I don't own these characters, I am only borrowing them for the purposes of writing what I hope is a halfway entertaining story for the Christmas season. Please enjoy!
Yes Jimmy, There Really is a…Christmas Stork?
© December 2010
"Alright, partner, spill it."
Jim, sitting in the passenger seat of the cruiser, looking out through the side window with a glum look on is face, as he had done almost the entire shift. "It's nothing, Pete."
"It must be something, 'cause in the seven years that I've known ya, you've never looked that glum over 'nothing' before."
Pete's words had the desired effect and Jim laughed slightly before saying, "Well, you know, Jean and I had this trip planned for this weekend; you know, kind of second honeymoon to celebrate our tenth anniversary, right?"
"So you've been telling me every day for the last month. Jean getting a little excited, is she? Driving you a little nuts talking non-stop about it?"
"Not anymore, she's not." The gloominess once again invaded the inside of the squad car.
Pete spared a quick glance at is partner, "Oh yeah? Why not; you do something that made her mad?"
"Humph…if it were only that easy to fix!"
"Wow, this must be a real doozy; what gives?" Pete couldn't help but chuckle at the obvious dilemma troubling his friend. He wondered what could have possibly put a damper on the upcoming anniversary trip that had been so carefully planned by Jim and Jean Reed, right down to Pete going over and checking the house two or three times while they were away on their three day excursion.
Jim had taken vacation for Friday and Monday, to coincide with his weekend off. They had planned on leaving after dropping Jimmy off to school on Friday morning, and returning in time to pick him up after school on Monday afternoon. Now that the boy was in first grade, he was in school all day.
"Well," Jim began with a sigh, "Jean's sister, Beth, was supposed keep Jimmy for the weekend, since Jean's folks are in Vegas. She called last night and said that the flu is going through her family like water through a sieve, so she won't be able to keep Jimmy, after all."
"Hmm…maybe they'll start feeling better by tonight and she'll change her mind and tell you that she can keep him after all. She's got three kids, right? Maybe they'll all have a miraculous recovery and be healthy by tonight; you know, just a minor bug." Pete offered, in hopes of lifting Jim's mood just slightly.
"Nah, I don't think we're gonna be that lucky. Her husband had it, and then the two youngest kids got it; now it looks like Beth and the oldest boy have it. She called Jean this morning and told her that she didn't think that she'd be feeling well enough by tomorrow afternoon to take on an extra kid at the house for the weekend. She said that her husband and the two youngest ones were puking for two days." Jim let out a heavy sigh, "Besides, Jean said that she doesn't want Jimmy over there this soon after they've all been sick, anyway; not with the ear infections and bronchitis that he's had since the weather has been cooler and damp. I really don't blame her, I wasn't crazy about it, either."
"So, postpone the trip by a week or so. I looked at the time off calendar at work the other day, and it looks like we have a full roster the next couple of weeks." Pete didn't really see the big deal in changing plans.
"We did talk about that, briefly. I know Mac would probably let me change my vacation, it's just that I don't think we can change our reservations at the lodge without taking a big hit; one we really can't afford with Christmas coming up and all. Besides, most of the cabins are already booked for the next month with couples taking winter ski trips. I guess we'll just see about getting as much of a refund as we can, and then maybe we can plan something in the spring."
As Pete listened, he was formulating an idea in his mind. It would be something worth pondering for the rest of the day, at least, before he would spring it on Jim. "Well, don't cancel the reservations just yet, 'cause something might come to mind and it might just work out."
Jim was back to staring out the passenger window, "Yeah, I know; Jean said that, too. I think she's hoping her folks will get wind of it, through Beth, and cut their trip short by a few days."
"When are they due back?" Pete asked, nonchalantly.
"Tuesday night, sometime." Jim supplied.
"Oh." Pete's mind was racing; he didn't know if he wanted to say anything just yet, but he was contemplating the possibility that he could stay at the Reeds for the weekend and watch Jimmy. It was his weekend off, so once he finished his shift on Friday afternoon, he'd be free and clear until Monday afternoon. As much as he hated to see Jim stew, he decided to wait until the end of the day to say anything. He wanted to run something by Mac first.
"You probably think it's selfish of us to hope they come back early, huh?"
Pete knew how much Jean and Jim had been looking forward to this second honeymoon getaway; he knew that they'd been planning for awhile, and that money was tight enough that probably wouldn't have the chance to get away at anytime in the near future. "No, I don't think it's selfish; I can understand how you would both be disappointed in the situation, as it is."
Maneuvering the cruiser into the parking space at the rear of the station, Pete shut off the engine and unbuckled as he opened the door. "Jim, would you mind getting the shotgun and turning it in. I need to go in a talk to Mac for a few minutes. It should only take a few minutes and then I'll meet you in the locker room."
"Sure Pete, whatever you say." Jim unbuckled and got out, gathering all of his gear, and then going to the trunk to grab the shotgun that was signed out to them, as well as their riot helmets.
"Honey, dinner was great…now, what's for dessert?" Jim had pulled Jean down onto his lap as she rounded his chair to clear his plate from the table. Jimmy had gone to his friends' house and was having dinner over there, so it was just the two of them. Jim knew what he was yearning for in the way of dessert and he playfully nuzzled Jean's neck until she let out a squeal and giggle. She was just about to remind him that Jimmy was due home at any moment and that he'd have to wait until Jimmy retired for the night to get the dessert that they both had in mind, when the doorbell rang.
