Eve in the Big
HERE we are at Christmas Eve, a time whose spirit is vividly captured by our short story writers. Let's take a look at Damon Runyan.
"Now one time it comes on Christmas, and in fact it is the evening before Christmas, and I am in Good Time Charley Bernstein's little speakeasy in West Forty‐Seventh Street wishing Charley a Merry Christmas and having a few hot Tom and Jerrys with him …"
They are joined by Dancing Dan, so named "because he is a great hand for dancing around and about with dolls in night clubs … although I hear rumours that when he is not dancing he is carrying on in a most illegal manner … I always question his judgment in dancing so much with Miss Muriel O'Neill, who works in the Half Moon Night Club. And the reason I question his judgment in this respect is because everybody knows that Miss Muriel O'Neill is a doll who is very well thought of by Heine Schmitz …"
Dancing Dan chucks a parcel into a corner. He joins them in the hot Tom and Jerrys. Then another old guy called Ooky comes in wearing a store's Santa Claus outfit. Ooky joins them in the hot Tom and Jerrys then falls asleep in a chair.
About midnight Dancing Dan wishes to see how he looks as Santa Claus. So they pull off Ooky's outfit and put it on Dan. Where can they find a Christmas stocking to fill?
"'Why,' Dancing Dan says, 'I know where a stocking is hung up. It is hung up at Miss Muriel O'Neill's flat over here in West Forty‐Ninth Street. This stocking is hung up by nobody but a party by the name of Gammer O'Neill, who is Miss Muriel O'Neill's grandmamma …'"
Dancing Dan puts his parcel into Ooky's Santa Claus sack and they head for West Forty-Ninth Street. The flat is unlocked. Inside, a very old doll is sleeping with a smile on her face. At the head of the bed is hung a long black stocking.
Dancing Dan empties his parcel of a raft of diamond jewellery. They begin stuffing it all into the stocking.
"And it is not until I get out in the fresh air again that all of a sudden I remember seeing large headlines in the afternoon papers about a five‐hundred‐Gs stick up …"
It's Christmas Eve a year later. The narrator meets up with one Shotgun Sam who is mobbed up with Heine Schmitz in Harlem. Shotgun Sam recalls seeing he, Good Time Charley and Ooky leaving Charley's joint a year ago, the three of them very plastered.
Sam and two others had been casing the joint for Dancing Dan because "Heine Schmitz is all sored up at Dan over some doll …" They watched all night but nobody went in but old Ooky the Santa Claus guy, and nobody came out but Ooky, Good Time Charley and the narrator. No Dancing Dan. They were waiting across the way for him with some nice sawed-offs and orders from Heine Schmitz not to miss.
Shotgun Sam and the narrator exchange Christmas greetings. As I do with readers.
IF YOU'VE got two Santa Clauses on your roof, which one's Van der Merwe?
He's the one with the Easter eggs.
We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime. - Laura Ingalls Wilder