I went into the old resale shop to escape a dreadful December. Cold, bleak, it was made all the worse by the fact that I found myself at thirty-two with no wife, parents dead, and my younger brother, Joe, gone this past March from the polio outbreak. At first, I had sought a warm place to take the chill off my bones and perhaps warm my hands by a coal stove, but I was immediately seized with the promise and mystery of so many cast-off treasures. At home, my apartment’s sole window had a small tree in it, decorated with what could be found, but it was a lonely thing. I resolved to find myself a gift, along with a box, a bit of paper, and a bow, so there would be something under the tree for me on Christmas Day. No sooner had I decided this than I saw, hanging from a dusty, old coatrack in the corner, a beautiful gray- and red-striped scarf.
I snatched it up without hesitation and took it to the gentleman manning the counter.
“Perfect. Absolutely perfect,” I said. Just the touch of the thing warmed me. Better, the loneliness at being swallowed by Manhattan with no family to huddle with was starting to erode, as well. Could it be, then, that the simple act of giving myself a gift was stealing away my woes?
The old man behind the counter was bald on top of his head, with a fringe of shaggy, graying hair. He was stooped, blocky in shape, with his shoulders perpetually drawn up around his ears. When I handed him the scarf, his face darkened in consternation.
“Hmm. Don’t remember buying this at all,” he said, inspecting the scarf with a thick bottom lip jutting in concentration.
“But it was there,” I replied, pointing beyond a shelf thick with worn-out typewriters to the corner with the coatrack. “Maybe someone left it here by mistake?”
The shopkeeper shook his head. “No, no. This is very nice. Feel that? That’s hand-knitted, not done on some machine. No, I’d have remembered someone coming in here, wearing such a nice scarf. And as for buying it, no, to that, too. I don’t normally deal in wearable goods. Trinkets, and such, yes. Decorations. Hmm.”
“Typewriters,” I suggested, indicating the shelves just over my shoulder. I smiled. “I’m a journalist, you see. Tools of the trade tend to draw my eye.”
He grunted and gave a nod.
The shopkeeper still held out the scarf for me to inspect, but I didn’t need to. I knew I wanted it without further consideration.
“It’s not mine to sell,” he insisted.
“It’s here, and I don’t want to be called a thief,” I said, “but I want this scarf. You should be recompensed for having held it, and if you like, I’ll leave my name and address. Should its original owner return for it, have him contact me. Otherwise, I’ll assume the scarf is mine for keeping.”
He quoted me a price, adding, “I can think of nothing fairer.”
I agreed and paid him.
It was the perfect gift. No one in my family, had they been alive, could have found something better if they had spent years searching. I knew my editor was sending me to Washington in March to cover Wilson’s second inaugural celebration. Though the event was coming close to spring, I expected the weather to be cold. To wear such a scarf to the occasion would be splendid, indeed.
“Very fair,” I said, taking the package.
New York at such a time of year is paradoxically depressing, as the festive air and excitement of its pedestrians scurrying through the frost and snow to do their Christmas shopping was, to me, miserable. But now, with my new scarf wrapped in parcel beneath my arm, it was as if I was sensing for the first time the passions felt by my fellow New Yorkers as the season grew brighter and stronger in their chests. Could it be that I had been the fool all these years, loathing the holidays when the truth was that they were every bit the gay and bright days that everyone around purported? Such thoughts seemed so strange, coming from a cynic such as myself, yet I could not deny my feelings.
Dinner was at the supper club two blocks from my home, and I ate with gusto. I had a bachelor’s apartment near Central Park. It was my only real extravagance, purchased when my brother died and the bulk of the inheritance bequeathed by our industrialist father passed to me, his sole heir. The money, and the business which went with it, had never interested me, and I preferred instead to live on the modest amount I made working for the newspaper. But the promise of a home in such easy walking distance of the park was too much, and I’d snatched it up when the opportunity arose.
Back home I burst through the door, as excited and happy as I’d ever been. It was like a beam of warm sunlight from God’s own garden was falling down upon me, following me wherever I went. I was giddy with it, and, after wrapping my present, I tossed it under the tree before grabbing a book off my shelf and dropping sideways into my favorite reading chair for the evening.
The moment I sat down, however, some of that giddiness began to wear off. The book became difficult, but not impossible, and my feelings were lessened, not fallen off to the point of melancholy, but definitely decreased. I could explain none of it, and this feeling remained constant until Christmas Day, when I finally opened the scarf and could wear it again. The figurative shaft of light returned, and everything was glorious.
