6. December 1992
When the Prodigal Son stumbled back into Holland’s Holiday Cards, Rosco’s dreams of managerial status were dashed. Rosco didn’t anticipate Richard Holland’s return; in fact, Rosco was mildly surprised to hear that Richard wasn’t dead underneath a bridge from an overdose. Richard and Rosco were as polar opposite as men can be. Both men were classy, but Rosco earned his class and Richard was born into it. Although Rosco wasn’t a Holland, he was informally adopted by Mr. Kingsley Holland, the founder of Holland’s Holiday Cards. Indebted to Mr. Holland, Rosco worked tirelessly for the Holland family, not only as Mr. Holland’s personal assistant, but his caregiver. He remained at Mr. Holland’s side for twelve years, even as the disease began to possess him.
It was three weeks before Christmas when everything avalanched on Rosco. Tucked deeply within the Vermont hills was a quiet village named Stowe. Despite only have 4,000 citizens, Stowe was bustling with a frenzy as the Winter weather was underway. People frantically gathered their food, water, and Christmas gifts before the inevitable snowstorm would burrow them inside. This time of year was excellent business for Holland’s Holiday Cards, particularly because of Stowe’s innate compassion for family businesses.
As with every weekday, Rosco picked up Mr. Holland at his home at 6am and arrived to the store no later than 6:30. Mr. Holland was always particular on time, even though the store wouldn’t open until 9. In the quiet parking lot, Rosco turned off his car. As soon as the heat was turned off, frigid air seeped into the car. A gentle snowfall began to blur the windows. Rosco leaned to Mr. Holland, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat, and asked, “Do you have everything, Mr. Holland?”
“Briefcase… where’s my briefcase?”
Rosco reached to the back of the car where he gathered Mr. Holland’s briefcase. Although there was nothing in it, the briefcase made Mr. Holland feel very important. For Rosco, Mr. Holland’s pride was his pride. Mr. Holland’s joy was his joy. Rosco chuckled, “Right here, sir.”
“Good. Thank you, uh…” Mr. Holland paused for a moment, mouthing words as he tried to piece his sentence together, “Rosco. Rosco, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir.” Rosco smiled. Some days were better than others, but no matter what, Mr. Holland always remembered his face. Gently, Rosco leaned over and delicately wrapped a scarf around him. Seeing that Mr. Holland was wrapped up warmly, Rosco came out of the car and opened the passenger’s door. With all of the care he could muster, Rosco delicately lifted Mr. Holland up and onto his feet.
“Remember Mr. Holland,” said Rosco, as he always did, “Tuesday evening, 8pm. Meeting with Mr. Stone.”
“I’ve got it, I’ve got it!” Mr. Holland laughed, “Thank you for the reminder, kid.”
As Rosco was closing the door, he heard Mr. Holland grumble, “Richard is supposed to be here by now. I wonder where in the dickens he can be!”
“Mr. Holland,” politely interrupted Rosco, “Your son is in West Virginia. I don’t think he’s going to be here for Christmas.” It was a daily dilemma that Mr. Holland would forget where Richard was. Maybe it was for best... Mr. Holland would be ashamed to know how bad his son ended up.
But Mr. Holland stood stiff. He glared at Rosco and said, “What are you on about, boy? I just called Richard last night! He said he’d be here before the store opens!”
“Mr. Holland…” But before Rosco could explain, a car revved behind them. Once Rosco turned around, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Getting out of a beaten up Chevy Colorado was Richard Holland.
If there was one thing that Rosco hated about the Holland family it was their only son: Richard. Rosco and Richard had grown up together from the fifth grade. Although Rosco was innately gifted, Richard always managed to talk his way out of poor grades. They rivaled one another as it came to academia, sports, and music; yet in the end, money always won. Richard was valedictorian and Rosco was seudo-valedictorian. But in the end of High School, Richard abandoned his grades and left Holland’s Holiday Cards, as well. Richard went on to spend his first ten year of adulthood living off his mother’s inheritance.
The Prodigal Son had returned. But, it wasn’t for forgiveness. It was clear to Rosco: the only thing that Richard wanted was his father’s love… but his father’s inheritance.
“My son!” exclaimed Mr. Holland as he thrusted his arms wide open. Richard’s face beamed. He ran towards his father and they embraced. Meanwhile, Rosco stood awkwardly at Mr. Holland’s side.
“Dad!” shouted Richard, “God, it’s been so long!”
“Ah.” It was then that Richard remembered, “I forgot that you were sick. When Rosco told me, I couldn’t believe it.”
Immediately, Rosco butted in, “Richard!” The very last thing Rosco wanted was for Mr. Holland to realize his dementia.
Naive to this, Richard scoffed, “Rosco, long time no see. Take my coat, will you?” As Richard began to take off his jacket, Rosco was repulsed. Richard’s coat smelt of air freshener, obviously covering up the stench of alcohol. Before Richard could throw him his jacket, Rosco interrupted.
