‘Twas the Night After Christmas

Christmas Morning I awoke to the dull buzzing behind my eyes once again. It’s common after one of my really bad migraines to suffer these “aftershock” aches the next day, but I was in a foul mood for it any way. I drove over to my parents’ house and was in no mood for presents, so I told them so. (And this is how Stuckey ruined Christmas morning for Mom.) We skipped presents and jumped in their car to head to the aunt’s house.
Every year we drive up to my aunt’s, in Hartsville, for Christmas Day. My cousin, her son, was also an only child, and he and I are very close. He’s got two girls now, ages 10 and 5, and they’re as spoiled as they can be without becoming brats. I love them to death, but them squealing and jabbering all morning was not helping my headache. The food was good, and it was nice to spend time with the family, but I was beyond ready to go.
Christmas night found me alone at my house with my new ill-gotten presents. Some of the things were actually items off of my list, which is a rare event for me. It just didn’t feel very Christmasy to me, though, and again I felt the desire to have someone around.
The day after Christmas, though, made up for the previous two days. While driving to the gas station for a coke, I passed an elderly man changing a tire. The coke could wait, so I pulled over to help this guy out. (Translation, I told him to stand back and let me change it for him.) It was the first time I actually changed a tire myself, and I’m glad to say it wasn’t my own. He insisted on giving me money, despite my protests, so I gave in and graciously accepted a $20 bill. I went on to retrieve my coke, and decided that I all that tire-changing made me hungry. I skipped the gas station and went straight to McDonalds.
I washed my hands and got in line for food. The woman in front of me had three little kids screaming for ice cream. (What retarded child asks for ice cream when it’s cold outside?) The mom ordered ice cream for them, and came up short when she went to pay. Before she could tell these kids that they wouldn’t get their ice cream, after all, I butted in and said to put the ice cream on my ticket. She smiled and thanked me and told me she couldn’t allow that, and I smiled and told her to think of it as a holiday gift. Besides, it was money that I didn’t have when I left the house. So the kids got their ice cream, courtesy of the old man with the flat tire. I got a burger meal on him, and still had about $10 leftover.
Home again, I goofed around for most of the day. I should’ve been painting my bedroom, but I’m such a procrastinator about that. Around nine o’clock that night, I decided I wanted coke again. Since I have no coke at the house, that meant another trip to the gas station. On the way there, I fantasized about buying a pack of cigarettes. Quitting is not as easy as I’d imagined it would be.
I go in and grab a coke, and as I’m standing at the counter, a woman walks up and asks me if I’m heading towards Wal-Mart. I wasn’t, but I had seen her standing by the road as I pulled in with her thumb in the air. I said I was passing right by Wal-Mart, and offered her a ride. In my conversation with her, I had bought the coke and totally forgot to ask for cigarettes.
We jump in the truck and begin the drive to Wal-Mart. Her name was Betty, and her car’s engine had died right after she moved here from Atlanta. Without a car, her life was suddenly hard. The public transportation here doesn’t make stops in neighborhoods like ours, which means she has to find a ride just to get to the bus stop. With no means of independent locomotion, finding a job had proved impossible. She stopped her story to tell me that she wasn’t going to ask me for money. She didn’t believe in money for nothing. All she wanted was a ride. While I’m sure beggars use as a this line, I actually believed her.
Being the blunt and honest person that I am, I asked Betty how she could make a house payment or rent if she couldn’t get a job. She mumbled something about occassionally selling her body. Being blunt and half-joking, I said that I’d always wondered what the going rate for that was, and whether it was a flat fee per “service” or whether it was an hourly charge. She laughed and proceeded to explain how it worked. Certain things apparently have flat rates, because they don’t take much time. But they also have hourly rates.
By the time we got to Wal-Mart, I had decided that I liked Betty. I decided that I believed her story, and I decided that I’d do something to help. As she was getting out of the truck, I told her that I’d be interested in buying two hours. She asked me when I wanted them, and I said I didn’t want them for me. I told her I wanted her to spend those two hours however she wanted, and to think of it sort of like a paid vacation. She argued a bit, but finally I got her to take the money, $10 of which was from the old man that morning.
When I got home, I felt like it was Christmas for the first time this month. I’ve decided to add a resolution to my list. I’m going to treat every day as if it were Christmas. With any luck, I’ll be able to change a tire faster than a NASCAR pit crew one day.

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