I know you must think me mad, describing how something so trivial as a scarf could make such a difference. I’ll tell you.
Of course, the obvious explanation is that I was mad, made so by my personal losses and the gloominess with which I usually met the holidays. That would certainly account for the highs and the lows of my emotions. However, the events which follow cast this theory into serious doubt.
It began New Year’s Day. I was sporting a terrible hangover from the previous evening’s revelries, and I decided that, rather than sitting around, bemoaning my fate, I’d take a walk to clear my head. In fact, the bracing wind was exactly what I needed, and, with my delightful scarf around my neck and tucked into my heavy overcoat, I set out east for the park. That winter was milder, say, than of times past. One’s mind goes immediately to the winter of ’14, when the temperatures dropped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. That had a been murderous one.
I decided to cut across the park to visit my friend, Hutchins, with whom I’d attended Princeton, when the most startling thing occurred. Hutchins lived east of Central Park, but I soon found myself turned south instead. Every time I noticed this, I would correct myself, turning back to the east, and soon I would be lost again in my thoughts, basking in the good feelings I’d been experiencing since mid-December. And before I knew it, there I would be again, turning south, as if my feet had another destination in mind. Or rather, it seemed as if the hand of God Himself were steering me. Finally, and by great force of will, I reached Hutchins’ apartment. He took me in and offered me a hot toddy, which I gratefully accepted.
I was so astounded by my adventure that I told Hutchins about it, but started, strangely enough, at the second-hand shop, since my life had taken such a bizarre turn since then. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was unconsciously striking at the truth of my situation.
I’d removed my scarf, coat, and hat upon entering, but we went now to the coatrack by the door so my friend could see for himself. He touched the scarf, and was immediately seized with the rapturous look I imagined was on my face every time I wore the thing.
“Wonderful,” he said, hands brushing over its surface. “Clearly the man who owned this before you was someone of real quality.”
“Hardly,” I replied. “It’s a nice scarf, but it’s not of the best material.”
“I don’t mean ‘quality’ in the traditional sense of the word, Morris,” Hutchins said, grinning. “I mean a more modern view of it, something more akin to Christian virtues. Compassion, a kind demeanor, that sort of thing. This is an old scarf, you see, but its owner loved and cared for it, the way you might a family pet. I must say, I’m very impressed.”
Having warmed ourselves with toddies and Hutchins’ fireplace, we switched to brandy and spent the afternoon in splendid conversation. I went home that afternoon feeling as though my chest would burst at any second, so great was my happiness. My wayward feet didn’t trouble me, either.
The next day when I started out for the office, however, I was once again struck with my strange urge. As I exited the building I turned south and increased my pace, much to my dismay. It was easy enough to regain control of my limbs, but the shock of it put me off walking to work. I took a trolley most of the way, and a carriage the rest. At work, I moved about as little as possible, not trusting myself.
That was the second incident, and again, nothing happened when I returned home after helping put the evening edition to bed. It was also becoming clear that my happiness was continuing to increase, to manic levels, in fact, so that I was shaken by my experiences and became distrusting of my good humor entirely.
There might have been more such adventures, but I came down with a cold and spent two days at home, resting. The building’s superintendent came to see me on the second day, asking about my health.
“You don’t look so sick to me, if you don’t mind me saying so,” he said.
I was smiling while I coughed.
“I can call you a doctor, if you think you need one.”
“That won’t be necessary, but thank you. Aside from being tired and having this blasted cough, I feel fine. Wonderful, in fact.”
In my building the homeless are not tolerated. Feeling hale and hearty again after my rest, I was headed downstairs when I saw our superintendent berating an indigent by the alley. The fellow looked worn-out and thin from his hardships. His coat was full of holes, and the rest of his attire left him unsuited for the elements. I confess it was unlike me to consider the poor at all. That must seem a dreadful thing to pronounce one’s shortcomings in such a bold fashion, but there you have it. I mention it now because it was uncharacteristic to be filled with such urgency as I felt then, and I rushed back upstairs to retrieve my old scarf and a pair of gloves I no longer used.
Downstairs again, I confronted the men.
“What’s going on here?” I asked.
“This fella’s been hanging around and begging for money. We can’t have it, Mr. Pinterley. It’s against building policies, and if he doesn’t get a move on, I’ll have to call for the police.”
