RICH PASCHALL – A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTION

It has been three years since I first stopped in at SERENDIPITY with this “A Family Plus One Holiday Tale,” and for some reason Marilyn Armstrong has allowed me to come back once a week since then.  I am grateful for her support and the opportunity to share some stories on her blog site. Here again is my Christmas short story.

 

A Christmas Surprise

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

Tree Lights 14

Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael. So he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle just had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things did not get any quieter. The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.” With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting. Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

HARK! THE HAROLD CHRISTMAS RINGS

The following story originally appeared two years ago on SERENDIPITY.

A SUNNY FLORIDA HOLIDAY, By RICH PASCHALL

It was the Sunday before Christmas and all through the house the only creature that was stirring was Harold, the well-organized man from the Midwest. Harold had retired and moved to the beautiful and somewhat peaceful community on the gulf coast side of Florida. There he carried out his days according to the perfect retirement schedule. Everyday had a purpose, and Harold executed the day as if he was the sole architect of the universe. Sometimes the universe cooperated.

72-St Pete_4

On this beautiful Sunday morning the Oracle of Organization marched to the front door to collect his newspaper as always. As he stepped out onto the small cement landing he called a porch, Harold discovered that the weather was already warm and delightful. The 7 am temperature already hit the mid 70s. Harold just knew the day would be everything he planned when he reached retirement and moved from a snowbound city to a place where he would never shovel snow again.

He took in the pleasant atmosphere for a moment before seeking the paper. “He missed the porch again,” Harold said to himself referring to the “paper boy,” who was actually a hard-working college student. He then went to the walkway to retrieve the local news and sports.  He did not mind this time as the weather was better than can be expected in late December, even for Florida.

When Harold finished his breakfast, his coffee and his local news, he was preparing himself for a thorough cleaning of the apartment that was already cleaner than anything you have ever seen. It was the Sultan of Sanitation’s normal Sunday routine and even a sunny day with a deep blue sky would not deter Harold from his appointed rounds about the apartment.

As he gathered up his cleaning supplies and retrieved the vacuum from it storage room, the phone began to ring. Harold was quite surprised as few people had his phone number and the device rarely rang. He could not imagine that marketers would disrupt a Sunday with their meaningless calls. “Perhaps it is Bill,” he thought. Bill only called on Mondays to make a joint venture to the supermarket, so the ringing was totally out of character for a Sunday. Reluctantly, Harold went to the phone.

“Hello?” Harold said as if asking a question.

“Hello, Harold, it’s George.”

“George?” Harold said, unsure of the voice at the other end.

“Yes, George. You know, your former colleague.”

With that clarification Harold could place the voice. When he was the chief mechanical engineer at a Midwest manufacturing plant, Harold worked with George. He had even run into him in St. Petersburg when he went to a baseball game. He could not imagine ever hearing from George again.

“Well, George, what can I do for you?” Harold replied in a rather business like way.

“Do for me?  Why, nothing Harold. Martha and I just thought we should call and wish you a Merry Christmas.”

“Really?” Harold said rather incredulously.

“Of course,” George said with a laugh. “We just wanted you to know we were thinking about you and want to wish you a Merry Christmas.”

“Well, uh, that’s so nice, George. Merry Christmas to you too.”

“Perhaps we will run into you again on our next trip to Florida. Take care, you lucky retired guy.”

“Thanks, I will” and at that George hung up. There had been no phone calls on Harold’s Sunday itinerary but he was glad for this one.

As the week wore on, Harold wished a very Merry Christmas to the few people he encountered. On Monday, he wished his neighbor, Bill, and all the folks working at the supermarket a Merry Christmas.  The same happened Tuesday when he went into town.

On Wednesday, it was Christmas Eve. Harold saw no reason to vary his schedule and at the appointed hour, he headed out to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar. He greeted everyone with a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” As usual, the crowd shouted out to Harold, but they were surprised when the normally reserved retiree from the North answered with robust greetings.

To add to the Christmas joy, Harold’s favorite waitress, Tiffany, was on hand to serve up the soup and sandwich special. “Harold, you are in a festive mood,” she told him when she came to take his order. Harold beamed as he had never done before.

When Harold was ready to leave, Tiffany rushed over and gave Harold a big hug. “Merry Christmas, Harold, it is so good to see you in such a joyous spirit.”

Harold did not know how to respond. He was unaccustomed to such a show of affection. He stood there with a rather embarrassed look as he tried to collect himself.

