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Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the club,
the crowd was grooving to
each deep-hitting wub.

Their bodies gyrated as
glow sticks waved around
and the club lights pulsated
to the driving sound.

It was only 8 P.M.
The night was still young.
And Janice, the DJ, was
just starting the fun.

Her hair was bright pink
and her jeans were very tight.
She had on a shirt that said
“Let's do this night right!”

With laptop and turntable,
she mixed up her beats
'till ev'ry last patron had
gotten to their feet.

The party that night still had
four hours yet to go
'fore Christmas was rung in at
the end of her show.

As she looked around at the
many folks grooving,
she noticed that toward her,
a fat man was moving.

Dressed in a red coat with white
fur trim here and there,
and red pants with black boots
and wavy long white hair,

the man looked the part of
one jolly old St. Nick.
Like he'd stepped right out of
an old time Christmas flick.

The big guy came up as
she took a little break
while playing the song “Tonight”
by the band, The Take.

Grabbing the cold bottle of
her second Bud Light,
the big man leaned over and
said, “It's a good night.”

“I told you it would be,”
Janice said with a grin.
“I'll keep this place packed 'till
tomorrow can begin.”

“Indeed,” the man said over
top of the music.
“I can't thank you enough
for getting here so quick.

“When the other DJ called
and dropped tonight's gig,
I thought tonight was really
ruined something big.”

“No problem,” she said.
“I didn't have any plans.”
“Which shocked me,” he remarked.
“When I called other bands,

“they were in the middle of
spending Christmas Eve
with friends or fam'ly and they
got pretty darn peeved

“that I'd called them up and
bothered them on this night.
I figured you'd be the same.
Glad I wasn't right.”

“It's just Christmas,” she said
with bluntness in her tone.
“It's nothing to celebrate,
but to each their own.”

Her comment pulled a somewhat
disappointed frown
from the Santa-dressed man as
she set her drink down.

“We're not all Christmas lovers,”
Janice said frankly.
“This holiday is just
another day to me.”

With a look of dismay,
the man gave a small nod
just before she asked,
“So tell me, just where is Todd?”

“He took the night off,” he said.
“I'm here in his stead
so this place can stay open
while he stays in bed.”

“Huh, lazy bum,” she smiled.
“Figures Todd would do that.
But he chose the right guy
with you dressed up like that.”

“Just thought it would be fitting,”
he said with a grin.
“It fits,” she chuckled as
she lightly scratched her chin.

“What was your name again?
I can't get it to stick.”
The man smiled at her and said,
“You can call me Nick.”

Outside of the city,
some thirteen miles away,
an older man was talking
to his daughter, Kay.

He wore a dark brown sweater
and some tan dress slacks,
with aged brown leather shoes
that had a few small cracks.

His hair was gray and white
on his clean-shaven head.
He also looked upset
from what he had just said.

“Jesus Christ,” came Kay's mad voice
from the laptop's screen.
“She's still doing that crap?
How could she be so mean?”

“That's just how she is, Kay,”
Daniel said with a frown.
“ She's glad to be rid of me
and out of this town.”

“Even so,” Kay huffed, “she's just
being a mean bitch.
It's bad enough that woman
decided to ditch

us this year after some
thirty-odd years with you.
To gloat like that's bullshit
and damn cold hearted too.”

Daniel then admonished,
“Kay, she still your mother.
“You shouldn't say harsh things
like that about her.”

“I know, I know,” Kay exhaled
as she shook her head.
“It makes me as bad as her.
Still, she should drop dead.”

Daniel smiled a bit as
he let out a small laugh.
“I'll have to make sure you don't
write her epitaph.”

On his laptop's screen, Daniel
saw his daughter smile
as she nodded and said,
“Oh, I'd write something vile.”

The two talked for a while more
before she said, “Dad?”
Daniel replied, “Yeah sweetheart?”
She said, “I feel bad

for not being there with you
so that you're alone.
You shouldn't have to spend
Christmas all on your own.”

“You couldn't help what your boss
pulled, Kay,” Daniel said.
“He put you in charge of
the café and then fled

of to Mexico with his
girlfriend and their kid.
You don't have to feel bad
over what your boss did.”

“Maybe,” Kay pleaded,
“I should still be there with you.
You haven't spent Christmas
alone since I was two.”

Daniel smiled and said, “Hm,
I remember that year.
You and your mom got snowed in
over near the pier

by the blizzard that blew up
right out of nowhere.
They shut down the highways and
even closed O'Hare.”