Jim let out a low, strangled growl as he set Jean on her feet; "We will continue this discussion behind closed doors in a short while."
The doorbell rang a second time, "I'll hold you to that, husband; now, you'd better go see who's ringing the doorbell while I clear the table and cut the apple pie. Do you want coffee?"
"Yeah, honey; thanks." Jim tossed out over his shoulder as he left the kitchen and went to answer the door.
"Pete! What brings you back over, man?" Jim was surprised to see his friend at their door; earlier in the day he had asked Pete if he'd like to join them for dinner, but Pete had declined, saying that he just wanted to go home, kick back and relax with a good book.
The smile on Pete's face was a mile wide. "I was wondering if I could talk to you and Jean for a minute. I was going to wait until tomorrow, but I figured the sooner the better. I'm not catching you at a bad time, am I?"
"No, not at all. Come on in, you know that you're welcome here any time." Jim said.
Pete stepped into the room and Jim motioned for him to sit down. "Jean's making coffee and cutting one of her famous apple pies; you up for a piece?"
Pete, never one to turn down a slice of Jean's homemade apple pie, nodded enthusiastically, "You don't have to ask me twice!"
Jean Reed heard her friend's voice and popped her head into the living room from the kitchen doorway, "Pete! How nice to see you; have you eaten dinner? I still have some vegetable soup and biscuits out here. It won't take more than a few minutes to heat the soup and I can wrap the biscuits in foil and stick them in the oven for a few minutes to warm."
Pete gave Jean a smile as he held up a hand to stop her from going on, "No thank you, Jean. I ate at home, but…uhm…Jim did make mention of an apple pie that you're cutting."
Remembering that Pete had polished off two generous of slices of her apple pie when he'd joined the family for their Thanksgiving feast a week and a half ago, Jean laughed and said, "Hmm…yes, I seem to recall your fondness for my apple pie. How 'bout a cup of coffee with it?"
"That'd be great Jean, thanks." Pete then turned to Jim, who had sat down in the recliner opposite the sofa where Pete was sitting, "Where's my godson? He's usually out here with a hug for me by now."
"Jimmy's down the street at his friend's house, but he should be home anytime now. Alan's dad's gonna walk him home about six-thirty. He'll sure be happy to see you."
Coming into the room and handing Pete his pie and coffee, Jean added, "Yeah, he will; just this morning he was asking when you were going to come over again. He's got some pretty important news to tell you, and something to ask you."
Pete gave Jim a perplexed and questioning look as Jean returned to the kitchen for Jim's pie and coffee. Handing it to her husband, she then went back and soon returned with her own dessert before sitting down on the opposite end of the sofa.
"Sorry, partner, we told Jimmy he could tell ya himself." Jim said, "You're just gonna have to nurse that pie and coffee until Jimmy gets home."
Pete laughed, "Okay, okay. I need to talk to the two of you, anyway. By the way, thanks for the coffee and pie, Jean."
"You're welcome, Pete. Now, what did you want to speak with us about?" In the back of her mind, she wondered if Pete was going to tell them that he was thinking of popping the question to his girlfriend, Judy. He had been seeing her for almost a year, and seemed to enjoy her company; not to mention that Pete had formed a close bond with David, who was Judy's son from her first marriage.
"Well, Jim mentioned that your vacation plans have hit a bit of a snag, and I think I may have the answer. That is, if you and Jim are both agreeable to it…and Jimmy, too, of course."
Jim's face lit up; he had a feeling he knew what Pete was getting at, but he didn't want to get his hopes up so he casually asked, "What d'ya have in mind, Pete?"
"Well…I thought maybe I could stay here and watch Jimmy for the weekend."
"Hey…that'd be great, Pete!" Jim couldn't hold back his enthusiasm.
Jean held up her hand, "Now just wait a minute, you two…"
"Honey, what?" Jim couldn't understand why Jean wasn't basking in the good news as he was.
"Pete, aren't you working tomorrow?" Jean asked.
"Yeah…but its day shift and I'll be off work by four-thirty in the afternoon, and then I don't go back in until Monday afternoon for the evening shift." Pete was beaming ear to ear as he watched the Reed's digest his offer.
"Oh Pete, we appreciate the offer, but Jimmy gets out of school at two-thirty, and he has to be picked up; he can't just walk home and stay here by himself for two hours. That was really sweet of you to offer, though." Jean couldn't keep the disappointment out of her voice and she felt like a heel for putting a damper on Pete's generous offer. The look on Jim's face cut through her, as well, as she watched his smile quickly fade. Only Pete seemed unfazed by her words, and he continued to sit there looking like he'd just won the lottery.
Pete let out a little laugh, "Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that I had Mac talk to Mary, and she's gonna pick Jimmy up after school and take him to their house; I'll pick him up there after I get off of work. Sound good?"
An instant later, Jean practically leapt across the sofa and embraced Pete in a big hug, "Oh Pete! You're a genius! You really thought of everything, didn't you? And all so that Jim and I could go on our second honeymoon! How can we ever thank you!" She placed a kiss on his cheek, causing him to turn red from the neck up.
