Author, musician, impresario Jim Creighton is well known to people of the Campbell River area. His popular book, elkFaLLsbC Comic Imaginations of a Costal Town, is a regional classic depicting the characters and character of a fictitious coastal town. Creighton has revived his beloved town to present as a Christmas story. The Mirror is proud to publish An eLkFallsbC Christmas for your reading pleasure over the holidays. Today, we present Part II.
By Jim Creighton
“Settle down Inch,” his wife said. “Just settle yourself down now, or you’ll have another heart attack,” she soothed, and she put down her colourful cards and she reached over to him and she began to massage his shoulders.
Poor man, she thought, and thankfully she could see that he’d begun to relax a little bit. That’s good. Poor Inch always gets so excited about Christmas.
Across town, in the crowded gymnasium of the elementary school, Grandma Ottie Owekeno sat patiently on an uncomfortable steel folding chair, waiting for this year’s “Holiday Extravaganza!” to begin.
“Ooh, the curtain’s opening,” she squeaked, and she wondered if her little grandson had been cast as Joseph, or would he be one of those three wise men in their bathrobes?
This year, the extravaganza presented was a musical, and even the most extravagant reviewer could question the quotient of its talent, but Grandma Owekeno was more confused by its content. A funny song about too much turkey dinner, a funny song about an argument between Santa and Mrs. Clause, and even a funny song about how there was way too much holiday football on TV.
“Where’s the three wise men?” she asked her daughter next to her, who seemed to be quite delighted by the show. “Where’s the nativity scene?” she asked.
“Oh, Mom,” was her daughter’s distracted answer. “That’s old school. They don’t do that any more.”
Within the warmth of Priscilla Limpet’s tiny apartment, her boyfriend, the beleaguered author Delton Whiffle, bent over his laptop. Delton couldn’t afford his own apartment, since his last book, ‘The Nutty Folks of Our Wet West Coast’ was quite unpopular in Elk Falls BC, and since he’d quickly spent his publisher’s advance, he’d actually put himself into debt.
“I’m writing a piece for the Examiner,” he explained to Priscilla. “For their Christmas issue.”
“Wonderful!” responded Priscilla, since she was perhaps the only person left in town with any hope for the man. “They’ve contracted you?”
“Well, no,” said Delton. “Not really, but I’m sure they’ll publish it. But,” he said, “I’ll need my space, here,” and he flexed his writing fingers like a famous composer ready to compose something famous. “I’ll need some silence,” he commanded, and Priscilla dutifully obeyed him by tiptoeing over to her stereo and removing her favourite disc of Margaret Atwood reading from ‘The Poems of Margaret Atwood’.
But her apartment was so small. Priscilla crept over to a corner where she sat silently while Delton clicked away on his keyboard.
So, he thought, as he googled ‘most successful christmas authors’, who’s got some good ideas they might like to share? Up popped Charles Dickens, then Clement Moore, and then…the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. Studiously, Delton studied the man’s work.
“I’ve got it!” he bellowed. “I’ve got it!” and he pecked away at his keyboard and then he quickly pushed the ‘save’ key to forever preserve his latest inspiration. “This is it!” he boldly announced,” and Priscilla Limpett jumped up to join her literary Lothario in celebration of his divine exertion. “It’s definitely on topic!” said Delton. “And it’s definitely west coast!”
Priscilla peeked over his shoulder to read his laptop.
“A Child’s Christmas With Whales,” it said.
Meanwhile, over on Water Street, there was a party in progress at the spanky new seniors’ high rise. In the ‘Barnacle View Lounge’ the atmosphere was one of great seasonal merriment, and to a background of festive Muzak, the new residents sipped champagne, also fairly new, and they mingled and chatted and nibbled on canapes.
“Are these digestive crackers?” asked someone, but his voice was lost among the party crowd.
“Merry ho ho!” exclaimed Mike Malachite, originally from Sudbury, Ontario, but now a proud ‘west coaster’. “Let’s get this party started!” he said, and he spun his aluminum cane just like Fred Astaire.
“I’m for that!” enthused Agatha Baska from North Buck Lake, Alberta. “Gotta lotta livin’ to do!”
Up by the gaily decorated tree stood Peter Plover, the veteran MLA for Vancouver Island East, and he smiled as he addressed the happy crowd.
“Our provincial government welcomes all you newcomers,” he said. “We have many benefits for seniors here in BC, so rest assured that we’ll be taking good care of you,” he said, and his glance about the room confirmed that the average age here was well into the higher numbers, and perhaps beyond.
“All of you folks are now official ‘Islanders’,” he said, “and no doubt you’ll all be benefiting from our discounted seniors’ rates at BCFerries. Oh yes,” he confirmed. “You are so important!” and a quick look toward his gesticulating personal attache prompted him to add, “Monday through Thursday, of course,” and then another look prompted him to further add, “Excepting holidays.” And he then inserted, “And only upon the presentation of a valid BC driver’s licence or a BC Identification card,” and he smiled happily to convey his government’s benevolence, but apparently even this wasn’t enough. “And,” he added to his addendum, “if you only have a birth certificate, then a proof of BC residency will be required.”
