Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"The Coming Evil: Holiday Spirit"--Part Three

Read Part Two!


Dras stood in his room, deep in thought. He could not remember ever making such a difficult decision. He was in one of those heart-wrenching situations when he knew that no matter what choice he made, he would die a little inside. The seconds on the clock ticked by deafeningly and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. But the agony could not be avoided; a choice had to be made.

Toys must be sold.

He had a few He-Man figures that might have been worth a little something, and his G.I. Joe assortment was impressive, to say the least. There were superheroes and characters from movies, too. But he knew where the greatest payload lay.

The Constructicons.

He had been collecting them for twelve years. He got Long Haul at a yard sale first. Then he acquired Bonecrusher two years later in the dealers’ room at a Comic Convention in Russellville. His dad brought home Mixmaster after a trip to the state capital one year, where he found the toy in a collectible toy store. Hook and Scrapper were purchased together at an estate sale for an elderly man in his father’s congregation who passed away. Someone told Dras the toys had belonged to the old man’s grandson once. They were the pinnacle of Transformers memorabilia. He lacked only one more piece before he could assemble Devastator, the Decepticon to end all Decepticons. But he hadn’t been able to find Scavenger anywhere, despite searching for the past five years. Realistically, he reasoned, it was time to let go.

Besides, Sheila at John’s Pawn had shown real interest when he mentioned them earlier. Maybe he could make an even trade for the Beatles album he wanted to give Rosalyn. He knew deep down that no other gift he found could possibly mean as much to her. It was a piece of her father, after all. There was nothing better to give.

Sighing heavily, Dras lifted the figures down from their familiar spot on one of the wooden shelves his father had built for him years ago. He gently laid them in a cardboard box, one by one, savoring the feel of the dull green plastic in his hands. He put on his jacket, tucked the box under his arm, and sat down on the couch to wait. A few moments later, he heard a knock on his door.

Dras opened the door to find his brother Jeff outside.


“I think so.”

“Are those your toys in the box?”

“Some people refer to them as collector’s items.”

“Right.” Jeff rolled his eyes. “And I guess that’s what makes them so valuable that you can’t risk carrying them on your bike.”

“You know,” Dras began as he pushed past Jeff and into the cool air outside, “I thought you’d be happy about all this. I’m being all mature or whatever.”

“I am happy,” Jeff insisted. “I think it’s great that you’re getting rid of some of that stuff. I mean, I know it’s important to you, but we all have to grow up sometime. I just…what prompted this?”

Dras hesitated. He really didn’t want to get into a mushy conversation with his brother about needing to finally give Rosalyn a meaningful Christmas gift from his heart. Pouring out emotions and his brother were entities that didn’t seem to gel. True, Jeff was a pastor, so maybe talking about feelings was kind of under his umbrella, but to Dras he was still just the guy who nagged him a lot about missing church and shook his head sadly whenever Dras tried to talk about something that mattered to him, like a new comic or monster movie. Dras chose to skirt the issue.

“Just a little short on cash.”

As soon as he said it, he knew what was coming. Still, he figured the looming scolding was better than having to get all touchy-feely.

“Well, Dras, some folks have jobs for that.”

“Here we go again. I’m looking, okay? I just haven’t found the career that suits me yet.”

“I’ll let you know when the Quick Mart has an opening for ‘slurpee taste tester’”.

“Hardee-har-har. Could we just go, please?”

Jeff relented with a good-natured chuckle, and the two climbed into his old pickup truck. The truck pulled away from the curb, and Dras held his box of Constructicons a little tighter, anticipating their release.

* * *

The door to John’s Pawn jingled shut behind him as Dras scrambled back to his brother’s truck, Rosalyn’s Beatles album in his hands. He pressed its cover to his chest, trying to hide the surprise from the world. But he couldn’t hide it from Jeff.

“What’s that?” Jeff asked immediately as Dras entered the cab of the truck.

“This?” Dras asked. He felt giddy and embarrassed, and he didn’t really want to share the idea behind the record with Jeff. What if his brother told him it was stupid or wrong? But when Jeff continued to stare at his purchase, he eventually braced himself and turned it around to reveal the four shaggy guys on the cover. “It’s for Rosalyn. Christmas, you know.”

Jeff said nothing, only blinked and wrinkled his brow in a puzzled expression. The truck rattled along for a few seconds as Bing Crosby softly crooned “White Christmas” over the radio, part of a local station’s All-Christmas-All-The-Time campaign during the holidays. Unsettled by the awkward silence, Dras explained, “She used to have this album. It was her dad’s, and it broke when she moved into the apartment. I just thought she’d like to have it again. Sentimental purposes or whatever.”

At last Jeff spoke. “Wow, Dras, that’s…really sweet of you.”

“Don’t sound so amazed.”

“No, I mean it,” Jeff reiterated. “That really is kind. You sold your stuff just to get that for her. I think she’ll be really touched.”

Dras hung his head. “Yeah, well, I hope so. I…” He fidgeted with the zipper on his jacket, disliking the feeling of exposure before his big brother. “I haven’t been a very good gift-giver in the past.”

“Well,” Jeff replied, “I think you’re about to set a new precedent.”

