Christmas George

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a man whos kind actions changed the way I feel about family and holidays forever

Submitted: May 30, 2012

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Submitted: May 30, 2012

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A A A


George

Christmas sucks ,I don’t think I am going to stick around this time. I think I want school to start back up, so I don’t have to be with my family. Last year wasn’t that great, but I like this year, 8th grade , better .I wish I could talk to Melissa, she seems nice, or any girl really, but her the most. It feels like girls can see right through me, and I get sick to my stomach if I am forced into conversation with them. Melissa smiles at me and then looks away every time I see her. I have never even said hi, she probably thinks I’m a weirdo and if I talk she will know I am, so I’ll just take the smiles.

It’s around 3:00 and its cold out, I have been walking, killing time since early morning. I don’t want to go back to our cruddy townhouse where we live for now. I am starving and I spent the last of my money on that candy my little sisters wanted, before they went away. I’m glad the police took them, but I miss them, I bet they will stay with the Jensen’s for a bit. That’s where you go for short stays until things cool down.

They are nice people, the Jensen’s. They are Mormon, I don’t know exactly what that means, but I know it’s not catholic. Mrs. Jensen is a heavy lady that smiles a lot, Mr. Jensen, who all the kids that stay there just call Mr., is a sturdy guy with workman’s calloused hands and a faded tattoo of a green guy with a motorcycle helmet on his forearm. Some kids are afraid of him, he will spank a kid acting like a brat, but he doesn’t hit and he is fair. I got spanked for not sharing a toy when I was around 8 or so. I still liked him and the spank wasn’t that bad, it hurt my pride more than anything.

Usually I can find a place to eat ,the last couple days I just kind of forgot, and now my stomach is twisting into an angry ball, reminding me that filling it should have been a priority. It’s that gloomy grey holiday time, and it seems as if there is nobody around. I’m going to go to that bakery in the next town over and see if they dumped the day old stuff out yet. Sometimes in the big blue dumpster out back there will be cupcakes or cookies and almost always bread, good bread. It’s pretty clean in there, most of the stuff will be in clear plastic bags so you can see what to pull out without having to dig through anything too gross, or unidentifiable. I walk past the Hospital, and head to the Metro to go downtown. I can smell the bread in my nose already , I sneak onto the metro, in D.C. that’s what they call the subway, and ride into the city, stopping off at the bakery in Silver Spring. I go behind the building and look in the dumpster……..nothing but cardboard.

Nobody around but a few people with bags in their hands that I imagine are presents for their families. I want to go to the natural History Museum downtown, I have been warned about sneaking in a bunch of times, but I know they won’t do anything. Unless Phil or Sarah are working, they always let me in and a couple times Phil bought me a sandwich. If they aren’t there it is pretty easy to eat in the cafeteria without paying, I usually just get in line with a big family and then get a tray fill it up, sit down and eat. I don’t know if the lady rings my stuff up with theirs or not, but I have never been caught doing it. I get back onto the subway and head to the museum. I walk up the steps, I hope Phil is there. He is a nice old man; sometimes in my head I pretend he is my grandfather. He has white hair and bushy white eyebrows and he is really tall. Most old people aren’t tall I wonder how big people will get in 1000 years. I open the door to the lobby and my heart sinks, it’s that same lady that called security last time. I don’t know why she just doesn’t leave me alone, I don’t hurt anything, except maybe the profit margin of the cafeteria. I just turn and leave before she sees me and makes a big stink, Besides I think it’s closing early today anyway so I might as well see where I can stay tonight, but first I do need to get some food. I can’t wait until I am 16 and can get a real job so I can just work and buy whatever I want to eat anytime I want.

Well, its 5or 6pm and starting to get dark and colder so I head back to Silver Spring, just over the line into the Maryland side where I started. I have a hanger in my jean jacket that I can get into most cars with, I go to a parking garage I know and look for cars that have a cup of change in the front seat, my shoe has a hole in it and I wish I wore my winter coat but I wanted to look cool if I ran into Melissa. Now I just feel like a loser, like a jean jacket would give me the magical power to change me from weirdo into cool guy. I see a man getting out of his Cadillac, a four door, I always go for sedans, and I can easily get into that model, he takes out a suitcase and slams the trunk closed with a thunk. I watch him go into the elevator and look over the wall and see him cross the street with suitcase in hand. He looked like a business man I wonder what he does. I walk up to the car and look around. It’s Christmas Eve now and the garage is still. I think I see a dollar sticking out of the ashtray. I slide the hanger between the window and weather strip and pull the little hook I made back up. I see the lock moving but it’s not unlocking. I’ll give it a couple more tugs.”POP” there it is! I open the door and reach in; I am going to get a double “R” burger at Roy Rogers maybe two if there’s enough? Crap! It’s just a piece of paper, the disappointment stings. It has a phone number on it and he might need it, so I put it back. It has been a long day, it’s dark, cold, and I am still hungry but, I am also tired and my feet are sore and this car is still warm, so I might as well climb into the backseat and take advantage of at least that benefit. The guy had a suitcase so he won’t be back tonight anyway. He is probably going home for Christmas. I unlock the back door and get into the back seat to warm up a little and rest my eyes, I just want to sit for a bit, my eyes are heavy, I just need to close them for a minute. I think about what I would eat if I could have anything I wanted, I think about biting into a warm slice of Jerry’s Pizza and then washing it down with root beer that I added a little milk to, so that it tasted like a float.

