A Christmas Tale
Starring - Uncle Meanie and the Motorcycle Man.
This piece appeared in the Daimler's Folly December 2012

And their day begins

"Are you going to piddle around all day or get your lazy butt up and moving?" growled Liam as he stuffed one more item into his T-Bag.

"Pipe down, Meanie," Toby retorted, "I'll be ready when I'm ready.'

Toby was going over every item on the table, carefully making sure the lenses were clean and all his filters were in their protective cases. He wanted to be sure he didn't leave anything behind this time. It seemed to Toby that every time he went on a photo shoot there was something left behind that he really needed.

Turning towards the door, as he heard Liam shuffle in, Toby couldn't help but notice that the big man had half his face covered by the red cap resting askew on his head.

"Straighten out your hat Meanie, you're supposed to be Santa Claus, not Dopey the Dwarf."

"Ah stuff it Motorcycle Man, this dang costume itches bad enough without you poking my ribs."

"You love it and you know it; what would you do without me?"

"Every time I look at you I get a fierce desire to be lonesome."

"Did you just make that up?"

"Nah, Oscar Levant said it a long time ago, I just think of it whenever I look at you."

Packing up the last of his camera equipment, Toby swung his backpack over his shoulder and headed for the door, his grin widening with every step. He didn't know anyone quicker with an insult than his long time friend and riding partner. He and Liam, road name, Uncle Meanie, had been on a Christmas ride for more years than he could count. Toby was anxious to get on the road.

The Season and Reason to ride

The bright sunlight did little to take the chill out of the air. It was not freezing, but cold enough to put a ruby glow to their cheeks. The two bikers subconsciously felt the quiet of the day, only broken by the wind rushing past their ears and the low rumble of their v-twin motors.
Each year, just before the Christmas holidays, Liam contacted the local community center and asked for a list of people in the county that might need a little extra something to brighten their season. The list grew with each passing year. It seems more and more folks were unable to make it on their own. It was getting harder to choose which candidates were in the greatest need. They both wished they could help everyone, it didn't seem right that someone might not be able to share in the bounty of our great land during its number one holiday. The contributions they tried to collect each year diminished in proportion to the rising need. It perplexed both of them. Neither was sure what could be done about it. At this moment they weren't thinking about that. They were on a road trip. All the ugly went out of their minds ...

Mr. Wilson

The Motorcycle Man lead the way, followed closely by Uncle Meanie, perched atop his black T-Glide Harley. Attached to the back of the trike was a matching trailer, adorned with ornamental candy canes, garland and twinkling multi-colored lights. Anyone seeing them riding down the road had no doubt that these two were filled with the Spirit.

What seemed like all-too-soon, the duo arrived at their first stop. The house had to have been built in the early 20th century. The paint chipping on the siding curled like potato chips roasting in the oven. Too many things to count needed repair. The flowerbeds were bare and there were several dead branches that hung over the house, stretching forth from a towering oak. By the size of the tree, it had been growing there for a very long time, and in dire need of trimming.

Liam was the first to dismount. He opened his trailer and picked out a present wrapped in red paper with a green bow stuck to the top. Toby didn't immediately dismount; he sat for a bit, studying the little house. He finally swung his leg over the seat and joined his companion in front of the gate that hung precariously by one hinge on a faded white picket fence. Toby carefully swung the gate open and started up the walk towards the porch.

Both of the men saw the front window curtain part a few inches and an eye peer out at them. Whoever it was quickly closed the curtain and before either could knock, the door swung wide open.

Page 2

"Welcome gentlemen, I am Jack Wilson" the wizened man in the doorway said enthusiastically. "Come in, come in, I am sorry the place is such a mess. I don't get many visitors."

The inside of the house was very dark. The curtains were pulled with the lamps turned off. A stream of light dimly lit a hallway. Squinting, Toby could see that there was a layer of dust an inch thick on all the furniture in the living room. Toby and Liam cautiously stepped across the threshold and the door was closed behind them. The old man beckoned them to follow him.

"Come, we'll be more comfortable in my room. Can I get you boys a cup of coffee?"

Both said yes to his offer and followed him down the long hallway to the rear of the house, entering the only lighted room that they had seen.

The room was furnished with a twin bed, pushed up against the far wall. Setting on a highboy chest of drawers was a Waterford crystal lamp, a coffee pot, surrounded by 4 badly chipped mugs, and a hot plate, powered with a frayed electric cord. The lamp looked as out of place as a Hollywood mansion in a L.A. ghetto. The floor was wooden, with a large oval rug of many colors positioned in the center of the room. There was an old orange wooden chair by the bed that Liam could have sworn he'd seen on the curb in the suburbs just last week, and across the room was an ottoman that had its naugahyde cover split down the middle. Toby chose the ottoman and sat down. Liam, looking a little dubious, sat gingerly on the chair as the old man poured three cups of coffee.

"Oh I hope you boys don't take cream or sugar in your coffee, I haven't had either of those since Helen died, some twenty years back. How about some saltine crackers to go with your coffee, would you like that?"

Both of the men shook their head no and accepted their respective cups of coffee with an appreciative grin. The coffee was a welcome relief from the chill that had set into their bones.

After a couple of gulps of what turned out to be a surprisingly good cup of coffee, Liam set the package he'd been carrying under his arm on the bed. The old man sat down next to it, eyeing the package curiously. Liam could see that the old man was dying to know what was in the box and started to speak. Before he could get a word out Toby piped up.

"Mr. Wilson, we're working with the city beautification committee and have come to trim the dead limbs off your oak tree."

Forgetting the package, the old man's eyes opened wide and he blurted, "Oh, praise the Lord. I have been so afraid that tree was going to fall down and ruin Helen's house. I have been half scared out of my mind."
"We'll need a saw and a ladder," Toby said, as Liam looked at him with an arched eyebrow. "We would have brought them ourselves but we couldn't get them on our bikes."

"Yes, I have both of those in the garage, come with me and I'll show you where they are."

As they walked out, Liam turned to Toby and whispered, "What about the present?"

"Don't worry, we'll come back to it," Toby replied as he put his arm around Liam's shoulder and continued to follow where the old man had gone.

Liam held the ladder as Toby climbed up on the roof. He quickly managed to cut all the dead limbs that threatened the house. While Toby was sawing, Liam got Mr. Wilson talking. This wasn't at all difficult, as it was painfully apparent that he had been alone for a long time and relished this opportunity to chat with company.

Mr. Wilson explained that his wife, Helen, had died many years before and he couldn't bring himself to touch a thing of hers, with the exception of her favorite lamp. Since her passing, he had only used the guest bedroom. That was why the dust was so thick and the light had been shut out. Hearing his story of love and devotion touched the tough bikers to their core.

The Present

Upon finishing the tree trimming job and returning the ladder and saw to the garage, all three returned to the bedroom and enjoyed another cup of coffee. Before coming in, Liam had taken his ride clothes off, exposing the Santa Claus suit he was wearing underneath. It was time to give Mr. Wilson his gift. Liam had discovered what Mr. Wilson had wanted and it was under wraps.

Mr. Wilson opened his package, careful not to tear the paper; Helen had always saved the paper. When he saw what was in it he broke out in tears. He took out his new pair of shoes.

"How did you know what I wanted?"

Not missing a beat, Liam piped up, "Ho, Ho, Ho, Santa knows everything."

Time to go. The list was waiting. Daylight was burning

The old man waved. The "boys" nodded. If you could have heard Toby as he fired up his bike, you would have heard him whisper -

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"