“What are you here for, Richard?” plainly asked Rosco, “And keep your filthy jacket on. God knows where it’s been…”
“Hey!” exclaimed Mr. Holland, “That’s no way to talk to my assistant manager!”
“... My, what?” Rosco’s eyes glanced over to Mr. Holland. He could not believe what Mr. Holland had said. He stammered, “My… excuse me. My what?”
“Assistant Manager,” replied Richard, with a smirk on his face, “Dad’s giving me a job if I stay longer than six months. And I was running short of money, so I said yes.”
Rosco was baffled. How could this happen? Richard abandoned his father and this company right after he graduated; yet upon his return, he’s offered a leadership role. And why the hell do we need an Assistant Manager anyways? Rosco thought. He has me! Rosco was about to rebuttal until he saw a warm smile blossom on Mr. Holland’s face.
“Father and son… Can you imagine that?” Quietly, Rosco saw warm tears fill Mr. Holland’s eyes. Rosco was silenced. This was everything Mr. Holland had wanted, for his prodigal son to come home. But for Rosco, this change was too much.
Mr. Holland continued, “And uh…”
“Yes,” stammered Mr. Holland, “Rosco. My son here is going to take your office. He needs that pretty office with the window, wouldn’t you say?” Richard smiled softly upon hearing his father’s words, but those words were daggers in Rosco’s heart.
As Mr. Holland turned around, Rosco muttered, “Great. He gets my office. And why shouldn’t he? He’s only been here five minutes.”
Upon hearing Rosco’s sly remark, Richard took his father’s arms and walked him towards the store. But before leaving, Richard leaned towards his father. Swiftly, he took Mr. Holland’s billfold. Taking out $5, Richard hollored, “So looks like you’ll be my coffee boy, huh Rosco? Get me an Americano, won’t you?” Richard then grew the bill in Rosco’s direction.
“And get yourself something too, alright Princess?”
Rosco could have thrown up right there and then.
24. December 1993
A year had passed since Richard was elected as Assistant Manager. Upon hearing the news, half a dozen of Holland’s employees quit. Those that stayed were either naive or unfazed by Richard’s chaotic behavior. There were many days that Richard Holland would not show up to work; there were more days than not that Richard would be hung over. The unpredictability made things troublesome for Rosco, who anxiously did all he could to please Mr. Holland.
But Mr. Holland, unlike his son, changed drastically in that year. Mr. Holland’s mind deteriorated. There were a handful of days that Mr. Holland would forget Rosco’s face, his name, and his relationship to the family. Every morning when Rosco would pick up Mr. Holland, he wasn’t quite sure what to anticipate. The thought of Mr. Holland completely forgetting about Rosco was painful. Yet, Rosco knew it was inevitable: Mr. Holland would shortly forget about Rosco, but still remember his ungrateful son Richard.
It was Christmas Eve. Holland’s Holiday Cards stayed open until 8 P.M. in case of any last-minute customers. However, this particular Christmas Eve had a blizzard. Six inches of snow covered the streets, thick ice was at every corner. For almost five hours, not a customer was in sight. Seeing that the weather was only getting worse, Mr. Holland excused all of his employees. However, Richard and Rosco stayed behind.
Standing at the counter, Rosco was doodling on an old receipt. For the five endless hours, Rosco had organized, restocked, and cleaned every inch of the store. Left to his own devices, Rosco practiced his signature with a ball-point pen.
“What are you doing, Rosco?”
Rosco jumped from his feet. Afraid, Rosco turned to find Richard standing directly behind him. Before Rosco could answer him, Richard grabbed Rosco’s paper and read it allowed, “Tuesday Evenings, 8pm. Meeting with Dr. Stone. What the hell is this, Rosco?”
"It's a reminder for your father!" Rosco immediately tried to take it from Richard, but Richard slapped his hand away. Rosco tried once more, but Richard pushed him back at the counter. Richard scoffed, “Shouldn’t you be spending your time doing something else besides writing…” It was then that Richard read the rest of the receipt. Written in red ink was the name “Rosco Holland”. It wasn’t “Rosco Anderson”, Rosco’s birthname, but “Rosco Holland”.
“Give that back!” Rosco shouted.
Richard glared at Rosco, deeply questioning him. Yet as it all came back to Richard, he laughed, “Holy shit, Rosco. You’re doing it again! You’re signing your name Rosco Holland. You pathetic bastard!”
Rosco’s face grew red in embarrassment. In one final attempt, Rosco lunged for the paper. Swiftly, Richard stepped away, leaving Rosco to stumble. Richard laughed once more, “You’ve been doing this since the 5th grade. When are you going to realize, Rosco, that you aren’t one of us?”
“Leave me alone.”
“What is it?” mocked Richard, “Is little Rosco Holland going to start to cry? Give me a break, Rosco. You were never apart of our family.”
“And you think you are?” Enraged, Rosco confronted Richard in a painful hiss, “Do you know the shit you put your father through? After your mother died, you took her money and left him. You left at the one time he needed you most. Meanwhile, I worked my ass off for your Father. And I still do, not because I’m getting some inheritance but because I love him.”
