The Humbug (A Holiday Story) Part 1

Mr. Misker was a serious man, prone to nervousness. His face was a legend of woes, the horizontal frown lines, the permanently furrowed brow, augmented by the unruly silver black brows, and the more than occasional facial tick. But one thing that could be said for him, and was often said at that time of year by his colleagues at the downtown law firm, he knew how to keep Christmas well. It was the one time of year when his dry dreariness gave way to an unreasoned exuberance that seemed to bound from his core being like an unexpected visitor, making his office, his home, and his presence some of the most desirable locations to enjoy the holidays.

Of course, Misker had more than himself to thank for this seasonal transformation, though no one knew that and he would never tell anyone, certainly not the ladies at the office.

It’s true that Misker would go to any length to brighten his disposition this time of year. He would consciously change his outlook; go to extremes if he had to in order to make his point to those around. Naturally he did this, as he was sure his life depended on it.

Every year, about a month before Christmas, sometimes slightly less, sometimes woefully more, like an unwelcome great aunt, Misker would receive a visitor. He wasn’t sure where the visitor came from. He remembered it began with the passing of his wife, a severe woman who never smiled much for anything.

Misker was always of the opinion that his wife married him to stop her parents complaining, and lived with him because it was preferable to the trouble of supporting her own household. She communicated in tsks, tuts, humphs, and growls, and Misker could tell reliably how he was doing based on their special language. She maintained he would die alone.

As it happened, she died in his company in late November, suddenly falling down a long open flight of steps from the second floor to the foyer below. She didn’t bother to bleed, no doubt too much fuss, but sneered disapprovingly at him, her head at an unnatural tilt to the floor. He never called out or cried, but phoned the police. He needed to tell the exactly what had happened. Besides, he had no idea what he had seen at the top of the stairs just as she began her decent.

Strictly speaking, he was sure he hadn’t seen anything. But that didn’t mean nothing was there. However, he needn’t have worried. The apparition would return just two weeks later, in the form of the visitor.

He was never in the foyer when it arrived. But that year, and in the 9 years that followed, he came to know it’s sounds. The door would open on it’s own. Usually he observed this noise from the parlor. And as he crept through the French doors into the dining room, he could hear it go up his steps, one thump at a time, slowly as though it’s legs were too short or too tired to handle more. Then he would he the attic hatchway open and the fold-out stairs slam down. By the time he hazarded into the hallway, to the bottom of the steps, to get a glimpse of his visitor, the fold-out steps would withdraw and the hatch would slam, leaving ringing silence and more than a little doubt if what had just happened had happened.

Always in the month of December, always before the holidays. But the visitor didn’t remain silent and away. It showed itself. And it spoke to Misker.

(Next: The Humbug shows itself…)

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