"Wow, man, thanks!" Jim got up and walked over to Pete and shook his hand, slapping him on the back of the shoulder with the other hand as he did so. "You'd really do that for us?"
"Of course I would! Jimmy and I will have a blast together; I love spending time with my godson and you know that!" Pete was beaming ear to ear as he listened to Jean begin listing all of the things she needed to take care of so that they could leave the next morning. Jim listened carefully as she gave him a list of things to take care of, as well.
Smiling at his friends, Pete finished off the last of his pie just as the front door swung open and six-year-old Jimmy Reed came bounding in and right over to his Godfather.
"Uncle Pete, Uncle Pete! Guess what, guess what, guess what?" The boy was jumping up and down, clapping his hands as he stood in front of Pete.
Jimmy's enthusiasm was contagious and Pete found himself answering with equal vigor. "What Jimmy, what Jimmy, what?" Pete was laughing at the boy's excitement over something that was apparently very important to him.
"I'm gonna be in the school play for Christmas and I gotta tell lines and everything, and a whole lotta people will be there and I got a whole lot of lines to say and will you come too, Uncle Pete? Will you? Please, please, please, Uncle Pete, say you'll come see me in the play!" Jimmy was jumping up and down so much that Pete could have sworn there were jumping beans in the boy's pants.
Jimmy stopped jumping long enough to throw his arms around Pete's neck, "Please Uncle Pete!"
Nearly being choked by the grip of the young boys' arms around his throat, Pete chuckled as well as he could and choked out, "You betcha, sport; I wouldn't miss it for the world…but you're gonna have to let go of my neck before you choke me into unconsciousness." Jimmy did his uncle's bidding and then climbed into his lap and continued to prattle on about the Christmas program.
"So," Pete asked, "what's the program about?"
"It's about the birth of Baby Jesus, Uncle Pete. Don't you know that's what Christmas means?" Jimmy was looking at Pete with concern in his eyes. Surely anyone as smart as his godfather would know that, he figured.
Slightly taken aback, Pete smiled, "Well of course I know what Christmas means. I just wanted to see if you knew, is all. Now, what part do you get to play, then? Are you gonna be an angel? Joseph? A shepherd, maybe?"
Sighing and wondering how his uncle could be so dense about the obvious, Jimmy shook his head and said, "No silly…I'm gonna get to be one of the really smart guys, so I have to practice saying my lines so I can learn them all."
"One of the really 'smart guys?' Pete questioned, not really sure where Jimmy was going with the explanation.
Jean spoke up and clarified with, "Jimmy is going to be one of the wise men, Pete. Isn't that wonderful?" The pride that filled her voice was that of only a mother.
"Oh, one of the wise men. Well you must be pretty smart to get picked for a part like that, Jimmy."
Jimmy was nodding his head and quickly answered, "I am, Uncle Pete. Daddy said that I must be just as smart as him, 'cause he got to be a wise…a wise…what is it again, Mommy?"
"A wise man, honey."
"Yeah, that's it, a wise man. Daddy got to be one too, way back in the olden days when he was little, but that was a long time ago though, so he's probably forgotten a lot of stuff by now, don't you think, Uncle Pete?"
"Hey!" Jim spoke up, over Jean's giggling, "what's that supposed to mean?"
Pete had to work hard to control his laughter as he struggled against the smart-aleck answer that was nearly oozing it's way through his lips, opting instead to just nod his head and say, "Well, I'm proud of you, Jimmy. How about if I come over here and stay with you this weekend, while your mom and dad are out of town, and we can practice learning your lines. Does that sound good to you?"
Jimmy slid off of Pete's lap and began jumping up and down once again as he cheered in glee that he and Pete were going to spend the weekend together. "Yippee!"
"Well," Jim smiled at Pete, "I'd say you just made everyone in the Reed household, happy; very happy, to be precise."
"Good; glad I could help, partner." Pete stood up, "Now, I need to head on home and pack a bag for the weekend and that way when I pick Jimmy up from Mac's house after work tomorrow, we can come straight over here. By the way, when is the Christmas play? I'll talk to Mac tomorrow and make sure we are both off that night."
"It's this Wednesday coming up; six-thirty in the school gymnasium. If you want, you can just have dinner with us and then ride over with us."
"Sounds good; like I told Jimmy, I wouldn't miss it for the world."
As the two worked out the details concerning the weekend ahead, Jean hustled Jimmy off to the bathroom so he could get started on is bedtime routine.
True to his word, the first thing Pete did when he got to work was to speak with Mac about he and Jim getting the upcoming Wednesday night off. It took a bit of creative re-arrangement in the schedule, but after making a couple of phone calls, Mac was able to finagle it so that Jim and Pete would work the day shift that day, rather than the evening shift that they originally scheduled for.
Since he didn't have a partner, Pete was assigned to an 'L' car for the day. Though he enjoyed the peace and quiet, Pete found that without his partner to keep him in a constant state of conversation, the day moved fairly slowly. Pete's thoughts were on how much he was going to enjoy spending the weekend with Jimmy, so he was glad when his shift was over.