“Yeah, that year sucked,” Kay grinned.
“But I just want to say,
I wish I could there be with you
on Christmas day.

“That I won't get to hug you
or sit down and see
'A Christmas Story' with you
really bothers me.”

“I know honey,” smiled Daniel.
“I wish you were here.
But at least we got to talk
for a while this year.”

“Merry Christmas, Dad,”
Kay smiled sadly. “I love you.”
“Merry Christmas,” Daniel said.
“And I love you too.”

Once Kay closed her chat program,
Daniel did the same
and then sat back in his seat
as some sadness came

to rest in his expression
once he closed his eyes.
He said nothing at first,
yet let out two soft sighs.

Soon his eyes opened and
his stare came to rest on
the letter he'd gotten from
somewhere in Taiwan.

In it, his ex-wife gloated
all about how she
had found someone better
that could made her happy.

Of how great her life was
without Daniel in it.
How glad she was to be done
“with all his dumb shit.”

A letter so riddled with
insults and deep ire,
it made their marriage sound
like a fetid quagmire.

Getting to his feet,
he turned on the radio.
At a softened volume,
music began to flow.

A few moments later,
he recognized the tune.
The classic song, “My Way,”
which Sinatra did croon.

His expression saddened
as the song continued.
He looked to the letter,
upon which he did brood.

Daniel's focus stayed there
for a half minute more,
'till he turned off the song
and went to the front door.

“I have to go out,” he said
and put on his coat.
“I can't sit here and dwell on
what my ex-wife wrote.”

Daniel found his keys still
within his coat pocket.
He stepped out, shut the door
and made sure to lock it.

He got into his car and
headed into town,
trying his best to not
let himself get too down.

But at the city's edge,
his car's engine began
to make a metallic
knocking sound as it ran.

“Oh, you better not die
out here,” Daniel uttered
as the motor began
slowing while it sputtered.

Within a few seconds,
Daniel's car at last quit,
leaving him to coast up
beside the curb with it.

He put the car in “Park”
and let out a small sigh.
“Of all the nights,” he groaned,
“you pick this night to die.”

Shaking his head, he stepped
out into the cold night
and looked for whatever help
that might be in sight.

Most places where closed, save for
two businesses he
could tell were still open
from all that he could see.

One was a Chinese place
that was called, “Tongmou's Shack.”
The other, was a small
night club named, “Todd's Outback.”

He looked at the restaurant
and smiled for a moment.
Then to the small club
was where his attention went.

The muffled music that came
from inside the place
told him it was loud and
filled with way too much bass.

With a resigned look, Daniel
strode into the club,
where a bouncer told him,
“Five bucks to get in, bub.”

The place wasn't packed,
but it was still quite busy,
with ev'ryone dancing
as if in a tizzy.

Some bounced to the rhythm
that was being pumped out,
while others flailed like some
crazed out-of-water trout.

Daniel grinned a bit as he
went up to the bar,
commenting on how dancing
had become bizarre.

“Good ev'ning to you, sir,”
Nick said as he drew near.
“Can I get you something,
like a shot or cold beer?”

Daniel looked to the man
who had asked the question,
which resulted in Daniel's
surprised reaction.

“You're the spitting image-”
was all Daniel got out.
“I know,” Nick cut in. “I look
like Santa, no doubt.”

“You should work at the mall,”
Daniel smiled as he sat
on a bar stool with, “You sure
got the look down pat.”

“I try,” Nick said with a
little, yet knowing grin.
Daniel then asked the man,
“So, how has tonight been?”

“Noisy, but good,” Nick said.
“I can't really complain.
We're busy and so far,
no one here's been a pain.”

“Well, I hate to bug you,”
Daniel said, “but could I
use your phone for a moment?
My car died nearby.”

“Sure,” Nick said, before bringing
up a land-line phone,
checking to make sure it
still had a dial tone.

“Here you go,” Nick said as he
gave the receiver
to Daniel, who said, “Thanks,”
and dialed the number

for the local garage that
was a few miles out
from where he now sat listening
to “Twist and Shout.”

The phone on the other end
repeatedly rang
until after fifteen rings,
he hung up with, “Dang.”

“I doubt anyone is
open,” Nick said frankly.
“Your best bet would be to
ask around here and see

if someone could give you
a lift back to your place.”
Daniel nodded to him and
said, “Guess that's the case.”

He got up from his stool
and went over to where
everyone was dancing
as if without a care.

One by one, he asked each
person on the dance floor
if they could give him a ride
to his home's front door.

