Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Blog

So, I'm all tired, half awake, half dozing on our comfy leather couches, its all quiet at The Cabana, The Lovely Steph Leann is in the kitchen doing up a dessert for The 38th Annual Nipp New Year's Luncheon tomorrow... I'm even wondering if I'm going to make it to midnight--I cannot remember a New Year's midnight I've missed, but I might miss this one...

...and then...

...I turn on ABC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, featuring Ryan Seacrest". Ryan is looking his American Idol bestiest, and he is standing with some of today's hottest young acts... there's the wonderful Taylor Swift. Her new album is fantastic, her first album is also fantastic, she's going to be great. Behind Ryan there stands Demi Lovato. You'll know her soon enough, if not already, most notably from "Camp Rock", and she's even got her own Disney show coming up.

And then, with Demi and Taylor, to the right of Ryan, are three of the biggest guys in the world, the Jonas Brothers. They are all laughing, and having a great time, as they should with standing on platform in Times Square, minutes before the ball drops.

But who is doing most of the talking? Not Taylor, she's not saying a word, she's just smiling. Not Demi, she's just behind the Jonas Brothers, as if she knows her place right now. Not the Jonas Brothers, though they are jumping in here and there. No, not even Ryan is doing most of the talking.

No, instead, its... Lionel Richie.

When booking talent, deciding who would be great to appear on the show, figuring out who should be with Ryan at what point in the show, and who should perform (Ne-Yo just did), who in the world wrote:

"Demi Lovato, Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas and Taylor Swift to be with Ryan Seacrest, flanked by Lionel Richie"

Not sure if that guy should be flogged or promoted.

If I'm Lionel Richie, I'm keeping the 'fro. When this album came out, Taylor, Demi, Nick, Joe or Kevin weren't even around. Seriously.

So, its currently 1115pm, 45 minutes left in 2008... but on the West Coast (wessss syyyyddde!) it's only, what, 915? And who better to bring in the new year than Fergie! She's so Fergalicious!!


So, down in the street, its Pickles! In much the way you like stuff that makes you smile embarrassingly and say, "I can't help it, I just do!", I love me some Pickles. She's so... well, so Pickley. Kellie Pickley.

She's down in the crowd, talking to different people, with this weird boofy haircut, and very odd eyelashes... and yet... she still looks gorgeous! Its Pickles!



Let's talk about Dick Clark. The guy is coming up on his 142nd birthday, and we all know that he had a stroke a few years ago. Now... if I am doing a job and that job requires me to perform a task that an illness or disaster or tragedy has rendered me unable to perform in a solid, satisfactory manner, I will perhaps step back from that duty.

Not Dick. He keeps on trucking, perhaps uncomfortably. Okay, let's be clear, I am in no way making fun of his speech, or his mannerisms or his condition--he's a solid Hollywood Legend, and I grew up watching TV Bloopers & Practical Jokes, and American Bandstand (sadly, past its heyday even in my childhood) and $25,000 Pyramid (which really seems like nothing compared to the millions given out by Deal or No Deal and other shows. I digress)...

...but Dick Clark is a little scary. Really. When I see him talking, he's got this tooth that you can see, and it looks pointed. The stroke keeps him from moving part of his face, so he's got this pointy tooth, freakly facial look.

Oh, stop fussing at me, you think it too.


Over on Fox, they are overachieving as always. There are about five different reporters, none of which I've ever heard of, reporting from around the country, but notably from:

1) Vegas, where Robbie Knievel is attempting to jump something with a motorcycle.

2) And somewhere where we get a behind the scenes preview of Cirque de Soleil.

Or... I can go back to ABC and see Pickles!

I choose Pickles! She' so Kellie Pickley!!!


It's 1134... in New York, the ball has already dropped, so now we are treated to performances from Natasha Bedingfield (I gotta pocket gotta pocket fulla sunshine...) and Jesse McCartney, who apparently had a big year with his hit "Leavin"--do I need to stop reading so much and listening to Talk Radio and start turning on The Q, Birmingham's Hit Radio Station, so I can keep up with this stuff?

We also were treated to The Pussycat Dolls. There are jokes here. None of them are proper for a family blog, and most, if not all, are a result of very little sleep in the last 36 hours added to the fact that I'm a boy and edgy humor makes me giggle.

And another who had a big hit in 2008... Robin Thicke? What the?


Over on Fox, they have this joke segment where cameramen are running up to various strangers who bear a resemblance to actual celebrities, and taking their pictures. And now, we send it back to Chrissy Russo, with Spanky Spangler, the stunt coordinator for Robbie's jump!

(note to you, coffee drinkers, I made neither one of those names up)

I think it was a few years ago--The Lovely Steph Leann says last year, I don't remember--that KT and J Rob and The Hawbakers and The Croyles and whoever came over and we watched some sort of jump on ESPN (well, actually I know it was last year they came over, I just can't remember when the jump was), taking place at midnight, forsaking all ball droppings and Times Square coverage, pinning our entertainment quota on whether the stuntman makes it or doesn't... he made it.

Jess Hawbaker lamented that she felt bad for kinda wishing he would crash, but wow would it be fun to watch.


DNC-TV, also known as MSNBC, has Rachel Maddow leading up to midnight, which is in about 16 minutes.

I think I'm going to start my own liberal newspaper, and call it "America Sucks".

Fox News has a show called "U Party 2009", and there is someone singing that I can't identify. It's probably a country song, because its one of those emotional message family songs.

I waited for the song to end, which couldn't come fast enough, and the guy said "Thank you!' and they cut to commercial. That's terrible.


Back to ABC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" and I'm looking at who I can only guess is Solange Knowles, Beyonce's little sister. That's So-Lahn-Jay, by the way.

And Solange, for lack of a better term, has a yellow unibrow. A real, yellow unibrow. The Lovely Steph Leann just walked in, carrying a glass of something and a box of Raisinettes. She stopped, looked at the would-be-pretty-chick-on-the-screen-save-for-the-yellow-unibrow and just said, "Oh."

As the show went to commercial, the announcer said, "Coming up, performances from Jesse McCartney, we'll go to Times Square with Ryan and check in on the West Coast with Fergie!"

The Lovely Steph Leann then said, "Uh-uh. No."


So, its 7 minutes til. I ask The Lovely Steph Leann if she has any thoughts for the new year. I think she sees me typing, and simply says, "Happy new year."

And we're back on with more Jesse McCartney.

--channel flip--

Seriously, I do want to say best wishes and prayers to those guys and gals overseas, and even here in the military. Thanks to you guys for all you are doing. And a special thanks to Jodie in Enterprise and Erin Formerly Coates Now Whitehead and all the others out there who are here while their significant other spends tons of time away, protecting me and my freedom to write this blog.



Back from commercial on Fox, we've got 2:05 left in the year of 2008, and The Lovely Steph Leann perks up when she sees Robbie Knievel on his motorcycle. She gasps, "Oh my gosh... we're doing this again?"

Another nameless reporter down at Times Square (Pickles is much better) is telling us its 17 degrees, but the wind chill is 2 degrees. If it feels like 2 degrees, then... its 2 degrees, right?

And... 10 seconds.... 9 seconds...


3 seconds! 2 seconds! A single second left in 2008!



Big Willie Clinton and his wife Hillary were the official "Ball Droppin' Button Pushers", or whatever. That means they push the button that made the ball drop. Is it bad that I wanted Hillary to break the knob or something, because I had about fourteen "ball busting" jokes lined up. Alas.


American Idol is coming back to Fox in a few weeks. And I'll be blogging every second of it, like an obsessed fan. Maybe I am, or maybe its fun to talk about. Who knows.

Back on Fox, another nameless reporter is talking to the Cirque de Soleil people... apparently, this version is an adult version, including "naughty bits" (their words, not mine) and transvestites. That might be the first, and hopefully the only, time we use the word "transvestites" on Clouds in My Coffee.

That might have been the most uncomfortable two minutes I've ever seen on my television.

The other nameless reporter is covering Robbie Knievel, discussing the upcoming stunt. He just said, "We'll give you some scenarios in which tonight might not be so happy."

Uh... wrecking?


Why I want to call Jess Hawbaker and tell her to turn on the television right now? They are in Denver, but this would be worth the viewing.

Robbie Knievel is going down a ramp, down the street, up a ramp and jumping a manmade "volcano" fulled of pyrotechnics and such, in the front yard of the Mirage Casino.

And in case you have a volcano in your backyard, or any pyro, don't try this at home.

And here we go... Robbie is off... he jumps... he lands... and for the second year in a row, its totally anti-climactic.


Flipped back over to ABC, to "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" and whaddya know, we got Corbin Bleu singing on the air, in front of Cinderella's castle. As Brad Latta could easily tell you, Corbin plays Chad in High School Musical 3: Senior Year.

What an hour we've had... Ryan Seacrest, Dick Clark, Robbie Knievel, The Lovely Steph Leann, Pickles!, Fergie, Solange, Solange's Yellow Unibrow...

Don't forget, starting in the next couple of days, I'll be counting down the 100 Coolest Things of 2008, my annual list (the 4th year!) of the best things of the year that has just been completed.

But for now, I bid you goodnight, and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

In Defense of the Dixie Chicks

"...we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas..."

Twelve words spoken, mostly in humor, to a London audience by lead singer Natalie Maines. Her comments previous were essentially that they opposed the war effort and violence, which in 2003 was just in its early days. She said the next line, above, and then gave a laugh when the audience roared in their support.


Then, the line was picked up by a media outlet, carried to the states... and much of the country went nuts. Their song, "Traveling Soldier" was the #1 song in the country, and the next week, it plummeted to #36. The album, "Home", dropped like a rock. And people were demanding that country stations stop playing their music.

So, right here, right now, as promised in a previous post, I figured it was time to say what I thought about a group that I love dearly...

For the record, I don't agree with Natalie Maines' comments. I also think it was kind of foolhardy to say it to an audience overseas, especially denegrating a Commander-in-Chief. That's asking for trouble. Furthermore, I think that over the year that followed, when things were dying down, the Chicks set it upon themselves to rustle things back up again.

It was Emily Robison herself (or maybe it was Martie) who said that the whole thing might be the best thing for their career, because otherwise they would have never gotten Larry King, or The View or Barbara Walters.