“Thanks,” Harold said sheepishly. “I am glad to be here on Christmas Eve.” At that he waved to the staff and they all shouted holiday greetings in return. Harold marched out of the restaurant and into the warm Christmas Eve afternoon with the biggest smile Harold had in many years.

For Harold, a short phone call from a former colleague just days before Christmas brightened his mood for the entire week and was the best gift he had received in many years.

Alone

  A visit to the park                 

 small Midwest town church

A drab, older model, olive colored Chevrolet Monte Carlo pulled up directly across the street from the bright white colored Protestant church.  The driver of the car liked that particular spot because he enjoyed looking at the church with its impressive steeple and large cross at the top.  He was not a member of that church or even of that denomination.  He just liked looking at the church.  He never went inside and could not tell you why he liked it so much, he just did.

Harold exited his dependable vehicle.  It had taken him around town for a dozen years already.  He guessed it was good for a few more years, just like Harold himself.  His parking spot was not far away from Harold’s modest home in the small Midwest town, but it was a little too far for Harold to walk.  He did not walk much at all anymore, although he would be the first to tell you that he really should get more exercise.  He would tell anyone that, if only someone would ask.

Across from the white church with the tall steeple that could be seen for miles was the town park.  It was well-kept and was the pride and joy of the town.  It had a small pond stocked with swans, who could come and go into a little house where they were fed and cared for.  The door of the house was always open.  The pond was fenced in and the little house was inside the fence.  The fence was certainly to keep the people out.  Swans were to be looked at, but not touched.  They may look nice but could be downright mean. There were none around for Harold to see.  Maybe they went south for the winter, maybe they were inside the little house, maybe the town puts them away somewhere before winter.  Harold did not know and really did not give it much thought.

He took the path that led to a magnificent gazebo which was just about in the center of the park.  He could imagine bands playing there on summer nights to the joy of small town Americans with lemonades or ice cream cones in hand.  He had to imagine it because he had never actually seen it.  He stayed away from the park on summer nights when they had activities of any kind.  There was never a parking spot close by when bands were playing and Harold simply was not going to walk for blocks to go to an event where he knew no one and would have nowhere to sit.  Rocking away the evening hours on his front porch was his main summer evening activity.

When he reached the gazebo he went up its three steps and walked into the center.  It was on slightly raised ground and he could see all around the park.  “What a beautiful autumn day,” he said confidentially to himself.  “We are lucky to have such a nice spot.”  The “we” at that moment was actually just Harold.  Although the temperature was pleasant for that time of year, the breeze was alluring and sun was falling softly between the clouds and across the beautiful green grass, no one else came to the park that Thursday afternoon.  Children were in school, most adults were working and the rest did not know they could put on their best fall outerwear and join Harold in the park.

Having exited the other side of the gazebo, he looked down the path that led to the main street in town.  Right before the road was a tall flag pole with the American flag flying proudly in the autumn afternoon.  There were shorter flag poles on either side flying the flags of  the military services.  They were put there by the local VFW and the bushes and flowers that surround them were cared for by VFW members.  Harold wondered why he had never joined the VFW.  Of course, he was not sure if there was anyone he knew in the VFW and he certainly was not assertive enough to find out.

Rather than take the pathway, he decided to cut across the grass to a park bench he spotted across the way along another path.  Leaves were gently pushed out of the surrounding trees and were falling around the bench.  He thought it would be a pleasant place to sit down for a while and rest.  His slow movement across the lawn would have revealed a slight limp if there had been someone, anyone there to see it.  No one knew of the limp, however, except Harold and he was not about to tell anyone of it.  There were plenty of things Harold kept to himself.  He could not think of a single person he could tell.  There were no family or friends left.  He guessed he had outlasted them all.

When he reached the destination, he sat down on the cold metal bench.  The old wooden ones were more comfortable but these were going to last longer, if properly maintained.  With the awkward spacing of the metal slats, no one was ever going to get comfortable,  even Harold.  From a distance the bench looked quite inviting, but it turned out to be a poor invitation once you sat down, especially when the weather was turning colder.  It was of little matter to Harold, he was not going to stay long anyway.  First, he looked at all the trees and saw the yellows, oranges and even some greens.  Some trees had their colored leaves neatly decorating the green grass below.  “I wish I could get a thick, green lawn like that,” Harold murmured to himself.  “I wonder how they do it.”  Then he looked down the path to the right to admire some bushes with bright red leaves.  They were probably the brightest red leaves he had ever seen.  Finally he gazed off to the left to admire the white church.  He thought he should bring a camera some day to get a picture of the church from this beautiful vantage point.  Actually, he had that same thought many times before.

