to bed so they could get
some badly needed rest.
They hugged Coop and kissed him,
saying he was the best.

Before long, they were sleeping,
with Coop in his chair
just watching the fire burn
the wood logs that were there.

Quiet filled the room,
save for the logs' crack or pop
that would cause the fire tongues
to waver and hop.

He sipped some water and thought
about the whole day.
The girls, the day's events,
and what Santa did say.

“I guess that's all done,” he said
nodding just a bit,
as he looked reflective
and continued to sit

for a time, before he
got up onto his feet.
“I'll miss his visits,” he said.
“They were always neat.”

With that, he turned to
the hallway and started for
his bedroom at first,
but chose to go to the door

of the room his daughter
and grand daughter were in;
doing so quietly
to not wake the women.

Giving the door a small push,
it opened a bit
and Coop peered into the room
that was dimly lit.

He saw his two sleeping girls,
and smiled at the sight.
“Merry Christmas you two.
And to all, a goodnight.”
He's been telling stories for years. But with what's coming in time, maybe it's time to shift his focus.

Original story © The Coop 2015
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Submitted on
December 18, 2015