President Bush's response? That they had the freedom to say what they wanted, but shouldn't get their feelings hurt when people don't support them for it. That caused another rift with The Dixie Chicks (it was Natalie who replied to that by saying that the President was a "Dumb Eff You See Kay"), and another dust up came.

Again, for the record (I say to make sure that no one is unclear of my opinions on this topic), I think President Bush had a point... use freedom to say what you want, but understand there are consequences.

Finally, "Not Ready to Make Nice" is a terrible song... not the message, but more of the "woe is me" lyrics accompanying a very un-Chick like bad tune. The song itself is not so much my issue, though, its more of the fact that it won tons of awards... not because the song was great, but because they were being applauded for going through what they did.

Now, having said all that, the whole thing was one of the dumbest things I'd ever seen. Or at least, the dumbest not involving liberals in office...

Seriously? She makes a dumb comment and thousands of country fans ask stations to stop playing their music? Whats worse is that those same people who protested, who rolled over their CDs in steamrollers (which is also very, very stupid), who went on the air and on camera and made death threats to Natalie while she was on tour are the same people that love Tim Robbins in "The Shawshank Redemption" or Barbra Streisand's music (God help 'em) or any other Hollywood liberal's movies and music. You can't protest one and not the other, let's face it.

What could radio stations do? Working for stations before, when a few listeners call, you don't have to do much. When hundreds of listeners call in, stations have to listen. And when they call in repeatedly, however goofy their demands might be, stations are forced to add--or remove--artists.

Then there was the whole thing with Toby Keith... he called her (Natalie) some names, she called him some names, it was a celebrity feud, he put pictures of her and Saddam Hussein (doctored) on the screen in his concerts, she wore a shirt that said "F.U.T.K.", and little imagination is needed to figure out what that means.

I love the Dixie Chicks. I have loved Emily, Martie and especially Natalie since their very first album, "Wide Open Spaces"... went out and got it not too long after "There's Your Trouble" was released to radio. Their next album, "Fly" was even better and their third, "Home" is one of my favorite CDs ever.

After a few years, I finally sat down and took a long, hard listen to "Taking the Long Way Home"... I got it not too long after it was released, but didn't really care to hear it, because I knew it was a political album. And I don't like political albums. A song here or there, sure, but for most of the album? Same thing with "Detours" from Sheryl Crow, a CD I'm sure I will get to in the next year or so...

To me, its the weakest of the four albums--well, five if you count the double disk "Top of the World" tour live CD, which is also excellent. A third or more of the CD is just like "Not Ready to Make Nice", its "We've been mistreated!" and "We're standing strong!" and "We're better than this!" and so on and so forth... its an angry album, kind of, and not the good angry that drove "Jagged Little Pill" from Alanis Morissette, its a bitter angry.

In fact, I ranked it #2 on the Worst Things of 2006, saying:
2. The Dixie Chicks’ New Album… I was truly looking forward to hearing their new stuff. I mean, yes, “Not Ready To Make Nice” was their way of not apologizing for their anti-Bush sentiment (which frankly, I don’t care either way their political views), but I was truly looking forward to hearing the new stuff that I just knew was going to supplant “Home”, their last album, as my ultimate Chicks experience. And it didn’t happen. I don’t even own it. I heard it a few times in Starbucks, and was just unhappy with the whole thing… the songs all sound mostly alike, and it seems like they were so absorbed with making everyone see how politically rebellious they were, and how they were media darlings now, they forgot to make good music. Oh, “Sin Wagon”, where hast thou gone?

The CD is just not much fun, really. And The Dixie Chicks are supposed to be fun.

Why do I like the Chicks so much? Because they are fun. Watching "Top of the World" on DVD, seeing Emily and Martie and Natalie throw down on the banjo and the mandolin and the dobro and hearing Natalie's incredible vocal make for one heckuva awesome group.

It's one of those "Pick 10 CDs to be stranded with on a deserted island", and assuming there is at least power, I'd have to toss "Home" into the bag to take with me.

It's the same reason I dig on Alison Krauss and Union Station, or the same reason that there is a dozen or more Ricky Skaggs tunes on my iPod--I dig bluegrass and the talent it takes to make it special. And I dig The Dixie Chicks because the terms "rockabilly" and "rock-grass" are cool when done right, and they do it right.

Look no further than "Tortured Tangled Hearts", from "Home" and also my very favorite Dixie Chicks song... just the fiddle kick off, the fun, strong vocals and melody... and anyone who likes bluegrassy type music can't tell me that when "Sin Wagon" starts, they aren't thumping the steering wheel in rhythm. I am.

This is who they were. This is who I hope they are again soon enough.

I'm hoping their legacy won't be what they said about the President, and "Not Ready to Make Nice". I'm hoping they make another CD that rivals "Home" and its played by country stations and audiences remember why they loved the Dixie Chicks in the first place.

My Ten Favorite Dixie Chicks Songs...

10) "Wide Open Spaces" (Wide Open Spaces)
9) "Everybody Knows" (Taking the Long Way)
8) "Truth No. 2" (Home)
7) "Ready to Run" (Fly)
6) "Long Time Gone" (Home)

5) "Traveling Soldier" (Home)
4) "Cowboy Take Me Away" (Fly)
3) "Godspeed" (Top of the World Live)
2) "Sin Wagon" (Fly)
1) "Tortured Tangled Hearts" (Home)

By the way, if you ever scroll across "Shut Up and Sing", stop flipping channels and watch it. Its a documentary that starts off with Natalie saying what she said, and the aftermath that followed. It seems like its careful not to be too leftish, and it does have the Dixie Chicks saying some stupid stuff too, in candid moments. Of course, I have to say that all the thoughts you've read above were already concrete in my head before I saw the documentary, but it helped. It is Rated R for language.

(trailer might take a minute to load)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Very Deuce Christmas Story - The Epilogue

Read A Very Deuce Christmas Story....

Installment Two, featuring Parts 4 - 8
Installment Four, featuring Parts 13 - 15
Installment Six, featuring Parts 21 - 23
Installment Eight, featuring Parts 30 - 34 (the finale)

It's been eight years since those eventful few days that I spoke of here over the last several weeks. Some of us--myself, Tom Johnson, Mikey Nipp, Amy Wible, Stephanie Nipp--went off and got ourselves married. Still more of us--Tommy McLeod, Jennifer Hudson, Justin Glenn, Leslie Cordell, Matt Latta & Ginger Thomas--took it one step further, by not only getting married, but also having kids. Drew Morris, Ty Coffey and Shawn Sharp still live the swingin' bachelor lifestyle... for now, anyway.

From time to time, I'll get a question about what has happened to the people you've read about. In anticipation of posting this story, I made some calls and sent some emails to try to find out.

As far as our original intentions, Amy Wible's grandmother's house was re-built, as was the neighborhood. It didn't happen that day, it took a while, but the area was recovered and finished...

I also remember Wookiee calling me one day in 2004, and asked if I could meet him. "Dress nicely," he said. I did, and I did... he had wanted me come with him to Britany's funeral because "I don't think I can do this without some help, buddy." The little girl had held on as long as she could, but finally, it was time to let go. Not too long ago, I asked him why he wanted me along, and not his wife, Gina. He paused, and said, "I dunno. I think... well, I think you understand it." And he was right. I did.

Claire was apparently there, but never having actually met her, I didn't know who she was. Britany's and Claire's father never showed up.

I emailed Jennifer a month ago to see if she had heard from Claire. She said that she had. Claire had given up hope to go to Harvard. However, apparently, in 2004, she had finally saved up enough money to go to Vanderbilt Law School. I'm sure she'll make do. She's taking a little longer, as she's taking some time off here and there to work and save, and so far, she's amassed very little in student loan debt and is set for a career in family law. Jennifer also said that Claire had met a "really cool guy" as she put it. There may or may not be a wedding in the future.

Michael, Ginger, Matt and I went to see Mrs. Keller in the summer of 2008. Matt and Ginger took their daughter as well, and while the boys did some much needed repair around her home, Ginger did some cleaning up for her on the inside. Mrs. Keller and baby had a ball together. In her old age, she's still getting along well. We all made a promise to stop by after Christmas and visit.

As far as Faith and Bethany goes, I don't know. I can only assume that Faith is still at the hospital, but I can't say that with any certainty. However, not too long ago, Tyler Campbell, brother of The Lovely Steph Leann, and I stopped at that Waffle House on I-59. When I asked about Bethany, no one knew who she was. I asked about Christmas Eve as well, and they still read the story at midnight on Christmas.

"I guess they've been doing that as long as this location has been open," our waitress said. "Every year, every Christmas, right at midnight. Well, I did hear they broke that tradition once, and read it on Christmas Eve at midnight, you know, instead of Christmas, but I don't remember why they did it." I smiled, and when Tyler asked me what I thought was so funny, I just shook my head. "Read the blog," I replied.

I'm not sure how many people took the time to read my little story of memories made long ago, but I do want to thank Drew Morris, Matt Latta, Ginger Latta, Steph Nipp, Mikey Nipp, Shawn Sharp, Ty Coffey, Leslie Ailsworth, Jennifer Ernst, Amy Higgenbotham, Chris "Wookiee" Fulaytar, Tommy McLeod and Justin Glenn for allowing me the chance to tell our story.

And to you, Coffee Drinkers, casual readers of Clouds in My Coffee, and those on Facebook, thank you for the (mostly) positive feedback, thanks for reading and I hope that you all have a very, very, Merry Christmas.

A Very Deuce Christmas Story, Parts 30 - The End

Previous parts of the story....

Installment One, featuring Parts 1 - 3
Installment Two, featuring Parts 4 - 8
Installment Three, featuring Parts 9 -12
Installment Four, featuring Parts 13 - 15
Installment Five, featuring Parts 16- 20
Installment Six, featuring Parts 21 - 23
Installment Seven, featuring Parts 24 - 29

And finally...


“Wookiee!” Shawn said as Faith led Chris into the room.
“Yeah boy,” Wookiee smiled. He looked over the room and saw that Amy was laying on the floor with a coloring book draped across her face, motionless. Matt was sitting against the wall, head leaned to the side, eyes closed. Steph was laying with a few little girls, book in front of her, also dozing.
“I would offer you some hospital beds to sleep in,” Faith said to Shawn and Wookiee, “but it appears that your friends have already found a way to make sleep happen.”
“That’s fine, Faith,” Shawn said. “We’ll just sleep in here on the floor.”
“Thank you again, Shawn,” she said. “You don’t know how much I needed some help in here tonight.”
“We just played with the kids to keep them busy. I have three roommates back home I do the same thing with. Kept us busy too, which was nice.”