And one by one, each of them
said some form of “no,”
leaving Daniel with just
one final place to go.

Waiting for a break in her
DJing work load,
Daniel asked Janice
for a lift to his abode.

“I'd help if I could,” Janice
said as she got her
next set of songs ready
to roll out, as it were.

“But I'm here 'till some time
after midnight tonight.
But if you can wait 'till then,
I'll do it. Alright?”

Daniel thanked her and got
her name before he went
back over to the bar,
where his night would be spent.

“So?” Nick asked as Daniel
took a seat on a stool.
“Did you find a ride home,
or was ev'ryone cruel?”

Daniel said, “The young lady
who's playing music
will give me a lift home,
but it sure won't be quick.

“She's here 'till midnight and
she'll do it once she's done.
Which means this night is going
to be a long one.”

Nick gave a small chuckle
and said, “Now, don't you fret.
You'll find something to
occupy your time, I bet.

In the meantime, if I may,
could I ask something?
Where were you off to on
this Christmas Eve ev'ning?”

Daniel leaned up and put
his elbows on the bar.
“Getting some air,” he said,
“but I didn't get far.”

“Kids and grandkids getting
too rowdy?” Nick asked him.
“Just... needed some fresh air,”
Daniel said, his tone grim.

Nick saw how Daniel's expression
grew a touch sad.
He asked what Daniel's name was
and once Daniel had

given it, Nick stated,
“Daniel, you look very
much like your Christmas Eve
isn't all that merry.”

“It's not,” Daniel said.
“But I'll get through this rough night.
I'd prefer not to dwell
on it, if that's alright.”

Nick asked, “Is it so bad
that you can't give it voice?”
Daniel nodded a bit with,
“That's why it's my choice

“to not go over it all.
It wouldn't be right
for me to dump it on
someone's Christmas Eve night.”

“Nonsense,” Nick said. “Christmas is
about sharing things
good and bad, no matter how
the pendulum swings.”

Daniel could see that
he had Nick's full attention.
He then talked of things
he'd wanted to not mention.

He spoke of his ex-wife
and how she had moved on.
The mean letters she'd send
him now that she was gone.

Of his daughter that he loved
so very deeply
and how she had not been
able to come and see

him for Christmas this year
because of her work
thanks to the man she worked for,
whom he called a jerk.

And lastly, he spoke of
how this was the first year
he was alone for Christmas
in many a year.

“So that's about it,”
Daniel said as he sat back.
“Thirty years of marriage ends
with this kind of flack.

I tried so hard in hopes
that my ex-wife and I
could make it work as time
continued to go by.

But what she was capable of,
I didn't see.
I was completely blind
to what she'd do to me.”

Daniel sat in silence
for a moment or two,
then he nodded a bit
as a sad smile came through.

“It wasn't all bad though,
as my daughter is great.
But sometimes I regret
going on that first date

with a woman who would
become so cold hearted.
Makes me wish that our dates
had never been started.”

“But then you wouldn't have a
daughter who loves you,”
Nick said softly, to which
Daniel nodded, “That's true.”

The two were quiet as
Janice's beats rang out.
But before long, a chuckle
from Daniel did sprout.

“Look at me,” Daniel laughed,
“dumping all this on you.
And just what your name is,
I haven't got a clue!”

“Wasn't bothered at all by
what you had to say,”
Nick said with a smile.
“And my name's Nick by the way.”

Daniel laughed again, with,
“That doesn't surprise me.
With the way you look tonight,
what else would it be?”

Nick let out a small chuckle,
as if to himself,
then set some cleaned shot glasses
on a nearby shelf.

A half hour went by as
Daniel sat and watched those
who'd come to party
dance to the tunes Janice chose.

He heard many old songs
that had a dif'rent sound.
Synths that weren't there before
and new drums that did pound

out a deep, thumping rhythm
that shook ev'rything.
It sounded strange to him,
but it made others swing

to the beat as the strange mix
of eras rode on.
But after a while,
he let out a quiet yawn.

“Some coffee?” Nick asked as
he came walking over.
Daniel looked to him, nodded
and answered with, “Sure.”

As Nick got the drink,
Janice spoke over the tunes.
“I'm taking a break,” she said.
“But I'll be back soon.”

Setting up a few songs
to play while she was gone,
Janice came to the bar with,
“So what's going on?”

“Just keeping myself busy,”
Daniel said and smiled.
“Got myself some coffee,
since we'll be here awhile.”

“Getting some myself,” she said.
“Cause use small jolt
so I don't doze of before
the two of us bolt.”