Richard shouted, “And you don’t think I love him?”
“You never have!” exclaimed Rosco, “You never have! Everyday I envy what it must be like to have such a wonderful father. But you don’t see that. You’ve taken advantage of the very man that gave you life, you monster. Why can’t you appreciate him like I do?”
“Oh,” joked Richard, “Oh I get it now, Rosco! You’re in love with my Dad, aren’t you? Is that why you sign your name Rosco Holland? Hmm?”
It was then that Rosco broke. Before Richard could anticipate it, Rosco lunged at him and tossed him to the counter. He shouted, “I sign my name Rosco Holland because that’s the name I want. Not Anderson. Do you know, Richard, what kind of shit I went through as a kid? What, you think I was just some orphan Oliver Twist that ended up under your Father’s wing?”
“Didn’t you ever wonder,” continued Rosco as he tightened his fists, “Why I had a broken limb every week? Why I went missing from weeks on end? Why I would get strange burn marks that oddly looked like cigarette burns? Did it ever occur to you, Richard, that I had a father? A father that beat me, burnt me, did everything in his power to keep me from success!”
“I…” Richard’s throat ran dry. He replied hoarsely, “I didn’t know.”
“No,” scoffed Rosco, “Of course you didn’t! You always thought I was clumsy or stupid. Remember in 6th grade that you told everyone gills? Where do you think I got those cut marks from, Richard?”
“Shit, I…” Richard stumbled back, “I had no idea, Rosco. How could I’ve known?”
“Your father was the one who brought me under his wing, Richard. He was the one that noticed. He was the one that called Child Protective Services. He was the one who testified in court. He was the one, Richard, that was a real father to me. And now?” Rosco stopped. His voice cracked, “My Dad can’t remember my name.”
Richard tried to reach out to Rosco, but instinctively, Rosco pulled away. He walked from the counter and into the employee’s lounge. Rosco just needed to get away.
As Rosco made his way towards the locker room, a nearby door opened. Rosco turned to find Mr. Holland, staring directly at him.
Mr. Holland, as sweet as he could be, asked, “Sir, can I help you?”
Rosco could not reply.
“This is an employee only area,” continued Mr. Holland, pointing towards the sign, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Rosco's eyes began to water. Rosco desperately tried to speak, but nothing but a croak came from his throat. Delicately, Rosco nodded. He cleared his throat as the tears began to dwindle down his cheeks, "Don't worry, Mr. Holland. I was on my way out, anyways."
4. January 1994
Following that Christmas Eve, Rosco promptly gave his two-week notice to Richard Holland. Without any thorough plans, Rosco's head was swamped in a frenzy of job searches and possible relocation. Truth be told, Stowe had very little to offer. The only thing it offered, it seemed, as far too much heartbreak for Rosco to handle.
Rosco's final day had arrived. Fortunately, Richard was gone and Mr. Holland had left earlier. Since Christmas Eve, Richard successfully avoided any conversation with Richard or Mr. Holland. The car rides with Mr. Holland were now completely silent. More often than not, Mr. Holland would ask for his name and then nothing more. And with Richard, Rosco immediately left whenever he was in the room.
Tuesday evening, 8 P.M. Rosco's eyes darted to the clock as it chimed. The OPEN sign flickered to CLOSED. Rosco assisted as the cashier and supervisor made their way to the back of the store. As they counted the till, Rosco looked around the card store. It had been the place he felt most safe and most loved; and yet, at this very moment, it was the place that hurt the most. Rosco knew that things could only get worse if he had stayed longer. Sighing, Rosco turned towards the back office to close the safe, get his coat, and go home.
As he made his way to the back, a voice came from the overhead, "Rosco-- Can you find us a spare checkbook? Danny used up the last one."
Rosco sighed. Spare checkbooks were kept in Mr. Holland's office. Begrudgingly, Rosco shuffled to Mr. Holland's office. To his fortune, the office was unlocked. Rosco opened the door.
As Rosco turned the lightswitch on, he felt it covered in paper. As the light flickered on, Rosco noticed the room scattered in sticky notes. From the ceiling to the floor, the office was covered in a variety of notes. Curious, Rosco investigated.
Making his way towards the checkbooks, he caught a glimpse of his computer. Among the variety of sticky notes was a singular red note. In thick, black marker, it was written: "Tuesday Evening, 8 P.M. Meeting with Dr. Stone."
Next to the computer was a photograph that Rosco had never seen. In a blue frame was a family picture of the Hollands: Kingsley, Janice, and Richard. Yet standing at Richard's side was Rosco. Rosco cocked his head. He didn't remember ever taking a picture with his family! As he looked closer, he noticed the incongruous shading. It was then that Rosco knew it must've been photoshopped. He found a sticky note on it:
Janice (wife), Richard (oldest son), and Rosco (youngest son).
Rosco, in that instance, knew that it wasn't Mr. Holland's writing. It was Richard's.