After turning in his paperwork and changing into his street clothes, Pete placed a pizza order and then left to pick up Jimmy from Mac's house. The two then made their way to the pizza parlor to pick up the pizza before making their way back to the Reeds' place.
"Okay, sport, what d'ya say we go inside and eat our pizza while it's still hot ad then we'll come out and get your schoolwork and my gym bag."
"Okay; and then can we practice my lines, Uncle Pete?" Jimmy was taking his acting debut to heart and he was anxious for Pete to hear him practice his lines.
"You betcha we can. Did you bring them home with you?"
Jimmy nodded his head, "Uhm-huh, we had to bring 'em home a long time ago so we could start practicin' only I didn't get to practice last night 'cause I was at my friends' house after school."
"Oh, I see…well, I guess we had better practice really hard this weekend, then."
"Yup, we had better, Uncle Pete!" Jimmy readily agreed.
Monday morning dawned bright and early, though not nearly early enough for Pete. Jimmy had proven to have more than enough energy to wear him down to sheer exhaustion over the weekend and Pete had a newfound respect for parents everywhere, especially stay-at-home mothers.
Glancing at the clock, Pete moaned and threw his hand over his eyes. It was only six-thirty a.m. Jimmy would have to be getting up for school in a half-hour. Stretching slowly, Pete sat up and rubbed his hand down his face before standing up and heading down the hall to use the bathroom. He stopped just outside the bathroom door and listened; there were sounds coming from the kitchen so he continued on down the hallway towards that area of the house. As he neared the kitchen, the sounds became clearer; somebody was in the kitchen and making an awful lot of noise.
Peeking around the corner, Pete smiled when he saw Jimmy standing up on a chair and looking in the cupboard. No doubt the boy was trying to either fix his own breakfast or pack his lunch for school. Pete didn't want to startle the lad so he quietly walked back down the hallway a few feet and then as he walked forward he said, "Jimmy? Are you in the kitchen?"
Jimmy, unfazed that he'd been caught standing on the chair, something his mother had told him a million times not to do, replied, "Yep."
Pete walked up behind him, turned him around and lifted him down to the floor. "What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna fix your breakfast, Uncle Pete."
"Well, shouldn't you be getting ready for school and letting me fix breakfast?"
"I guess so, but I wanted to fix you breakfast for watching me this weekend."
"Oh…well, in that case, I would really enjoy a bowl of that yummy cereal that you had yesterday morning. What was that called, again?"
"Cap'n Crunch. You sure you don't want pancakes? I help mommy fix them all the time so I know how to do it, Uncle Pete."
Pete reached down and ruffled the boy's hair and said, "How about if I take a rain check on the pancakes and let you fix them for me when you don't have school, okay?"
"Okay, but it might not be raining the next time I don't have school Uncle Pete."
Pete chuckled as he reached into the cupboard and pulled out two bowls while Jimmy pulled out spoons from the silverware drawer. Pete then grabbed the cereal from the pantry and he and Jimmy sat down at the table for their breakfast. Afterwards, Jimmy got himself dressed and then Pete drove him to school. He had really enjoyed the weekend with Jimmy, but he had to admit that he was glad that Jim and Jean were coming back that day; he didn't have the stamina to be a full-time caregiver for a youngster with so much energy. Little Jimmy was truly like his dad in every sense of the way, right down to constantly asking questions, mostly ones that Pete found difficult and uncomfortable to answer; though he somehow muddled through. Jimmy also had his dad's knack for finding mischief to get in to.
Tuesday afternoon, Pete and Jim stood side by side in the locker room, changing for their evening shift. Jim was smiling from ear to ear, and if Pete had to put money on it, he'd bet it was due to the fact that Jim and Jean had shared a very romantic weekend together. As happy as he was for his friend, he hoped that Jim wouldn't drown him with the details during their stint on the street that night. Jim was always putting in a plug or two for the institution of marriage and after seven years, it was starting to get just a little old.
"Ready to get back to work, junior?" Pete asked as he finished buttoning up his uniform shirt.
"Oh yeah; I could have easily taken another couple of days, though. Thanks again for watching Jimmy, Pete. You two must've had a blast; Jimmy talked non-stop about everything you two did together." Jim hadn't talked to Pete since they had been back the day before. By the time they arrived in town and picked up Jimmy from school, Pete was already at work for the evening shift, so Jim just opted for calling the station and leaving Pete a message that they gotten back okay.
"Hey, no problem. We did have a ball, even if he did wear me out!" Pete chuckled at the memories of playing hours of 'hide and seek', along with 'cowboys and indians'.
"Jimmy said he learned all of his lines for the play; Jean said that she went over them with him last night and he recited them perfectly; didn't miss a thing."
"Hmmm…that's good. I think I have them pretty well memorized, too!" Pete stated, causing Jim to laugh.
"Well, if Jimmy can't make it the night of the play, maybe you can stand in for him, then."
Pete laughed and placed his gun into the holster. "I don't think so partner; I don't think I'd look good in a robe and crown."
"Ha…you're probably right; besides, I don't think the wise men went around packin' heat."
Pete chuckled, "No, I s'pose they didn't, at that." Bending to pick up his briefcase before heading to roll call, Pete said, "I'll save ya seat; don't be long, though, roll call starts in five."