Several miles down the road, Claire was gathering up her things to go home for the evening. She offered Jennifer a bed at her home, but she was very sad that she didn’t have room for Tommy, Tom, Drew and Justin.
“That’s okay,” Jenn replied. “I’m going to stay with them. Let me give you my address, so that you can write me and let me know how Harvard is.”
“Right,” Claire laughed. Jenn wrote her address down and handed it to Claire. She took it, stuffed it in her pockets, and then hugged Jennifer.
“Thank you so much, Jennifer,” Claire said. “I may only have been a Christian for an hour now, but I can already tell when God sends angels.”
“Alright now, enough of that,” Jenn hugged her back. “You’ll make me cry, and then the guys will rag me later.
Claire hugged each of the guys, and wished them well, thanking them for their help, and then exited.
Drew sat down in an empty booth, leaned his head back and was almost instantly asleep. Jennifer sat on the other side of the booth and did the same thing.
“Yeah, I could use a few minutes of sleep, I think,” Tommy said to Justin.
“You could always use sleep, Tommy,” Justin laughed.

Ty looked around his hospital room, eyes very heavy. Leslie was in a chair across the room, head leaned straight back, eyes shut, thick hair hanging down. He reached over and clicked the button on the side of his bed, changing the channel. A few channels later, he saw Jimmy Stewart running through town shouting “Merry Christmas.”
Ty smiled, “It’s a wonderful life,” and then closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep.

I bundled up the materials that Mrs. Keller had given me, and I saw Michael doing the same. Ginger lay on the couch, the top of her head visible under her blanket. The pillow she was using was thick, and her head was buried in it.
“I say we jack the pillow,” Michael whispered to me, looking at Ginger.
“Nah, let her sleep,” I replied. “Though that blanket is much thicker than mine. That could be attainable before the night is over.”
I put my head down onto the pillow I’d formed and closed my eyes. You know, God, if you had wanted us to go other places than Tuscaloosa, it would have been a lot easier to just tell us, wouldn’t it? I thought.
I can only presume the Holy Spirit gave me a direct answer, comical as it was. But that wouldn’t be near as much fun, would it?“I guess not,” I said aloud, a little louder than I had intended.
“Huh?” Michael piped up, his back to me.
“Nothing Michael,” I replied. “Go to sleep.”


I opened my eyes to the sound of small muffled crying. It wasn’t loud enough to wake me normally, but just enough to get my attention. I lifted my head from my makeshift pillow of two sweaters and a pair of jogging pants, and looked around. Apparently, Michael had also heard the crying, because our heads lifted simultaneously. I gave him a confused glance, and he returned the look. I glanced up at the couch, and Ginger was also awake.
I slowly pulled the blanket back and stood up. My feet were very frozen, so it hurt to stand, and I could tell Michael was in the same boat. He wobbled a bit when he stood. Ginger, who had the benefit of warm socks, sat up on the couch that served as her bed, and stood with us.
I again heard another small sob, and this time I recognized the direction from which it came.
“It’s in the bedroom,” I turned to Michael and Ginger.
“Should we go in there?” Ginger asked quietly.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I guess we could knock on the door and see if everything is okay.”

I slowly stepped toward the door, Michael and Ginger close behind me. I stopped a few inches from the door, and reached out, lightly tapping on the old wood.
“Mrs. Keller?” I asked quietly.
“Come in, David,” I heard the soft voice on the other side.
I looked back at Michael and Ginger, and in their faces, both gave me the confirmation to go in. I turned the doorknob and opened the door wide enough to step in. I took a step inside the room, and Ginger followed. Michael stood in the doorway.
Mrs. Keller sat in a rocking chair similar to the one in the living room. Mr. Keller lay in the bed, blanket pulled up to his chin. He was not moving, face pale though looking very peaceful. Mrs. Keller sat in a rocking chair similar to the one in the living room. Her cheeks were moist with tears, though she wore a very calm expression.
“Is everything okay?” Ginger asked.
“Oh, Ginger,” she half smiled, wiping a tear from her eye. “Roger has passed on.”
“Oh no,” I gasped. “Do we need to call an ambulance?”
“No, son,” she said. “I’ve already called the police and the rescue squad. They should be here any moment now. The phone works now, if you’d like to call someone.”

From the light of the sun shining brightly through the window, we had a full view of Mrs. Keller’s face for the first time. She looked much older than she was, but her face had what looked like a lifetime of wrinkles. My mother used to tell me the more wrinkles a person had on her face, the more experiences they had had in their life.
“I’ll make some coffee,” Ginger said softly, walking back towards the kitchen.
“Thank you Ginger,” Mrs. Keller said. “If you boys will go into the living room and call who you need to, I’ll be out there in a minute. I’d like to show you something.”
“Yes ma’am,” Michael said, as I closed the door behind me.
I walked to the phone and dialed Amy’s cell number.
“David?!” she said on the other line when she answered.
“Yes! How are you guys?”
“We are fine! How are you?! Where are you?!”
Michael pulled out his cell phone and realized he had a signal and dialed Jennifer’s cell number.

The phone sat in the middle of the table, as Drew and Jenn both sat on each side of a booth sleeping. Tommy was in another booth, head just hanging off of his neck. Tom was snoozing, with his head on his hand, elbow on the table. Justin’s head lay in his arms, face down on the table.
Customers that came in were told immediately to keep it quiet or leave, because they had guests who were sleeping. The ringing woke up Drew and Jenn both, while Tom’s elbow slipped and his head fell to the counter.
“Hel… hello?” Jenn answered.
“Jenn! It’s Michael!”
“Michael!” she perked up. Drew and Tom both looked up when she said his name. “Where are you guys?”
“We are at the homestead of Roger and Linda Keller,” Michael replied.
“Roger and Linda who?”
“Roger and Linda?” Bethany asked, overhearing the conversation. “Is that where they are?”
“I think so, do you know where that is?” Jenn asked.
“See that house right up there?” she pointed out the window to a small structure on a hill in the distance. “Right there.”
“Michael, we’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”


“Ty!” Wookiee yelled as Leslie wheeled him into the room. Matt raised his head off of the floor enough to see Shawn sitting up. Stephanie was still asleep, surrounded by a trio of little girls.
Amy hung up her cell phone and announced to the group, “David and Michael and Ginger are okay.”
“Where are they?” Matt sat up.
“They are at a little house about fifteen miles from here,” she said. “They are totally fine. David said we wouldn’t believe the night they’ve had. Drew and the others are at a Waffle House nearby, and said the same thing about their night. We are going to meet everyone there in about an hour.”

Everyone was slowly waking up, being extremely quiet so as not to wake the children. A quite large woman walked through the door and looked at Faith.
“How long you been here?” she asked.
“Since noon yesterday.”
“Honey, go home!” she laughed in a thick twang. “We got staff members all over this hospital about to pick up dey kids and get ‘em outta here.”
Stephanie was awakened, and everyone gathered together. Faith motioned for Steph, Amy, Matt, Shawn and Wookiee to come to where she was. Leslie pushed Ty to the group circle.
“Thank you all so much for what you have done last night and this morning,” Faith said. Without a word, Faith said a prayer for them. When she said amen, she smiled and said “Merry Christmas to all of you.”
“Merry Christmas to you, Faith.” Amy smiled back.


“I have something I want you all to see,” Mrs. Keller said as she emerged from the bedroom, closing the door behind her. She carried with her a little journal, and she made her way to the couch, sitting in the middle.
She looked up at me by the phone, Michael by the fire and Ginger at the coffeepot. “Please, come, come.”
We all looked at each other in wonder that she was so steady when her husband of 51 years just passed away, and was in the next room no less.
“This is my journal,” she said. “I’ve been trying to keep one ever since I was 16 years old. Now, I've gone long amounts of time between entries, but since 1950 or so, I have never let more than a month lapse. This is probably my last journal I’ll keep, as my hands are getting more shaky as the years go by.”
She opened it up to the back. “I’d like to read you something I wrote three weeks ago, my last entry.”
She stared at the book for a moment, and then wiped a tear from her eyes. Then she pushed it to me. “Would you please read it to me? What’s written on the left side, under the day that says December 3rd.”
“Um… okay,” I took it from her and studied the writing for a second to make sure I could in fact read what it said. Her handwriting was shaky, and there were several letters transposed across the page, but for the most part, it was surprisingly legible for someone of her age.
I held the book down in my lap and began to read:

“I always pray for Roger. I know how he treats the young lady down
at the café, I know how he treats the rare guests we have that come
over, I know how he is so rude to everyone but me. I am thankful he
has loved me for the last 51 years, because I know that I am not the
most lovable person in the world. However, to God I pray that
you may send some of your angels to help me with him. He is sick
more often than usual, and I fear that he may not last much longer.
I know with my precious Lord’s help I can make it without Roger,
but I want to know he’ll be waiting at the gates for me when the
Lord takes me home. God, can you please help me? I fear time
is running out.”

I closed the book and looked up at Mrs. Keller’s face, whose cheeks were now wet with tears.

“Before you came to our door last night, Roger told me when he was at the Waffle House, some random strangers came in and started helping. He said it was unlike any act of kindness he’d seen in a long time. Someone told him they were Christian folk, but he said these Christians didn’t get in anyone’s face and tell them they were going to Hell. Instead, they didn’t say anything about God and just started working. He said for the first time, he saw people who call themselves Christians actually acting the way they talk.
“Then, when I went to bed, he said he heard Ginger read the story of Jesus, and he heard the three of you praying for him. He said he could not believe that three total strangers who he had been so rude to would pray for him. He asked me if the God I have loved for all these years was the same God these young people followed. I said ‘Yes’. Then he said something I’ve been waiting for all my life. He said he wanted to meet my God. So right there, in bed, I prayed for him, and my Roger accepted Christ. He got on his knees in our bedroom floor and said that he knew he was a mean person to a lot of people, and he asked Jesus to forgive him and help him change. And this morning, the Lord took him home."

