The Brown Christmas: An original from Stephen F. Goodale
My father, Steve, for years has been regaling our children (his grandchildren) with made up stories of a fictional character named Angelina Goodwin. He is, without a doubt, the best story-teller I have every listened to, and his propensity towards including the occasional well-placed swear word and frank discussion of taboo subjects always kept us clutching our sides with laughter and crossing our legs so that we didn't pee ourselves a little. Grandfathers, in my opinion, can get away with this kind of naughtiness even around tender ears.
This year, as a labor of love, he took the proverbial pen to paper to write down some of the favorite Angelina stories for his beloved grandchildren and (less) beloved children as a Christmas gift. My mother had it self-published and now we have a 15 chapter anthology entitled, "The Life and Times of Angelina F. Goodwin." This is quite literally, the best gift I could imagine. He is such a fantastic writer and I convinced him to let me share my very favorite chapter of the book. So without further ado, please enjoy--
Chapter Two: The Brown Christmas
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Angelina, and this is a story about something that happened to Angelina at Christmas time when she was nine years old.
All holidays were special to the Goodwin family, but Christmas was Angelina's favorite. It always began with the putting up of the outdoor lights and decorations, which was usually done (weather permitting) the second weekend after Thanksgiving and left intact until the Feast of the Epiphany. Mr. Goodwin was mostly in charge outside, and usually created a holiday display that was both tasteful and elaborate. He was very proud of the fact that on one Christmas occasion, his
creation had won a small award in a neighborhood contest, and he never failed to mention it whenever complimented on the scope of his home holiday decor.
Inside the house, however, was a completely different story. Angelina's mother planned and enacted the interior decorating and holiday events with an intensity that rivaled General Eisenhower's oversight of D-day. Angelina was a useful and cheerful helper in all of this, and their days were busy with baking, shopping, cooking, visiting and church activities that made the days pass as if in a whirlwind.
The apex of all this was on Christmas eve. It was a long-standing family tradition on that day to attend midnight mass at Mrs. Goodwin's home church. Prior to this, they usually visited their neighbors and then drove around the town looking at Christmas lights. Following the mass, the Goodwin's hosted a small dinner party in their home; Freddie Conway Sr. was a regular attendee as was his teen-age son, whom Angelina was a little sweet on. A few others came as circumstances would warrant.
Now one of the holiday treats that Angelina especially enjoyed was gorp. For those of you who do not know, gorp is a type of trail mix made with equal amounts of unsalted peanuts, raisins and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Mrs. Goodwin made copious amounts of the treat, and Angelina was allowed, within reason, ready access to the supply. She usually kept a stash of it in her bedroom in a bowl on her nightstand, and this is where our tale begins to unfold.
Angelina's dog, Skippy, was a champion beggar and snatcher. When ever he was left alone, all food had to be put away up out of his reach as he once was caught upon the kitchen table licking the butter dish clean, and another time managed to jump up on the counter to eat left-over scrambled eggs. Although Angelina was certainly concerned about the health of her dog, (she knew not to give a dog chocolate), she often would slip him a nibble of whatever she was snacking on. This attention, though kindly intentioned, only served to make a bad habit worse. At any rate, the time had arrived for the family to leave for their Christmas light exploration and then the mass. Mrs. Goodwin had put the dinner, an excellent home-made lasagna, in the warming oven, the table and all other preparations already being made ready. The family was all dressed up for the event, and even Mr. Goodwin, who was not a regular churchgoer, showing up as he said, at "all the big ones", was wearing his new suit and looked quite handsome. Angelina was the last person to leave, and failed to notice that her bedroom door did not latch completely as she pulled it shut.
As soon as all his humans were gone, Skippy went on the prowl for eats, his olfactory senses being stimulated by the food in the oven. After examining the kitchen and living room, he saw that anything edible was out of his reach, and so, having the run of the rest of the house, he pressed with his paw against the door of Angelina's bedroom, where he had previously caught a whiff of the gm). In a trice, he jumped up on the bed, got at the nightstand and began to wolf down the contents of the bowl of gorp, eating most of it in less than a minute.
It did not take long for the chocolate to make him sick, the immediate symptom being a liquifying effect on his bowels.
Skippy was well house trained, and knew not to ever relieve himself inside. He made a run for the back door in the kitchen, getting only to the threshold before he began voiding the contents of his intestines on the clean floor, making piles and smears of loose and smelly dog shit. In between his rectal expulsions, he would squat in the sitting position, and propel himself forward with his front paws, dragging his anus on the cool linoleum in a vain effort to relieve the pain and burning therein.
Finally, he had emptied the most of the mess, and began dry heaving. Exhausted and cramping in the stomach, he collapsed in a forlorn heap behind the living room sofa.
Not long after, the Goodwin family returned home, Mrs. Goodwin being in a huffy to ready the meal for her guests. Coming in the front door, she removed her high heeled shoes, advancing to the kitchen in her stocking feet. Getting a scent of the dog shit, she swore to herself and moved across the kitchen to the light switch, and stepping in oozing puddles of the slippery and stinking mess, she lost her footing and fell down sideways, coating her stocking feet and a lot of her dress with the contents of Skippy's intestines.
"Aaaah! Bitch-bastard!" she screamed. "Frank! Angelina! Get in here! The damned dog is ruining Christmas!"
Angelina and her father burst in, and taking stock of the situation, Angelina put her hand to her face and began to cry, but the sight of his wife getting to her feet covered in dog mess on Christmas eve with company expected in fifteen minutes was too much for him, and he began to laugh hysterically.
This did not help matters at all, but after a few more curses and insults, everybody calmed down and began to frantically put things to rights. Mr. Goodwin wiped and scrubbed the floor, while his wife changed her clothes. Angelina gave Skippy a quick cleaning and shut him in the upstairs bathroom. Mrs. Goodwin lit several scented candles and said a silent prayer. She was proud of her home and was embarrassed by what had happened, and now hoped for the best. Although the kitchen did not smell like dog shit, it carried an antiseptic, hospital smell, but there was nothing more to be done.
In all, the dinner went well, the food being delicious and the guests pleasant and polite. If they noticed anything untoward, they said nothing about it. After their company left, Angelina was allowed to open one of her gifts, and went to bed. Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin set out the rest of the presents under their tree, and they headed for their own bed, exhausted.
No sooner had they got under the covers when the car horn went off outside, the switch being stuck in the cold. Skippy, rallying at the noise, thought someone was at the door, and started in with his shrill, yappy bark. He got so excited, guess what he did? He peed on the rug! Mr. Goodwin stepped in the little puddle on his way out to disable the car horn, thus ending the events of what would later be known as "The Brown Christmas."