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I was going to title this story something different but I didn’t want it to be misleading.

I was going to title it; “Dead Men Walking” but I thought you might consider this a story about inmates on Death Row, and therefore not give it a second glance.

I thought about calling it; “Desperation on Christmas Day”, although semi-accurate in it’s description, it sounds far to close to my real life experiences in trying to get a date for a Holiday social function.

Although neither of these proposed titles would have been accurate in their description, both “Desperation” and “Dead Men Walking” are in this Christmas story.

I should start at the beginning.

“Doc” the World Famous Black Lab and I were enjoying a relaxing and peaceful Christmas Day. The truth is, we haven’t really enjoyed a Christmas Day in some time and we were making the most of this one.

We both were relaxing; watching classic Christmas movies while I was in the process of making us both our respective dinners.

It was peaceful, glorious.

Then the doorbell rang.

One of my neighbors had brought me a package, a Christmas package.

Let me explain something here.

I enjoy buying other people presents, I thoroughly enjoy it.

And I prefer nothing in return.

It’s just how I am; it’s how I have always been.

So I went to the door and the neighbor was standing there with a package.

A Christmas gift.

The hearty “Merry Christmas’s” were given by all of us and Doc certainly did his best to convey Merry Christmas as well, with his loud barking.

As I tried to thank them for their generosity and extricate myself from the front door, they uttered the one phrase that makes me really uncomfortable in situations such as these.

“Go ahead and open it!”

EDITORS NOTE: O’ Lord…

I opened the package and it was a University of Alabama ball cap.

Here is what you don’t know about me.

No one other than the United States Marine Corps has ever purchased me a ball cap, Alabama or otherwise and I am very picky as to what I wear on my head.

Most ball cats and hats don’t look good or fit my head correctly.

The truth is, I have a weird shaped head.

EDITORS NOTE: Before you ask, “NO” I didn’t grow up around power lines.

That’s one reason why I have never, ever worn a cowboy hat. I look like Howdy Doody.

So, for reason’s I can’t quite explain I took the Alabama hat out of the box and placed it on my head. It was perfect.

You read that correctly, it was perfect.

I didn’t have to adjust anything.

So perfect in fact, I considered retiring my favorite Alabama hat that I have had forever, worn overseas and everyplace in between.

Yeah, it was that nice.

I thank them profusely, shook hands and explained that I didn’t get them anything.

I got a shrug of the shoulders and an “It’s ok, we just wanted to get you something nice”

Well, Hell.

This is where the dilemma begins.

Let me explain.

“IF” you get a Hallmark Christmas ornament or something small and seemingly insignificant; then I will circle back around sometime during the coming year and do something nice for you.

But this Alabama ball cap, needed to be answered with a present in return: Something.

After my neighbors returned to their house, I told Doc we were going for a ride.

He gave me the look that said, “You know you are interrupting our peaceful day, right?”

With some encouragement, I got Doc moving and we headed to the only place in town that is open on Christmas Day: Wal-Mart.

Have you ever been to Wal-Mart on Christmas Day?

You can smell the desperation from the parking lot.

I walked through the front doors and I saw them

There were men with hollow eyes and shuffling feet searching for a gift, any gift….

Plastic flowers, ungodly looking clothes or toasters without cords, they were searching for anything that would suffice and get them off the hook for Christmas.

I didn’t dare speak to these sad creatures and I certainly don’t know their stories

Maybe they forgot to get their significant other a gift, maybe Aunt Edna showed up expectedly on their doorstep with presents and you found yourself having to reciprocate rather quickly.

Whatever the situation or circumstances, the men wandering the aisles looked sad.

Desperation was in their eyes as they bulged in their sockets.

They were licking their lips, heads bobbing left to right, looking for something, anything.

It was a depressing sight; everywhere was the aroma of desperation and defeat.

I half expected to hear an intercom announcement, “Dead Men Walking”

You want to know something else?

Everything in Wal-Mart has been picked over by Christmas Day, even the food section.

Apparently the very successful Wal-Mart business model also calls for leaving everything “as it is” on days such as Christmas, because poor souls such as myself and my fellow desperados would buy anything. I do mean anything.

A ratchet set, with missing sockets. Somebody will buy it; just leave it on the shelf.

A blender with a broken container and no electric cord, they won’t notice they are in manic mode the business model must say.

I saw other men there who had simply surrendered.

Their downtrodden faces resigned to defeat as they loaded their carts with alcohol.

Mumbling to themselves some strange language known only to the desperate.

I went to the grocery section; I thought I will buy the family some steaks, at least that’s something, right?

Wrong.

The only thing there was two packs of expired baloney and something that “may or may not” had once been a cheese plate. I think it smelled like cheese, or something like it.

There where no Christmas cards left, not in English anyway.

Nothing, there was nothing to be found in all of Wal-Mart on Christmas Day.

I was running out of time and I knew Doc was getting restless waiting in the vehicle and was by now listening to the radio.

In my new Alabama ball cap, I resigned myself to my fate as had other sullen souls in Wal-Mart that Christmas Day of 2019.

I slowly and silently loaded a grocery cart with alcohol and made my way to the check-out. Once loaded in the vehicle with looks from Doc that said, “I could have told you nothing was available today.” We started our drive home….

Not knowing “IF” what I purchased was my neighbor’s brand of alcohol or adult beverages if you will, I did the only thing I could under such circumstances.

After Doc and I got home, I unloaded their “present” from my vehicle.

And I began drinking it in my “new” Alabama ball cap

EDITORS NOTE: Don’t judge me they weren’t home

I know what you are thinking.

But don’t worry I will do something nice for them later in the year.

I have too.

But I am never (ever) going to Wal-Mart during any Holidays, as in ever.

Merry Christmas 2019

RTR
MEB