"Just gotta tie my shoes and I'll be right behind ya." Jim bent over and double knotted both shoes before grabbing his briefcase and heading out of the locker room.
Roll call was brief and to the point, as it usually was during the Christmas season. The watch commander wanted to get everyone out into the various districts as quickly as possible. The holiday season tended to bring out the best and the worst of the general public, and unfortunately, it was the individuals that fell into the 'worst' category that the police officers had to deal with more times than not.
As the officers pulled out of the parking lot behind the station, Jim picked up the mic and cleared their unit for the evening shift. The dispatcher immediately gave them a theft report from a local drugstore. The complainant was less than pleased to hear that there wasn't much that Pete and Jim could do, especially without having a positive description to go on. The officers left the drugstore with a less than satisfactory feeling, but they knew there wasn't much else that they could do at that point.
Once back in the squad car, Jim sighed and picked up the mic after he had buckled in.
"One Adam-12 to station."
"One Adam-12, go ahead." Invited the voice behind the radio.
"One Adam-12 clear with a report."
"Copied, One Adam-12."
"Sure wish we could've done more for Mr. Harvey; he's a nice man."
"I know, Jim. Thing is, we can only go by what we're given, and Mr. Harvey couldn't really tell us much; there must be five hundred thousand white males with blond hair walking around in this city."
"Yeah, I know, Pete. It's too bad he didn't have any film in that camera behind the counter…or the electricity hooked up to it. We probably would have had an opportunity to at least get a bead on who the guy is."
"Well, that's the thing, Jim; electronic surveillance is only going to be as good as the equipment owner allows it to be. Maybe now Mr. Harvey will think it's a worthwhile investment to actually hook the camera up and run some electricity to it."
"Yeah, maybe." Jim agreed.
Riding in silence for a few minutes, the duo scanned their respective sides of the street for any signs of anything out of the ordinary. As they approached a four way stop, a yellow four-door sedan rolled through the intersection without stopping, from the opposite direction. Jim looked at Pete and Pete looked at Jim; both officers shook their heads and Pete glanced into his review mirror and then did a U-turn.
"If they'll run the stop sign right in front of us, imagine what they do when we aren't around!" Pete's thoughts were verbalized out loud as he fell in behind the sedan and flashed his lights and briefly sounded the siren. The car pulled over and came to a stop at the side of the road. Pete pulled the squad car in behind the sedan and picked up the mic to call out their location for the traffic stop.
Jim grabbed his ticket book; "I got it, Pete." He said as he got out of the cruiser and approached the drivers' side of the offenders' vehicle. The driver was a very pretty blond woman of about twenty-three years of age.
Rolling down the window, the woman stuck her head out and greeted Jim, "Merry Christmas, officer."
"Ma'am." He nodded, "I'm Officer Reed. Could I please see you license and registration?"
The woman handed the requested documents out through the window.
Jim glanced at the license; it belonged to a Fanny Mae Reese. "Do you know why we pulled you over, Miss Reese?"
"No; not really." The blank look on her face couldn't possibly have been faked; Jim was sure that she really didn't know why she'd been pulled over.
"We pulled you over because you rolled through that four-way stop sign back there."
"Well you guys stopped so I didn't have too; especially since nobody else was coming."
"Miss Reese, that's not how it works. When you come up to a four-way stop sign, you have to come to a complete stop before you continue on through, even if the other car is already stopped."
"Oh…are you sure?"
"Yes, Ma'am, I'm sure." What he really wanted to ask was whether or not she read the instructions that came with her license when she retrieved them from the Cracker Jack box.
"Well, since when?" She still wasn't convinced that Jim was telling her the truth.
"Since stop signs were invented, Ma'am." Jim had been writing the ticket as he stood there. He handed the document to the woman "I need you to sign on the dotted line there please."
Frowning, she took the ticket pad and Jims' pen and signed on the dotted line before handing the ticket pad back to Jim. He initialed the ticket and tore off the woman's copy, explaining to her how to go about paying the ticket. He then bid her a good day and made his way back to the cruiser as Miss Reese took off.
Jim chuckled as he slid into the passenger seat. "She was cute, but man, she was way out there; you should've taken that one."
"I'm not in the market for cute little blondes that run stop signs, Jim. Judy wouldn't like that too well."
"Hey, speaking of Judy, she's welcome to come along to Jimmy's pageant tomorrow night."
"Yeah, I figured that; I asked her but she already has plans to go out with her friends from work while David's at his scout meeting. She doesn't get to go out with them much."
"Well, if her plans fall through, bring her along."
"Yeah, thanks; I'll keep that in mind. Why don't you get us cleared for seven and we'll head on in."
"Sounds good." Jim called in to ask for dinner clearance as Pete steered the squad car towards the station.
The remainder of the evening went fairly quickly, with a few more traffic stops and a domestic call. Right around eleven-forty, they headed back toward the station; both wanted to get right out since they had to be back in early the next morning for the day shift. Seeing Jimmy's pageant that evening would make the couple hours of sleep deprivation well worth it in the eyes of both of the men.
Wednesday night at dinner…
"Jean, as always, dinner was fabulous; I ate way too much, though." Pete smiled as he pushed back his chair and patted his stomach.
