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A Christmas Tale by Brian Schropp

December 22, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments
Brian Schropp

Brian Schropp



The hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season was going on all around me. My folks dropped me off in downtown Lankville with twenty bucks and talk of me getting gifts for my siblings (I was recently relieved of my part time job at “Pete’s Slacks Emporium” for not “making sales” so I had no money). The first thing I did was buy some pizza fries because my stomach was rumbling–that brought down the holiday gift money to $14.60. Unsure of what my siblings would want and pretty certain they wouldn’t get me ANYTHING, I lightly perused the various knick knacks in the gift shop windows and the various wares of the street pitches with little success. I became distracted by a billboard which was introducing a new frozen breakfast sandwich. Their promise of having the ultimate in breakfast sandwiches left me a little excited but highly skeptical since I had never heard of the company. I took out my “reporter’s notepad” to write down their name. It was a few moments after putting my notepad away that I realized my wallet was gone!! I got so wrapped up in the billboard I left myself open to simple petty theft (extremely common in Lankville, as we all know).

I looked around to see if I could spot anybody who might look suspicious. There were just too many people walking in their quickened holiday pace, bumping into me, not noticing I needed help. Luckily one gentlemen noticed my troubles and stopped. “Say there you look quite upset. Is something wrong?”

“My–my wallet was stolen, taken from me in a flash!! My Lankville scooter license, my coupons for all the various food buffets and my holiday gift money, all gone!!”

The gentleman shook his head in disgust. “Yup, that’s life in the big city for you. You gotta’ watch out for pickpockets and challengers. Say, I have some cash on me– maybe if you had something to sell me?”

I turned out my pockets. I had nothing.

“How about those shoes? They look kinda nice, say I will give you a sweet twenty dollar bill for them?”

I thought about it for a moment. Sure, these were new high tops my mom got me but that twenty would bring me back up to my original amount. It would be like having those pizza fries for free!! I took them off and we made the exchange. After a handshake and a few more holiday pleasantries he was gone.

Sure, these were new high tops my mom got me but that twenty would bring me back up to my original amount. It would be like having those pizza fries for free!!

I was shaken up by this whole pickpocket affair and quickly came up with a simple plan, find some gifts and then wait at the pick up spot for my folks. A few doors down I found a store that sold relatively cheap but bright and sparkling jewelry plus a few other plastic odds and ends. I knew this was the place and went in. The woman cashier sourly informed me that I needed shoes to shop. I told her I would be really quick so I grabbed a handful of bright dazzling bead necklaces and a few plastic toys that looked retro. The total came to slightly under twenty and I handed her my bill. She took out a marker and swiped it across the note. “Sir, this bill is counterfeit.” I tried to tell her I just got it from a nice gentleman and it couldn’t be so. She showed me the black mark it left on the bill and also pointed out that the image of President Pondicherry was hand-drawn (and poorly!) and told me that unless I had real money I had to leave the store.

My options were limited. I was back out walking up the street. A few blocks later my feet were getting cold but it was bearable. I stopped at a corner and again became distracted by a small flyer on a lamp pole. It was about a new buffet in the area but the print was really small so I had to lean in close. I didn’t notice the horde of shoppers crossing the street from a light change and after a few heavy bumps my glasses fell off!! The people didn’t seem to notice (being in their own holiday world) and when I was finally able to pick them up, my glasses were crushed.

Did Schropp have a back alley encounter with a bumpkin? The Lankville Daily News: ESSENTIAL READ

Did Schropp have a back alley encounter with a bumpkin? The Lankville Daily News: ESSENTIAL READ

Now, I am not totally blind without my glasses but it does make for quite the hardship. I tried to retrace my steps to get to where my designated pick up spot was but got lost in the maze of downtown. I was soon overwhelmed and a slight panic attack was setting in. A seemingly kind lady came up to me with a concerned look. I explained all that had happened to me. “You seem in a bad spot kid. If you had a few dollars it could mean all the difference in getting out of here and safely back home.” I agreed with her.

“Now if you only had something you could sell me.”

I told the woman that I wasn’t going to fall for that scam again. She pulled out five one dollar bills.

“You can’t counterfeit dollar bills, only large bills. Have you ever seen anyone try counterfeiting with a one or five, it’d be senseless. It’s always with a twenty or fifty.” I saw her logic in this.

“If you want to give me your socks, your pants and that notepad in your shirt pocket you can have this money.”

“Can’t you just give me the money in the spirit of Christmas or something along those lines?” She shook her head and told me you could never have something for nothing. “This is Lankville,” she pointed out.

I wasn’t sure what I should do. Those five bucks might get me out of here, yet I would be half naked. My deciding factor was that the special thermal “hugger” boxers I was wearing looked like long gym shorts. So the exchange was made. After a few awkward holiday pleasantries I was back on my way.

It was good to have the cash but now I was getting a lot more stares. A few blocks later I was no sooner finding my way that the cold was setting in and late afternoon was turning to dark. I saw a street vendor selling hotdogs and decided to use my five dollars to buy some to keep warm. The vendor sourly told me he usually only sells hotdogs to people wearing pants but would make an exception. I kindly thanked him and ordered two. He took out the same type of marker the lady had in the store and made a line through them. “These are fake son.”

I tried to tell him that you couldn’t counterfeit dollar bills but he told me to get lost. I found a park bench and sat down defeated. A sweet but smelly homeless man sat beside me and we were soon trading our tales of woe. He took out a small bottle and told me this could help with some of my woes and maybe give me some “Christmas cheer”. I took a few swallows and at first felt nothing, then a burning in my throat and chest. A moment after that I was feeling really really good. I honestly don’t remember much after that for awhile, I vaguely recall running around with this homeless man screaming and yelling, maybe the cops chasing us at one point?LN real small

I passed out and was shaken awake some time later. I was in an alleyway. It was still nighttime and it was snowing, big beautiful white flakes. A small, alarmed figure shook my shoulder again and then darted away behind some trash cans. I mumbled it was okay to come out, there was no need to be frightened. And much to my surprise out stepped a bumpkin who for some reason was dressed like a Christmas Elf. I smiled and he (maybe she) smiled back with buck teeth shimmering in the white snow. The bumpkin came back up to me and whispered something in my ear with its sweet high pitch whine which sounds like gibberish. The bumpkin wanted me to hold out my hand and drop three acorns into it. The bumpkin smiled at me again and then was gone into the night. I passed out yet again.

I awoke to the sound of a car horn blaring. It was almost dawn and the sound of the horn was coming from my parent’s car. I looked down at myself. I was a complete filthy mess wearing only a trash bag around my waist. Two other homeless men were sleeping on each side of me. I knew I had a lot of explaining to do. On the car ride home, I allowed my parents lecture– “far too old for this stuff to happen to me” and “maybe I really do need help” to fade into the background. I jingled the three acorns in my hand while staring out the window. Maybe this season isn’t about flashy presents or stealing someone’s pants for a few bucks. Maybe it’s about simple goodwill either to human or bumpkin kind. Happy Holidays everyone and remember to keep your mind and mouth open to new ideas!!

Happy Eating,

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