JANUARY 7, 2012



So anyway, the weather has moved from the heavy coat of fog and chill to splendid days of striated blue skies and temps ranging into the seventies. Thinking its all over for now, the squirrels have come out, plump as furry balloons, but lacking their usual frisky behaviors, moving a bit like someone just getting going before the first cup of coffee on Monday morning. The Canadian geese have been going to town over at Washington School during the holiday recess, gabbling and pooping happily on the playing field there, so we expect there will be some sqwawking and fluttering when the kids come back.

As mentioned before most of the gang got seasonal work over in Babylon. Jose and Javier got jobs wearing green pants, curlicue shoes and hats with bells to the store Santas. This year the store hired three Santas to cover the shifts, and Marlene got to be Miss Sugarplum Fairy so long as she covered up her tats with body makeup and removed the facial hardware.

She covered the tats with her costume and heavy foundation, but no way was she going to be taking out all the metal. Which was fine, as the nose piercing sparkled delightfully after she borrowed a stone from the jewelry department, and most of the time she kept her mouth shut, which is really all that certain kinds of retailers want out of any woman in general anyway.

Wow! You got something magical in your tongue Miss Sugarplum Fairy!

Marlene, was, however, the only Sugarplum Fairy with a piece of steel piercing her tongue. Some of the younger kids really loved it. Wow! You got something magical in your tongue Miss Sugarplum Fairy!

My boyfriend thinks so too, said Marlene. Here, have some magic dust! And she would shake her wand so that glitter fell all about and the kids laughed and clapped their little hands.

When the Holiday Season came to an end, quite abruptly on the 24th around nine o'clock when the Manager, Mr. Stint, showed up and fired everybody all at once. He did this at nine so that there would be no "getting ready to go" and so that everyone could turn in their uniforms, check out all the equipment and still have time to spend what they earned in the same store. Also, anybody still shopping for something on December 24th after nine sure as heck was bringing in no kids to play with and urge to prod parents into buying yet another pink iPoodle device with the Barbie attachment.

Stint had, in fact, carefully trained all the Santas with scripts that included lines like, "So that's what you would like for Xmas, Jeremy? Wouldn't it also be neat if you got a Guitar Hero kit from the electrics department? That's the 2nd Floor, Jeremy. To get to the elevator just go past the bakery where they have perfectly scrumptious cupcakes with blue frosting for just two ninety-nine. . . "

Or this. "I bet your dad would really like a brand new Black and Decker cordless 20volt reversible drill with keyless chuck! Wouldn't that make him laugh and clap his hands!"

Jose and Javier and Xavier had all been coached as well in how to look adorable and sing "Away on a Manger" and "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel," but none of them could remember the words in English, so they sang "O Tannenbaum" in Spanish, replacing the key words sometimes to make it interesting.

"Los necessitas, los nessessitas, que verde son sus paredes de baño!"

Marsha joined them as a sort of uni-sex elf and taught them all a few words. Their version of Feliz Navidad featured Yiddish and Hebrew and was wildly unprintable, but began

Bris milah!
Bris milah!
So happy is the moholem
At Bris milah!

So on the 24th they all joyfully collected their paychecks and, marching well away from the ongoing chaos in the Departments fled that place where guys were punching each other in the aisles over the last Air Jordan shoes and women were pepper-spraying each other over Tickle Me Elmo dolls, one of which turned on amid the melee of savage kicks and tears and screaming.

"Ha, ha, ha! That tickled! Do it again! Do it again!"

Mr. Howitzer was gone on to his final reward

So the Holidays of 2011 passed with little event. Little event save for a somber and short funeral procession that left the Baptist chapel where Reverend Rectumrod spoke to a sparse collection of relatives, insurance adjusters, attorneys, and basic leeches as well as our man Dodd. For his former employer, Mr. Howitzer was gone on to his final reward as related previously.

Dodd, with his usual efficiency, had hammered everything together in a nick of time, dispensing with any wake or lying in state -- dispensing with the cost and bother of embalming entirely in fact, much to the disgust of the undertaker, Mr. Black, who, since he had gotten nothing from Mr. Howitzer in life, neither well-wishes nor remuneration, imagined that he was owed something from the wealthy man after his passing.

