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Christmas Inspirational Fiction

DOWN BEAT

By Andrew Grell

“Tell me again why my baby shower is at Don’t Tell Momma,” a very pregnant—37 and a half weeks— Lisa Carpenter ordered her husband, Clave. “I was looking forward to having it in the gazebo at my grandparents place. But. You know. Sadly.”

Clave wiped away a tear from his beloved’s eye, shed because of the plague death of Grandma Rose, her favorite relative.

“Most of the other places are shut down. Ya know, I don’t think I’ve ever been here in the daytime. Momma has enough room to be socially distant, and S.R. paid to get the rooftop back open.”

“Sara Rebecca O’Boyle. Everything hip in this town somehow winds up with Social Register O’Boyle.” Lisa hit the button to raise the limousine partition just as the driver made the turn onto 46th Street, and she gave Clave a good Junior High French kiss. Restaurant Row had plenty of parked cars, almost all near Momma. “I can’t believe I’m sharing my spotlight with a wrap party, a release party, an award ceremony for kazoo bands, all rolled up in a Christmas party taking place on the actual Christmas Eve. Plus the speech. The times we’re in. At least I have you, bearer of the key to my heart, to protect me in my delicate condition. C’mon, let’s ditch this rattletrap and get me some chow. I’m celebrating for two, you know…”

“What do you do when a drummer knocks on the door?” Raspy Roger was standing just inside the main floor entrance. Clave and Lisa got a huge blast of a chorus of “Give him the money and take your pizza.” Standing next to Roger was a tall woman with a T&T brassard. The Plague Police.

“Only one of you can come in; this facility is at maximum guest capacity.” Clave did the verbal equivalent of rhythm crossed sticks with a Hi-Hat ring and kept the bullshit going until Roger could get Sid the manager and Social Register down to the entrance. Claiming incessantly that he was Lisa’s emotional support animal was a triumph of improv vamping.

“Officer Nathanson, please forgive the boy. He should have come in through the kitchen; he’s kitchen staff. He’s a bit touched, you know. Here’s his contract for tonight.” The folks near the entrance were transfixed watching Sid, all five feet of him, having to

stare past her bosom to look the Test & Trace Corps officer in the eye, and the more the people were transfixed, the more nervous Officer Nathanson became until she finally relented.

“Cecil, you’re late for work. Go into the kitchen, ask Bill for a tray of pigs in blankets and bring them up to the third-floor hall.”  That was the Linen Club, the venue of Lisa’s baby shower. Opposite and also on the third floor was the award ceremony of the Academy of the Cheapest Musical Instrument. One lucky team would win a more formal musical instrument, with the winning team members receiving a year’s free instruction. This year’s prize was a used bassoon. ACMI had been clued in about the baby shower next door. The chairman waited until Lisa and her friends all had their silly hats on and were in the throes of whatever games one plays at a cabaret baby shower, and one of the teams filed in playing “Having My Baby.” Lisa had never experienced a kazoo band; this one was led by a conductor pointing to different kazooists, each instrument tuned to a specific note. Lisa’s sister Katrina dutifully placed funny hats on the band members. 

“I’m starting the bidding at two hundred dollars.” S.R. deigned to make an appearance in what was decidedly a non-hip baby shower. Social Register was joined by Jim Dandee, front man for Koala Tea, the band whose record, Infusion, was being released.

“Bidding for what, Sara,” Katrina asked.

“The baby’s middle name. I’m opening the bidding with two-hundred dollars for the right to give your little boy a name of my choosing. After all, Clave is a drummer and you’re a freelance web designer.” Lisa looked like she was adding up two and two and coming up with seventeen scenarios regarding her husband’s fitness as a provider or any intercourse, business or otherwise, between him and Social Register. She took her virtual eraser and wiped the equation off the blackboard.

“We do alright, Sara. Clave’s had plenty of studio work and we have health insurance from the union. Plus, I get royalties on the mind reader app.” Lisa looked like Sara was reading her mind about how pitifully small the royalties for the brilliant little program were. She looked around and saw a trickle of Sara Sycophants coming into the baby shower room. Before she could turn around to head back to her throne at the table, the bidding advanced.

“Two and a quarter on Marit.  For my late Norwegian Lundehund,” Eddie Sachs, AKA Agent 86 for his propensity to reject weak pitches. But he always wanted a bridge to anyone who mattered in this backwater that was the cabaret world.