When he got on his feet again, Harold discovered that he had stiffened up in the cool breeze.  He moved slowly across the lawn feeling the effects of age and inactivity.  The slight incline toward the gazebo now seemed like a small hill but he conquered it just like he had conquered small battles in the past.  His impulses told him to turn around and take in the view one last time.  Across the lonely park he spied the black, metal bench sitting there all alone, just like he was doing not long before.

Note: Harold in this story is no relation to the Harold that has appeared in the short story series on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com).  Apparently I know a lot of people named Harold. 

The short story as a video presentation.

SUNSHINE, SPRING TRAINING AND SURVIVAL

It is time for a Spring Training story. This one appeared last year on SERENDIPITY and was in the middle of a series of stories that mentioned Harold, a retired Midwest planner.

SERENDIPITY

The missing Harold mystery, Rich Paschall

George and his ever talkative wife Martha had just about enough of the Midwest winter. They were tired of snow,  tired of cold. At close-to-retirement age, they were just plain tired. When another cold night forced them to stay at home rather than visit a favorite neighborhood stop, they realized there was only one thing which could pull them through to warmer weather. Baseball! Right then and there, they began to talk about a trip to sunny Florida for a round of spring training games.

A year before, they had traveled to Florida on a rare road trip to see the Chicago Cubs play. The Cubs lost, of course, but they deemed the trip a success. They had visited a ball park other than Wrigley Field, spent a day at the beach, and wandered through town to do some typical tourist shopping. They had some very hot days, but did not suffer the kind of stifling humidity…

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HARK! THE HAROLD CHRISTMAS RINGS

The following story originally appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

A SUNNY FLORIDA HOLIDAY, By RICH PASCHALL

It was the Sunday before Christmas and all through the house the only creature that was stirring was Harold, the well-organized man from the Midwest. Harold had retired and moved to the beautiful and somewhat peaceful community on the gulf coast side of Florida. There he carried out his days according to the perfect retirement schedule. Everyday had a purpose, and Harold executed the day as if he was the sole architect of the universe. Sometimes the universe cooperated.

72-St Pete_4

On this beautiful Sunday morning the Oracle of Organization marched to the front door to collect his newspaper as always. As he stepped out onto the small cement landing he called a porch, Harold discovered that the weather was already warm and delightful. The 7 am temperature already hit the mid 70s. Harold just knew the day would be everything he planned when he reached retirement and moved from a snowbound city to a place where he would never shovel snow again.

He took in the pleasant atmosphere for a moment before seeking the paper. “He missed the porch again,” Harold said to himself referring to the “paper boy,” who was actually a hard-working college student. He then went to the walkway to retrieve the local news and sports.  He did not mind this time as the weather was better than can be expected in late December, even for Florida.

When Harold finished his breakfast, his coffee and his local news, he was preparing himself for a thorough cleaning of the apartment that was already cleaner than anything you have ever seen. It was the Sultan of Sanitation’s normal Sunday routine and even a sunny day with a deep blue sky would not deter Harold from his appointed rounds about the apartment.

As he gathered up his cleaning supplies and retrieved the vacuum from it storage room, the phone began to ring. Harold was quite surprised as few people had his phone number and the device rarely rang. He could not imagine that marketers would disrupt a Sunday with their meaningless calls. “Perhaps it is Bill,” he thought. Bill only called on Mondays to make a joint venture to the supermarket, so the ringing was totally out of character for a Sunday. Reluctantly, Harold went to the phone.

“Hello?” Harold said as if asking a question.

“Hello, Harold, it’s George.”

“George?” Harold said, unsure of the voice at the other end.

“Yes, George. You know, your former colleague.”

With that clarification Harold could place the voice. When he was the chief mechanical engineer at a Midwest manufacturing plant, Harold worked with George. He had even run into him in St. Petersburg when he went to a baseball game. He could not imagine ever hearing from George again.

“Well, George, what can I do for you?” Harold replied in a rather business like way.

“Do for me?  Why, nothing Harold. Martha and I just thought we should call and wish you a Merry Christmas.”

“Really?” Harold said rather incredulously.

“Of course,” George said with a laugh. “We just wanted you to know we were thinking about you and want to wish you a Merry Christmas.”

“Well, uh, that’s so nice, George. Merry Christmas to you too.”