” what the hell are you doing in my car!?” a voice blasts my ears; I can feel the vibration of the powerful voice on my cheeks.

My eyes flash open and I can’t focus and he is screaming at me, am I home? Where am I? I put my hands up to shield the blow that I know to be coming. What’s going on? every hair on my body is on end ,I need to run, I’m in that car, I fell asleep, It’s all back now, it’s the businessman guy and he is pissed ! My heart feels like it’s beating so hard that it wants to run right out of my chest and leave me there. Before I can get out the other door he reaches in and grabs me by the collar of my jacket, I put my arms up and try to slide out of it, but he has the collar clinched tight around my neck and I just look like I am trying to surrender, with my arms up, elbows pressed against my ears. I want to kick him and run, but my legs aren’t listening to my brain and they just stay bent with my knees in my chest, and now I am just waiting for the beating to start. I clench my eyes closed and think about nothing; I need to get to that place in my head where the blows that are landed will have no affect on me, no pain, just dull thuds that are easy to manage. Nothing, nothing is happening? I should have felt the first blows by now? I don’t feel the grip on my collar anymore? I slowly open one eye, squinting just in case he is waiting for my eyes to open before he hits me.

“What are you doing in my car kid?” The man says in a calm voice, almost a whisper, raspy

I can’t answer him, something in me wants to, but I can’t find my voice. “What’s your name?” he asks. He looks sad now and he says this in that whisper voice. He has that look on his face that I know well. He sees the marks on my face from last week. My right eye is still swollen and numb. I forgot about it until I saw that look, that look from people that I can’t stand on his face. It reminds me that I didn’t fight back, that I didn’t do anything to stop it, and now someone else in the world knows how weak I am. I want to evaporate, I want to escape that stare, but the words come out of my mouth “Michael”. I don’t like my first name so whenever I can get away with it I say Michael, It’s not a lie it is my middle name.

“Are you hungry Michael?” the businessman says, now in a normal voice almost cheery.

I want to say no, I still want to be gone, but the words again just slip out “Yes”I say, it sounds like someone else said it for me.

I look at his hands thinking maybe he has a pack of crackers or maybe he has a couple dollars? I am so hungry I am not thinking clearly. I know it’s possible that he is some creep that likes to take young boys for a ride, but I have seen those guys before and this guy seems like a tough guy, like Clint Eastwood in that Movie Dirty Harry, where he acts mean but is really the good guy. I could run past him now but the thought of getting something in my stomach is making me want to follow him. There is nothing in his hands. He offers me his hand but I don’t take it. He pulls me out of his car by my arm and I realize it is late now and it is freezing out now and I am freezing now that the adrenaline has left me. I can’t feel my feet because of the cold.

“Then let’s get you something to eat then” he says.

He lets my arm go then he starts to walk, I follow him. Maybe I can just get something to eat then run? We walk out of the garage and he is not saying anything but I am not afraid of him anymore. The way he walks makes me feel ok with him, it’s an easy walk no purpose to it, no intent just easy motion, my feet just move on their own. My mind drifts to what I am going to eat? Then back to thoughts of, maybe because I am so hungry my mind is just telling me he is a regular guy, I hope he doesn’t try and get me to go to his house. Oh no, He is going to try and get me to go to his house, no his hotel. There are no houses here, just hotels and he is a creep and he is trying to trick me into going there. My heart starts to race but I am so hungry I need to see if my mind is being honest with me.

“It’s ok Michael, I am just going to get you something to eat , then you can go” he says then he looks back and sees my face. “You can pick what you want, there are a few places still open but its Christmas Eve and most everybody is home”

He puts his hands in the air like he is the one surrendering now, I look down the street and I see the only two places open are a Chinese food place and a Little Tavern Burger stand, I love those and you can get a bag of six little burgers and I bet he will let me have them all.

“Little Tavern” I say looking at the ground. I feel uneasy about this offer but I need to eat something and I don’t know when I will have another chance and my stomach is screaming at me.