They silently sat with
an awkwardness abound
while they both waited for Nick,
who couldn't be found.

“So uh, tell me,” Daniel said,
breaking the silence.
“Where did you find old songs
that were given intense

new drums, synths and such
put onto their vintage sound?”
Janice stated, “I made them.
None of them were found.”

“How?” he asked, an
inquisitive look on his face.
Janice then gave him a
rundown of how she'd place

the new rhythms and beats
atop each classic tune,
while muting and EQing
each one until soon

she'd have a new take on
a song that many knew.
When she was done, Daniel
gave her a surprised, “Fwew!

That sounds like a lot of
work to get that all done.”
Janice nodded with, “Yeah,
but it's a lot of fun

to take a song that's grown
a bit long in the tooth,
and give it new life
to use in my DJ booth.”

As if right on cue,
the next song started to play;
a new take on Sinatra's
old classic, “My Way.”

Despite the changed thumping drums
and the new bass line,
again Daniel's expression
showed he wasn't fine.

He looked away from Janice,
who'd caught his mood shift.
She could also see how
his mind began to drift.

“You OK, Dan?” she asked
as she saw the way he
began to tear up as
he told her, “Excuse me.”

She watched Daniel walk off,
leaving her there with a
puzzled look on her face
as Nick headed her way.

“Where's Daniel?” Nick asked as
he returned to the bar.
Janice said, “He just left
after acting bazaar.”

“In what way?” Nick asked,
to which Janice did reply,
“He walked away after
looking like he could cry.”

After a few minutes,
Daniel came back and said,
“Sorry about that.
I needed to hit the head.”

Though he tried hard to hide it,
Janice could still see
hints of Daniel's emotions
trying to break free.

She watched as Daniel sat
himself on a bar stool
and how he still tried hard
to play ev'rything cool.

She took the stool beside his
as Nick looked concerned.
“You OK, Daniel?” she asked.
To her, Daniel turned.

“I'm fine, young lady,”
he said with a forced small smile.
“I think not,” she replied softly.
“Not by a mile.”

Daniel said nothing at first.
He just sat in place
with a torn and heartbroken
look upon his face

as behind them, her remix
of “My Way” still played,
making sure the sadness
in his expression, stayed.

“It, um,” Daniel started,
getting stuck on each word.
“When I proposed to Lynn,
'My Way' was what I heard.”

“Who's Lynn?” Janice asked.
“She was my wife,” Daniel said.
With a sorrowful stare,
Janice asked, “Is she dead?”

Daniel shook his head with,
“No, she's still quite alive.
She left me early this year,
for a guy named Clive.

“Seems she had grown tired
of being part of my life.
So she found someone new
and stopped being my wife.”

“Oh,” Janice said, her tone
now getting a bit hard.
“Did you two fight a lot,
or leave each other scarred?”

Daniel could hear the way
Janice's voice became
more accusatory,
as if he was to blame

for why his ex-wife was
hating him so much now.
That all he was enduring
was his fault somehow.

“No,” Daniel said. “I gave
her ev'rything I could.
My heart, my love, my support...
a life that was good.

“Both she and my daughter
were ev'rything to me.
But after three decades
my wife began to see

“me as a hindrance to what
she wanted to do.
She got angry, spiteful
and intolerant too.

“I tried to be patient.
To do all I could do.
But it turned out she just wanted
somebody new.

“So, she filed for a divorce
and revealed that she
had been seeing some guy
while still married to me.”

“She what?!” Janice exclaimed,
the hardness in her tone
having vanished at what
she'd been verbally shown.

“Now she takes pride in
mocking me,” Daniel stated.
“She tells me that Clive's
the best she's ever dated,

that she regrets marrying me
and having Kay,
our grown daughter who she
also just tossed away.”

“That's just cold,” Janice said
in a disgusted tone.
“Why does she do that crap
and not leave you alone?”

“That's the problem,” Daniel said
in a saddened voice.
“I was left alone
without any kind of choice.”

Janice and Nick watched as
Daniel stood and walked to
the club's big front window
and looked out at the view.

Janice looked to Nick.
“What did he mean?” she then posed.
Nick told her of how Daniel's
daughter was supposed

to visit, but couldn't thanks
to her boss at work.
Which prompted Janice to say,
“What a fucking jerk!”

“Not quite how I'd put it,”
Nick said chastisingly.
“But you won't hear a defense
of Kay's boss from me.”

Janice looked to Daniel
as he stared at the snow
that was gently falling
just outside the window.