Ginger’s tears began to flow, and I wiped a tear from my eyes as well. Michael turned his face to wipe his cheeks with his sleeve.
She smiled a beautiful smile, and her eyes displayed sadness, but joy. “I prayed that God would send some angels to help me with him, and God answered. He sent you here last night. No matter how uncomfortable you may have been yesterday and last night, it’s clear to me that God wanted you to come here. You thought you were going to help those poor people in Tuscaloosa, but instead, you helped a lost person find Him. I thank God for all three of you.”
Ginger reached over and put her arms around Mrs. Keller, and Michael and I both grabbed her hands. Ginger said a quick prayer aloud, and we sat in silence for a few minutes.
A knock on the door broke the silence. I got up to open it, while Michael and Ginger both regained their composure.
Drew stood at the door.
“Dave!” he smiled. “Are you ready..." He stopped, seeing my expression of sadness, then glancing inside to see Ginger wiping her eyes again. "Dude? What happened? You guys okay?"
"We're great Drew," I smiled. "We're just fine."


Ginger, Michael and I gave our hugs and said our good byes to Mrs. Keller, and as we were walking out the front door, I spotted a rescue vehicle and a police car coming up the road.
We piled into Drew’s car, none of saying very much. Drew sensed that silence was golden at this moment, so he kept his words to himself.

Matt, Wookiee, Shawn, Steph, Amy, Leslie and a wheelchair bound Ty were waiting on us when Drew pulled up to the Waffle House doors. Ginger squealed with joy, giving Matt a big hug as soon as we walked in.
Tommy gave Michael a big hug when he walked in.
“I thought you might have been dead or something,” Tommy said. “Don’t ever scare me like that, Michael!”
“I wouldn’t die on you, dude,” Michael laughed. “Who would you go with when you are at the movies with three random chicks?”
Jennifer introduced us to Jerome the cook and Bethany the waitress, both of whom had just been relieved of duties by two waitresses and two cooks that had just come into work.
Bethany gave a big hug to everyone who had spent the night in the restaurant, especially to Jennifer. “Thank you so much for letting God use you, Jennifer.”
“Sometimes, you really don’t have a choice,” she replied.
“Peace out, T,” Jerome shook Tom’s hand.
“Peace out, J,” Tom replied, slipping Jerome some skin.
“Boy, have we got a story for you guys,” Ginger said, arm still around Matt.
“We have one of our own,” Drew replied.
“Y’all, that’s awesome, but right now, let’s go home,” Stephanie said. “I’m really tired.”

We all nodded in agreement, and piled out into the parking lot. Due to Matt’s truck not working all that well, Amy drove her truck to carry people back to Birmingham. In three separate vehicles, we followed each other closely all the way back to The Deuce. Amy and I shared our previous night’s stories, while Tom and Shawn just slept in the space behind the seat. Drew’s car was directly ahead of us, and I could see Justin’s, Jennifer’s and Tommy’s head’s not moving in the backseat.

Though dead tired, I couldn’t go to sleep at all when I got back to The Deuce. As each person gave their hugs and said their “Merry Christmases”, everyone left slowly but surely.
Tommy and Wookiee both went upstairs and passed out on the couch, as Justin and Ty passed out on the floor. Tom went straight to bed, as did Shawn. Michael gave a hug to Amy and wished her a Merry Christmas. Amy and I both watched him then disappear into the doors of the Deuce building.

When he was gone, I turned to Amy and smiled, "Well. That happened."
“Yeah," she laughed. "Yeah it did. Hey, thanks for trying to come and help out. " she paused. “Even if you didn’t make it to Tuscaloosa to actually take part in the helping out process.”
“No offense, but I’m kind of glad we didn’t make it. We obviously had other places to be,” I replied.
“Yeah you did.”
“You sure you don’t want to stay here, get some rest?”
“Nah,” she said. “I need to get back to my apartment. I’ll take a nap, then head to Montgomery.”
“Well, then, Merry Christmas, Amy,” I smiled, giving her a big hug. She said, “Same to you, Dave.” She got in her truck, backed out and with a wave through the passenger side window, she drove away.

I sighed, completely exhausted yet exhilarated at a million things at one time, then made my way upstairs. Michael had just sat down on the couch, a foot away from Wookiee’s head. I sat on the other side of the couch, with Tommy’s feet close to me.
“So,” Michael said.
“So.” I replied.
“What do we do now?”
“Same thing we do everyday. Try and take over the world.”
“You wanna watch a movie?”
“I’m pro.”
“Merry Christmas, Mikey.”
“Yep. And to all a good night.”

The All New Epilogue

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Very Deuce Christmas Story, Parts 24 - 29

If you've been keeping up, we've covered alot of ground... tornadoes in T'town, three groups setting out to serve and getting split up, only to have two groups serve in ways they didn't think would ever happen... and another group finding out that sometimes God sends you in a direction and only lets you think you know the final destination. If you haven't kept up, then by all means, you can read here:
Installment One, featuring Parts 1 - 3
Installment Two, featuring Parts 4 - 8
Installment Three, featuring Parts 9 -12
Installment Four, featuring Parts 13 - 15
Installment Five, featuring Parts 16- 20
Installment Six, featuring Parts 21 - 23

And you can join me soon for the final installment. But for now, here's Part 24...

24... FAITH

Faith walked back in the children’s room with two small paper sacks in each hand and a cell phone wedged between her ear and shoulder.
“Why yes,” Faith smiled to the person she was talking to, “It’s quite amazing. I had no help and these four just showed up at the door. It was as if God had sent them himself!”
Some of the kids were already asleep, and a few were playing quietly in the corner. Steph, Amy, Shawn and Matt were no longer participating in the playtime of the children, but now just supervising and observing.
She set the bags on the table, pointed at Amy and then the bags.
“These are for you,” she mouthed, going back to the phone conversation. “Really? How weird is that?”
Amy watched as Faith’s face went from a normal expression to one of complete joy.
“That’s so incredible! I’m so happy for her! Wow, I’ll have to share that with my new volunteers here! Well, they say the roads won’t open up here until at least four in the morning, so I might be here for the night. Okay, the connection is breaking up… well, my battery is full, so it’s either your battery or the lines are going down again. Bye!”
She hung up the phone and turned to Steph, Matt, Amy and Shawn.
“My friend just told me that my niece just became a Christian!”
“Wow, that’s awesome!” Steph said.
“That’s so exciting to me,” Faith said as she handed the four bags to each person, while explaining her conversation, “Claire is someone who really needed direction. And listen to this: I have a friend who works at a Waffle House down the interstate, and much like I was, they were overwhelmed. And like the four of you, some people just randomly showed up and started helping out! She said they could not have survived without them! She said that one guy was cooking, one was waiting tables, someone was washing dishes, and one of them even sat down with my niece and gave her the plan of salvation! They prayed right there at the counter!”
“That’s so cool,” Shawn said, sitting in one of the children’s chairs.
“That’s so God,” Amy added.
“That’s so Drew and them, is what that is,” Matt replied.
“You think it was Drew, Tommy, Jennifer, Tom and Justin?” Steph looked at Matt.
“I dunno,” he replied, unwrapping the sandwich he’d picked out of the bag given to him. “But that could be them. It wouldn’t surprise me at all.” Then he perked up, looking at Faith. “If you used your cell phone, that means that some lines are up!”
Amy pulled hers out of her pocket quickly and started dialing. First she dialed Michael’s.
“No answer,” she said, hanging up. Matt was trying Ginger’s, with the same results.
Neither Drew’s, nor Justin’s, nor Jennifer’s picked up, and there was no answer to Tom’s pager.
“Can we use your phone to call?” Amy asked Faith. “We can call back and at least see if they are there.”
“You can try, but I think either Bethany’s battery was dying or there was no connection.” Faith handed her phone to Amy, and she dialed in the number as it appeared on the phone screen.
“Nothing,” she sighed, closing the phone.
“Well, I guess we can hope they are okay,” Shawn said, chewing his sandwich.
“Matt?” Faith asked. “I have to do rounds in a few minutes. I haven’t been able to do them because I’ve been in here all afternoon, but before I do that, will you do me a favor?”
“Sure. What can I do for you?”
“I’d like you to read the Christmas story to the boys and girls who are awake.”
“Yes ma’am, I’d love to,” Matt smiled.


“That’s about the poorest job I’ve ever seen of cutting firewood there, boys,” Roger sneered as Michael and I brought in an armful of roughly chopped wood.
“Hey, it’ll burn,” Michael replied. He lowered his voice and muttered, "You can take this wood and..." He stopped after I kicked him in the back of the leg. He glared at me, muttering softly, "Stupid Mexican..."
We set the wood right beside the front door on a metal rack I had not noticed earlier, and went inside. Ginger and Mrs. Keller sat in the living room, Ginger on the couch and Mrs. Keller on a rocking chair.
“Come in, boys, have a seat,” she smiled to us. “Ginger was just telling us about how you two work with youth at your church. That’s so wonderful.”
I smiled and sat on the couch with Ginger, while Michael sat on the rug in front of the couch.
“Baby, I’m going to bed,” Roger grunted, walking towards the bedroom. “You holler at me if any ‘them boys does something, or if that girl does something.”
“Go to sleep Roger, I’ll be in there directly.”
She looked as if she was forcing a smile as she watched him disappear into the kitchen that led to the bedroom. She turned to us and sighed, “His health is failing more everyday, but I guess that happens when you hit 70. He’s too stubborn to go to the doctor, but what worries me most is that he’s not a Christian. One day, the good Lord will get tired of waiting on him to get some common sense, and he’ll take Roger away. And by then, it’ll be too late.”

Mrs. Keller began to ask each of us about our backgrounds, who we were, where we were going and generally grandmother-like questions. Nothing was too personal, but everything was more than a yes-no answer.
She told us of her childhood growing up, and how she had accepted Christ as a young child. She told us of meeting Roger, their courtship, and how she fell in love with him.
“Married in 1949, we were,” she smiled. “He was 19, I was 15, and we were so in love. But let me warn you, if you don’t have the Lord in the center of your marriage, it’s a lot harder than it has to be.”

For the next few hours, in the light of only the fireplace and a few candles, I felt as if I was five years old again, listening to grandmother’s stories. When I glanced at Michael and Ginger, they both had a very attentive tone, as we were all three hanging on every word she had to say.
About midnight or so, she pointed to a small end table in the corner.
“Michael, can you hand me that bible there on that table?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Michael said. He stood up and was forced to pick up the huge book with both hands. He walked over to Mrs. Keller, but she held her hand up.
“No, I don't think I'll be able to this time. Could you hand it to Ginger?”
“Um… okay,” he turned and handed the book to Ginger, whom I could tell underestimated its weight. When she put her hands under it and Michael let go, she almost dropped it on the coffee table in front of us.
“Now David, if you’ll look on the mantle, you’ll find a small oil lamp with some matches beside it. Could you light it and set it in front of Ginger so that she may see?”
“Yes ma’am,” I stood up and walked over to the mantle. I lit the oil lamp and brought to Ginger.
“Now, Ginger, would you mind reading the story of Jesus’ birth before I go to bed?” “I would love to, Mrs. Keller,” Ginger smiled, as she opened up the large cover and began flipping to Luke.