Dodd, knowing no one had ever cared about the man, chose the economy model casket, and chose a casket only because Mr. Howitzer had already a pre-paid plot waiting for him in Colma (the Chapel of the Chimes cemetary had been too pricey).

It was the quickest funeral ever done by Mr. Black. They were out over the bridge and back in time for tea. No one paused by the open grave, no one sought condolences. This was all about looking at who you might have to sue to get a slice of the pie left behind.

He had not spoken with his brother for well over twenty-five years

As it turned out, there were no slivers. It all went to Bob Howitzer, Harry's brother. Mr. Howitzer had struck out name after name on his will as this one or that one had incensed him, along with long notes as to his reasons for displeasure, meant to be read at the whatever reading of the will might happen. Since most did not show up for that, such ceremony was brief as well. He had not spoken with his brother for well over twenty-five years, so there had been no occasion to strike off his name.

His next closest relative, Aunt Withers, lived in Wrinkled Neck, New York and refused to attend any of it. "Look sonny," said the woman. "Stepping in front of a bus is the best thing the jerk ever gave me."

It was a firetruck, ma'am, Dodd politely corrected.

"I'll send a basket of wine and fruit to the entire firehouse," Aunt Withers said. "What's the address?"

O for pete's sake, Dodd said.

One could do better than leave behind a legacy such as this. Some people find it very little trouble to set up a bluegrass concert series in the park, for example.

So anyway, Dodd found himself in the study facing what turned out to be his new employer, Mr. Howitzer #2, who turned out to be nearly a carbon copy of his brother and every bit as blunt.

the right people always come out on top. What say you to that?

"I made my money the old fashioned way," Mr. Howitzer said while sorting through papers at the big desk. "I inherited it. And just when things were looking a bit thin, I inherit some more. Just goes to show you, the right people always come out on top. What say you to that?"

"Uh . . . yes, sir."

"Hmmph. Glad you agree. So you do what around here?"

"Everything, sir. Pretty much everything."

"Ah! Good! Then keep doing it."

"Yes, sir."

"Now go. Do what you do. But be ready if I need you."

"Yes, sir."

When Dodd got home, carrying an object wrapped in brown paper Barbara asked him if his former employer had remembered the man who had served him hand and foot for over fifteen years.

He had.

Dodd put the package on the kitchen table and unwrapped a silver serving tray with several hard candies. Dodd stopped Barbara from unwrapping one to eat it.

O those are quite old. From the early eighties I think. He got them in case any children dropped by on Halloween. None ever did so they just sat there year in and year out.

There's an inscription on the plate, Barbara observed. They pushed aside the candies to read what was there.

Princess Coq-au-Vin Memorial Races, Fuselli-on-Tine

O Dodd, Barbara said and put her arms around him. Dodd began laughing.

I am really glad the old bastard did not remember me at all, he said. And I still have a job.

Just like the old one.

Just like the old one, he agreed. Let's go to Chevy's for some fresh Tex-Mex.

In going out, Dodd dropped the plate and the candies in the trash.

After dinner they came out to walk on the short pier there in Emeryville while egrets plashed in the tidepools on the edge of the turquoise water that rippled out to where Mt. Tam bulked under the sunset slashes of azure, crimson and gold fading on up to the heaven of stars.

Look! Barbara said. There is a beautiful full moon!

It is the first full moon of the new year, Dodd said.

They stood there a long time looking at the moon, the sea and the stars before heading back to the Island.

While the couple lay in bed, looking at this moon, Padraic also looked at this same moon from the doorway of the Old Same Place Bar. Inside the bar, even though the moon looked distinctly white, or pale yellow at most, and most certainly not pink, Denby played the Nick Drake song. Dawn and Suzie also came out.

Old Schmidt also came out and said something in German. "Der Mond ist noch hell heuteabend."

"What's that about hell," Padraic asked.

"Ach, hell means light in German," Old Schmidt explained.

"So a Hellman would be a man of light," Suzie said.

"Ja, ja. I suppose so."

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the star-spackled waters of the estuary before wavering over the moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats with the wind as the locomotive wended its way from the tall gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to parts unknown in the new year.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.