“My Way” then finished,
making her look over at
the open and raised booth
where her equipment sat.

“Damn,” Janice muttered with a
sour look on her face,
as she went back to her booth
at a quickened pace.

Getting on the mic,
she spoke to ev'ryone there
and told them she was back,
so they'd better prepare

for the beats to hit hard
at a crazy tempo.
And once she was ready,
she called out, “Here we go!”

But even as she worked
the turntable like mad,
her eyes still drifted to
the one man who was sad

as he stared out the window
with coffee in hand,
watching quietly as
snow blanketed the land.

Her attention was split,
but she still did her job
and made those there to dance,
juke, jive, bounce and bob.

But after an hour,
it was time for a break;
one that Janice was
very much ready to take.

She told the gathered crowd,
“I'll be back in thirty.
Meanwhile, grab some food, then come back
here to party.”

She closed her laptop and
returned to the bar, where
she rejoined Daniel,
who now sat quietly there.

“You OK?” she asked,
bringing him to look over.
“I'm alright,” he said and
gave a small smile to her.

For a minute or two,
they sat quietly there
as an awkwardness hung
in the chatter-filled air.

Despite all the people
that Nick served busily,
it still felt as if it
were just Daniel and she.

For a few moments more,
Janice was lost in thought
over what Daniel said
and why he was distraught.

“This is just a guess,”
Janice said in a soft tone.
“But is this the first time
you've spent Christmas alone?”

“In a very long time,”
Daniel said quietly.
“I see,” Janice muttered as
she nodded slightly.

“Sorry to hear that,” she said.
Adding flippantly,
“Now you know why this
holiday means zip to me.”

“It what?” Daniel asked,
his voice filled with confusion.
She said, “Christmas is just
annoying commotion.

“Presents and gatherings,
ev'ry damn Christmas song,
it's all complete bullshit
that people run headlong

into like lemmings without
giving it a thought.
It's just a dumb holiday
that can be store bought.”

Daniel sat stunned on his stool
with his mouth agape
'till “How can you say that?”
from his lips, did escape.

“It's true,” she said bluntly.
“Christmas is bought and sold.
Maybe for some people
what I say may seem cold,

“but it's just another day
filled with stress and strife.
So I've never celebrated
it in my life.”

“Not once?” Daniel asked,
his tone growing disheartened.
“Not once,” Janice replied.
“Not even in pretend.”

Janice could see the
disbelief in Daniel's eyes.
“Don't get me wrong, Daniel,” she said.
“I don't despise

“the people who enjoy
the holiday, like you.
I just don't see the point,
to do what you all do.”

Daniel just looked at her
with dismay in his eyes.
“Janice,” he said calmly,
“this may be a surprise,”

“but for my fam'ly,
Christmas wasn't about things.
It was being with loved ones
and all that it brings.

“Sure, we exchanged gifts,
but that wasn't the focus.
We showed the love for fam'ly
that was within us.”

“And how did that work out?”
Janice then asked bluntly.
“You're now sitting in a club
without that fam'ly.”

Daniel stared at her
with disbelief in his eyes.
But soon he looked mad
and from his stool, he did rise

and said, “Yeah, I'm alone this year.
That's very true.
But I'm not going to take
snide remarks from you

just so I don't lose
the ride home you offered me.
Now if you don't mind, Janice,
leave me the hell be.”

With that, Daniel left and
took a stool well away
from the one to which he
had nothing else to say.

Janice shook her head and
rested her elbows on
the bar's top as she glanced to
where Daniel had gone.

About one minute later,
Nick groaned as he said,
“Why are all these people
here and not home instead?”

Janice looked to Nick,
seeing him stretch out his back
just before she heard it
let out a muffled crack.

Nick smiled with relief as
he looked over at her,
but then saw the foul mood
that her frown did infer.

“You OK?” Nick asked.
“I'm fine,” Janice snapped quickly,
to which Nick then replied with,
“You're not fooling me.

“My marriage is one that's
lasted so very long.
“I've learned when my wife says, 'I'm fine,'
something is wrong.”

Janice looked up at Nick,
who gave her a small grin.
She smiled ever so slightly
and then did begin

to tell him what happened
between her and Daniel.
Once she'd finished, Nick stated,
“That didn't go well.”

Janice scratched the side
of her head with her right hand.
“I wasn't trying to be mean,
I just can't stand

“when people talk at me
like I'm sick in the head
because my desire to
do Christmas is dead.”

