"Sleigh bells ring, are you listening," blared from the loudspeaker.
Boche grabbed the base of the Christmas tree and began walking. Lenny paid the man and grabbed the top of the tree as it went by. He got in step with Boche.
"A beautiful sight. We're happy tonight."
watched the steam of Boche's breath change colors by the blinking holiday
"Walkin' in a winter wonderland."
The mailman stomped snow on the doormat and walked to the wall heater. He bit the ends of his gloves and pulled them off, then held them in his mouth as he rubbed his hands together. He looked over at Mel and lifted his head in a nod.
Mel held up the plastic pot of coffee. "You want some, Mike? It's fresh."
The mailman put his gloves in his pockets and sat on a barstool. Mel filled an empty mug with coffee. Mike wrapped the warmth in his hands and tried not to shiver. "Damn, it's cold."
"Supposed to get much snow?" Mel asked.
"Couple of inches," Mike said, then a smile worked at the corner of his mouth. "You hear about the kid who got arrested yesterday?"
"This kid, a teenager, came out into his back yard. His mother was washing clothes in a tub with one of those scrub boards. You know those scrub boards?"
"Anyway, this kid grabs his mother by the hair and dunks her head into the tub of water and holds it there. She's gurgling and trying to get out. The neighbor sees it and yells at the kid and then calls the cops. When the cops come, the kid runs in the house and locks the door. The cops keep banging on the door and pretty soon, the kid opens the door and punches one of them right in the mouth."
Mel's eyes widened.
"So anyway," Mike continued. "They arrested the kid. They booked him on a 58-80."
"What's a 58-80?" Mel asked.
"A mother-dunkin' cop-socker."
Mel shook his head, but he smiled. "I got any mail?"
Mike twisted on the stool and flipped the flap on his leather pouch. He pulled out a small rubber-banded bundle and tossed it down. He finished the coffee and swung out from the bar. "Gotta run, Mel." He held up the empty cup, then set it down. "Thanks."
Mel watched the snow blowing in around him as he left.
Mel sorted the bills to one side and the advertisements went into the trash. When he came to the letter addressed to Lenny, he looked at the return address. It was from an insurance company. An advertisement, he assumed. He tossed it in the trash with the rest of the junk mail.
The front door burst open and snow blew in, followed by Boche, a Christmas tree, and then Lenny. They stood at the door wiping their boots on the doormat. They raised the tree and it reached the ceiling. Their eyes met--successful hunters.
"Hey, all right," Mel said. He brought out the box of decorations he and Lenny had been making with beer-tab garland and cardboard coaster ornaments. Boche started stringing the lights his mother had donated.
While the tavern's first Christmas tree was being decorated, the envelope addressed to Lenny, with the death benefit check for $35,000 inside, sat in the trash can until Lenny carried it outside and emptied it in the Dumpster.