Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

HOMELESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Friday, November 16, 2018 by PeggySue Wells and Marsha Wright

Homeless for the Holidays

By PeggySue Wells and Marsha Wright

 

 

EXCERPT

 

Chapter One

“Here they come!” Jack Baker elbowed his slouching son. “You know the drill. Assume your positions.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Twelve-year-old Adam twirled his elf hat on his index finger. “Where would the community be without the Baker family’s annual Christmas display?”

Jack’s wife, Sheryl, looped her arm through her husband’s. “People tell me all the time that we are part of their Christmas tradition. Their holiday is not complete until they see the Baker residence.”

In the dinnertime darkness, a light sedan turned down the quiet subdivision street and slowly drove toward the Baker’s house.

“Everyone smile!” Sheryl licked her thumb and rubbed the remains of hot chocolate from the corner of her daughter’s mouth.

“Gross, mom!” Nearly ten, Michelle pulled away and wiped her long sleeve across her face. “I’m not a little kid anymore.”

“I know, dear.” Sheryl knelt in front of Kim and brushed dark bangs from the preschooler’s forehead.

Through his teeth, Jack blew a warning whistle.

“Did you spring a leak, Dad?” Adam returned his dad’s elbow to the ribs.

Jack nodded toward the car. “They’re nearly here. Get ready everyone. And smile.”

Sheryl quickly surveyed her family. “Be sure to wave big for the photo.”

Dressed in elaborate Santa and Mrs. Claus costumes, Jack and Sheryl Baker proudly posed with their three children between the stately pillars on the front porch steps as the car drew near to their address. Fresh fallen snow blanketed the ground on this cold November night in Wooded Falls, Michigan, proof that nature had harmonized with Jack’s decorating efforts to create the postcard perfect effect. As perfect as could be with squirming offspring.

Dressed as an elf, Adam’s eyes crossed as he watched his breath turn to small clouds. Also in an elf costume, Michelle shivered. Bundled in a snowsuit under her costume, three-year-old Kim balanced on tiptoes in front of her beaming parents. Peeking out of a brightly decorated Christmas box, she tugged at the bow clipped to her straight hair and peered expectantly at the approaching visitor.

Known as the Crown of the Cul-de-sac, the Baker house was a brilliant display of Christmas splendor. For the past decade, the Bakers had received the town’s “Best Christmas Décor” award and this year would be no exception. Jack spent every dime of his annual $5,000 bonus on the holiday and each year the photographer cruised by to take their picture for the feature section of the newspaper.

“Daddy, I’m cold!” Heavy snowflakes collected on Michelle’s hunched shoulders.

Jack spoke through his frozen smile. “Just a few more seconds, Sweetie. Is everybody waving?”

On cue, the Baker family waved energetically as the car braked in front of their house. Slowly, the driver’s automatic window inched down just far enough for the oversized lens of the camera to brave the cold and focus on them.

“I’ll bet you a pair of mukluks he has his heater on full blast.” Adam spoke through chattering teeth.

Then the camera disappeared inside the warmth of the photojournalist’s window, followed by a friendly toot of the horn, and the vehicle swung around the cul-de-sac. Stopping briefly for a second look, the car left the way it had come, red tail lights blending with the lights that illuminated the Baker’s walkway.

“And that’s just the beginning,” Adam predicted.

“Opening night.” Jack glanced at his wristwatch. “After the dinner hour, this street will be bumper to bumper with sight-seers who consider our Baker extravaganza the eighth wonder of the Christmas season.”

“A drive by.” Adam saluted as the photographer’s car turned the corner and disappeared.

Jack rubbed his gloved hands together. “Okay, that’s enough. Everyone inside.” He scooped up Kim in her oversized box, and trailed Sheryl as she retreated into the warmth of the house with the children close behind.

Adam brought up the rear. “Where would the Baker family be without our yearly holiday display?”

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

But life looked very different a few months later.

Sitting across the kitchen table from her husband that evening, Sheryl knotted her hands in her lap. The usual music in the house was absent. Even the children had retreated to their rooms.

“Fired?” She repeated the foreign sounding word.

Jack slouched and the chair creaked. “Yep.”

For several more minutes they sat in silence while outside the kitchen window, birds twittered and sang as if the Baker’s entire world had not just come crashing down.

“Okay.” Mentally, Sheryl shifted gears. “We need a plan.”

“Yep.”

She brightened. “Do you have one?”

“One what?”

“A plan.” She tapped her finger on the tabletop. “Do you have a plan?”

Jack sighed. “I’m still letting this news sink in.”

She placed her hand over his. “Giving things some time is probably a good idea. This is a pretty big shock. We have enough money in the bank to make the mortgage payment on Friday.”

Jack was silent.

“Of course, most of the utilities would have been paid out of your next pay check.”

Jack’s eyes remained focused on the tabletop.

“And your car payment.” She heard panic creep into her voice. “The insurance bill will come soon, and the down payment for Adam’s braces is due next week, and Adam and Michelle need clothes to start school.” As the list grew her voice rose in pitch. “And don’t forget the credit cards.”

Jack slid his hand out from under hers. She noticed indents where her nails had pressed into his skin.

She took a deep breath to calm herself. “I’m sorry Jack. I understand that you need time to think.”

She reached across the table and lifted his chin until his eyes met hers. “We’re in this together. I’ll help you anyway I can.” He started to pull away, but she cupped his face in her palms. “But Jack, please hear me. We can’t just think about it too long. We can’t afford it.”

********

 

Author Bio

“The world needs hope more than advice,” observed bestselling author of Homeless for the Holidays, PeggySue Wells. “Throughout Homeless for the Holidays hope shines bright.”

PeggySue Wells is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of twenty-eight titles and an audio finalist, including Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, The Slave Across the Street, Slavery in the Land of the Free, and Chasing Sunrise. 

Program producer, connector, and optimistic dream driver, she enjoys dark chocolate, Savannah Grey tea, and writing from her home in the 100-Acre Wood in Northern Indiana.

PeggySue is the mother of seven and "Mimi" to her grands, otherwise known as her “Grammy Awards.”

Homeless for the Holidays is available in ebook and paperback through your local bookstore and on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2yoVVN9. Connect with PeggySue Wells at

PeggySueWells.com

Twitter: @PeggySueWells

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peggysue.wells

 

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