The business man says” A man after my own heart, that’s what I would pick too, I love those god damn little burgers.”

His name is George, he comes from a large Greek family and he was going to take a cab to the airport because when he got back in a couple days his wife Anna was going to pick him up and it didn’t make sense to leave his car at the airport. I do like George, but I have learned to be careful. We get to the little white building with the green roof just in time. It’s the type of place where you order outside, no seats inside and the Burgers all come the same way in a brown greasy paper bag. I am back a bit, and I see George laughing with the Guy at the window ,but I think it is just small talk, nothing to do with me, I think he gave the Burger guy $20 ! I know it’s only $4 for those burgers. Maybe George is just a nice man.

He walks over to me and hands me the bag and says,” well Michael, I am a man of my word, you can take these little babies and be on your way”

I rip into the first one and I don’t know what is better , the taste of the first bite or the warm feeling seeping into my stomach when I swallow.

“You know Michael, I don’t know what happened to you and it’s not my business, so you don’t need to tell me, but I just don’t feel right seeing a kid your age, by himself, when it’s this cold out, on Christmas Eve of all days. I would be with my family right now myself, if one of my jobsites didn’t have an emergency a few hours ago. Why don’t I just go to my site tomorrow and we just go to my family’s house?” He paused and saw my expression changing, the gears in my head turning.

“it’s not that far and I will stay on the main roads and you can sit in the back seat and finish those in a nice warm car “silence from me.

I really want to like George, something in his eyes and voice make me really want to like him, but I try to reason with myself that it is not a good idea, and I know it is not. I size him up, he is a big man, he looks strong, if he gets ahold of me, I don’t think I could get away from him.

“What do ya say Michael?”

I just nod my head and we walk back to the garage, I open the back door and get into the passenger side as George gets behind the wheel.I just have to make sure I stay out of arms reach and I keep my hand on the door handle. The car is a grey color and the inside has burgundy colored leather seats, they are now freezing cold, but the burgers are still warm in the bag and I continue to eat them as George drives. I want to offer him one, but I really don’t want to speak if I don’t have to, so I dangle the bag over the seat behind George’s shoulder. He smiles and I can see his eye’s in the rearview mirror looking at my face, I feel the corners of my lips are lifting on their own, I move my head out of the mirrors sight, and George chuckles and says “ No Thanks, I just ate before I left, besides those are yours Michael.”

George drives and I start to feel at ease, as much as I ever do anyway, and I pay less attention to where he is driving and more to the lights I can see on houses that are lined up neatly off the highway. The houses are all the same shape, small and square, like the houses you get in monopoly. Some of the houses have Christmas lights on them, some do not, and a few have menorahs and a kid at school, Danny, explained the whole deal about Hanukah to me so I know it ended over a week ago.

I like Danny, but I made the mistake of bringing him to my house once, I thought my mom was gone, Danny was not Catholic, which my mother would sometimes overlook, but far worse, he was Jewish, and this would never be looked over. I don’t know why she hates them so much, with her you never know, it was probably one of the imagined wars in her head that the people she had them with, had no idea they were even fighting.

My mother would try to be nice to a new person she met, I think she really wanted to be seen as a cool mom, I walked in with Danny and we walked through the living room, I hurried him along, hoping he wouldn’t see the end tables my mother just made by wrapping sheets around plastic milk cartons, we were just there because Danny wanted to see a tool I had made to get into cars. I made it with tin snips and a piece of metal I found. I borrowed the snips from wood shop where we were making little electric motors that ran off a battery mounted on little wooden bases. We never made it to my room, Mom came out of her room and started chatting Danny up, she asked his last name and from there it got ugly quick. She started drilling him with uncomfortable and aggressive questions that I don’t even want to talk about now. Danny and I left, I said sorry, he said no big deal, and then we never really hung out again. Danny’s mother told him to stay away from my family after that, and I could tell he felt bad, but not bad enough to not listen to his mother.

The car slowed to get off the highway and I was instantly back to paying attention to where we were going, George kept to his word and stayed on major roads and after a bit, he said” OK here is our neighborhood. Another thing I liked about George is that he did not ask me personal questions and I knew he wanted to. We pulled up to a brick house that had lights in the front aimed at the house to light it up at night, the house was very nice, not a mansion, but pretty close in my book. There were several cars in the driveway, this made me nervous. I noticed they were all nice cars and as we walked up the driveway I could tell that George’s family were a happy bunch, loud, but happy loud. He opened the door and I started to feel my heart pounding again, I don’t know why I came here, and I thought about running, but now I liked George and I didn’t want to make him feel bad. He walked in the room and everyone was so happy to see him, they all came over and hugged him and were laughing and some were speaking Greek, I knew this because it sounded just like the people at a pizza place that I went to sometimes and they were Greek and also very nice. I wish I was Greek; they seem to be happy, even when they fought at the pizza place, and they didn’t stay mad like the Irish did. Irish are proud of how long they can hold grudges and of having bad tempers. Not me though.