I turned to the indigent and offered him the scarf and gloves, and a small roll of bills, as well.
“You’ve heard the man, and you can’t be here,” I said, “but take this. It should help you on your way.”
“Bless you, Sir!” the man said, and was gone.
That night as I lay in bed, unable to sleep, I began to unfold my theory. As you’ve no doubt guessed, the mystery as I reckoned it lay with the scarf. It wasn’t merely that buying myself a gift had changed my outlook so. It became clear that the scarf itself, the very thing, was doing this to me. Was it ensorcelled? Was it possessed? As silly as those notions were, they were in forefront of my thoughts.
Next morning, I woke from a heavy sleep fully resolved to test my theory. After a breakfast of toast and coffee, and with my morning toilet performed, I laid out my clothing for the day. It was the usual fare, starting with socks and the two-piece thermal undergarments I’d picked up from Stanfields last year, followed by my trousers, undershirt, shirt, and vest. Suspenders for the pants, cufflinks, and a red-and-white-striped tie to add contrast to the somber attire. Topped off with my hat and overcoat, my profile in the mirror was one of a stylish man about town, but I conspicuously left the scarf on the coat rack, though some part of me ached to have it.
“Noted,” I said. The journalist in me was working the story. One could have said my yearning for the garment was like a mild addiction, crying out to be fed.
The walk down to the corner to catch the trolley yielded no misadventures, nor did anything occur when I disembarked a block from my work. The walk up was a delight, and my day at work was thrilling, to say the least. My feet never moved of their own accord, nor was there anything amiss in my daily activities, with one exception.
I was sad.
I was actually suffused with a melancholy which lurked at the back of my mind, the way a child might miss his new puppy while he’s away at school. By the afternoon the longing had become an ache, and I all but rushed home and threw the scarf around my neck before plunging into my reading chair to ruminate before the fire.
This incident settled it for me. I was convinced the scarf had something magical about it, however bizarre that sounded. I resolved then to set out the next day and discover for myself where it wanted me to go. The resolution itself whetted my appetite for brandy, which sat decanted next to my window. I took a glass of it in hand, along with a book I would read but later not remember, and that was how I passed the evening.
I woke the next morning and performed a ritual identical to the one of the day before, but in this instance I took the scarf from the coat rack and added it to my ensemble. Downstairs I met with our superintendent and the widowed Mrs. Witt, who were known to take tea together and discuss gardening as though it were the secret to life itself.
“Heading out this morning, Sir?” the superintendent asked me.
“Yes, thank you.” I nodded toward a private corner of his kitchen. The man knew what this meant and went without fuss.
“A news story?” he asked.
“Not today,” I said. “The trip I’m taking is for personal reasons, but I might be in some danger since it could take me into seedier parts of town. Our usual arrangement is in place, I presume?”
He nodded. “If you’re not back by nightfall, or haven’t called to check in, I’ll contact the newspaper and the police.”
“Good.” I turned to go, but he stopped me.
“You should take an umbrella, Sir. I hear there will be rain.”
“Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Witt. “It’s warmed up just enough to make us all miserable, I’m sure.”
“I left mine upstairs, and I don’t really have time…”
The superintendent held up a finger and then rushed off. When he returned he presented me with an umbrella that had seen much wear and was torn slightly alongside one of its ribs, but it would do nicely. I thanked the man and set off.
As Mrs. Witt had said, the day was just warm enough for rain and not snow, but the hawk off the bay cut through even my wool coat and thermal undergarments like they weren’t there at all. My body was racked with shivering as soon as I stepped out the door. Despite this, the scarf was there, filling me with that strange, manic energy. A smile split my face, and I began to whistle. Something, a voice from deep inside me, was telling me this was going to be a wonderful day, that life was a banquet, and I should devour my fill. I set off walking, completely under the control now of whatever force had seized me the moment the scarf had become mine.
Despite the titanic feelings of goodwill and happiness, there was a small part of me, locked just beneath the surface of my emotions that could think on its own. It was the rational part of me, the part that could still feel as I normally felt. And what I felt then was fear, unbridled fear. I knew I could seize control, walk instead to my work just as I would any other day, and all would be well. But, things could not continue as they were. There was something alarming in the intensity of these gay feelings the scarf engendered, and I was aware they could be the death of me. Just look at where the scarf was taking me. Soon, the toney places of my neighborhood were falling away, and as my journey continued, the buildings grew grayer and more desperate. The people on the streets looked shabbier. This was an element with which I had occasional experience in my profession, though I handled more politics and economics than the crime beat. Some were good folk, salt of the earth, as they say, but violence in these neighborhoods was common, and fierce. One such as I, who was dressed in finer clothes, would be a target for any toughs who wanted me. It was a perverse idea, but it would not be too much to believe that, should these hypothetical toughs set upon me, they might send me to my death while I smiled so hard my face hurt.
