Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Special: The Beard of His Chin

The mud coach lurched, its iron-rimmed wheels slipping into a rut in the hard-frozen trail, and throwing Devereaux roughly against the wall of the coach. “Dammit, Adan!” he complained, hauling himself upright on the battered, barely-padded seat and shoving his head out the window.

Adan, perched atop the coach, gave him a smug glance. “You keep sticking your head out here, you’re gonna be all wet by the time we get to the Green. Get back in there.” The cigarillo smouldering on Adan’s lip glowed brightly through the swirling snow and the blue twilight. Sharp, sweet smoke wafted across Dev's nostrils, sweet in the cold, almost painfully crisp air. Adan went on, “Don’t want to mess your beard up, do ya?”

“To hell with my beard.” Dev scowled up at him. “I feel like damn baggage riding in here.”

Adan’s lightly whiskered face broke into a sympathetic smile, and his tone softened. “I know you do, Frank.” He gestured with his head and clicked his tongue, urging the pair of horses to quicken their pace. “We’re almost there. You can ride up top on the way back and get yourself as mussed up as you want. Just stay nice until we’re done.” Snow clung to Adan’s broad shoulders, clotted in the brim of his hat and fell in fluffy clumps into the thick, whiskey-colored tangles of his shaggy hair. Dev’s heart squeezed with a surge of affection despite his discomfiture.

He’s right. He’s going to need to dry off before we start back. Dev grunted and ducked his head back inside the coach’s window, leaving the leather curtain open. He felt awkward and nervous, and the cold air blowing across his face was cleansing. He drew in a deep breath of it, feeling it calm him. Adan’s deep, gentle voice went on, soothing him and  giving him something to focus on other than his own self-consciousness.

“It was sure nice of Monahan and Bari to bring the coach out, eh?” Adan said lightly. “And to stay on for us till we get back to our post.”

“It was.” Dev nodded. “It sure was nice of you and them to volunteer me for this horseshit, too. I notice you didn’t offer to do it yourself.”

“Aw, c’mon, Frank.” Dev could hear Adan grinning around his words. “You know there isn’t anyone within a hundred miles better for this job than you.”

Dev settled back in the seat. “I’m fatter and hairier than anyone else, you mean.” His lip tugged up with a self-satisfied smirk as he heard Adan guffaw rudely.

“That’s not what I meant, Frank.” Traces of mirth were still clinging to Adan’s words. “Look, we’re almost there. Try not to do a lot of cussin’, will you?” The coach slowed to a stop as Adan drove the coach behind Sheriff Holt’s jailhouse. “And could you at least smile?”

Dev hauled himself out of the coach, stepping down into the soft blanket of fresh snow and reaching up to take the burlap sack Adan was handing down to him. He grimaced, feeling his beard pull and itch, before giving Adan a wide grin. “This white shoe polish you put in my beard is gonna snatch my face bald before we’re done.”

Adan swung down, shouldering a second sack. His blue eyes, full of mischief and excitement, shone in the light from the rising moon. He reached into the coach, snatched out the red and white stocking cap Mrs. Lynch had made, and pulled it down over Dev’s heavily shoe-polished and powdered hair. “You look great, Frank,” he laughed, giving Dev’s beefy shoulder a squeeze. “This is gonna be fun.”

“I know it is.” Dev adjusted the weight of the sack on his shoulder, putting a finger to the side of his nose and winking conspiratorially.

“Oh, that’s perfect. Let’s head over to the schoolhouse.”

“Alright...but just wait a moment.” Dev stood still, listening to the silence of falling snow and watching the rising moon glinting like silver and magic on the pristine white around them. The ridiculous red cloak Mrs. Lynch had made for him was warm, and the weight of candy and fruit and toys in the sack felt even warmer. And Adan, brawny, rugged, cigarello-puffing Adan, stood with cheeks reddened with cold and his breath puffing in curling silver mist. Dev wanted to remember this moment, wanted to remember the snow and the yellow lights in the windows of the schoolhouse down the street and the boyish fun twinking in Adan’s blue eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Adan's voice was a quiet rumble.

“Nothing.” Dev said, and meant it. He jerked his head towards the schoolhouse. “Let’s go.” His hand shot out and gave Adan’s bicep a gentle shove before headed up the street. “Ho, ho, ho.”

There’s our Saint Nicholas.”

“Some kid pisses on my lap...” Dev said, trying to sound stern and failing. “...we’re trading pants.”


Anonymous said...

Wonderful story! I've been waiting to hear more about them. That was so sweet. I still love Adan's name. :-)


Katrie said...

Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! So wonderful!!! ^_^ I had almost forgotten about getting a Christmas tale, and this was a wonderful "surprise"! And much needed for my almost broken sense of holiday cheer this year. I'm a worn out retailer this year... -_-;;;

Thank you for that burst of happiness and joy! I really needed it. :-)

Anonymous said...

A much needed Happy Holidays to you. I hope you get the chance to relax soon. I wish very nice customers for you, I know retail is really tough during the holiday season.


Katrie said...

Thank you Idril!! Happy Holidays to you as well!! I'm just stressed cause I'm actually temp store manager, and started the temp part the week of black friday. First holiday season in charge, and it's wearing me down! lol I know what I'm doing, just, wow. Got thrown into the fire at an odd time and at a new store (in a mall which I haven't worked in for 4 years now). I'm a Gamestop girl, so busybusy!!! lol At least I'll get Christmas day itself off, and NYE and NY day off as well. I can't wait for that!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you and good luck. I'm sure you're doing a wonderful job.


'gina said...

Hi all! Thank you, I'm so glad you liked the special! I remember a couple of you stated you'd like to see more of Adan, so when I started thinking about who we might look at for a Christmas backstory, I thought hey, how about Dev and Adan in a happier time? And what would Dev be doing at Christmas?

Oh, heck, yeah, he'd be the guy drafted to play Santa.

And yeah, "Adan McGrath" kinda rolls off the tongue, duddn't it? Thanks!

Ah, Katrie, I don't envy you having to work retail right now. I have friends who work retail over here and they are nearly frothing at the mouth at this point. Hang tough. You're nearly there. :-)

I used to work at Kinko's, back when it was actually called Kinko's, and you wouldn't think a place like that would get beat down for the holidays, but Kinko's used to make (maybe they still do, I dont' know) custom Christmas gifts.

The big liquor store in town was a stone's throw from Kinko's and they knew me down there. They knew me well and knew I was a tequila girl. I'm just sayin'.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Solstice, and anything else I might have missed. Peace to all!

And as our favorite cranky stationkeeper might say, "Ho, ho, ho."

'gina said...

Oh, and I forgot, you like the pic this week?

It was taken with my phone, on my back porchrail, and is entitled "Jesse's pocket."