The Last One<br/>A Christmas Parable

Author: Bil Howard
Publisher: Bella Colombiana
Published: 2014-11-22
ISBN(s) 978-1-312-70834-1
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Literary, Short Story Collections, Offbeat or Quirky Read Excerpt >

Kids always have a way of ruining one explanation and forcing their parents into making up another. Plan B was what she called the guaranteed winner. “Actually, if you go with me, you’ll have to spend all day trying on clothes and shoes too. You’re growing so fast that I have to get you some new clothes.”

“No clothes, Mommy, just toys,” he pleaded.

“Sorry, buddy. I have to get you some clothes. So, if you’re ready to go try on clothes, we’ll have to change out of your pj’s and get you dressed.”

“I don’t want to try on clothes,” he pouted. “I want to watch cartoons.”

“Well, then, you better stay here and watch cartoons with Gloria then, because if you go with me, you’ll have to try on clothes.”

“I’m making grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots for lunch later, too,” Gloria put in. “If you go with your mother, you’ll miss out on that.”

Grilled cheese and tater tots worked every time.

“Give me a kiss,” Rebecca said, squatting in front of her son. He gave her the kind of hug that broke her heart. He clung to her as if she might never return to him. She fought back the guilt as it started to rise up in her again, forcing it away with a kiss on her son’s cheek and relished the sloppy, sticky one that she got in return.

“Your mama will be home soon,” Gloria said as Rebecca turned to start out the door.

The number of cars that were out and about and the number of shoppers proved that most people had more foresight or at least more time to do their shopping earlier than she had. There were a few out looking for last minute gifts, but the vast majority had completed their shopping and had turned instead toward the grocery stores for last minute items that they needed for their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations.

Rebecca had done things slightly backward. She’d had time to do the grocery shopping earlier, but not the time to go on a search for the ultimate Christmas toy; the Battle Robot Commando. Her first stop was Chester’s. Chester’s always had the best toys and it was usually easier to get in and out of there than it was in some of the larger department stores, besides, Chester’s typically had some of the other, stocking stuffer items that she liked to grab. If Chester’s had the robot, then her shopping day would be a short one.

She had loaded up on stocking stuffers and had worked her way around the store in search of the robot. Not seeing one, she finally tracked down a clerk and asked. “Do you have the Battle Robot Commando?”

“Oh, ma’am, this late? I doubt it,” the young clerk replied.

“Can you check to see if you have one in back?” she smiled, hoping that her charm would win the day.

“I’m pretty sure we don’t,” he answered. “I did all of the stocking myself. As hot as that toy is, I had people waiting to get their hands on it the moment I opened the boxes. I barely had time to put price tags on them. I’m sorry. You might try Teague’s.”

Rebecca paid for the items that were in her basket and loaded them in her car. It was still early in the day, so the fact that she hadn’t been able to purchase the robot hadn’t dampened her mood in the least.

She was going to have to make a stop at Teague’s anyway, because that was the best place to get the clothes that she had been planning to buy. He had outgrown things so quickly, that it was nearly impossible for her to keep him in decent clothing. It would be even worse when he started kindergarten the next fall. She paused a moment as she considered how quickly time had passed. Her baby was about to be in kindergarten.

After loading up another basket with the necessary underwear, socks, clothes, shoes and coat, Rebecca made her way to the toy section of Teague’s. She pushed her cart up and down the aisles of shelves that had been all but stripped bare of toys, hoping to come across the Battle Robot Commando. It wasn’t long before she realized that she was going to have to go in search of another sales clerk.

She left Teague’s well loaded down with clothing, but still did not have the robot. She’d hoped that she wouldn’t have to go to the mall, but without the robot, she decided that it might be her best bet. One of the largest toy stores in town was in the mall, as were two other smaller ones. Surely one of them would have the toy.

After being told three more times that the Battle Robot Commando was no longer available, she was beginning to get frustrated. She decided to sit for a moment in the Chipsy’s Chicken. She was drained of energy from lack of sleep combined with disappointment. She had to make up for the time that she’d missed with her son. She had to give him the best Christmas ever. There would be no turning back from her quest. Nothing would stop her.

While she ate lunch, she called Gloria to get some ideas of where to look from her. Gloria suggested three more places and Rebecca’s mood began to brighten a little bit. After some lunch and a few minutes off of her feet, she was recharged and found the energy to press on to the other department stores that had decent toy sections.

The three suggestions that she’d gotten from Gloria didn’t pan out. The afternoon began to stretch on longer as the distance between the different stores where she might have a chance of finding the toy became further and further apart.

Desperation and anxiety were beginning to eat away at her to the point that she let go of her anger on an unsuspecting saleswoman who had offered to order the toy for her.

“We could have it in by the 29th,” the woman said cheerfully.

“Please explain to me how the hell I’m going to have the damned robot under the tree for my son on Christmas morning if the fucking thing isn’t going to arrive until the 29th!” she snapped.

The Last One ~ A Christmas Parable   by   Bil Howard   |   See Bio >
A Christmas Parable for our modern age.

Working long hours finally paid off for Rebecca Madison. She had enough extra money to buy the most popular toy of the year, the Battle Robot Commando, for her son, Dillon. Because it was so popular, it wasn't easy to get her hands on one. How far would she go to make certain that her son's prize gift was under the tree on Christmas morning?

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