Strong, Morris. You have to be strong. Cast out those thoughts, and complete your task. Surely today was the day the scarf would show me what it meant to show.
My back ached, sleep having come poorly the night before. As I passed doorways, I began to wonder if and when I would stop at some dooryard, turn, and march up to someone’s residence. Would this be the case? I could only hope, as my mind went toward darker possibilities, such as my marching all the way into the bay, freezing or drowning to death before reaching my destination.
While I’d begun my journey directly south, I noticed I was now changing direction slightly every once in a while, as though correcting course. Correcting course for what? A moving target. That was the only answer. The scarf was heading towards a person, or a vehicle, something which traveled about rather than remain static.
Though I’d warned my superintendent of possible danger to my person, I’d had no way of telling him exactly where I might be. I cursed my lack of preparation. This was hardly like me at all, and I could only blame so much on the scarf.
I needed, then, to approach this problem as a journalist would. Let’s start with a headline, I thought to myself. After all, I had time, as I seemed to be a passenger in my own body, at least for the time being. Journalist Disappears Seeking Secret of Strange Scarf. Too much alliteration for my tastes, but it sounded like something my editor would run. Now, the basics: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Morris Pinterley, popular political reporter and heir to the Pinterley estate, went into the South Side of Manhattan Tuesday after telling his superintendent he would be traveling into a possibly dangerous situation. It seems, after consulting with his old college friend, Daniel Hutchins, that Pinterley became obsessed with a scarf he had purchased second-hand at a shop last December. The journalist claimed to be suffused with a strange euphoria when he wore the garment, and at times found himself traveling of his own accord towards the south end of the city. It appears that Pinterley finally succumbed to these urges Monday evening, for he set out early Tuesday morning and hasn’t been heard from since.
Oh, dear. The style was a bit poor, and that last bit was dreadful to even consider. Luckily, I was spared any more thoughts on the matter, for I suddenly veered to the left and through an open gate, which led me up a flight of wrought-iron stairs to the door of a seamstress shop. This was it, I whispered, feeling control return to me. My heart hammered with elation, and there was a sense that I was somehow exactly where I’d always needed to be. I cannot describe to you what that feels like, other than to say, imagine you are a child again and swaddled in the warmth of your family’s bosom. Imagine the contentment you felt, the sense of safety. That is the only feeling which comes close, and it is merely a shadow of what I felt then.
I knocked and was met by a young woman who named herself Sylvia, an apprentice there working under Mrs. Dooley. I tipped my hat to her and asked to be let inside.
“Oh, we’re not open yet,” Sylvia said.
“Well, I’m actually not here on business per se,” I replied. “I believe there’s…someone I need to see. Yes, I’m here to meet with someone.”
“Oh, and who would that be, Sir, begging your pardon?”
“One of the ladies who works here. Oh, I forget her name, but I’m fabulous with faces. If I could come inside? The rain, you see…”
“Of course, Sir, of course.”
Sylvia let me in, and we walked a dimly lit hallway until we emerged in a decent-sized room, a living area that had been converted into a shop, complete with a number of stations where the women could sit and do their work. I had no sooner rounded the corner than I saw an older woman, perhaps fifty judging by her graying red hair and matronly bearing, stand as she saw me. On her lips was an admonishment similar to Sylvia’s, that the shop was not yet open, but these words died out when a look of recognition passed her eyes.
“Collum,” she said.
“No, Ma’am,” I said. “I’m sorry, but my name is Morris…”
She was clearly not listening to me as she came around her station and approached. Her eyes were fixed on something other than mine, namely, the scarf. She showed no hesitation in stepping before me in a familiar way and sliding an end of the scarf from where I’d tucked it into my overcoat. Her hands were starting to wrinkle with age, and they were red and calloused with years of work, but her touch was gentle, the way a mother might caress her child.
“I made this for him when he was twelve. He was always such a tall boy,” she said, a hint of an Irish lilt in her voice that living in America had not quite extinguished.