“Rejected!” Katrina spat. “My nephew is not going to be named after an animal that has six toes.”

“Three hundred for Igor, after my grandfather,” Sid the manager called out, obviating the need to outmaneuver Eddie.

Jim Dandee dropped by to see what all the fuss was about; he bid 15% of net royalties from Infusion for Jim.

 Some of Lisa’s hip-ish shower guests started to bid, and some of the straight-ish folks were arguing about how to value Jim’s bid. The bidding went up to $1,175 by Social Register; everyone knew not to piss off Sara by trying to outbid her when it got to four figures. Lisa knew enough not to ask what Sara’s choice of name would be. The auction cut off when the sound of a handbell rang from room to room; it was time for The Speech.

“Ladies and gentlemen and those in between, kindly follow me upstairs to the roof deck for Dr. Posner’s speech,” Sid announced. “As you all know, or some of you know, anyway, Don’t Tell Momma’s annual Christmas party is made possible by the venerable West Side Culture Society, dedicated to the advancement and preservation of live cultural events in Manhattan’s West Side.  Part of the festivities is a speech given by the chairman, Dr. William Posner. I’ve been told that this will be, as they say in Monty Python, something completely different. So without further ado, Dr. Posner.”

“As Sid said, this will be something completely different. You may have heard on the news about this year’s ‘Christmas Star.’ In about 15 minutes, if you look out over the Hudson river, you’ll see Jupiter and Saturn practically kiss each other. Whenever this happens, it’s called the “Grand Conjunction. There are telescopes set up to get a better view, and a there’s a TV monitor also near the building’s chimney. It would be nice if the Grand Conjunction, 2,000 years ago, was the Star of Bethlehem. At that time, the event would be visible in the east, and if the three Maggi were heading toward Bethlehem, they would be going away from the star. But perhaps this year’s Grand Conjunction will be something special. There has been new research about the date of the birth of Jesus. Apparently, there have been some mix-ups between Simon Ben Camithius and Caiaphas Agrippa. Also, there have been further developments about the provenance of the calendrical work of Dionysius Exiguus, a sixth-century Monk. So I can tell you, and you may be the first to know, that today is the two-thousand and twelfth anniversary of the Bar Mitzvah of Jesus Ben Joseph…”

The Speech was interrupted by the wrap party boisterously climbing up to the roof, likely looking for a place to smoke a joint or three. There was some unpleasantness and some lack of social distancing, nothing out of the ordinary for New York. Until the scream.

“Lisa! Lisa!” Clave was frantic until he found her. Officer Test & Trace got emergency services and was promised that an ambulance would be dispatched as  post haste as possible, but everything with wheels and a siren might be helping plague victims. Sid called down for tablecloths and they managed to get the water-broken woman into the kitchen. Nobody knew that Doctor Broadway, AKA Claudia Jacobson, was a genuine physician when she wasn’t putting up cabaret shows of the great American songbook. Momma’s kitchen had a long sink running down the middle. Gerard, the chef, got more tablecloths and some of the quippies got Lisa settled in. The Doc pointed to the first person she saw and commanded him to go around the corner to the headshop and get some incense to keep her air passages open. Gerard handed her a gold cupped serving tongs, left over from the fanciest affair Momma had ever hosted, that might have to do as forceps if necessary, and some lubricating oil. Clave was holding his wife’s hand for dear life, but it looked like Doctor Broadway knew what she was doing. In fact, she did know very well what she was doing, and Lisa and Clave’s new son came out perfectly and with no problems.

Clave always had drumsticks with him. He looked at little Keith, turned over a couple of buckets, cans, cups and glasses and played his son a rhythm that elicited a serene smile from the boy.

After a while, a chance for Lisa to hold and feed the boy, deep in the kitchen, the sound of six ambulance sirens sounded on 46th Street. Officer Nathanson came back in with a confused look.

“I just spoke with some of the drivers. They haven’t had a plague call in an hour.”

Social Register came into the re-rigged kitchen and went over to the brand-new mommy.

“Wonderful,” she said. ‘And his middle name will be called ‘Wonderful’”

December 24, 2020 17:07

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2 comments

Jenne Gentry
19:43 Dec 31, 2020

Your story was very creative and entertaining. How stressful it would be to have a baby under such conditions! I loved it when the drummer/dad used pots and pans to play his new son a song. Great job!!

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Elisia Meehan
22:09 Dec 29, 2020

Love it! Keep up the good work.

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