“Perhaps we will run into you again on our next trip to Florida. Take care, you lucky retired guy.”

“Thanks, I will” and at that George hung up. There had been no phone calls on Harold’s Sunday itinerary but he was glad for this one.

As the week wore on, Harold wished a very Merry Christmas to the few people he encountered. On Monday, he wished his neighbor, Bill, and all the folks working at the supermarket a Merry Christmas.  The same happened Tuesday when he went into town.

On Wednesday, it was Christmas Eve. Harold saw no reason to vary his schedule and at the appointed hour, he headed out to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar. He greeted everyone with a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” As usual, the crowd shouted out to Harold, but they were surprised when the normally reserved retiree from the North answered with robust greetings.

To add to the Christmas joy, Harold’s favorite waitress, Tiffany, was on hand to serve up the soup and sandwich special. “Harold, you are in a festive mood,” she told him when she came to take his order. Harold beamed as he had never done before.

When Harold was ready to leave, Tiffany rushed over and gave Harold a big hug. “Merry Christmas, Harold, it is so good to see you in such a joyous spirit.”

Harold did not know how to respond. He was unaccustomed to such a show of affection. He stood there with a rather embarrassed look as he tried to collect himself.

“Thanks,” Harold said sheepishly. “I am glad to be here on Christmas Eve.” At that he waved to the staff and they all shouted holiday greetings in return. Harold marched out of the restaurant and into the warm Christmas Eve afternoon with the biggest smile Harold had in many years.

For Harold, a short phone call from a former colleague just days before Christmas brightened his mood for the entire week and was the best gift he had received in many years.

Alone

  A visit to the park                 

 small Midwest town church

A drab, older model, olive colored Chevrolet Monte Carlo pulled up directly across the street from the bright white colored Protestant church.  The driver of the car liked that particular spot because he enjoyed looking at the church with its impressive steeple and large cross at the top.  He was not a member of that church or even of that denomination.  He just liked looking at the church.  He never went inside and could not tell you why he liked it so much, he just did.

Harold exited his dependable vehicle.  It had taken him around town for a dozen years already.  He guessed it was good for a few more years, just like Harold himself.  His parking spot was not far away from Harold’s modest home in the small Midwest town, but it was a little too far for Harold to walk.  He did not walk much at all anymore, although he would be the first to tell you that he really should get more exercise.  He would tell anyone that, if only someone would ask.

Across from the white church with the tall steeple that could be seen for miles was the town park.  It was well-kept and was the pride and joy of the town.  It had a small pond stocked with swans, who could come and go into a little house where they were fed and cared for.  The door of the house was always open.  The pond was fenced in and the little house was inside the fence.  The fence was certainly to keep the people out.  Swans were to be looked at, but not touched.  They may look nice but could be downright mean. There were none around for Harold to see.  Maybe they went south for the winter, maybe they were inside the little house, maybe the town puts them away somewhere before winter.  Harold did not know and really did not give it much thought.

He took the path that led to a magnificent gazebo which was just about in the center of the park.  He could imagine bands playing there on summer nights to the joy of small town Americans with lemonades or ice cream cones in hand.  He had to imagine it because he had never actually seen it.  He stayed away from the park on summer nights when they had activities of any kind.  There was never a parking spot close by when bands were playing and Harold simply was not going to walk for blocks to go to an event where he knew no one and would have nowhere to sit.  Rocking away the evening hours on his front porch was his main summer evening activity.

When he reached the gazebo he went up its three steps and walked into the center.  It was on slightly raised ground and he could see all around the park.  “What a beautiful autumn day,” he said confidentially to himself.  “We are lucky to have such a nice spot.”  The “we” at that moment was actually just Harold.  Although the temperature was pleasant for that time of year, the breeze was alluring and sun was falling softly between the clouds and across the beautiful green grass, no one else came to the park that Thursday afternoon.  Children were in school, most adults were working and the rest did not know they could put on their best fall outerwear and join Harold in the park.

Having exited the other side of the gazebo, he looked down the path that led to the main street in town.  Right before the road was a tall flag pole with the American flag flying proudly in the autumn afternoon.  There were shorter flag poles on either side flying the flags of  the military services.  They were put there by the local VFW and the bushes and flowers that surround them were cared for by VFW members.  Harold wondered why he had never joined the VFW.  Of course, he was not sure if there was anyone he knew in the VFW and he certainly was not assertive enough to find out.