“Janice,” Nick said, “I'm sure that
Daniel didn't mean
to make you angry or
create some kind of scene.

“I don't know why Christmas
doesn't mean much to you,
and I'm also sure Daniel
doesn't have a clue.”

Nick could see that in her mind,
Janice was elsewhere.
And for a good minute,
the two stayed silent there.

“Maybe you two should talk,”
Nick said in a soft tone.
“You're both here on Christmas Eve
and you're both alone.”

“I don't want to be preached at,”
Janice said harshly.
“I'm sick of having people
constantly tell me

“how great this or that is
'bout this damn holiday.
I don't like it and wish
it would just go away.”

She looked to Nick with
a stare that was rather vexed.
But his calm stare was mirrored
in what he said next.

“I won't preach,” Nick said as
he looked her in the eye.
“All I'm asking is for you
to talk to the guy

“who needs you to help him
get home on this cold night.”
Janice saw Nick's sincerity
and said, “Alright,

but he'll be walking home
if he gets all pissy.”
“Fair enough,” Nick smiled.
“Thanks for doing this for me.”

Janice gave him a small smile
then stood and went down
to stand beside Daniel,
who still wore a deep frown.

Once she reached him, she asked,
“You mind if I sit here?”
Daniel simply said, “Yes,”
with ire that was still clear.

Depsite what he'd said,
Janice chose to sit beside
the man whom she'd promised
that she would give a ride.

At first, not a word was
exchanged between the two.
Instead, each had their own thoughts
on which, they did chew.

In time, Janice looked
to Daniel where he sat next
to her with an expression
that showed he was vexed.

“Daniel, look at me,”
she said, and once Daniel had,
“I know you're having a stretch
of time that is bad.”

“Bad doesn't cover it,”
Daniel said angrily.
“I should be back at home
with all of my fam'ly.

“Instead, I have an ex-wife
who taunts me with glee,
a daughter who's stuck
at work and can't visit me,

a car that just died and
left me stranded in town,
and a woman who's trying
to browbeat me down.”

“I know my comment
was uncalled for,” Janice said.
“But it wasn't meant to
beat you over the head.”

“Then why'd you say it?”
Daniel asked in such a way
that showed his hurt feelings,
which caused Janice dismay.

She let out a small sigh
and leaned over a bit.
“You want my reason why?
Well Daniel, this is it.

“When I was growing up,
I learned very fast to
not look at Christmas
in the same way that you do.

“I was just me and my mom,
as my dad had split.
He got knocked her up,
but wanted no part of it.

“So she raised me for a while
'till she'd had enough
of the 'playing mother' thing
and all of that stuff.

“By the time I was six
and had reached second grade,
all her motherly instincts
had started to fade.

“Sometimes my mom worked,
but usu'ly she had gone
out with some shit guy,
getting her so-called groove on.

“Half the time she'd be home
when I returned from school,
sitting on the sofa next
to some complete tool

“who thought it was just fine
to say things to me, like,
'I wanna fuck your mom,
so go ride your damn bike.'

“The rest of the time,
she be out 'till the morning,
then stagger in drunk
at 6 A.M. or something.”

Daniel looked on dumbfounded
as she stared to him,
like he couldn't believe
her tale that was so grim.

“How did you eat?” he asked her
with clear empathy.
“I cooked,” she said frankly,
“or got some deliv'ry.

“Sometimes she'd leave cash
so I could order some food.
I ate alone a lot
while she'd go do some dude.

“Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas,
the fourth of July...
they were all normal days
as they kept going by.

“No fanfare, no hoopla,
no cause to celebrate,
they were just days to get through
and patiently wait

“until I could move out
and leave that shit behind.
I fought like hell to hold on
to my peace of mind.

“From the time I was six,
until I turned eighteen,
I saw crap at home that
can never be unseen.

“Christmas, Thanksgiving and
all those damn holidays
that are centered 'round fam'ly
and happy displays

“of peace, love and joy and
all of that kind of shit,
don't mean a thing to me.
Not one damn little bit.”

As Daniel had watched her,
he saw her anger build.
With each word that she'd spoken,
her eyes became filled

with tears that had been caused
by the pain of her tale.
And soon down her cheeks,
did her first tears of pain sail.

“I've got no mem'ries to cherish.
No one to care
that it's Christmas Eve night
and I'm not fucking there.

“So if you wonder why
I'm not very happy
when this day comes around
and others get sappy,

“it's because if I took
the time to celebrate,
I'd be toasting to all
my past bullshit I hate.”