Giggling, "Oh Pete, you always say that! You're such a flatterer."
"Careful Pete, you pat your stomach too hard and hand's liable to disappear." Jim doubled himself over and laughed hysterically at his own joke.
"Keep it up, partner, and I'll pat you and make you disappear, then I can enjoy your lovely wife's cooking all to myself; well, Jimmy and I can, anyway." Pete was giving Jim 'the look'. Jim just laughed even harder and then Jean joined in. "I see how you are." Pete directed at Jean.
Jean walked over and hugged Pete around the neck before placing a sisterly kiss on his cheek. Laughing, she said, "I'm sorry Pete, but you know I just can't resist my husbands one-liners; besides, after riding with him for this long, I'd think you'd be immune to his sense of humor."
Feigning annoyance with both Jim and Jean, "Humph…humor? Isn't that rather a stretch?"
Before anyone could answer, Jimmy, who had finished eating and had been excused to go change into his good clothes, came running into the dining room. "Mommy, mommy, mommy; is it time to go yet?"
"Just about, sweetheart. Did you brush your teeth and go potty?"
"Yep, and I even washed my hands, see." Jimmy held out both hands for Jean to inspect.
"Good job, honey. Now, go get your shoes on and sit on the sofa so you don't get your good clothes dirty; we'll be leaving in about fifteen minutes." Jean was just starting to clear the dishes from the table.
"Okay, Mommy." Jimmy spun around and ran out of the room.
"Honey, let me clear while you go get freshened up." Jim took the plates out of Jean's hands and placed them in the sink. Pete had also gotten up and was helping out with putting leftovers away. He felt relatively at home in the Reed's house, and fairly certain that Jean wouldn't have any trouble finding anything that he put away.
"Thanks honey. Pete, thanks for helping, too." Jean walked out of the room and down the hall.
"Jimmy sure is excited about tonight." Pete ventured.
"Yeah, he's pretty pumped up about playing one of the wise men; he's not so crazy about all of the songs that they are singing before and during the play, though."
Shortly after getting everything put away and the kitchen cleaned, the Reeds, along with Pete, loaded into the Reeds station wagon and headed over to the school. They walked Jimmy down to his classroom, where the children were gathering to line up for the play, and then the adults went down to the gymnasium to claim their seats.
Jim was fidgeting in his seat as they waited for the stage curtain to rise. He leaned over and whispered in Jean's ear. "Do these things start right on time?"
"Yes; now sit still and quit fidgeting."
"I have to go to the bathroom. Do I have time?" Jim checked his watch; "I still have five minutes."
Jean let out an exasperated sigh, "Jim, why didn't you go before we left the house!"
Pete, hearing the overly loud whispering, snickered and then added, "Yeah, Jim, why didn't you go before we left? I heard Jean tell you to."
Jim shot Pete a dirty look. "Do you mind? I'm having this out with Jean, not you."
Pete snickered again; "Just get up and go, Jim. I hardly think you need your wife's permission to take a…." Seeing the look that Jean was giving him, Pete changed the direction of his words, "… er, to go to the bathroom."
Jim shook his head and rolled his eyes as he got up from his chair, "You comin' with me?" He asked Pete.
"Really, Jim? Did you really just ask me if I was going to the bathroom with you? Are you three years old Jim? NO, I am not going to the bathroom with you. I am going to sit here and watch the curtain rise in," Pete glanced at his watch, "in three minutes. If you don't hurry up, you're gonna miss the first song; now go!"
Jim muttered, "Fine, be that way." He then excused himself past the six other seat occupants to his right and headed towards the back of the gymnasium where the restrooms were located.
Jean, who had been sitting on the other side of Jim, moved over into his now vacant seat so that she was sitting next to Pete. She leaned over and handed him the camera.
"What's this for?"
"I don't think I'm gonna have a good shot at Jimmy from where I'm sitting; think you can snap a couple of pictures for me?"
"Sure, Jean; just show me what to push." Pete took the camera and Jean gave him a quick review for using it before moving back to her own seat. A few minutes later, the lights were turned down, just as Jim was making his way back down the row of seats, stepping on toes and bumping people as he went.
"OW! Ya horse!" Pete yelped when Jim stepped on his toes.
"Shhh!" Jean admonished as she reached up and grabbed Jim's shirtsleeve, pulling him down into the chair.
"I think you broke my toe!" Pete leaned over and complained to Jim.
"I said I was sorry!"
"Shhh! Knock it off you two!" Jean glared at both of them as they settled back into their seats and watched as the curtain went up.
The stage was separated into two halves; on the right, a small manger had been erected, complete with a small wooden cradle box lined with straw. There was also colorful, cardboard animal cutouts strategically arranged near the cradle, but set aside enough that they didn't interfere with the audience's view of the cradle. On the left, a four-tier set of bleachers had been set up, and the children were lined up on tiers and ready to sing the opening songs, 'Up on the Rooftop' and 'Jingle Bells'. After the opening songs, the children with speaking parts were to go backstage to don their costumes, while the rest of the children sang 'Silent Night.'
"Look, there's Jimmy!" Jim pointed out as his eyes found Jimmy amongst the children standing on the bottom row of bleachers. "What's he looking for?" Jim questioned as he watched Jimmy stand up on his tiptoes, looking toward the manger, and then he looked up and all around, with his mouth agape and his nose wrinkled.
