Cast of characters

 

 

 

Fred

 

 

 

Mr E

 

 

 

Hot Sauce

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

Go Jail         

 

 

 

              

Mr E pointed to an area outside the car on Fred’s side. “Look!”

 

 

 

* What is it? *

 

 

 

Fred wiped the steam off his window and did a double take. He was truly amazed at what he saw and his jaw dropped.

 

 

 

“Wow.”

 

 

 

A merry bunch of carolers was singing in the streets and collecting donations. Several huge evergreens were decorated with lights.

 

 

 

 

It was a soothing sight to Fred Pineridge. The displaced Canadian got carried away by it.

 

 

 

“Here I am my good friend Mr E,” Fred said, “halfway around the world; 8,000 kilometers away from home.

 

 

 

 

“But thanks for getting me into the Christmas spirit.”

 

 

 

He held out his hand and they shook hands.

 

 

 

 

E drove quietly into Cleaning Lady’s village and weaved his way through the narrow streets, deserted and dimly lit by archaic street lamps.

 

 

 

Hot Sauce directed him to her destination and E halted the vehicle.

 

 

 

“Is anyone home?” He peered out the window at the pitch black shack.

 

 

 

 

Most of the neighborhood was similarly silent and shadowy, almost eerie.

 

 

 

“Cleaning Lady is probably sleeping,” Hot Sauce said uncaringly.

 

 

 

 

“She doesn’t worry about me and I told her I’d be back late tonight for Christmas. She knows I was at church.”

 

 

 

“She’s Christian too isn’t she?”

 

 

 

“Yeah. She goes to a small temporary church in this village. Her main church burned down some time ago. Goodbye.”

 

 

 

She got out and slammed the car door shut, walked up to the house gate and buzzed a little intercom.

 

 

 

 

After a short wait a house light came on and seconds after that Hot Sauce disappeared into the yard and clicked the iron gate closed behind her.

 

 

 

E sped out. Next stop was Good Lucky Apartments, a few blocks away. As E’s car pulled into that lot, Fred was brimming with Christmas spirit.

 

 

 

“Mr E – how about go to a soju tent? After all, it’s Christmas.”

 

 

 

 

E was mildly tempted but decided to head straight back to the church to pick up Miss No.

 

 

 

 

For one, she couldn’t drive; and secondly, her parents imposed a curfew on her.

 

 

 

Third – and he was ashamed to admit it – he was already completely under her thumb.

 

 

 

* Will things go badly for Mr E because of this? *

 

 

 

“What about after you drop her off?” Fred responded.

 

 

 

E hesitated. “Maybe it will be too late. Tomorrow morning I must get up early and again go to church with Miss No.

 

 

 

 

“It will be very horrible if I have soju hangover.”

 

 

 

“Sorry Fred. Goodbye.” He zipped out of the lot with a sense of urgency and destiny.

 

 

 

The security guard for Fred’s building had nodded off in his little booth and Fred slipped past to the entrance.

 

 

 

 

The elevator was right there but he opted to trudge up the stairwell for a little late night exercise.

 

 

 

In less than an hour it would officially be Christmas and it was the first one in his life where he had been alone.

 

 

 

 

Mrs Won was still at church of course; in the apartment there was no tree (real or artificial) and she’d said nothing about any kind of Christmas dinner for next day.

 

 

 

Fred’s students had told him they’d sleep all day or meet friends and go ‘eye-shopping’.

 

 

 

 

For them it was just another holiday.

 

 

 

Christmas, of course, was in Fred’s blood. He’d gone ahead and bought an Xmas gift for Mrs Won – a cassette of favorite pop cruisin’ songs.

 

 

 

 

He’d purchased it at the roadside service station during Mr Go’s Thanksgiving hiking trip to Jiri Mountain.

 

 

 

The tape hadn’t cost much and as Fred deciphered the tiny-font liner notes he realized why: It appeared the song versions on the tape were tacky cover versions.

 

 

 

 

In the end though, he doubted Won would notice the difference anyway.

 

 

 

* Will Mrs Won like the gift? *

 

 

 

As midnight approached, there was still no sign of her so he crashed. At least he could sleep late the next morning – a very rare occasion.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

Tomorrow: Fred and Mrs Won engage in some morning chat.