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The Not-so-white Christmas Gift
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Through the front window of the drugstore where we both worked as assistant managers,! could see Lamar eagerly awaiting my arrival,his breath condensing on the glass as he peered out at me. A deal we had struck back in November had him working Christmas Day and me New Year's. The weather outside was typical of Memphis at this time of the year. Lamer and I always hoped for a white Christ-but this one had rolled by just like the previous mas. twenty â€” cold and foggy,with nary a snowflake in sight. As I pushed into the warmth Tag Heuer Replica Watches of the store, Lamar looked relieved. "Rough day?" I inquired. Gesturing to the front cash register, Lammar moaned, "We had lines fifteendeep yestereday. I've never seen so many people trying to buy batteries and film. Oh well, I guess that's one of the joys of working Christmas day. "
"What do you want me to do today?" I asked. "It will probably slow down around six tonight. The night after Christmas is usually dead. Then you can straighten this disaster of a toy aisle. " He stooped to pick up a stray stuffed animal, which he shoved into my belly. "And do something with this animal. " That little plush dog had become our Christmas mascot.
We seemed to be forever picking it up off the floor. Five, maybe ten,times a day. It hadn't been a pretty toy to begin with. Now its long shaggy fur had become matted and soiled,as gray as the day outside,grimed with dust from the floor and dirt from the hands of children who had held it while their mothers waited for prescriptions to be filled. The toy had been marked down many times, without any takers. In that bright shiny world of Smurfs and Barbie dolls and G. I. Joes,I guess a little dog with dirty white fur just wasn't the plaything of choice. Still, every kid in Memphis must have squeezed that puppy at least once that Christmas season.
The afternoon bustled by with refunds,exchanges and the sale of half-price Christmas decorations, but at six o'clock, just as Lamar had predicted,business came to a halt. Out of sheer boredom,! went to work on the toy aisle. The first toy I encountered,of course,was that fluffy dog with the droopy ears,staring up at me from the floor one more time. I started to throw it away and write it off the inventory, but, I changed my mind and stuck it back on the shelf. SentimenÂ¬tal,! guess.
"Excuse me. " A voice interrupted my deliberations. "Are you the manager?" I turned and saw a slender young woman with a little boy of five standing quietly beside her. "I'm the assistant manager," I said. "How may I help you?" The lady looked down for a moment,then put her chin up and said with something like a rasp in her voice, "My son hasn't had my Christmas. I was hoping you might have something marked down now. Something I could afford?"
I had grown cynical at the occasional homeless person's plea for quarters,but in her voice,! heard a note of sincerity and a pride that made her ache at having to ask such a question.
I looked down at the little boy,standing there so self-con-trolled in the midst of all those toys. "I'm just marking the toys down now. What is it you're looking for?" The young woman brightened, as though she had finally encountered someone who would listen. "I don't have much money,but I'd like to buy my son something special. "
The boy's face lit up at his mother's words. Speaking directly to him, I said, "You pick out the best toy you could want for Christmas,okay?" He glanced at his mother, and when IWC Replica Watches she nodded her assent, he grinned ear to ear. I waited,curious to see which of the season's most popular toys he would choose. Maybe a race car set,or a basketball. Instead,he walked right to that gruff old dog and hugged it as tightly as ever I had seen a kid clutch a toy. I acted as if I were brushing the hair out of my eyes, while I surreptitiously wiped away a tear.
"How much is that dog?" his mother asked, unfastening the clasp on a small,black coin purse. "It's no charge," I said. "You'd be doing me a favor by taking it away. " "No,I can't do that," she insisted. "I want to pay for my son's Christmas present. " From the intense look in her eyes,I knew that she wanted to give her child a gift as much as he wanted to receive one.
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