"What's he doing?" Pete asked. He wanted to get a picture of Jimmy on the bleachers, but he wanted to get it when the boy was looking towards the audience; problem was Jimmy was looking everywhere except towards the audience.
"I don't know; looks like he's looking for something." Jim said.
"Oh my gosh, Jim, he's just like you; he can't stand still for anything." Jean pointed out as she watched Jimmy squirm and look around, stretching his body and his neck as far as he could. On more than one occasion, he nearly lost his balance and flailed his arms out to his sides to steady himself, hitting the classmate on either side of him. Jean held her breath as she watched the bottom row of bleachers almost do a domino effect fall.
The school principal stepped up to a microphone that had been placed mid-stage and greeted the audience. He explained to the captive crowd that the children would be singing opening songs, with subsequent songs being sung at appropriate times throughout the plays' progression. The play, which was centered around the story of Jesus birth, beginning with Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem and ending with the wise men coming to see the child, was going to be narrated by Jimmy's teacher. After the brief introduction, the principal moved the microphone off to the side and out of the way; the children then sang their first two songs. Afterwards, as planned, the children playing the parts of Mary, Joseph, the Innkeeper, and the three wise men stepped down and walked offstage. Jimmy was still straining his neck to look up and around.
Things were going well as the teacher narrated the story part of the trip to Bethlehem, and the children sang. Jimmy, who was waiting backstage, kept peaking out through the side curtain, looking around. Every so often, a hand would slink out and gently touch his shoulder and he would disappear back behind the curtain. Quiet ripples of laughter flanked through the gymnasium. Finally, it came time for the three wise men to come out.
"Something's got that boy fascinated!" Pete observed, as Jimmy and two other boys made their way across stage. Jimmy, who was looking all around, ran into the boy that was walking in front of him, causing that youngster to walk into the boy in front of him, which caused the lead wise man to fall into the cardboard lamb.
Jean covered her mouth with her hand as she gasped. The rest of audience, Jim and Pete included, chuckled at the small mishap. "Oh my god! What is he doing?" Jean whispered to Jim in a demanding voice.
Jimmy's teacher, who waited until all of the wise men had regained their footing, and until the lamb had been up-righted, read the next part. 'They saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down,and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures,they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.'
The first wise man stepped up and handed three gold wrapped candy coins to the young girl that was playing Mary. "Here's some golden coins for baby Jesus." He said. 'Mary' took the gold foiled coin candies and thanked him before placing it into the cradle with the doll baby that was standing in for baby Jesus.
The second wise man stepped forth, "I have some frankin…some frankin…some stuff that you can put it on his butt so he don't stink when he poops." He handed the bottle of perfume to the little boy playing Joseph who sprayed the perfume in the air and then declared, "Yuk! This stinks." Laughter bubbled from everyone in the room.
"That wasn't really his line, was it?" Jim questioned in a whisper that only Pete could hear, sending Pete into a silent fit of laughter.
"SHHHH!" Came a reprimand from behind the duo.
Next up, Jimmy stepped up to the cradle; he paused and a big smile graced his face as he looked out into the audience, searching for his Uncle Pete. Just about the same time that Jimmy spoke out, Pete suddenly realized what the boy had been looking for, "Hey Uncle Pete, you were right, the Christmas stork really did drop baby Jesus into the manger. And he did it all 'invisdible', too, 'cause I didn't see him, did you?" The audience erupted into hysterics; Jim had tears rolling down his face; Jean was glaring at Pete; Pete was trying his best to disappear into the hard metal chair that refused to give even an inch. The curtain closed.
The principal and Jimmy's teacher both realized that trying to get the audience back at that point was pretty much a lost cause. They hastily closed out the play, foregoing the ending song and instead inviting the parents down to the cafeteria for cookies and punch.
Standing up, Pete cleared his throat and averted his eyes when he realized that Jean was still staring daggers at him, "Uhm…I think I'll forego the cookies and punch and go wait in the car."
"Oh no you won't, MISTER; first off, you're going to explain how and why Jimmy thinks that the stork…the stork, Pete…delivered baby Jesus. Secondly, you're going right down to that cafeteria with Jim and me and you will stand there and field each and every question that someone asks about where Jimmy could have possibly gotten the idea that there's a Christmas stork!" Jean put her foot down and Pete knew better than to argue, so he launched into his explanation.
"Okay, it was like this, while you were out of town, Jimmy was telling me all about the play; he also started asking questions about where babies come from. I didn't know what to tell him! And I had no idea that he'd actually believe me when I said that babies come from storks! How was I supposed to know that he would try to see if a stork would appear out of nowhere?"
"Pete, why didn't you just tell him that baby Jesus grew in his mommy's tummy? He would've been fine with that answer." Jean could hardly believe that Pete would resort to such unrealistic explanations.
"I tried that, Jean; I really did, but then Jimmy asked me how the baby Jesus got into his mommy's tummy!" Pete was beat red from the neck up.
"And?" Jean stood, tapping her foot, and arms crossed while waiting for Pete's answer.
"I'm waiting, Pete Malloy."
