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Christmas Candy by Jeff McNeal

It was not quite dark, but only a few dimming horizontal rays of snow-reflected sunlight survived to paint the long shadows of sunset. I had tired of playing Only Child football in the field between our house and my grandparents’, so I decided to stop and visit Pop before I headed home for supper. The dim light from the greenhooded bulb hanging over the workbench shone through the frostframed window of Pop’s workshop. I was too small to see in, but I knew that if he was in there I’d hear his soft humming over the muffled crunch of my Arctic boots punching through ice-crusted snow as I approached. I listened, and when I heard the faint sound of a hymn being hummed inside, I smiled. I heaved the heavy white door open and entered the fascinating world of the packrat. Every exposed rafter overhead was decorated with some sort of dangling object in limbo: Yins without Yangs ~ sulky wheels in need of a sulky, an old porcelain doorknob absent its door, a headless goose decoy, an oxen double tree, a Studebaker steering wheel, and hundreds of other orphaned

items. (I coveted the porcelain doorknob.) The humming paused momentarily as Pop acknowledged my arrival with a slow turn and a smile that met mine. He went back to what he was doing and restarted the hymn without uttering a word. None was needed. It was understood that I would climb atop the old stool next to him and become spectator to his project du jour, currently unrecognizable as it lay in pieces upon his workbench. Pop’s humming was comforting. Notes flowed out effortlessly with each breath, then patiently stepped aside during replenishment. Tempo accommodated the natural breathing cadence of one at peace with himself. It was a soothing activity suited to tedious tasks, for it was impossible to hurry and hum at the same time. “Hey, Pop! Got any Christmas candy?” Pop turned from what he was doing, peered down and overtop his bifocals and slowly released a white swirl of Prince Albert past the stem of the old curved Briar Richmond that drooped from the corner of his mouth. I knew by the bulging lumps in

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January 2013 Tidewater Times  

January 2013 Tidewater Times

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