Janice looked away as she
closed her eyes as well,
and to the bar's countertop
was where her tears fell.

Daniel sat on his stool
without saying a thing.
But after a moment,
his right hand he did bring

to rest on her back as
he watched the woman try
so very hard not to simply
break down and cry.

“I'm sorry,” he said
as he gently rubbed her back.
“I had no idea
you'd taken so much flack.”

From where he stood at
the bar counter's other side,
Nick could see the emotions
Janice couldn't hide.

Serving one final drink,
he then began to walk
toward Daniel and Janice
and their revealing talk.

“Janice,” Daniel said softly
over the crowd's noise
as Janice tried to regain
some of her lost poise.

“I'm sorry your mother
treated you so badly,”
Daniel said as he rubbed
her back very gently.

“That she ruined the days
meant for joy and delight
for you was unjustly cruel.
That just wasn't right.”

Janice nodded, with,
“I'm sorry that your ex-wife
has made it her goal to
shit all over your life,

and that your daughter's not here
to be by your side.”
And with a little smile,
“Oh, and that your car died.”

Daniel smiled as well
before getting to his feet.
He held out his arms to her
and she left her seat

to return the hug that
he was offering her.
And for a good minute,
they stayed right where they were.

A mutual moment
of comforting was shared,
as each let the other
know that somebody cared.

“You two OK?” Nick asked
once he reached the duo,
just as Daniel and Janice
let each other go.

“We're alright,” Daniel said
as Janice dried her eyes.
Nick smiled and asked,
“So ev'rything's good with you guys?”

“Yeah,” she nodded, giving
Daniel's arm a soft pat.
“I think we've gotten over
our small lover's spat.”

Daniel laughed as she did,
then the two took their seats
as Nick asked, “You need anything?
A drink or treats?”

“Treats?” Daniel replied and watched
as Nick reached down for
a bowl of some pretzels,
crackers, Chex mix and more.

“You've been holding out,” Janice
smiled as she took a
handful of the snacks and
began to munch away.

“I can't leave them out all night,”
Nick said with a wink.
“If I did, they'd be gone
faster than I could blink.”

It was then that Nick returned
to the other side
of the counter where he'd been
before Janice cried.

He gave the young woman
and stranded older man
some time to themselves
for a half hour's time span.

But while he stayed away,
he could still hear them share
a bit more about their pasts
as they both sat there.

But as Nick listened,
he could also hear how they
soon began to laugh
their horrid mem'ries away.

Daniel shared stories,
like when he and his daughter
went out in the snow to get
a small Douglas fir

to use for their Christmas tree,
but forgot to bring
an ax or hatchet
to cut down the stupid thing.

All he'd had in the car
was an old cordless drill,
which made cutting the tree down
a back-breaking thrill.

They talked 'till it was
almost time for Janice to
go back to playing music
for ev'ryone who

had come to the small club
to ring in Christmas day
in a deep-thumping and loud
“party all night”-way.

“Well, Daniel,” Janice said as
she stood from her seat,
“I've got work to do yet
before we hit the street.”

Daniel watched as she finished
the coffee she'd bought,
before finding himself
lost in a moment's thought.

“Janice,” Daniel said
as his eyes focused on her.
“If you're around tomorrow,
why not come over?”

“To your place?” she asked,
to which he nodded his head.
She was quiet for a moment,
then Janice said

“Let me get this straight.
You're saying that you're OK
having a near stranger over
on Christmas day.”

“I am,” Daniel said,
giving Janice a warm smile.
“We could have something to eat
and talk for a while.”

Janice said nothing at first
as she stood in place;
an uncertain expression
firmly on her face.

Daniel then stood up with,
“If you'll both excuse me,
I gotta use the bathroom.
I'll be back shortly.”

As Daniel walked away,
Janice watched the man go.
She stayed quiet after that
until Nick said, “So...

“you going?” he asked
as she maintained her silence.
“You have no real plans,
so why are you on the fence?”

“How do you know?” Janice huffed
as she looked to Nick.
“I could have a hot date
or want to see a flick.”

“Is that the case?” Nick asked
with a grin that did grow.
She said nothing at first,
then gave a mumbled, “No.”

Nick rested his elbows
on top of the club's bar.
“Then it seems to me that
what's the best plan by far,

“is the one where Daniel
doesn't spend Christmas day
in his house alone
while ev'ryone is away.

“While at the same time,
giving you a little taste
of what Christmas is like
when love's not been replaced

“by the callus disinterest
your mother gave you.”
When she said nothing, Nick asked,
“So what will you do?”