Rather than take the pathway, he decided to cut across the grass to a park bench he spotted across the way along another path.  Leaves were gently pushed out of the surrounding trees and were falling around the bench.  He thought it would be a pleasant place to sit down for a while and rest.  His slow movement across the lawn would have revealed a slight limp if there had been someone, anyone there to see it.  No one knew of the limp, however, except Harold and he was not about to tell anyone of it.  There were plenty of things Harold kept to himself.  He could not think of a single person he could tell.  There were no family or friends left.  He guessed he had outlasted them all.

When he reached the destination, he sat down on the cold metal bench.  The old wooden ones were more comfortable but these were going to last longer, if properly maintained.  With the awkward spacing of the metal slats, no one was ever going to get comfortable,  even Harold.  From a distance the bench looked quite inviting, but it turned out to be a poor invitation once you sat down, especially when the weather was turning colder.  It was of little matter to Harold, he was not going to stay long anyway.  First, he looked at all the trees and saw the yellows, oranges and even some greens.  Some trees had their colored leaves neatly decorating the green grass below.  “I wish I could get a thick, green lawn like that,” Harold murmured to himself.  “I wonder how they do it.”  Then he looked down the path to the right to admire some bushes with bright red leaves.  They were probably the brightest red leaves he had ever seen.  Finally he gazed off to the left to admire the white church.  He thought he should bring a camera some day to get a picture of the church from this beautiful vantage point.  Actually, he had that same thought many times before.

When he got on his feet again, Harold discovered that he had stiffened up in the cool breeze.  He moved slowly across the lawn feeling the effects of age and inactivity.  The slight incline toward the gazebo now seemed like a small hill but he conquered it just like he had conquered small battles in the past.  His impulses told him to turn around and take in the view one last time.  Across the lonely park he spied the black, metal bench sitting there all alone, just like he was doing not long before.

Note: Harold in this story is no relation to the Harold that has appeared in the short story series on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com).  Apparently I know a lot of people named Harold. 

The short story as a video presentation.

WHO ARE YOU? FAMILY TO STRANGER, OVERNIGHT

Since it is “Pride Month,” I thought it was a good time to replay this story.

SERENDIPITY

A family of strangers story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Russell was home from the university, perhaps for the last time.  He finally graduated after four and a half years and a double major from the School of Business.  He lived at school each year and came home for the summers.  Now his plan was to get a job, save a little money and move out.  His college roommate would soon become his roommate again, if they could arrange it.

Russell’s parents, now in their 50’s, never seemed to change.  To Russell they always looked the same and acted the same.  Russell’s father was a hard-working, quiet guy whom everyone liked. His mother was also hard-working and dependable.  They seemed to naturally know which household chores to perform without ever talking about it.  Russell sometimes thought they held secret meetings to plan out the details of their lives, Russell’s included.

After…

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SNOWBOUND

After another snow storm here, it seems a good time to reblog this. Thanks to Marilyn Armstrong for running it last year at this time on Serendipity.

By Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

As far as Ralph was concerned this was the worst winter ever.  There were years with more snow, that’s for sure.  There were years that brought colder days.  There was never a winter that brought one snow after another followed by one arctic blast after another. Memory had no recollection of this many days below zero.  There were several days pipes were frozen at Ralph’s house, leaving him without water to the kitchen.  After that, every sub-zero day meant water would be left running to prevent from freezing.  Towels and throw rugs were tossed against the bottoms of exterior doors to prevent drafts.  Humidifiers were used to make the house more comfortable and the gas bill…  Well, Ralph did not want to think about that.

75-BigSnowHPCR-7While he hated every day of it, the neighbors might have thought otherwise.  Ralph was always out shoveling the snow that fell or that drifted across the sidewalk in high winds.  Even when the temperature fell below zero, he was out doing something for a little while.  For some years, there were teenagers to be bribed, but this year there were none around so Ralph was resigned to doing the work himself.  When he finished the walks, he would shovel around his car and brush the snow from the windows.  Sometimes a snow plow would push a ridge of snow against the car and then it was time to dig some more.  This winter, Ralph was a busy man.

After he finished the work by his house, he frequently walked down the street about 5 houses and shoveled around an old brown Pontiac.  Some days, he could not do it due to subzero temperature, but when he could he went down there.  No one else on the block seemed to know whose car it was that got so much attention.  Now and then it was moved and parked back in the same area, but when the brutal weather hit, it just stayed put.