He smiled. Oops, one more thing.
“That’s passenger fares only,” he reminded everyone.
“What did he say?” asked someone.
“What did who say?” was the answer.
“The man that’s talking.”
“Is there someone talking?”
Peter Plover, MLA, then looked out to his loyal constituents, and in the spirit of the season he became even more gracious.
“I want to wish you all a very Merr…,” and he quickly stopped himself as his personal attache was now leaning forward with a look of stern caution.
“A very Merr…,” he repeated. “Merr…,” and he could see his attache leaning even further forward.
He couldn’t say what he wanted to say. His ‘Rules of Conduct for Members of the Lower House’ wouldn’t allow it, and of course there might be some spy, some quisling from the opposition party in the crowd, just waiting to blow the political whistle on him if he dared to show favour to any particular religious group.
“Merr…,” he struggled, and the lights of the tree were bright upon him.
“Merr…,” he strove, and the room was ominously quiet now, except for the Muzak.
He had to think quickly. How about ‘Happy Holidays’, but wasn’t that a Jewish phrase? He wasn’t sure. ‘Compliments of the Season’? But wasn’t that what they printed on the plastic bags at the BC Liquor Commission? Could he possibly escape the situation with a ‘Happy New Year’? Probably not.
And so this awkward moment continued until Peter Plover, MLA, made his decision, the correct decision, which is what MLA’s are paid to do.
“Feliz Navidad!” he chimed, with a wave of his hand. “Feliz Navidad!” he said again, and with this all-inclusive and yet non-inclusive bestowal he was happy to make his way to the door.
“Who was that?” asked someone.
“Who was who?” asked another.
High above Elk Falls BC the December stars continued in their radiance, and almost lost in this brilliant constellation was one little star, just a little shiner.
“How long do we have to keep standing here?” he asked one of the bigger stars.
“Oh,” whispered the bigger star. “It’s December. We’re up here until all the folks in Elk Falls BC realize just how small they actually are. Best be patient,” he advised, “I think we might be here awhile.”
So the little star stuck out his chest, and he did his very best.
One inhabitant of Elk Falls BC had been here since 1926. Bill the Ghost, local spectre and renowned mischief, always had fun at Christmas, and as he told his friend, “You should have been here yesterday!”
He laughed as he scratched the persistent mould on his neck.
“I’ll tell ya,” he continued. “We stole the mistletoe out of the florist’s window and took it up to City Hall! Yeah,” he said, “and we strung it all up, right in the council chambers.”
“Wow!” said his friend, who tried to slap his knee, but he was missing a knee.
“So,” said Bill, “you should have seen that council meeting! Everybody had to pucker up. The mayor kissed the councillors, the councillors kissed the city managers, and I saw one city manager kissing that lady who’s always complaining about him in the Examiner. Great fun!”
“I’ll bet!” said his friend, and he tried to slap Bill on the back, but his hand passed right through.
When the big day did finally arrive, and the little children of the folks in the houses on the hill all had time to unwrap their gifts and give their thanks, the heaven’s radiant stars had been replaced by a bright sunny day. Down at the Community Hall, Charlie Morgan and his vagabond trio stood in line, patiently moving toward their free turkey dinner.
“I don’t want no white meat,” complained Izzie Debris, as he trudged dutifully toward the delicious smells that wafted from the hall.
The hall was full, and volunteers in their holiday aprons were busy serving hot food. Behind the counter Inch Carter worked shoulder to shoulder with Eddy and Jack from the DFO, and beside them Sarah Sculpin did her best to keep the coffee fresh.
“The whole gang’s here,” commented Ace Coot, and he waved to a group that had just arrived from their camp down by the creek.
The line grew constantly, and it included not only Charlie’s friends, but many others who had, for whatever reason, come up short at this time of year. Men and women respectably dressed, groups of young adults, and many families with young children. The volunteers welcomed them all.
“Hey you,” said Izzie Debris, as he received his tray. “I don’t want no white meat,” and he added, “More gravy on these potatoes.”
Charlie Morgan, who at that very moment had just solved his ongoing mental puzzle of exactly what day it was, exactly where he was, and perhaps exactly who he was, found immediate fault with his friend’s impatience .
“Hey, Izzy,” he said. “Take it easy on these guys.”
Izzy Debris looked up from his tray.
“Take it easy,” said Charlie, and he conjured up a smile.
Charlie’s smile was surrounded by a grizzly brown beard and it was missing a few upper teeth, but nonetheless it was a smile that was still able to convey a certain personal warmth.
“It’s Christmas!” he said.