“Wookiee, what’s your favorite Bible story?” Brit asked.
“You know, Brit, I don’t know,” Wookiee replied. “I guess I never thought about it.”
“Do you have one?”
“Well, I guess maybe not. I like a bunch of them, but I never really picked out a favorite.”
“Would you like me to pick you a favorite, so you’ll have one when somebody asks?”
“I think that would be a great idea. I’d really like to have a favorite bible story. What do you suggest?”
“I think your favorite bible story should be…” Brit leaned her head on the pillow like she was thinking really hard. “It’s Christmas, so your favorite Bible story should be Jesus’ birthday.”
“I like that story, Brit. I think that’s a great suggestion, and just because you picked it out, the birth of Jesus is my new favorite Bible story.”
“Okay, that’s cool! Now, since it’s your favorite Bible story, can you read it to me?” Brit smiled at Wookiee.
“Yes, I can,” Wookiee smiled back, taking the children’s Bible from her hands and flipping it open.


“I’m so excited!” Bethany put her arms around Claire, who still had tears in her eyes. “I just got off the phone with your Aunt Faith, and she was about to cry too!”
“I’m glad the place isn’t very full right now,” Claire laughed, wiping her running mascara away. “I looked like a wreck anyway with Mr. Keller in here earlier, and now this!”
Jennifer, Tom, Drew, Justin and Tommy kind of stood back in a line, all with big smiles on their faces.
Jerome, the cook, walked from behind the counter and put his arms around Claire, and with his deep, booming black voice said, “Praise God for you, Claire. Me and Nancy been prayin' for you for as long as I've been here.”
“No, praise God for these guys,” Claire smiled and looked at the five standing together.
“Yes, very much so,” Bethany walked to them. “You are like angels sent here from heaven, all of you!”
“Thanks for the free dinner,” Tom smiled.
“I wish we could pay you,” Jerome said. “You need to come work with me, Tom. You make a mean hash brown.”

Justin pulled a wad of cash out of his pockets and set it on the counter.
“That’s about fifty dollars or so, Claire,” he said. “That’s not much, but put it towards your college money for law school.”
“No, I couldn’t…”
“Take it,” he cut her off. “I don’t need it right now.”
“Yeah, now all you need is about twenty nine thousand, nine hundred and fifty dollars instead of the thirty thousand for a year at Harvard,” Tommy cracked.
“Alright,” Bethany said, “its almost midnight! It’s almost Christmas Eve! Someone has to read the Christmas story!”
“In here?” Drew asked.
“Yes!” Bethany replied. “It’s a tradition. You know we are open 24 hours a day, all year long, so every year at midnight on Christmas, someone reads the story of Jesus. If the customers get offended, there are a thousand Waffle Houses in Alabama they could go to.”
“But it’s only Christmas Eve,” Jenn said.
“Doesn’t matter,” she smiled. “We’ll make a special exception because you are here. Drew, would you read it for us?”


Leslie sat on the end of Ty’s bed, away from his harnessed leg, and had been there for about two hours or so, when Ty asked for the Bible on the nightstand.
“Do me a favor,” Ty asked.
“Anything Ty,” she said.
“Read the story. Turn to Luke, and read it to me,” Ty said. “It’s Christmas, and I’d like to hear it.
“Certainly,” she smiled. She opened up the book to the second chapter of Luke, and using her fingers to find her place, started at verse one.
“In those days Caeser Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to his own town to register.”

Matt looked out to the kids sitting in front of him, and to Amy, Steph, Shawn and Faith that were in the audience, and continued reading. He tried to be as expressive as he could reciting God’s word, saying “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him, and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Drew took a sip of water before continuing the reading. He looked up and realized he had the entire attention of the restaurant, which, while not full, had several people in booths and at the counter.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Wookiee smiled as he read, noticing that Brit had drifted off to sleep. He debated on slipping out, but he decided to finish reading his new favorite Bible story. Softly, he read, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”

Ginger squinted in the dark light of the oil lamp, but the print was rather large, so she didn’t have much trouble seeing the words. She read, “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

“That was beautiful, Ginger,” Mrs. Keller smiled. “Let me get you some blankets and such. I only have one extra pillow, and that will be for Ginger here. You boys will have to rough it on the floor.” She stood up and walked to a small door on the opposite wall from the fireplace. She pulled out three blankets and the pillow she spoke of.
“David, Michael, here are some sweats and old cloths you can bundle up and use for pillows. They are clean, so don’t worry about catching anything. And for Ginger, I have one pair of clean socks. I would give you boys a pair to warm your feet, but I’m afraid all I have are Roger’s socks, and you’d probably catch some sort of unidentifiable fungus.”
“Wouldn’t change anything from my usual socks,” Michael whispered to me.
“Now, can I ask one more favor of the three of you?”
“Yes ma’am,” I replied.
“Would you pray with me tonight? I don’t get out a whole lot, and I haven’t had anyone to pray with me outside of church in, oh, twenty years.”
“What would you like us to pray about, Mrs. Keller?” Michael asked.
“Oh, anything really. Let’s pray for your safety and that your friend is okay. We can pray for all your friends who might have gotten caught in the storm. We can pray for how wonderful Jesus is, and thank God that he let Jesus be born. And we can say a prayer for Roger.”
Mrs. Keller grabbed my hand, I grabbed Ginger’s, she grabbed Michael’s and Michael completed the circle by taking Mrs. Keller’s free hand.


Wookiee put the Bible down on the table, and smiled at Britany’s slumbering body. He put his head down and whispered, “God, I don’t know where I go after this, but thank you for my new friend. Take care of her. Take care of her sister, who works at Waffle House. She’ll need the prayer if she works at Waffle House. You just taught me a lot through this little girl, so don’t let me forget it. Amen.”
He looked around and grabbed the chart off the end of the bed. He took the pen out, and ripped out an empty piece of paper from the back of the chart.
He scribbled “Remember, Jesus will always love you and so will I. Your friend, the Wookiee.”

Chris stuck it in the Bible and stood up. He paused for a second, and then lightly reached over and kissed her forehead.
“Oh, and God,” he smiled as he looked up. “If I ever have a daughter, use this one as a model.”
He turned to walk out and jumped when he saw a nurse standing there.
“Who are you and why were you praying over Brit?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Wookiee explained. “I came in here accidentally thinking this was a different room, and she started talking to me. So, we chatted for a while.”
“You… chatted?”
“Yeah, we had a long conversation.”
“With this little girl here in this bed?”

Wookiee was a bit puzzled at this question, because not only did he see no other little girl she could be confused about, he saw no other bed.
“Yes ma’am. We talked about Batman, Star Wars, Jesus and stuff. Smart kid. She asked me to read her the Christmas story, and she fell asleep. I just said a quick prayer for her.”
The nurse put her hands to her mouth, and then used her shoulder to wipe away a tear that quickly appeared. “I’m sorry, but Brit is my niece. She’s been so lonely. She never talks to anyone.”
She looked up at Wookiee and back at Brit. “I don’t think you realize how much God has used you tonight. She really needed a friend, and anyone she talks about Batman to is considered her friend.”
“Oh, I think God used her too,” he replied. “Faith like a child. I have to keep remembering that.”
“My name is Faith,” she stuck her hand out.
“Nice to meet you,” he shook her hand. “I’m Chris.”
“Chris? I think some friends of yours have been looking for you.”

And finally... on Christmas Day, the conclusion of "A Very Deuce Christmas Story", plus a new epilogue....

A Very Deuce Christmas Story, Parts 21 - 23

Merry Christmas, fellow Coffee Drinkers. Regardless of what you hear from KT, if you read the blog, I consider you a "drinker" of the wordy liquid I have to offer. Becoming a "follower" only makes it official. Heck, I'm just glad you stopped by...

Catch Up on A Very Deuce Christmas Story
Installment One, featuring Parts 1 - 3
Installment Two, featuring Parts 4 - 8
Installment Three, featuring Parts 9 -12
Installment Four, featuring Parts 13 - 15
Installment Five, featuring Parts 16- 20


“That’s what happened to my mom,” Brit said.
Wookiee sat for a moment, and then quickly wiped a tear from his eye. No sense in letting her see the big strong beast cry. He sat next to her bed in a small chair, chin on palms, elbows on knees. He had been in this position for the last hour, chatting with this 7-year-old child. He marveled at her innocence of the world, he wished for the day when his biggest problems were getting his j and k backwards on a test in school and not coloring completely in the lines.
He also felt sympathy for her when she told of how her mother died of cancer a year before. He had a broken heart when she told him how her father hasn’t been to see her in the hospital in the three weeks she’d been there.

“He works a lot,” she had said about that, in a voice that indicated its okay, he’ll be here when he can. “The only who visits me is my sister, she comes when she can, but she has to work a lot. There’s really no one to talk to. But now you are here!”
He silently prayed for her as she said she loved Jesus, and that he would take care of her, no matter what. Wookiee fought back tears like he’d never done when she said, “Jesus loves little kids, because he said so in the Bible. My Bible even has a picture in it with Jesus and a bunch of kids.”
She pointed to the book lying on the windowsill. Wookiee got up, walked over and brought the Children’s bible to her.
She opened it, flipping pages for just a few seconds, stopping on a painted picture of Jesus surrounded by several children.

“She’s my favorite,” Brit pointed to a little girl in the front of the picture standing next to the depiction of Jesus. “I like her because she has curly brown hair like me, and because Jesus has his hand on her arm. I think it would make me feel really special if Jesus has his hand on my arm.”
“I’ll bet it would,” Wookiee smiled, leaning back into his chair. “It would make me feel special too. But you know what?”
“What?” she asked.
“Jesus always touches you,” Wookiee said. “He may not touch you on the arm like this…” he leaned over and poked her in the arm with his finger, causing her to giggle, then continued, “…but he always touches you here.” He put his hand over his heart. “He’ll always be in my heart, just like he’ll always be in yours.”
“That’s why Christmas is my favorite day because Jesus was born that day, and I like wishing Jesus a happy birthday. Have you wished Jesus a happy birthday yet?” she asked.
“Not yet,” Wookiee replied. Then, talking more to himself than to Brit, “It’s been a long time since I really said much to Jesus.”
“Let’s sing happy birthday to him!”
Wookiee laughed, and then nodded. “Okay, Brit. You start.”

