A Christmas Story

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Once upon a time in the Province of Ontario there was a lovely little town called Mariposa. Like most little towns the world over, Mariposa was just the sweetest place, especially in December. Everyone who lived there loved the festive season.

Mariposa was a regular winter wonderland that year. There had been a blizzard back in November and it had been snowing off and on ever since. It was the soft, fluffy kind that drifted up the side of the big mansions on Oneida Street almost to the windows. The warm and cozy lights shone through and sparkled on the snowy lawns, the $100 shrubs and manicured bushes that had been imported from as far away as Leamington. The whole world seemed to be covered in a giant blanket of white.

The council had Mr. Ross, the town engineer, put up a giant Christmas tree in the little park across from the town hall and kitty-corner from Mr. Robinson’s Hardware Store. Mr. Robinson was a wonderful man according to his friends and customers – although his ex-wife, Rosslyn, said he was a poop.

The people of Mariposa were shocked to hear a woman use such language. We all said it was no wonder that Mr. Robinson left her and moved in with Miss Rubella Rollins, the teller from the Exchange Bank – you know the lady I’m talking about – the blonde girl with the big chest who calls all the men, ‘sailor’.

That has nothing to do with this story; I just thought some of the older gentlemen might remember her. As a matter of fact, I don’t know how you could forget her. Miss Rubella was so well endowed that whenever she walked down the street, a man had to run ahead with a red flag.

But as I was saying, the folks in Mariposa loved the Christmas season and that year all the service clubs and lodges got together on the first Saturday in December and bought hundreds and hundreds of Christmas lights. Later that night, after the children were snug in their beds, the members sneaked downtown and decorated the tree.

The Lions Club brought lots and lots of red lights, the Rotary club navy blue, the Kiwanis had boxes and boxes of green lights, the kind that flicker on and off for no apparent reason. The Moose Lodge strung long strands of clear lights all around the bottom of the tree and right above them the Knights of Columbus hung white lights with gold flecks on the side that had been blessed by the Pope – apparently, according to the label, when he was passing through Taiwan.

The Knights of Pythias got a hell of a buy on great strings of multi-coloured lights that flashed and flickered in all sorts of silly patterns and the Shriners drove round and round in circles in their little cars although no one knew why.

At midnight, once the tree was decorated, all the clubs and the adults who could still walk (the Legion had supplied funny pops) gathered round. Then everyone sang ‘Let’s Go to the Hop’ just as the mayor, Mr. Ruggles, placed an angel made of old coat hangers right on the tippy-most top of the tree as he hung upside down from the giant crane they borrowed from a construction site.

At that very moment Mr. Remley, the Chief Engineer of the Mariposa Power Company threw the big switch up at the Swift and 50,000 volts zipped through the lines.

Suddenly there was a POP and a big BANG followed by a PSSSSST, CRACKLE, CRACKLE, OMIGOD and then there was a kind of explosion and the tree burned right to the ground, including Mr. Ruggles and an environmentalist, Mrs. Ruddy. No one knows where she came from, but I’ll bet she’s sorry she left.

Mr. Remley said “Oops” and immediately called his Union Representative.

In the morning the children woke up and ran downtown just as the Mariposa fire department was hosing down the last spark. All the little tykes stood there amidst the ruins and what was left of Mr. Ruggles’ smouldering shoes and said,

“Damn! Something finally happens in this one-horse town and I slept through it.”

That isn’t part of the story either. That is what we story tellers call useless information just like the stuff our representatives at Queens Park and Ottawa send every year in their Christmas messages. More junk mail for the blue box.

I must rest, more next week.

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