Heart Beat Hill

By Brian Law

It was just by chance that she caught a glimpse of her father leaving in his friend Ed’s old car. On any normal Sunday morning at five o’clock, she'd be snuggled-up in bed, but something caused her to get up and look out her bedroom window. And there she saw her father climbing into the back of that old Chevy along with his old marine buddies. She knew exactly what was going on as she sat down and dialed 911. 

“911. What’s your emergency?” 

“You know me, I’m Marge Jameson over on Maple Street. I call every year about this time around Christmas about my Dad, Fred. He’s at it again, I’m afraid,” she explained apologetically to the operator. “I just saw him drive away from my house with his old friends. They’re headed for the hill again.” She told the operator the make, model and license plate number of Ed’s old car and the direction it had headed. 

“Hi, Marge,” the operator replied. “Okay, I’ll alert the police about the vehicle. Any idea at all where they might be going this year?” 

Marge told her she thought it was going to be the hill behind the old high school and then added, “I’m leaving right away. I’ll be there in about twenty minutes or so. One of Fred’s friends in the car just got out of the hospital and Fred’s been having some heart problems, too. So, pass that on, please,” the daughter advised and then hung up. She looked around for her bathrobe, threw it on and went downstairs for a cup of coffee before leaving. 

Sipping her coffee as she struggled to get into her jeans, she glanced over at the photographs on the fireplace mantle. There they were, all the annual photos of her Dad and his friends standing proudly at the foot of some hill. Sadly, she knew that each successive photo had fewer friends in it and last year’s photo only had the four who went away together in the car this morning. The hill was thinning the herd, she thought darkly. How many would survive today’s ordeal and still be alive for the post-run photo opportunity? 

They had all been in the same marine platoon in Vietnam, had all assaulted Hill 47 when ordered and only twelve survived that action. And when they got home, and in memory of their fallen brethren, they agreed to reenact the taking of Hill 47 each year until they were all gone. 

They used to charge the same hill each year until one of the guys died in the process and the local authorities caught on to what was happening. So they had to choose a different hill each year and keep it a secret. This year’s hill was the one behind the old high school. 

By the time Marge got there, the police had already arrived but too late to prevent the remaining platoon members from making a run up the hill. As she got out of her car, she saw her father leaning against the police car, clearly out of breath and in pain. And close by, on the ground, covered in a policeman’s jacket, lay Ed. 

She rushed to her father’s side as he looked up, grimaced and gasped, “Hey, you bring a camera by any chance?” 



The Ham Salesman

By Brian  law

“Santa, it’s Vern on line two,” the elf relayed, rolling her eyes a bit. 

Sighing, Santa picked up and answered, trying to be upbeat, “Vern, it’s been a while. What can I do for you, cousin? I’m pretty busy this time of year, so keep it simple.” 

“Simple, simple! You want me to keep it simple? Simple I can’t do, cousin. Simple is out this year! I got a problem and you’re the solution, and simple it isn’t,” Vern yelled as if talking to an underling. 

Santa looked at some budget figures on his desk as he waited for Vern to calm down. It was always like this with his cousin. The yelling, the demands, then the contrition and the pleading. He waited for the contrition and the pleading as he tried to figure out why the budget for reindeer feed was so out of control this year. 

“Santa, you still there?” Vern asked and then continued, “Look, I’m sorry for yelling like that and I know you’re busy. So, I won’t make any demands, okay? But I do need your help. I’m in a bind, a real bind.” 

Again, Santa said nothing but let Vern know he was still on the phone by clearing his throat and taking a loud slurp of tea. 

Vern breathed deeply, steeled himself and then spoke very slowly and concisely, “Okay, Santa, here it is. There are six fewer shopping days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Well, you obviously know that, but then there’s this tariff thing on ham and all these damn vegans running around. I’m telling you, cousin, I’m at my wits end!” 

Santa put his hand over the receiver while he discussed something with one of the elves, then returned to the phone call and asked, “So far, Vern, you’ve told me about stuff I’ve got no control over. Calendars, tariffs, vegans, your wits.” He paused to let that sink in and then added, “Get to the point, Vern. What do you really want? I’m a busy man.” 