As precious as a little 7-year-old girl could, she began to sing a completely horrible off-key version of happy birthday. Wookiee followed along in an equally off key tone, but they sang the song and both laughed and laughed.


We reached the yard of the house we had spotted from the highway, and the house looked so warm and comfortable. The blue truck sat in the middle of the yard. You could tell it had just been used, as there was very little frost on the windshield compared to the thick snow that covered the entire yard and roof of the house. I wanted to appreciate how pretty the entire scene was, but I was too cold. We walked by a mailbox on the right reading "Keller”, with the flag up. It was almost like a Thomas Kinkaide painting... well, except for the below-freezing temperatures, the darkness and piercing wind. Besides that.
Apparently, Michael saw it on the mailbox too, because I heard him mumble, “Keller? I hardly even…” and then he trailed off.

I stepped on the porch first, followed closely by Ginger and Michael. I carefully stepped up to the door, raised my hand to knock and then stopped. What was I doing?
“How do I do this?” I turned to them, whispering. “Do I just say ‘please help us’?”
“Pretend like you are in one of those Charles Dickens stories,” Ginger said, throwing on an accent, “Please halp us, suh, we want to be wahm.”
“This isn’t funny!” I said as she and Michael both giggled.
“Just knock,” Michael finally said. “With our luck, it’ll be some of the DeRamii clan, and they’ll come out with the gun and kill us all.” Michael referred to the people who lived on the first floor of Rollingwood Apartments, directly below The Deuce. Brook DeRamus was a marine biologist that we seldom had seen. At that moment, however, I would have given anything to be standing in front of the DeRamuses door instead of where I stood.
“We get shot, at least we’ll be warm,” Ginger added.

Taking a deep breath, I knocked. We stood in anticipation, waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. I knocked again, and a few minutes later, I heard footsteps inside.
“Moment of truth,” I said as I heard the door unlock from the inside, and the doorknob turn. The door creaked open about three or four inches and I made out the face of an older man on the inside peering through the crack.
“We don’t want anything you have to sell, boy,” he crackled from the inside.
“No, sir, we aren’t selling anything,” I said. “We are stuck in the cold, and wondered if you had a barn or something we could get warm in.”
“Or maybe if we could come inside or something,” Michael added, standing behind Ginger and myself. I threw my elbow back to get him, and accidentally hit Ginger. I could tell she had flinched, but held it nicely.
“Let you come inside so you can rob me, huh?” the man replied. “No thank you. Get off my porch before I call the police.”

With that, the door abruptly slammed. I turned to look at Ginger and Michael and shrugged my shoulders.
“Well, there went that idea,” I said.
“At least he didn’t shoot us,” Michael said, turning to walk off of the porch.
Michael stepped onto the icy ground, and Ginger was walking down the steps when I heard the door open again. We all three turned from where we were, and saw the door standing wide open, this time with an elderly lady standing at the door.
“What was your problem again, young man?” she asked.
“Oh ma’am,” I quickly walked back to the door to where she stood. “We had an accident, and we were supposed to be picked up by a friend of ours, but he didn’t make it. Now we have no place to go, and we are all freezing.”
“You aren’t one of those pesky phone service salesmen, or Amway people, are you?” she said with a laugh.
“No ma’am, we just want some heat,” I smiled.
“Please come in,” she smiled back. I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked into the house. Suddenly, every part of my body that had been exposed to the cold was hit with a blast of warm air.
“Oh my gosh,” Michael said as he walked through the door. “It feels so good in here!”
“And who are you?” the older lady asked.
“My name is David,” I stuck my hand out to shake it.
“I’m Ginger,” Ginger also stuck her hand out.
“Oh, hi, I’m Michael,” he said as unzipped his jacket.
“Nice to meet the three of you,” she said. “My name is Linda Keller. You’ll have to excuse my husband Roger, he’s paranoid about everybody and everything. I told him we couldn’t let you freeze, that just wouldn’t be very Christian of me, now would it?”

The house had an old feel to it, like a typical grandmother’s house you would find. Although the power had gone out, I could make out older pictures and paintings on the wall, and different decorative Christmas items scattered about the living room we stood in. The tree was in the corner, standing tall, but dark because of the power loss.
I could only guess the warmth was caused by an alternative source of power, such as gas, and the roaring fire in the fireplace across the room didn’t hurt. The fire in the flue combined with the candles glowing in the window must have given the light I spotted from down the road.

“Do come in the kitchen and have a seat,” she motioned to us, leading us into an adjacent room. “I’d like to find out more about your plight.”
The kitchen was lit with candles placed all over the room, providing more than enough light to find our way around. Michael and I walked behind Mrs. Keller into the room, keeping Ginger instinctively between us, just in case.
As she walked by the table in the kitchen, we each had a seat. In the candlelight, I couldn’t truly see her face, but I could watch her silhouette move to the stove. I heard a click, and then a little row of blue flames popped out. She grabbed a pot and filled it with water, then placing it above the flames on the stove. Our eyes watched her as she walked to another doorway that I only noticed when she went to it.

“Roger, come out here and meet our guests that you so rudely spurned!” She turned back around to us, slowly walking to the counter. An elderly man appeared in the dark doorway, which I could guess was our greeter a few minutes before.
“Roger, I’d like you to meet David, Ginger and…” she turned to look at Michael. “…I’m so sorry, what did you say your name was?”
“Michael,” he said.
“Yes!” she turned back to Roger. “And meet Michael. They are stuck in the storm, and they have come to us for help.”
“Why don’t you just go to the Waffle House? It ain’t but about four miles from here. If ya’ started now, you could make it in an hour.”
“Roger, settle down. They’ve been in the weather since mid-afternoon. I’m not going to make them go walking in it again.”
“Ah, Waffle House got some stupid new guy waiter anyways. He looked like one a‘them gays or something.”
“You weren’t mean to Claire again, were you?” She turned to us. “She’s just the nicest young lady, putting herself through school and all. Roger is so rude to her, makes her cry sometimes!”
“Where you kids from?” he looked at us and grunted.
“Birmingham,” Ginger answered.
“You all on drugs? You all high up on that pot stuff?”
“No sir,” Ginger held back a smile. “We don’t do any drugs.”
“You have to be on something to be in this kind of weather and ain’t got nowhere to go.”
“Roger,” Mrs. Keller said. “I’m making them some hot tea. Now, in a moment, David and Michael are going to go outside with you and chop some wood. Ginger will stay here with me and help me clean up the kitchen. And in return, we will allow them to stay in our living room for the evening. Roger, how does that sound?”
“Fine. When you wake up tomorrow and everything is gone, don’t complain to me. I’ll just ignore you and go to the Waffle House for some breakfast like I always do.”

Mrs. Keller turned back to face us. “Now, does sound like a fair deal? We need the wood chopped, and you need somewhere warm to go. You can’t take much from the living room even if you wanted to, because anything of value is not in there. But first, you need to warm up before going back out, and the hot tea is almost done.”
I looked over at Michael, and then Ginger, who sat between us.
“Ginger,” I leaned over and whispered in her ear. “How do you feel about this? If Michael and I go outside, you’ll be inside by yourself.”
She leaned back a little and whispered, “I think it’ll be okay. If she tries something, I can take her. I think she’s okay.”
“Now, tell me your story and how you ended up on my front porch,” she asked, setting down cups in front of Ginger, Michael and myself.
I looked over at Michael and Ginger, and Michael piped up “Dave, you tell her. My lips are still thawing.”

23... CLAIRE

Drew worked his way through every Christmas song that came to mind, and then doubled back and repeated some. He figured by nine o’clock, there couldn’t be that many people that were in here when he started two hours ago.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” he sang, as he had done a few hours before.
Tom sat down with his meal after two hours of cooking, and Justin sat down to eat his waffles. Tommy came out a few minutes later with a plate of food.
“Merry Christmas, Tom,” he smiled, taking a bite of his food.
“You too,” Tom laughed. “It’s been an interesting day, hasn’t it?”
“Yeah it has.”

The crowd had slowed quite a bit from an hour ago, so much so that Bethany was the only waitress walking around. Claire still sat with Jenn in the corner.
“So, let me get this right,” Claire said. “No matter how long it’s been since God and I last spoke, it doesn’t matter?”
“No, it doesn’t. When you speak to God, whether you last did it ten minutes ago or ten years ago, he listens to you like the two of you had never stopped talking in the first place.”
“That’s so awesome, Jennifer,” Claire whispered softly.
“Check it out, it’s Christmas! You won’t find a better time to spark up a relationship with God than around his son’s birthday.”
“I really could use some of God’s grace right now, with mother being gone, my sister in the hospital and my dad never around.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Well, our mother died of cancer a year ago, and my sister is showing signs of leukemia already. She’s been there three weeks now for tests and such. My dad kind of lost it when Mother died, and so he drinks a whole lot. But to Britany, Daddy is the world to her, and can do no wrong. He hasn’t been there once to see her since she’s been there. Because of that, she hasn’t said more than two or three words the entire time she’s been in the hospital. I guess she doesn’t say much because she feels like there’s no one to talk to.”
“Does she have anyone to look after her besides you?”
“My aunt works there, so she checks on her all the time. But Brit and my aunt were never close, so she doesn’t open up to her at all.

Jennifer took a deep breath, knowing that this is where the conversation had to go. She prayed silently that she could step aside and let God speak through her. She gave a slight pause, took another breath and then spoke.
“Listen, Claire, I have to tell you that a relationship with Christ won’t make everything all better instantly. You won’t say Amen and suddenly find yourself at Harvard with a sober dad and a healthy sister. A relationship with Christ is not easy by no stretch of the imagination. But you will have someone to turn to. I can promise you that God will always be there for you.”
“But religion is so foreign to me.”
“No, Claire, you aren’t listening,” Jenn spoke very sternly. “I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about a relationship, a one on one relationship with the Creator of the entire universe. He huge enough to have been here before time existed and will be here long after there is no concept of time, but He is small enough to want a relationship with stupid sinner me and stupid sinner you. All He asks of you is that you admit you are a sinner, and you accept the fact that God sent His Son to die for you to be forgiven. That’s not a religion… that’s a relationship with Christ.”
Jennifer held her breath, not knowing if Claire would get up and walk away, or just coldly reject everything she was saying.

