Grandfather checked the forecast religiously in the days preceding Christmas. All was looking good. Cold and dry. No rain whatsoever. He laughed. God was on his side!
On Christmas morning, Grandfather loaded his truck with the presents and drove to Portland. He was in a merry, merry mood, and turned on the oldies radio station and grooved to the cornball holiday hits as he passed fields and forests. The Clackamas River was running with its usual frosty grandeur and Grandfather noticed a couple of fishermen casting for salmon. When Oregon men and women stopped fishing on Christmas morning, either sober, stoned, or drunk, then Oregon was dead.
Grandfather parked a block away from the Sellwood house so he would go undetected hatching his scheme. He grabbed the rakes and cart and left Satan in the truck. He was saving Satan for last!
He stashed the rakes in the garage and affixed red and green bows on the tines. He even wrapped silver tinsel around the handles. He was going all out! It was Christmas for chrissakes!
Grandfather knocked on the door. It was high noon. His son and daughter in-law greeted and they all wished each other Merry Christmas in perfunctory manner. The brats were still in their pajamas, lounging on the couch and playing with their new shiny gadgets unwrapped earlier that morning. They sort of looked up at Grandfather and said hello and Merry Christmas. All they really cared about was how many smackers were inside the cards they never bothered to read.
The usual routine was to unwrap gifts first and then nibble the stringy ham and soupy scalloped potatoes from Costco. But not this year. Grandfather insisted they eat before he gave his special gift to his darling grandchildren. The brats perked up hearing this: special? More dough?
So the family ate and the adults talked while the kids played a game on their phones that entailed murdering and dismembering thuggish elves and putting a pistol to the head of Santa’s scantily-clad mistress. It was all in good fun, though.
The meal concluded. The brats were losing their minds in anticipation of the money. At last they gathered around the fake tree and Grandfather pulled out the cards from his back pocket. He handed them to the brats and they ripped the cards apart.
No green. No green! They stared up at Grandfather and their lips trembled. They stared up at their parents. The parents were mystified. Grandfather told them to read the cards. They read the cards and didn’t bother holding back their disappointment. The gifts were in the garage. Go out and get them. What the hell? No cash! The old codger probably bought us a tent or sleeping bag! Forget that! We don’t camp!
Out to the garage the brats skulked and sulked. Grandfather and parents followed. The son had a feeling his father was up to some Christmas mischief like those incidents he pulled when the son was growing up. These pranks always proved memorable.
Grandfather directed the brats to an area where the rakes leaned up against a wall. The cart was right beside them. The grandchildren were confused. They’d never seen a rake before and didn’t know what was happening. They felt a loosening in their bowels, but hung on and clenched tight. The son knew what was happening. He right then and there had a casual epiphany that revealed he and his wife had been terrible parents in the formative years of their children’s lives.
The grand kids remained frozen. Grandfather grabbed the rakes and held them up. These are for raking leaves. He handed the rakes to the grand kids. They took them like they were sticks of dynamite with the fuses lit. They didn’t know what to do, so Grandfather asked for the boy’s rake. He demonstrated proper hands position and expert raking motion, then handed it back to the boy. The grandchildren took up their rakes. Then Grandfather said they should all go out to the yard. It was time for a job. The son rolled the cart out and his wife followed him in silence.
They all went out of the garage and stood in a circle on the mattress of leaves. In fact, a few strays were falling at that very moment, the last ones of the season. Grandfather asked for the girl’s rake. This is how you rake leaves. He demonstrated and raked some leaves into a pile. Once we rake them up into piles, we load them into the cart and dump them out in the street. The city comes along and picks them up.
The grandchildren looked at him in disbelief. They were ready to bawl. Grandfather told them the rakes and cart were their Christmas presents, useful tools for a job that he would pay each of them $150 an hour to perform, if their performance met his high standards of leaf raking and disposal. He figured the yard would need roughly three hours of raking. The weather was perfect and the offer was only good for this day.
$150 an hour! We’re in the money!!
Grandfather asked if they wanted the job. They did. He told them to get work clothes and sneakers on and get back here in five minutes if they wanted a $50 bonus. They didn’t have any work clothes but they didn’t know that. They sprinted away screaming like Puritans at a witch burning.
The son was smiling. He didn’t say a word to his father. He did tell his wife he had to make a quick trip to the big box retailer to pick up something. This being capitalist America, the store would naturally be open on Christmas Day and paying their employees an extra 15 cents an hour.