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Larry Rochelle

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A Frenzied Christmas Eve
By Larry Rochelle
Saturday, September 04, 2004

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“Angel wings, for Chrissake! Why didn’t that fuckin’ teacher send a note home? Then we coulda been prepared.

A Frenzied Christmas Eve

Jeffrey was running late again and I was getting pissed. His mother had specially arranged everything with the Harrisons and Jeffrey was supposed to ride with them, but he messed up again. He never told us about his angel wings, so we fuckin’ had to drive across town, pick them up and then deliver them to the church right before midnight Mass, if we were lucky.
Angel wings for god’s sake. Me and Beth didn’t even know if the lady would charge them for us. Shit. But the Harrisons were beeping their god damn horn, Jeffrey was in tears cuz I hollered at him, and Beth was ticked off at me for being so mean.
"See ya, Jeffy. Things will be all right," his mom was comforting him with words. Meanwhile, Jeffrey looked in no shape to be in the procession, much less wear angel wings.
"Hurry up, Beth. We gotta go. Put him in the car. I’ll start up the Nash. It’s got the reliable battery. Emily. Claire. Come with me. We gotta go get angel wings.”
Well, Beth soon enough calmed down, I got the old black Nash started and we were off on our journey across town to Front Street near downtown to see some lady about purchasing the wings. Emily and Claire were calmed down now, knowing I was in a bad mood. It was a real silent night as we drove down Bancroft to Cherry to the downtown Toledo, which was still all dressed up in Christmas splendor at 11 p.m. We had exactly one hour to make a deal, get back in the car and meet Jeffrey right before midnight Mass.
“Angel wings, for Chrissake! Why didn’t that fuckin’ teacher send a note home? Then we coulda been prepared. She should know kindergarten kids forget things.”
"Hush, Darrell. Just hush. Don’t get the kids upset now. We’ll get the wings in no time. Don’t worry.”
Luckily, the streets were clear all the way to Cherry Street and I looked at my watch. 11:10. Looks like we’d make it.
The address on Front was supposed to be 749 Front Street, but I couldn’t see the numbers and neither could Beth. Emily and Claire were still quiet. They could have helped but were afraid to try, I guess.
"Emily. Claire. You look too. I can’t see the address so you guys look. 7 . . . 4 . . . 9. Look for that address.”
Soon we did make out a number in the pitch darkness but it was 311. We must have gone right by the right address.
“God in heaven, help us find these fuckin angel wings," I bellowed. Shit, I was using all this obscene language on Christmas Eve, in front of my two little daughters but I could fuckin’ care less. Shit. Angel wings for Chrissake.
"There it is, Dad," said Emily.
"What? Where?"
"Right there, Dad. That grey house.”
I stopped the Nash, got out and walked across the street. Yep. It was 749 Front all right but no one was home, there were no lights on, and they must be asleep.
I wasn’t gonna stop now. I bolted up the stairs and commenced to ring the bell while I was knocking the hell out of the door. "Hey, anyone home? We need angel wings. Hey. Answer your door.”
I was upset until I saw a small light click on inside. A little Polish lady, I swear, 4 feet tall, answered the door in some red felt nightie or something. She was still asleep, looking at me with dazed eyes. "Vat do you vant, son?" she asked me.
"Angel wings. For my son. For the procession. It’s Christmas Eve and I need to get some wings.”
"Did you order any?" she asks.
“No, I don’t know. My kid never told us about angel wings. We just need some. Look I’ll borrow some and return them tomorrow if you want.”
“No, no, no. I no dose kids. Dey vill mess them up. You must pay $15.00 like everyone else.”
“Fine. Fine. I’ll pay on Friday when I get paid.”
“No, sir. I’m very sorry. Cash only. I don’t know you. You cannot have credit.”
“Listen, lady. I need those wings. What do you want? Should I give you one of my daughters until Friday? Then I’ll come get her and pay you? What do you want? I’m broke till Friday.”
“Sir, you must wait. Wait till I talk vit my husband.”
Well, she tottered away and I paced on the front porch, looking over at Beth in the car, shaking my head back and forth. My watch now said 11:30. If we get the wings right now we might make it on time.
The little lady returned with two golden wings made out of something like tree decorations, icicles, whatever you call them. She showed me just the tip of one wing, but I got the idea.
“Yeah. Yeah. So are you gonna give em to me? I got to go now. Mass starts in 25 minutes. Please.”
She was mumbling something about how to put them on and how to store them and how to hold them above the ground so they don’t get dirty. And I was saying, “Thank you, thank you, yes, yes, thank you, I’ll see you on Friday and Merry Christmas to you and your husband. Merry Christmas.”
Back in the car I threw the wings in the back seat, right on top of Claire, started the Nash and we rambled off into the night.
It was 11:40.
I gave it the gas and laid a pile of rubber stinking up Front Street all the way to Cherry. Then down Bancroft to Parkside Blvd. and all the lights were on in the church and the whole congregation was parking their cars on every side street in every sort of parking disorder.
Instead of parking in front, I swung around next to the cemetery fence and raced to the back of the church where I knew all the kids would be lining up to go inside. Beth is screaming at me to slow down and Emily and Claire are now crying, and Claire is screaming something about the wings getting crushed.
I parked right near the rectory, tell Beth to meet me just outside the church entrance. Then I grabbed those god-damn angel wings and run like a bat or angel out of heaven all the way to the end of the procession where Jeffrey is sitting down. He’s not allowed in the procession without angel wings, one of the nuns tells me.
I said, “Well, here. Help me put em on Jeffrey, Sister.” So she slides or glides over toward me, looks at the wings and says, “These are not angel wings for the boys. This is a set of girls’ angel wings.”
Well, I lost it right there and said, “Sister, if God and Baby Jesus and all the Wise Men and St. Joseph object, then I don’t know what. Get these wings on Jeffrey. I’m not gonna argue the finer points.”
Well, dear Sister Elizabeth or Isabel, one of the two, kind of gives me a very, very wicked look, but she does put the wings over Jeffrey’s shoulders and slides the tape together properly and no one’s gonna care.
So Jeffrey is fairly happy, but I hear him say, “I’m not a girl.”
So I just tell him to be a good Christian and sing loud.
Now I notice I’m out of breath, but Beth is waving to me, so I rush over to the entrance. Beth fixes my tie properly and dusts my jacket and we enter the church.
But there are no seats. Only in the balcony. Were so late we climb the stairs to the balcony and have to sit in the middle of the back row, behind the choir. We cannot see the altar. We cannot see the procession.
But those children’s voices. Those little kindergarten voices were so sweet the tears came to my eyes and I thanked the Blessed Savior for making me a god-fearin' Catholic.
  


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Books by
Larry Rochelle



Dust Devils: KANSAS WINNER 2005

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Siren Sorcery: EPPIE FINALIST 2004

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