Instead, Claire looked up at Jenn and had a tear trickle down her cheek.
“Jennifer,” Claire said as another tear fell. “Can you tell me how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ? My sister has one. She talks about how much Jesus loves her and even though she never sees her dad, and her mom is gone, and she’s lying in a hospital bed with possible cancer, she talks about how Jesus will take care of her. I have been passing it off as a naïve child not knowing anything, but secretly I desired to have that much faith in something. In anything. Can you tell me how?”
Jennifer reached over and grasped Claire’s quivering hands on the table.
“Yes,” Jenn smiled, wiping her own tear away. "Yes I can."

PARTS 24 - 29

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Very Deuce Christmas Story, 16 thru 20

Well... its almost Christmas, and on Tuesday, it will actually be the 8th anniversary of these happenings--Matt's wreck, Ty's broken leg, adventures at The Waffle House, so on and so forth. Keep reading. And yes, this story will be concluded on Christmas Day.
Installment One, Parts 1 - 3
Installment Two, Parts 4 - 8
Installment Three, Parts 9 - 12
Installment Four, Parts 13 - 15


“Still no Drew, still no Jenn, still no return when I page Tom,” Shawn said as he closed his cell phone.
He walked over and sat next to Matt and Leslie on the uncomfortable couch, across from the just-as-uncomfortable bench that Stephanie and Amy were seated upon. Wookiee sat in the lone chair in the small lobby. Nobody had said much in the last little while, as their minds were on their missing friends, Ty, the falling snow outside and other things.
The only thing preventing complete silence at times was the television mounted in the corner of the room, with the weather constantly being displayed by a weatherman none of the room’s occupants had ever seen.
“I miss James Spann,” Leslie mumbled.

Wookiee stood up and announced, “Ladies and gentleman, I have to relieve myself. Excuse me.” He disappeared around the corner, brushing right past the doctor who entered the lobby and walked right to Matt.
“Mr. Latta?” he asked. “Are you Mr. Latta?”
“Yes,” Matt stood up. “How’s Ty?”
“Oh, Mr. Coffey is fine. He won’t walk for quite some time, but beyond that, he’s fine. He’s got a fever from the flu he’s contracted, I’m guessing due to the fact he was riding in a truck with no windows and the wind being blown in his face.”
“Right,” Matt replied. “Can we see him?”
“Yes, I think that’s fine. We want to keep him here for the rest of the evening because of the weather outside. Although we don’t think he’s allergic to anything we’ve given him, we want to be sure. He’s in room 354C, on the third floor.”
“Can we all go up?” Leslie asked from her seat.
“Normally we only allow two people in at a time, but it's Christmas, isn't it? You're benefiting from a very quiet evening. Just be quiet when you go in, because though Mr. Coffey isn’t sharing a room, there are other patients on the floor.”

Everyone stood up and began to walk towards the elevator. Shawn remembered Wookiee’s announcement, and went to the receptionist.
“Ma’am, when you see a really tall hairy guy, can you tell him we went upstairs to see our friend?” Shawn asked through the window.
“Mmm,” the receptionist nodded without looking up from her paperwork.
Shawn dashed over and jumped through the elevator doors just as they were closing.

About four seconds after the doors closed, Wookiee returned from the bathroom.
“Guys, I gotta tell you, I think we should…” he stopped when he saw the empty lobby. “Hey, that’s not cool.”
“Are you looking for your friends?” asked the lady behind the window, still not looking up from her papers.
“Yes,” Wookiee replied, walking to the desk.
“They went upstairs to visit their friend.”
“Oh, Ty. Can you tell me what room he’s in?”
The receptionist finally broke her stare of the paperwork to look over to another file. “Name?”
“Ty Coffey. Um… Nicholas Ty Coffey.”
“Room 453C,” she quickly went back to writing.
“Thanks,” he said, turning and walking towards the elevator. He pushed the button for up and waited patiently as the doors open. He then pushed “4” and waited.

A moment later, the doors opened again on the fourth floor, and Wookiee stepped out. He saw a sign with an arrow pointing to the left that said 401C-435C, and then a right arrow that read 436C-460C. Being the smart Wookiee that he was, he took a right, and began to slowly walk the halls looking for 453C. At the very end of the long corridor, he stood in front of a door with the numbers he was looking for.
It wasn’t closed all the way, but it was pulled to the doorway. He slowly opened it, and with a smile, said “Hey Ty!”
The little girl laying in the bed turned her head and smiled at Wookiee.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I have the wrong room,” Wookiee smiled weakly, startled.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
He stopped as he was about to pull the door shut. “I’m Chris. What’s your name?”
“My name is Britany. You are really tall, did you know that?”
“Yes, I did. You look pretty short yourself there.”
“Well, its very nice to meet you, Chris,” she smiled.
“You too. Well, Miss Britany, I need to go, didn’t mean to barge in on you there.”

Britany’s voice changed a bit, as she slowly asked “Can you stay and talk to me, Chris?”
“Well, I really need to…” he tilted his head and looked at the little girl. She couldn’t have been more than seven or eight, with a breathing tube in her nose and a few IV tubes in her arms.
“If you can’t stay, its okay, Chris,” Britany said softly, slowly turning her head toward the television that Wookiee just now noticed was on.

“What are you watching there, Britany?” Wookiee walked back in to her bedside.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It was Batman Beyond, but now that’s over.”
“You like Batman, Britany?”
“I like Batman Beyond. It’s really cool looking. You can call me Brit,” she looked up at the huge man standing next to her bed. “Nobody ever called me Britany except my mom… and my sister when she’s really mad at me.”
“Alright, Brit it is,” he smiled. “And you can call me Wookiee.”
“Is that like Wookiee talkies?”
“No, that’s walkie-talkies you are thinking of. Wookiees are from Star Wars.”
“Oh yeah! Chewbacca!”
“You know who Chewbacca is?”
“Yes! I love to watch Star Wars! My mom used to let me watch it all the time before…” she trailed off.

Intrigued, Wookiee sat down. He knew if he sat down, it might be a long time before he got back up, because there was something special about this little girl.
I need to go find the others, he thought to himself, but I can’t leave yet. God, are you asking me to stay here and talk to her?He got his answer when Brit said, “Before my mom died. Can I tell you about it, Wookiee? I would like to tell someone about it.”
I guess that’s a yes, huh, God? Wookiee bit his lip to keep from laughing to himself—not at her mom, but at God’s quick answer to his question. “You can tell me about it, Brit,” he said to her, “I’m all ears.”


By seven o’clock, several more people had drifted into the Waffle House on I-59, and several people had left. It seems the power had gone out in several neighborhoods in the area, and the Waffle House was the only source for electricity, heat, weather, news and warm food.

The rude man who put Claire in tears was walking out the door, seemingly satisfied by Justin’s service of food. Jenn watched him as he climbed into an old blue Chevy truck, and backed out, then disappeared into the snowy night. He didn’t leave a tip, though Justin didn’t really care, he wasn’t helping out to make money. He continued to help out Bethany and Claire by taking orders. Tom had gone behind the counter and was now helping the cook to make the meals, while Tommy, Jennifer and Drew took turns bussing tables and seating people.

Tom rather enjoyed making the hash browns, and when someone finally ordered them covered, smothered, chunked, sliced, diced and whatever else, he got a huge gleeful look in his eyes.
“Okay, Jerome,” Tom said, talking to the large black man beside him. Tom was 6 and a half feet tall, but felt very small next to Jerome. “Give me the directions on putting all of this crap on there.”
“Man, it ain’t nothing,” Jerome smiled in a booming, deep voice. “You just make the hash browns like you been doing, and then just pile stuff on them. I guarantee the nastier you make it look, the better it will taste!”

Drew was wiping a table down when he noticed a new customer coming in the door. What actually caught his attention wasn't the man himself, but the guitar case he carried in his left hand. He was an older, heavyset man with an old oil-stained hat on. The guitar case he carried was formerly black, but had much of the vinyl peeled off of the case to show wood underneath. Like a typicaly "former rocker" who had possibly settled down, several faded bumper stickers were scattered on the case, reading things like "Frampton '77" and "Van Halen" and "Bay City Rollers Saturday Night Tour".
“Hey Bethany,” Drew called out to the waitress at the end of the counter. “Would you care for some Christmas music?”
“You can look on the jukebox, but I don’t know if there is any on there,” Bethany responded in passing.
Drew walked up to the guitar case carrying man and stuck his hand out.
“Drew Morris,” he said.
Surprised, the man shook Drew’s hand, “I'm... uh... I'm William Beenan. Uh... nice to meet you.”
“Well, sir, I was wondering if I could play your guitar there,” Drew smiled and pointed.
“You gonna run off with it?”
“Sir? Oh, its Christmas. Besides, it eight degrees outside… I couldn’t go far.”
“Any special reason you want my guitar here at Waffle House?”
“Well, I think it would be fun to get some Christmas music going on here. What do you think?”
“I actually don’t think that would be a bad idea,” the man laughed. “In this kind of weather, I could use some cheer. Only reason I brought it in was that the locks are broke on my car and I didn’t want anyone to steal it. There is a pick in the strings. Here.”

The man smiled, handing the case to Drew. Drew nodded, took the case over to the corner of the room, opened it and removed the instrument inside.
Tommy leaned over to Jenn, “Okay, so what are the chances?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, we are in a Waffle House 40 miles from home, in a snow storm, basically stuck. Tom is helping to cook, Justin is helping the waitresses take orders, you and I are cleaning tables, and some strange man just handed Drew his guitar for Drew to play Christmas carols. This is almost like a Christmas fairy tale.”
“Oh, Tommy,” Jenn laughed. “It’s Christmas. It’s the time for fairy tales to come true! In fact, we need to tell Dave to write this down one day. Maybe on one of those new web log things I've heard about."