Dras raised his head to smile at Jeff as John Denver’s “Silent Night” filled the cab. They turned onto Dras’ street as a John’s Pawn moving truck passed them, heading in another direction.

* * *

Rosalyn stood in the hallway outside the door to her apartment, watching two scruffy men from John’s Pawn carrying her precious stereo down the stairs. It was hard to watch it go, but she really felt she was doing the right thing. It was time to let go, time to focus on the future and not the past. There were other ways to remember Dad. Photos and saved birthday cards and things. And she’d still think of him every time she heard those old songs on the radio.

You can do this.

The men disappeared out the front door with the stereo and reappeared a few moments later. “Want to follow us back? Sheila can pay you in person.”

“Sure. I’ll be right down.”

Rosalyn stuck her head back inside the apartment to grab her keys. She locked the door behind her and headed downstairs. Outside she shivered, the chilly air penetrating her thick sweater and jeans. As the men started up the moving truck, she got into her car and cranked the heat. A strange sense of freedom overwhelmed her as she pulled into the street, watching the truck bearing her stereo moving away from her just ahead.

As she drove through Greensboro, following the truck, Rosalyn gazed out the windows into memory after memory. She’d been prowling these streets her entire life. There was the movie theater, now out of business, where she and Dras used to try to sneak in to scary flicks they were too young to see. There was the dentist’s office where she got her first cavity filled. Dras had been terrified that the dentist would use gory tools on his friend’s mouth and insisted on accompanying Rosalyn and her Dad to the office just in case Rosalyn needed help. There was her elementary school, where the kids first called her “Trysdale Trash”. But Dras always stood by her.

Dras, how am I going to leave you behind?

Rosalyn wondered if she could really carry out her plans to leave Greensboro. Were it not for Dras, the deed would already be done. But the image of his goofy face burned in her mind each time she imagined going away. At last she’d gotten up the courage to apply to her dream school in Vermont, and now it was all in the hands of fate. She wanted to go so badly. But if the school accepted her, she would face the agony of telling Dras goodbye.

Before she could ponder her dilemma any longer, the moving truck pulled into a warehouse behind the pawn shop and Rosalyn found herself parked alongside the building. All too happy to leave her musings for another time, she stepped out of the car and wandered into the warehouse. One of the scruffy men—Randal, judging by the name on his shirt—handed her a scrap of paper.

“Just take this inside to Sheila and she’ll pay you in cash or store credit, whichever you prefer.”

“Thanks.” Rosalyn took the paper, glanced at the amount written on it, and made her way toward John’s Pawn. It was a fair amount, and it would be plenty to enable her to buy Dras a great gift. Piece of paper in hand, she pulled open the back door.

Rosalyn entered the shop proper and began her search for the sales lady. She passed racks of secondhand clothing and musty old books before finding herself surrounded by used toys. Some weren’t so old; in fact, she recognized a few items that were popular when her sister Annie was little. Others were so ancient that she wondered if her grandparents might have played with them. Intrigued, she browsed through the toys, wondering if they carried anything in the Dras genre, when she stopped short. Her mind raced, and she did a double take.

There was Scavenger, the Constructicon.

Not many beautiful young women possessed the knowledge of Transformers that Rosalyn did, but then again, no other beautiful young women were best friends of Dras Weldon. Rosalyn had stared at the toys on his shelves countless times throughout the years, and she was especially familiar with the Constructicons. Dras was so proud of them. She thought they made him feel like a real collector and not just a fanboy hoarding action figures. They were rare, and they were unique in the fact that, upon acquiring all six, one could assemble them into a larger action figure known as Devastator. And Dras had longed for ages to complete his collection and bring Devastator to life.

Rosalyn reached toward the figure and almost had it in her grasp when a voice behind her stole her attention.

“May I help you, miss?”

Rosalyn turned to see a mousy little woman with dark hair wearing a denim dress with a red cardigan. Around her neck glistened an intriguing necklace bearing a charm that resembled a child’s drawing of the sun, with rays protruding every which way. Rosalyn suddenly realized this must be Sheila.

“Um, the guys in the back told me to give you this.” She extended the piece of paper in Sheila’s direction. Sheila took it and scanned the writing.

“Oh, yes! The stereo with the record player. Come on up front and I’ll get you your money.”

“Just a second,” Rosalyn interjected. “How much for this?” She nimbly lifted Scavenger off the shelf and searched him for a price tag, but found none.

Sheila frowned. “Well, he’s actually a bit of a collector’s item. I’ve been working a long time to acquire the entire set, and—”

“But my friend just needs this one,” Rosalyn pleaded. “I’d really like to buy it.”

Sheila thought for a moment and her eyes drifted back to the piece of paper. “If you’re really interested,” she said at length, “I’ll make you an even trade. The figure for the stereo, no cash back.”

Rosalyn’s lips parted in a wide smile. “Deal! Thank you so much, he’ll be thrilled!”

Without giving Sheila a chance to change her mind, Rosalyn and Scavenger left John’s Pawn behind. For the first time this season, Rosalyn was feeling a little Christmas cheer.

Copyright 2010 Greg Mitchell

Read Part Four--The Finale!

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