Vern chose his words carefully as he answered, “Cousin, I want to sell my ham business to you and only you. Buffett is down here, nibbling around the edges, but I want to give you the first right of refusal. It’s a perfect fit with your current operations. Interested?” 

Without saying anything, Santa motioned for his Chief Finance Elf to get on the line and listen in. As he waited, Santa smiled and wrote some notes on his scratch pad and then responded to Vern, “I’ve got my finance elf listening in, Vern. So, I’m going to leave him with you to discuss the details of the deal, okay? And then I’ll get his report later today and get back to you. How does that sound? Oh, and thanks for putting me before Buffett, Vern.” 

As Vern and the Chief Finance Elf began their phone conversation, Santa hung up and placed another call. He waited patiently as the call was relayed through a variety of security checks until finally, he got through. “Mr. President, this is Santa! How are you?” 

The voice on the other end sounded tired but that wasn’t unusual. They exchanged pleasantries and then Santa got right to the point, “You were right about the pork tariffs. Vern just called today and he’s selling out to me. I’ll lowball him, of course, and I’ll make a killing.” 

The voice on the other end asked him about how he was going to handle gift deliveries to the children of Democrats this year. 

Santa laughed and replied, “Oh, you know, the usual screwups, delays, and non-deliveries. So, what about those turkey tariffs? Can you arrange for something to happen there?” 


A Cello for Danny  

A Cello for Danny 

By Brian Law

His wife had been very introspective for the last half hour or so. And she was never introspective, so he was curious as he approached her as she sat on the sofa reading a catalog. 

“What’s up?” he asked, trying to be nonchalant. 

She looked up as if surprised and asked him to sit down for a minute. She had something she wanted to go over with him, she said. Getting more curious by the second, he quickly sat down, smiled and wise-cracked, “Okay, I’m sitting down.” 

She took a deep breath, closed the catalog and announced, “I think it’s time for Danny to do something that would bring him out of his shell. Something that would allow him to express his innermost emotions and feelings, but without him having to relate with other people.” 

Danny was their son who was having trouble moving on from adolescence. He had no friends, interrelated with no one other than his parents, and even then he was extremely reticent. They had considered therapy, but Danny had flat-out refused to participate and instead shut himself up in his room with his video games and his earphones. When he did come out, he never made eye contact or spoke in words of more than one syllable. 

“Okay,” her husband said getting serious, “Just what do you have in mind?” 

She smiled and handed him the catalog. “I want Danny to take up the cello!” 

He didn’t say anything, but instead took the catalog and thumbed through it. As he did, she continued, “Look, it’s not like a drum set or an electric guitar. That would drive us and the neighbors crazy. Instead, he could still stay in his room and learn how to play the cello by taking lessons over the Internet and we’d hardly hear him at all. It’s all in the catalog!” 

“But will it help him come out of his shell? That’s the whole point, right? Will it do the job?” he asked earnestly. 

She turned to face him and pointed to the catalog again. “It’s all in there, testimonials from students and therapists and parents. It works! I think we should give it a try. Please, just have an open mind and read the catalog and let me know what you think, okay?” 

Holding the catalog in his hands, he turned his head and looked up the stairs towards Danny’s bedroom and its closed door. Then, turning back to his wife, he nodded and said, “If you think this will work, let’s start the process. Call the 800 number and arrange for a representative to come to the house for a consultation. In in! And I will read this catalog!” 

She reached out and they hugged, and for the first time in years they both felt upbeat about the possibilities for their boy. “Oh, and the best part is that I got Danny one of these catalogs the other day and asked him to look it over and see if there was anything in it he’d like for his birthday, and later he actually asked me a question about it! Can you believe it, he read it! I think we’re onto something big here!” 

He got up and said that he thought that this special occasion warranted a toast of some kind. He went to the liquor cabinet, took out two glasses, and poured out two servings of sherry. 

She stood up, took her glass in hand, and proudly proposed the toast, “To our son, Danny, the future cello student, on his fifty-sixth birthday! Happy birthday, Danny!”