“Where did Wookiee go?” Shawn stuck his head out of Ty’s door, looking both ways. “We lost a Wookiee, guys. How did we lose a Wookiee?”
“Well, he’s eight feet tall,” Leslie said. “It’s hard to lose him.”
“Then again, anything can happen tonight and it would seem normal. This has been a strange evening,” Steph added.
“So we don’t know anything about Ginger or Michael or Dave?” Ty asked. He lay in a bed, leg up in a sling above the mattress. He had one IV in his left arm, and he was feeling cold from the hospital gown he wore.
“No,” Matt replied. “We called the police, but nobody knows anything.”
“Should someone go look for Chris?” Shawn walked back into the room.
“I’ll go,” Matt said. “I need something to take my mind off of Ginger.”
He patted Ty on the arm, and started towards the door. Amy stood up and Shawn turned to follow.
“I’ll go with you too,” Shawn said.
“Guys, I want to go too,” Steph got up from her chair.
“Is everyone leaving me?” Ty whined.
“I’ll be here, Ty,” Leslie smiled, sitting down beside his bed, grabbing his hand. She looked up at the four exiting, “I’ll stick around here with Ty, you guys can come and get me.”

Shawn, Steph and Matt all three nodded, and spilled into the hall.
“Should we split up?” Matt asked, walking to the elevator
“No!” Steph said. “Splitting up has caused us to lose contact with Dave, Mike and Ginger, Drew and the others and now Wookiee. Let’s stay together. We’ll just go down to the first floor and walk the halls until we see him.”
“Yeah, your right,” Shawn said, pushing the down button. “How many eight foot tall hairy men could possibly be in this hospital?”
They came off of the elevator onto the first floor, and Matt walked back into the lobby.
“No Wookiee here,” Amy observed.

They walked together down the hall, each looking in the open doors and side hallways. But still no Wookiee.
“Do you hear kids crying?” Steph looked at the guys.
“Yes, I do,” Matt replied. Somewhere, they could make out the faint sounds of children, and some of them were sobbing sounds.
Steph stepped out in front of the group, leading them towards the origin of the crying. She stopped in front of a closed door that read “children’s playroom”. She looked at Amy, Matt and Shawn for a look that would justify her opening the door. They looked at her with “I don’t know” glances. She shrugged and opened the door.
There were about a dozen children running around the room, some with tears in their eyes. There were a few children sleeping on the floor near the wall, and a few more playing with various toys like dolls and cars on the other side of the room.

In the middle was a young woman, not more than 30, talking to one child while holding the hands of two more. She looked up at the entrance of Steph, Matt and Shawn with a desperate look in her face.
“Can… can I help you?” she stuttered.
“I would think we should ask you that question, miss,” Shawn smiled.
“Oh, no, sweetie! Don’t eat that!” Steph cried, quickly running over to a small boy who had a crayon in his hand. He had gnawed the paper off and was working on the wax.
“Hi, mister,” another little boy spoke up, standing directly at Shawn’s feet.
“Hi kid,” Shawn replied.
“Guess what?”
“This!” the little boy laughed and squirted Shawn with a water gun, then running off laughing.
“Nice boy,” Shawn wiped the water from his face. Smiling, he gave chase, and caught the boy halfway across the room. He picked the little boy up and threw him over his shoulder. The little boy laughed like a hyena as Shawn growled at him, bouncing him around in the air.
“Be careful,” said the woman in the middle of the room. “Jason gets motion sickness really easily.
Matt was then blindsided by a small Hispanic child who rammed into his legs and almost knocked him over.
“Hey, look Matt,” Shawn laughed. “It’s the kids of Dave’s people.”

“Hi,” Amy walked up to the woman. “I’m Amy, that’s Matt, that’s Shawn, and the chairman of Crayon Eating Prevention over there is Stephanie. We are kind of snowed into the hospital, and have absolutely nothing to do. Can we offer you some help with these kids?”
“I’d love some help,” she smiled. “My name is Faith, and I’m the children’s director here at the hospital.”
“Are all these kids injured?”
“No, this is more babysitting than anything else. We had to bring in off-duty staff because our regulars couldn’t get here through the storm. So, some of the staff had to bring their kids with them because they didn’t have anywhere to take them, so we set this room us as a temporary day care. My relief was supposed to be here hours ago, but we’re all snowed in. Nobody has come in and nobody can leave.”
“Well, Merry Christmas, Faith,” Amy patted her on the shoulder. “Your relief is here. Why don’t you go get some coffee, and if you’ll find us something to eat, we’ll take care of these kids until you get back.”

Faith looked concerned for a moment, having never seen these young people before in her life, but then broke into a smile. “Merry Christmas to you too, Amy. Thank you. I’m going to down to the cafeteria, and see if they have any sandwiches left, and I’ll bring you some of whatever they have. Does that sound okay?”
“That sounds wonderful, Faith,” Matt smiled. She looked over Matt, who was tossing a small football to the child who attacked him; Shawn, who was now laying on the floor with four small children jumping on him, while Stephanie was in the corner wearing a Santa hat, having tea with two little girls. Faith left the room, and Amy smiled again.
“So this is the season of giving, huh?” she said to herself.


“Well, it’s seven thirty,” Michael looked at me. “Now what?”
“Can’t believe Matt stood me up,” Ginger smirked.
“Yeah, he’s a bad boyfriend. You should go out with me,” I replied, trying to smile, but my lips felt frozen.
“We have to find somewhere to go, guys,” Michael said. “I can’t stand this. This wind makes the Iron Bowl feel like a Hawaiian summer holiday.” Michael and myself, along with Shawn and Tom, had been Amy Wible's guest at the 2000 Iron Bowl, in which the game (a 9-0 clunker won by Auburn) was forgettable, but the freezing rainy temperatures were not. This was alot like that very night.

I left the circle and walked out from under the awning that had been our protection for the last ninety minutes. As soon as I was in the open, I felt colder. The snow and freezing rain began to pelt me in the face, which was already numb from cold.
I scanned the horizon looking for something, anything, and praying to God that I would find that something or anything. And on a hill in the distance, there was a house, with lit windows. Against the night sky, I could make out the smoke from the chimney.
“Guys,” I called. “I think I found something.”
Michael and Ginger both trotted over to where I stood, also feeling the wind and snow when they came from under the awning.
“Look there,” I pointed to the house. “We could go there.”
“Dave, are you mental?” Michael looked at me. “If I could pull my hands out of my pockets, I’d smack you. We can’t just walk up to somebody’s house and ask to come in. People get shot for stuff like that.”
“Michael, I’m freezing,” I said. “I’m so cold right now I feel like my fingers will break off like icicles. And I know Ginger is the same way, and I am pretty sure you are too. I think if we walk up there, knock on the door, and tell them our problem, they’ll help us. Even if we have to stay in a barn for the night, its better than standing out here in the snow and rain. If they turn us away, the walking will keep us a little warm.”
Michael looked around, then looked back at me, “What are we, Mary and Joseph looking for a manger?" He looked at Ginger, then back and me, and when neither one of us responded, he said, "And how do we get there?”
We heard the rumbling of a vehicle from far off, and we all turned to see headlights coming towards us.
“Its Matt!” Ginger screamed. “My man is here!”
“Yes, Matt!” Michael exclaimed. “Shangra-la!”
The smiles on our faces quickly faded, as the lights got closer, then turned right. We could see then that it didn’t resemble Matt’s beat up truck, or any vehicle belonging to a Deuce member.
“Over there,” Ginger pointed with her head, not daring to take her hands out of her pockets, to the road the truck just disappeared onto. “I’ll bet that will take us straight there.”
“Good idea,” I replied. Ginger and I started walking towards the road, and I looked back to see Michael just standing there.
“I’m not going to that stupid house!” Michael yelled.
“Suit yourself,” I replied. “Ginger and I are going to get warm.”
I turned back around and the two of us kept walking. I could hear Michael yell from behind me.
“You guys are going to get shot… if you get shot, I don’t care, don’t come crying to me with a hole in your chest… there’ll be nobody there, and you’ll walk back here wanting me to keep you warm, but I won’t…”
As we walked I looked at Ginger and counted, “One… two… three.”
“Fine!” Michael yelled. “ Wait up, I’m coming with you!”
We stopped as he ran to catch up to us.
“You didn’t sign the January rent check yet, so if you got shot and died, I can’t cover your rent,” he smirked when he caught up to us.


By 8 or a little after, nothing had slowed down at the Waffle House. Justin continued to rack up the tips with Bethany and Claire on tables, and Tom continued to go to town on the omelets and hash browns. Jennifer still wiped the tables clean, and picked up the dirty dishes, while Tommy went to the kitchen to begin running dishes through the large Waffle House industrial dishwasher. All had tossed on old Waffle House aprons, and Tommy had even managed to put his thick head of hair into a paper hat.
Drew had tuned with the guitar, and was sitting on a stool at the end of the counter.
Jenn sighed. Looks like we are stuck at a Waffle House until Christmas Eve, of all places to be, she thought. Is there a reason for this, God?“Hey Jennifer,” Claire called out.
“Yes?” she turned to see Claire holding two plates.
“Our dinner is ready. Let’s eat while we can,” Claire smiled. They both sat down at the end of the counter with their meals, Claire’s a western omelet, and Jenn’s a patty melt plate.

Jenn bowed her head, and began to say a quick prayer for her meal, and for the safety of the others. She didn’t see Claire staring at her until she had raised her head and picked up half of her sandwich.
“Were you just saying a blessing over your food?” Claire asked.
“Yeah… why?” Jenn was a little confused at Claire’s odd question.
“It’s just that I haven’t seen anyone do that in a really long time. Like, when I was a kid, my dad made me say grace before dinner, but our family quit having meals together, like, 7 or 8 years ago. It’s been that long since I think I’ve said any kind of prayer, I guess.”
“Well, maybe you should start. Getting into law school in Harvard is a lofty goal, even with the grades you have. Prayer would be something I would definitely look into.”
“Do you think God would even listen to me at this point? I mean, it has been a while, but if I were God—not saying I am—but if I were, I would quit trying after several years.”

Jenn put her fork down and was astounded she was having this conversation. This was the type of conversation you lead someone to Christ to, or lead them to a recommitment with, and she was asking questions that were so easy to a strong Christian.
Alright, God, I’ll play ball here, she thought. You give me the words, and I’ll say them, and we’ll see what you can do with Claire.“Well, Claire, God never quits listening,” she began.
Though across the restaurant and couldn't hear them, as if on cue, Drew began to play a little softer, and suddenly with a chorus of “The Christmas Song.”

PARTS 21 - 23