And yet, Ralph walked down and cleaned it off, just in case.  It was not Ralph’s car.  He never drove it in his life.  A few on the block might have wondered why he shoveled around the car and cleaned it with great regularity.  It was just something that Ralph felt inside he had to do.

Certainly there were some that felt that a man of Ralph’s age should not be out shoveling snow in such extreme weather.  It was winters like this that made Ralph understand why people retired and moved to Florida or Arizona.  As a matter of fact, Ralph might have retired and moved to Florida on his last birthday when he turned 62, but the pension he paid into for decades lost most of its value 6 years earlier.  It was reduced to 25 per cent of what he had.  He knew he would never make that up in the short time left before he would have to retire.  He just hoped when he did, the meager pension and meager social security would be enough to live on.  It certainly would not be enough to send him to Florida.

One particularly frosty day, Ralph arrived home to some fresh snow on the ground, took his usual parking spot and went right to work. When he finished his walkways and parking area, he was tempted to go in, but decided to walk down to the brown Pontiac anyway.  It was weeks since the car last moved and no one had seen the driver.  Nevertheless, Ralph was on the job, cleaning off the car and all around it.  By the time he was satisfied with his work, his fingers and toes were numb and almost in pain.  As he started to walk away he noticed an old man come carefully down the stairs of a brick 2 flat house and walk toward the Pontiac.  He had a decidedly puzzled look upon his face.  Ralph tossed his brush and shovel aside.

“Hello, Mr. Schuman,” Ralph called out.  “How are you today?”

“Cold,” Mr. Schuman replied with an odd smile that he had acquired whenever he was unsure of what was going on.  “And who are you again, young man?”

“It’s Ralphie, sir.  Ralphie Combs.  I had you for Economics in Senior Year at the high school.”

“Oh,” Schuman said.  “What year was that?”

“I guess it was quite a few years ago, but I remember it well,” Ralphie beamed, as he recalled his senior year.

“Were you one of those boys that I put in the front of the class so I could keep an eye on you?  You look like one of those boys,” Mr. Schuman said with a suspicious glance.

Ralphie laughed.  “Yes, sir.  That was me, sir”  At that Mr. Schuman laughed too.

“Well I was expecting a lot of work on the car today, but all the snow is gone.  I am certain it was piled on there earlier when I looked out the window.”

“It must have been the winds, Mr. Schuman, sir.  The wind was very strong this afternoon and has blown a lot of it down the street.”

“It’s a good thing, because I have to run some errands and shoveling snow is too much for me.  I guess I was pretty lucky with that wind.”

“Yes, sir, I think you were.”

“Well, I have to go young man, it is too cold to stand and chat.  Now you be good.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Schuman.  I will be good.”

The old teacher got in the old car and drove away.  That few minutes of conversation was the warmest Ralphie felt all winter.

SNOW HATE – By Rich Paschall

Another Harold! I wonder how often I used that name. Since we are in the midst of a blizzard here, I thought it would be a good day to reblog this.

SERENDIPITY

A NO H8 story by Rich Paschall – Sunday Night Blog

The door bell startled Harold.  He was not expecting anyone on a snowy Saturday afternoon in January.  He moved quickly to the front door and opened it to find his teenage grandson.

“Hello grandpa,” the boy blurted, “I came to shovel your snow.”  At that Billy grabbed a shovel from just inside the front door and went immediately to work.  Harold closed the door and watched him through the glass in the door.  Billy attacked the snow like he was angry at every single flake that fell from the sky.  The look on his face and the force at which he threw each shovelful of snow concerned Harold.

75-BigSnowHPCR-9

He went directly to the phone and called Billy’s parents.

“Hello,” came the voice of Harold’s daughter-in-law.  Madeleine was sweet, nice looking and ultimately clueless.  Her small social circle was her main…

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I AM HOME – By Rich Paschall

One of my favorites from a little over a year ago.

SERENDIPITY

A piece of home alone fiction by Rich Paschall

The alarm went off at 6 am as usual.  Instead of hitting the snooze bar, George turned off the alarm and got up.  It was Wednesday, trash collection day in the small Florida town.  He no longer had Ethel to push him out of bed so he had to muster the resolve to get up and take care of the chores.  Jack, the faithful terrier, got up as well and was running around George’s feet as he tried to go through his morning routine.  Terriers do not lack morning energy.

96-Rockers-NKAfter he got dressed and made his way to the kitchen, he started the coffee.  Ethel used to take care of this while George took care of the hyper active dog, but his wife of 40 years was gone now.  George had to make his own coffee.  George had to do all the…

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