Like before, Janice went silent
as she stood there,
while Nick's focus stayed on her
with a concerned stare.

“You spent years by yourself
on many holidays.
He's alone for the first time
in sev'ral decades

on a holiday where
he'd always had fam'ly.
So why not go over
so that you'll get to see

“what it's like to spend Christmas
with people who care?”
Nick finished as Janice
gave him an unsure stare.

The two remained quiet
until Daniel came back
and ordered some coffee
with a candy bar snack.

As Nick brought over
the stuff Daniel had asked for,
Janice at last spoke over
the club crowd's dull roar.

She asked warily,
“Are you sure that you're OK
with having me come visit
you on Christmas Day?”

“Of course,” Daniel exclaimed.
“You're giving me a ride.
The very least I can do
is share some yuletide

cheer with you since you've been shown
so little of it.
So you're welcome to come
to my home and visit.”

Janice smiled at him and said,
“I think I'd like that.
But right now, I've got music
to get playing, stat.”

Janice went back to where
her laptop and such were,
quickly getting it set
with hands that were a blur.

But soon she was ready
and the music began.
A House remix of
Ace Frehley's “2000 Man”

kicked off her playlist
as she worked her turn table,
scratching at times as she
kept the big beat stable.

Daniel sat and listened
to the music she played.
How involved her scratching got
and how well she stayed

on rhythm no matter
how crazy it all got.
“She's good,” Nick said as
he brought over a fresh pot

of black coffee to refill
Daniel's empty mug
while Janice dubstepped
The B-52's “June Bug.”

“That she is, Nick,” Daniel said
and smiled as she waved
to him to from where
so many people danced and raved.

Before ev'ryone knew it,
midnight came and went.
“Merry Christmas” tidings
by Janice had been sent

to those who had come
for all the festivities,
getting a round of cheers
from those she had appeased.

The party and music
were soon brought to a close,
and Nick asked Janice
about doing some more shows.

By one in the morning,
Janice had packed her gear
before asking Daniel,
“You ready to leave here?”

“I'm all set,” Daniel nodded
and got on his feet,
looking as if he was
almost completely beat.

“Thanks for all the coffee, Nick,”
Daniel said as he
reached in his back pocket
and pulled his wallet free.

“So how much do I owe you?”
to which Nick stated,
“It was on the house since
you sat here and waited

“for so long so you could
get a ride to your place.”
“Are you sure?” Daniel asked
with surprise on his face.

“I am,” Nick said and smiled.
“Now if you two don't mind,
I'd like to close this place
and go home to unwind.”

Daniel grinned as his put
his wallet back away.
“Thanks,” he said and shook Nick's hand.
“We'll be on our way.”

Janice shook Nick's hand too.
“Thanks for hiring me.”
Nick nodded his head with,
“You're welcome young lady.”

Daniel and Janice soon stood
outside in the snow.
They went to her small car
and were about to go,

when Daniel looked around
and spotted Tongmou's Shack.
A smile came to him as
he tapped her on the back.

“Want a bite to eat?”
he asked, pointing to the place.
“Sounds good to me,” she said
with a smile on her face.

They began to walk up to
the Chinese restaurant,
making sure they didn't slip
during their short jaunt.

When they were half way there,
Daniel gave a small laugh
and said, “You know, I wonder
if that place's staff

“can sing 'Jinger Bears' for us
when they bring the rice.”
She slapped his arm and chastised,
“Daniel! Now be nice.”

“What?” he blurted out.
“It's from 'A Christmas Story',
about a BB gun
and a boy named Ralphy.”

As they walked to Tongmou's Shack,
he explained the plot
of “A Christmas Story,”
from which he had got

the Engrish rendition of
the “Jingle Bells” song.
How at the movie's end,
was where it came along.

From inside the closed club,
Nick watched from the window,
as Daniel and Janice
walked through the falling snow.

A bond was being formed
from two opposite ends,
with what they'd gone through
helping them to become friends.

Nick smiled to himself
and took a few steps away
from where he looked out
upon the new Christmas day.

With a snap of his fingers
the club filled with light.
And when it quickly vanished,
Nick was gone from sight.

The club was now quiet
with no people around.
But resting on one table,
a small note could be found.

On it, was a cheerful phase
that someone did write.
“Merry Christmas,” it said.
“And to all, a good night.”
Not every Christmas can be perfect, but sometimes you meet someone who can make a rough one seem a little bit better.

Original story © The Coop 2016
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Submitted on
January 7, 2017
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