Silver and Gold
It's Christmas Week, and business is brisk. Shortly before close, one of my favorite regulars, Baseball Doug, shows up. He's a thrice-married, ballcap-wearing easy talker who really knows his wine, and he's an absolute pleasure.
Tonight we're on the topic of Christmas. I'm feeling a little melancholy, and over his glass of Barbera and appetizer of sausage and mushrooms, I ask him to tell me about his worst Christmas, and then his best Christmas.
"Same Christmas," he says, without skipping a beat. "I lost my wife, my father, and my dog that December." He pauses, stops chewing for a moment, and adds "It's probably bad to say, but losing the dog hurt the most. He was all I had left."
I feel guilty for asking him the question in the first place, but wine really makes a guy open up, and he keeps on. "I was at my lowest, lonely and in a new apartment. I was there maybe a day, still unpacking on Christmas Eve, when I hear the back door open, and it startles me. Then, I hear footsteps, and I see this animal, this brown thing, zipping through a hallway. My first thought is that it's the biggest damned rat I've ever seen and it knows how to open a door, and I had just signed the lease, so I'm thinking, great, this is all I need."
He takes a sip, and continues, "But then it comes toward me, and it's a puppy, a Chocolate Lab puppy. My ex-wife sneaks up behind, and says, 'Merry Christmas. I didn't want you to be alone.'"
"What a wonderful gesture, just after the divorce!" I exclaim, while thinking it's a little weird, but kind of nice, considering all he'd just been through, and not really knowing the circumstances. I'm just Doug's bartender, after all.
"It was nice, and it surprised me, and made Christmas not so bad, and I thought it was awfully forgiving of her," he explained. "Then I got the $850 bill from the breeder on my January credit card statement. She was a giver, and a taker."
"$850?! For a Lab?" I ask.
"She was never a good shopper," Baseball Doug laughs. He still has the dog, she's nine years old now, and her name is Snickers. And she's his best friend.
Well, Snickers and Wife #3, I suppose.
Here's a toast to silver linings, nonetheless. A Holiday Cheers to All!
Sixteen, I fell in love with a girl as sweet as could be
Only took a couple of days 'till she was rid of me
She swore that she would be all mine and love me 'till the end
But when I whispered in her ear, I lost another friend
Good Times, Bad Times
You know I had my share
When my woman left home for a brown-eyed man
Well, I still don't seem to care
- Led Zeppelin, "Good Times Bad Times"