"And I wasn't exactly sure what you and Jim would want me to say to him, so I just kind of stretched the truth a little." Pete gave Jean a hopeful half-smile.
"A little? You think that telling Jimmy that there is a Christmas stork that dropped baby Jesus into the manger, is stretching the truth just a little?"
Seeing Pete's obvious embarrassment, Jim stepped in at that point. "C'mon, Jean; there really wasn't any harm done. Besides, the audience loved the comedic undertones."
"Argh!" Jean's reply was exasperated as she spun on her heels and headed down towards the cafeteria, followed by Jim and Pete. All the way down through the hallway, people were still laughing.
Walking into the cafeteria, Jean spotted Jimmy's teacher and made a beeline for where she stood. She wanted to make it clear to the teacher that she was NOT the one that had filled Jimmy's head with tales. She then located Jimmy and helped him with his punch and cookie selection.
Observing her body language from across the room, Jim asked, "Uhm Pete, do you think I can crash on your couch tonight if I have to."
"I'd love to say yes, partner, but your wife is already pissed at me; I'm not stupid enough to do anything that's gonna make her even more upset with me, so you're on your own."
"Gee, thanks for nothing." Jim said with a frown, causing Pete to laugh out loud.
The laughing came to an abrupt halt when Jean came back and stepped up next to Jim. She appeared to have calmed down just a bit, for which Pete and Jim were both thankful. Knowing that he should leave well enough alone, but not able to help himself, Pete said, "Jean, I really am sorry about telling Jimmy that little fib. I hope you understand."
Jean gave Pete a little hug, "Oh Pete, of course I understand. I have to admit, I was a little upset at first, but I do understand. He probably caught you off guard, and not being used to dealing with questions from a six-year old, you did your best." Jean smiled at Pete and he smiled back.
"Thanks, Jean." Pete sounded relieved.
"Just do me favor, in the future, though, if you will."
"Sure Jean, just name it."
"Don't be afraid to tell Jimmy the truth when he asks you a question; even questions about the birds and the bees. Jim and I want to be open and honest with him about everything; that's how kids learn."
Taking in a deep breath, Pete smiled down at Jean, "Well, if it's all the same to you, I think maybe I had better just leave the explaining of the birds and the bees to you and Jim. If he asks anything, I'll just change the subject."
Jean laughed, "Well, okay, if you want to take the easy way out, that's fine. Anyway, we probably won't have to worry about his asking anything about the birds and the bees for awhile; I think he was pretty happy with your whole stork explanation. Oh, hey, you two should go over and get a cookie and some punch."
"Sounds good to me; C'mon, Pete." Jim and Pete were just about to head over to the other side of the room when Jimmy came running up to them.
"Uncle Pete, Daddy…did you see me in the play, did you, huh, did you?"
Jim reached down and lifted him up, "We sure did, buddy!" Jim said.
Jimmy looked up at his mother, "Mommy, I did really good, huh?"
"Oh yes, dear, you did. Mommy and Daddy are really proud of you."
Pete reached out and ruffled the lads hair, "Jimmy, you were marvelous!"
Jimmy looked at Jim, "Does that mean I did good, Daddy?"
The adults laughed, "It sure does, Son."
Jim announced that he and Pete were going to go get a cookie as he set Jimmy back down on the floor. As they turned to leave, they heard Jimmy say, "Mommy, I didn't wanna hurt Uncle Pete's feelings, but baby Jesus didn't really come from the stork, did he?"
Pete and Jim slowed their steps a bit, both anxious to hear how Jean was going to handle this.
Jean, who was caught just a little off guard, hesitated briefly before saying, "No, honey, he wasn't delivered by a stork. He grew in his mommy's tummy…just like you grew in my tummy."
"Oh…okay." Jimmy answered.
Hmph, Jean thought, Pete should've been over here to see how easy that was.
"Yes, Jimmy?" Jean smiled down at her boy.
"How did I get into your tummy?"
Pete reached out his hand to stop Jim in his tracks; he wanted to stick close enough to hear Jean as she fielded Jimmy's question; maybe learn a thing or two about handling the situation should it ever arise again.
"Well, honey, you grew in there."
"But how'd I get in there to grow?"
"God put you in there."
"But how?" Jimmy's interest was peeked.
Pete and Jim were watching and listening, unbeknownst to Jean, who was hem hawing around her words trying to find the right way to explain to the child where babies came from. The more she tried to explain to the youngster, the more questions he asked.
"Jimmy, honey, do you want to go get another cookie?" Jean asked in a hopeful voice, trying to re-direct Jimmy's thoughts.
From where they were standing and listening, Pete chuckled, "She should've just told him the stork delivered him; he didn't ask me any more questions after I told him that.
Jim laughed too, "C'mon, partner, let's go get our punch and cookies before Jean tries to nab us for reinforcement."
The two made haste to cross the room, not stopping to look back; leaving Jean to her own devices in dealing with the six-year olds' questioning.
I hope you have enjoyed this short Christmas story. Having worked for several years in the daycare industry, I have had the opportunity to observe how many pre-school and young school age children perceive things to be. I have also heard the many explanations that parents and caregivers have given to impressionable young children when trying to explain life situations; explanations that often come back to embarrass the parent or caregiver. Merry Christmas everyone!