My grin stretched wide, painfully wide. “This is good,” I said, gritting my teeth at the intensity of my grand feelings. “I’ve come in search of someone, you see…”
Again my voice trailed off as she continued on without me. “It was one of my first attempts, you know. I’ve always had a skill with cloth, but I can see the mistakes I made in making it. Even still, he loved it so. To him, there were no flaws. Just love. But that was him, wasn’t it?”
“Miss, if you would please…”
This time my words attracted her attention. She was shorter than I, an old woman clearly with a young woman’s energy and spirit. But there was something about her, a sadness, perhaps, a gloomy cast to her bearing that came through, despite what appeared to be recent attempts to be…what? Kinder, perhaps. Yes. Kinder. Here was a woman who was trying hard to be opposite to her nature. I could appreciate the difficulties, given my own melancholy.
She pushed the graying strands of hair at her temple behind her ear and looked me in the eye.
“You’ve come a long way.”
The happiness had again swelled inside me to the point it felt like it might explode from my chest and fill the room with good tidings. I could only nod, my face pulled back in a rictus.
“And you no doubt want answers for why you’ve come. Yes, of course you do. They all do, you see. Ah, yes! You’re not the first to have sought me out, Mr…I’m sorry, I haven’t gotten your name.”
“Pinterley. Morris Pinterley.”
“Well, Mr. Pinterley, the answer to why you’re here, is simple to state, yet difficult to explain. The scarf. It belonged to my brother, and it’s wanted to come home for some time. You’ve done this, and I’m eternally grateful.”
The year has passed, and here we are at another Christmas. This one is as gray and pitiless as the last, and my melancholy, perhaps not as acute as it was in years past, still troubles me.
If I’m heartened by anything, it’s in the aftermath of my adventure to Mrs. Dooley’s shop. As I sit here in my bachelor’s apartment, staring out onto the street with a dusty, old book cradled in my lap, I think on those days and the ones before it.
The shop did not open. Mrs. Dooley gave her girls the day off, and she took me in hand to tell me her story.
“My brother was a saint,” she said to me, taking me in full confidence without hesitation, though she must have known her story would be strange and difficult to believe. “It’s clear to me now, though it was hard for me to see when I was younger. I think of Jesus’ brothers and how they must have thought, ‘Now, here is a real lunatic!’ at all of the Lord’s comings and goings. But, lo and behold, in Acts it refers to his brothers as joining in the other parishioners at some point, and so he must have done something to win them over eventually. It wasn’t like that with Collum and me, not until it was too late.
“See, he was always such a good soul, and I was born with more than a bit of, well, I suppose you’d call it darkness, in me. Sullenness, cynicism. Glad to see others fail or get what I believed was coming to them, that was me. But not Collum. Always loved everyone, treated them with kindness, even me. He doted on me, really, and I hated him for it. Yes. Hate! Hated his guts for some time, in fact.
“We never had much, back home in Ireland, but what we did have was to go to Collum. When our ma finally passed, though, our brother, Padraic, the middle one, he schemed the land from under Collum. But get angry? Not my brother. Padraic stole the land and threw us both off, claiming it for him and his family. And Collum just said, ‘Well, I suppose Padraic needed the land very badly to have done such a thing.’ And just like that, he never said another word of it, never a complaint or a curse at his brother, who was as rotten as you like. Instead, he found work from a man who agreed to help us pay our way across, though we were as dirt poor as could be. Collum could have that effect on another kind soul, you see. He need only ask, and they would give and feel joyous afterward with the warmth of a generous spirit.
“So we set out for America, and we landed here. We both found work, and I eventually met my husband, Mr. Dooley. Collum paid our benefactor back in full, and a little more besides, and we settled in to living here instead of there.”
“Your brother sounds like quite the gentleman,” I said, thinking I should say something.
“To be near him was like to stand in sunshine. I read that, once, of another fellow, but it applies to my brother. But that only made me dislike him more. We had a row once, or rather I yelled at him while he said nothing, and that was the last I saw of him for some time. Years passed, and we only spoke here and there. Until I received word last March that he’d passed on.”
“I lost my brother in March,” I blurted out.
“Bless your soul,” Mrs. Dooley replied in sympathy. “Our kin tie us to this world, and when they’re gone, our souls are a little lighter. This happens in life, losing what we cherish until we’re so light that we can’t stay in this world any longer and float away. When word came, I also learned that he’d left me everything. There was a letter read by his lawyer. He never held a grudge, of course, and he wanted me to have everything of his so I could sell it all and live a little easier.
