4 Weeks Later
The holidays tend to bring out the nostalgic side of everyone, and it was no different at the Tommy holiday party.
The store was only closed three days a year.
The first Friday of August for International Beer Day.
The original Tommy always had a sense of humor.
Corporate was pissed.
Faulkner thought it was great.
At 5:30, things in the store were winding down. Last minute screwdrivers were sold to customers who wouldn't know a screw from a loaf of bread, and procrastinators found it fitting to swear at associates because the only Tommy gift cards said, "congratulations on your new home."
Some took it light hearted.
Kitty Richardson sold the last gift card at 5:32 to an older gentleman wearing a Santa hat.
"You are aware that this isn't a holiday card," Kitty explained thoughtfully.
"Yup," the older fellow said.
"Okay. Some people got a little upset that this was all we had left," Kitty said.
"Well, it's for my grandson. Kid's a real shithead. Just bought a 98 Chevy, and if history repeats itself, he'll be living in it before long."
"That's putting a positive spin on things," Kitty commented.
"I'd let him live with me, but he can't keep growing the Mary Jane in my attic. My other grandson is FBI. Too bad you don't have a card that says, "sorry your brother's a felon. Buy yourself a new wrench."
"I'll put it in the suggestion box," Kitty said, and the customer left with a chuckle.
Grandma Ada showed up just before the store closed at six. Kitty sighed when she walked in. "Grandma? What are you doing here?"
"Got myself a date," Grandma said.
"With whom?" Kitty asked hesitantly.
"That nice Mr. Stockwell told me about the party, and I told him I didn't have any plans."
"You're Stockwell's date?" Kitty asked.
"Not exactly," Grandma said, looking at her feet. "But I'll find someone. The girl's all look prettier at closing time."
Grandma continued staring at her feet.
"What's wrong?" Kitty asked.
"The elastic's worn out in my pantyhose. Just making sure they aren't draggin' the ground."
Kitty rolled her eyes. Grandma Ada had raided her closet again. She wore a sheer blouse, one of Kitty's best from the Kohl's Vera Wang line, but she'd rather ruined the effect by wearing a Metallica t-shirt underneath. Her skirt was flowered with every flower known to the finest horticulturalist, and her yellow Chuck Taylors appeared to have a dingleberry attached to the heel.
Kitty let that one go. The store would be a mess by midnight, with party fare covering every inch of the conference, training and break rooms. A little dog doo would blend right in.
"Are we closed yet?" Grandma asked.
Kitty checked her watch. "Yup. I'll make the announcement."
"I'll do it," Grandma said, and before Kitty could stop her, she'd grabbed a phone and hit the paging button.
"Attention Tommy customers. The Christmas shit's been out since September, and you've had your chance. The store's closed. Now get the hell out. We've got to get the party started."
"How'd I do?" Grandma asked.
"Fabulous," Kitty groaned.
"KITTY!" Stockwell yelled.
"Stay here!" Kitty demanded, looking at her grandmother.
"What the hell was that?" Stockwell asked, plowing through the front end with fire in his eyes.
"That was my grandmother."
"What the hell is she doing here?" Stockwell asked.
"Well, SOMEONE invited her to the party," Kitty declared, hands on hips.
"I did no such thing. I merely mentioned..........."
"She'll be one hundred years old in a little more than a month. A mere mention is an invitation," Kitty explained.
"She'll be fine," Stockwell said, distracted by his closing duties.
"I look forward to this party all year. I drink and laugh, and usually end up singing and doing something that ends up on Youtube. Someone drives me home, and people point and whisper for a week afterward. I'm okay with that. It's a night away from the two old biddies who drive me bat shit 365 days a year. So, what do you do? You invite one of those biddies."
"Did you remember to get the money from the outside register? There were a couple of half dead trees out there," Stockwell asked, and Kitty gasped.
"Seriously? Did you hear anything I just said?" Kitty roared.
"I rented a karaoke machine," Stockwell said.
"You're forgiven," Kitty said with a smile.
"Almost. You're singing with me."
"I am not," Stockwell said, as he laid twenties and fifties out on the table in the cash office.
An hour later the party was in full swing.
Slick Mitchell handed out the Christmas bonuses an hour into the party. If he hadn't waited until everyone had pre-gamed a bit, someone might have shot him again. The bonuses were pretty pathetic. He struggled with his crutches, and didn't notice when Alejandro flipped him off.
Daisy Cates drank scotch from a mason jar. It had a red bow on it.
Aaron Faulkner granted himself a night off from the wagon. For once, he drank openly, although he still had a stash in his locker. He stayed close to Kitty's side. He'd asked her to be his date.
Grandma Ada had paid him $250.00 to do so.
He'd have done it for free.
Mags dressed up. She wore new jeans and a t-shirt that said, "real chicks drive fork lifts." She'd purchased one for Wilton Scott as a gag gift.
Lucy Goosie had returned from a limited engagement as a lounge singer on a cruise ship. She was tanned and smiling, and she'd brought tiny packets of complimentary peanuts for all the employees and a portable shuffleboard game.
Bernice dressed up as one of Santa's elves.
No one found it odd.
Miles wore orange coveralls that said "Department of Corrections." He'd lifted it from his weekend gig, picking trash from the town's medians. He'd kept a sense of humor about the whole thing, and Tommy policy called for leniency for misdemeanors.
Alejandro and Gutz stood on one of the tables, acting out a scene from Julius Caesar. No one was sure who was who, with Gutz in his General's costume and all, but the entire thing was entertaining, until Alejandro stepped in a pan of baked ziti and slid off the table with a thud.
"Who put that there?" Alejandro barked.
"I only set it there for a moment," Grandma Ada said.
"I almost broke my neck," Alejandro whined.
"Well, you didn't, so grab a plate and go get some cake," Grandma said, and Alejandro obediently did as told, tracking ziti into the next room.
By nine o'clock, the karaoke was in full swing. Kitty put in her request, and grabbed Stockwell when her name was called. Tommy associates would be talking about their rendition of Grease's "You're the One That I Want," for a long time to come.
Stockwell was quite entertaining.
Faulkner vowed to take singing lessons.
Wilton Scott had hit the gin. Hard. An hour into the karaoke show, he got the bright idea to set fire to the shirt Mags had given him. The polyester blend went up like a singlewide, but Grandma was fast on her feet for a near centenarian, and she had the thing extinguished in less than a minute with a king-size can of Redi Whip.
"Works just like a fire extinguisher!" Grandma exclaimed.
Stockwell was so grateful for her quick thinking, he pressed a kiss to her cheek, beneath the mistletoe.
She blushed through her bright red rouge.
Kitty wiped a tear from her cheek, moved by the act of kindness she'd witnessed. She knew her grandmother was holding onto life with all the strength someone so old could muster, and for once, she thought not of the bickering, the odd outfits, or the occasional kitchen fires. She thought only of the laughter, and the blessing of having a grandmother who'd defied the odds, medical expectations, and the DMV, who threatened annually to take the old lady's license.
Just before midnight, Wilton Scott dragged a blanket behind him and climbed onto the table in the conference room. Mags dimmed the lights, and the room grew quiet.
Wilton smiled at his crowd and spoke in an even voice. He offered no quirky facts. For once, he was totally serious.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.