The greetings were over and George introduced me as his friend, I could see by the looks on the people’s faces that they all had questions. There are no kids my age, there are a few little kids, I see pictures on the walls of kids my age and I can tell they are recent. This bothers me a little because I don’t want to have to talk to kids who might ask me questions I don’t want to answer, and I know that I will not fit in. Kids my age look at what you wear first and then will either ignore you if you don’t measure up (and I know I will not) or they will talk to you in a way that will make sure that you know that you do not belong in their group, and it’s worse when adults try and force them to accept you. The good news is I don’t see any of the older kids in the pictures here now. There is a table and food everywhere, an older lady grabs my hand and pulls me to the table and takes a plate and starts to pile pieces of everything on it. I am full from the burgers, but I take the plate and sit at the table and start to eat the food. George is talking, and I assume he is explaining how we met and I can see by the looks on their faces that the people are not happy about this, and I don’t know if they are upset because I made George miss his trip, or because I broke into his car, but they don’t look angry, they now have forced smiles, and I know the difference between the a real smile and the ones where there is something else behind them and these have now changed into those.

One by one Georges family members came up to me and either asked if I wanted something else to eat or if they could get me anything? I don’t know what anything would be, but they made me feel like I could have asked for green cheese from the moon and they would have found a way to get me a hunk. They sang songs, they told stories, they joked, they are the nicest, happiest people I have ever met in my life and I would do anything to be one of them. I think I would even try my best to talk to their older kids if they show up. I wish my sister was here, the one closest to me, She would love it and she could do the talking, she can be quiet too, but she knows how much I hate it and she will dive in front of a question directed at me like that secret service agent that jumped in front of President Regan when he got shot. I started to feel like I was blending in, like I was one of the family. I have never seen anything like this in real life. I have seen happy people like this on TV, but in real life there should be a fight breaking out at any moment. Doesn’t seem to be happing though and I find that chair in what they call the family room is vacant and I walk over and sit down in it. I start to fall asleep again and I am in that place between sleep and being awake where you almost can’t move but you can hear pieces of conversations around you. I hear a lady’s voice say, “We should really call the police, or somebody”

I am now wide awake but I keep my eyes closed and I hear George say that he knows they should, but doesn’t feel right about it, and I hear him say “ look at the kids face, that’s not a school yard fight” and I remember that even though I felt normal for a few hours tonight , like I was just a friend of Georges, the thoughts flood into my mind that the people were pretending the whole time, and were just trying to make me feel good, they are nice people, but there is no way that they didn’t notice what my mother did to my face with that wine bottle. My eye could open now, and it didn’t hurt anymore, but it was purple and black and had not turned to the green yellow yet and it would take a couple more weeks to go away. I need to get out of here, I need to be calm and they can’t know that I heard them. I cough and yawn and pretend to wake up. I ask where the bathroom is and the older lady, whose name I learned is aunt Kiki, leads me down a hall. I go inside and I shut the door and look out the window and it is not a far jump. I raise the blinds slowly and turn on the water, then I go back to the window and open it up.

I stand on the toilet, put my knee on the ledge then the other, I spin around so my feet are hanging out the window, and I jump out. I hit the ground and snow fills my shoe through both the top and the hole in the bottom, Its cold and reminds me that My jean jacket is still in that chair (It never worked on girls anyway) I run to the end of the back yard jump the fence and run as fast as I can to the main road making sure to look back for cars in case George or a police car tries to pick me up.

I make my way to the highway and I see signs for the metro bus, I don’t have any money but at least I know I can go that way and get to the metro rail. I won’t be able to get into a car for the night; the tool I made is back home and the hanger is in my jacket. Usually I could go to a restaurant and get another hanger, but they are all closed now, everything is closed now, but it is late, probably early morning and daylight will come soon so I just keep walking towards the metro so I can get warm and I walk until daylight comes.

I am glad I went with George that night, and I know his family just wanted to do the right thing, when I was walking that Christmas Eve, I thought about what it would be like to be his kid. I hoped he wasn’t too upset or disappointed in me for running away and I thought about how if I ever have a family, I would want it to be like his. I wish I had a way to let him know what he had put into my head about what family could be.

George, and that is his real name, If you’re out there and ever read this, I want you to know that you gave me more than a burger and a distraction that Christmas eve, you changed my whole life. I will do my best to pass on what you did for me, and from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.


© Copyright 2020 Micky Flynn. All rights reserved.

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