“And I did exactly that, for now I was not only angry at him for being so good, but also for him dying and leaving me alone in the world. Mr. Dooley was gone by then, I should mention, and I’m sorry to say I’ve run my children off with my wicked ways. So I sold all of his belongings, cleared out his home, in fact, and I would have sold the house, too, if there had been any takers.”
She smiled and took my hand again. “Here, let me show you. It’s a few blocks away. Imagine that, living that close to kin and never darkening their dooryard. If there’s a Hell, Mr. Pinterley, I’m surely bound for it.”
“Collum never visited you, either.”
She took her woolen hat and heavy coat from a peg affixed to the wall, and we headed out into the cold.
“He never came because I told him not to come,” she said.
At his home she unlocked the front door with a heavy iron key, and we went inside. Immediately, I was confused. Here was a cozy place, full of cheaply wrought furniture and keepsakes on every wall, yet all seemed to glow with how much their owner had loved and cared for them.
“But you told me you sold it all,” I said, standing astonished in the doorway to the living room.
Mrs. Dooley made a small cough and pushed past me.
“I did,” she said. She looked at me, and her eyes twinkled. “Well, Mr. Pinterley, how do you think I knew why you’d come? Or did you think your scarf was the only thing of Collum’s that wanted to come home again?”
I stood there, dumbstruck. My hand strayed to the scarf, but Mrs. Dooley was already coming forward to remove it from around my neck.
“Bit by bit, all of it came home. A chair here, a cup there. And if the owner did not want to part with it, why, the thing would somehow find its way into the possession of a more sympathetic soul.” Her eyes filled with tears. “At first I didn’t understand, but then it occurred to me. Collum loved everything. Not just people, but animals. Plants. He loved everything.” She swept her arm wide. “Everything, and he treated them all as though they were delicate children, talking to his things, regaling them with stories, and just loving them as a good and decent father would his children.”
Mrs. Dooley held up the scarf. “And this is the final piece to come home, Mr. Pinterley. I made this scarf for him. It was the one thing I did for him in his life out of love, and you’ve brought it back. It’s home, and it’s with me, now. See, I’ve taken up his mantle a bit. Oh, I’m not a good person, not really, but I’m trying. I’m trying to be more like my brother, the saint. It’s probably not soon enough to save me, and I can’t imagine I have many years left, but I’ll do what good things I can in the time I have. I’ll do it in his name.”
We parted ways soon after that, and I returned home. The story stayed buried in me for some time. In Spring my editor sent me to cover the President’s inauguration, just as I thought he might, only, that year, Wilson did not throw a gala, as was tradition. I spent only a day in Washington watching parades, and then I came home again.
The months passed, and here we are again. This morning, something in me said the time was right. Today was the day to begin thinking of this story, of finding a way to tell it. Mrs. Dooley has become her brother’s disciple, much in the way Jesus’ brother, James, took up his ministries when Christ was gone. I imagine I am to be one of Collum’s chroniclers, here to write an account of the man’s life, a man so good, even his belongings loved him, remaining so loyal to him that, even after death, they would seek their way home again, just to be close to where his feet once trod.
And like Mrs. Dooley, I, too, am seeking the better parts of myself. Though I feel the gloom of the season upon my shoulders, and though I no longer have Collum’s scarf to fill me with its happiness, I am trying to keep my chin up and tap into the goodwill I feel flowing through the veins of my fellow man as I walk among them, down streets, and in shops. And though I am alone as I write this, there is a stack of packages near the door. Tonight, I will walk across the park to Hutchins’ home. He has invited me to Christmas dinner with his family, and I have agreed to attend, though in years past I would have begged off and found excuses to the contrary. I will bring them their gifts, and I will share in their joy, even if it doesn’t come naturally to me. I do all of this in honor of a man I never met, but whose kindness and generosity touched me, even from beyond the pale.
L. Joseph Shosty is the author of two story collections, Old Wine & Black Hearts and Wizards for the Immediate Cheddar, and a novel, Abattoir in the Aether. His short fiction has appeared in numerous places, including Stupefying Stories, The First Line, and Perihelion SF. Herbie’s Diner, a mystery novella featuring his private eye, Johnny Hardwood, was published by Untreed Reads in 2015, and he is currently hard at work on its sequel, The Nice Guy in the Chalk Outline.