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MARTIN ELFANT Sun Life of Canada 1001 Century Building Houston, Texas CA 4-0686 PROTEST THIS OBSCENE WAR! Join us at the LBJ Ranch on Christmas Day, December 25, 1967, from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., to demonstrate to our fellow citizens \(and the observing sibility. Meet at the entrance to Ranch Road One, leading off Highway 290 to the President’s ranch, at 2 p.m. Urge your friends to come! The hour is late. “When, if not now?” “Who, if not I?” HOUSTON COMMITTEE TO END THE WAR IN VIETNAM Box 1811 Houston, Tex. kept her screens latched. I went to the door. An old man with white hair, Mark Twain style, and wearing a red jacket and carrying a sack, stood there trembling. Could we, he asked, give him a little food? I was ecstatic at the prospect of giving him some of our wonderful meal. I rushed back to the dining room. No, indeed, said the owner. Give one of those tramps a meal and they beat a highway to your door. She didn’t care if it was Christmas. That was the worst time. That’s when all the tramps would take you to be a sucker. I could hardly face the old man with refusal. He shouldered his sack and shakily made his way back through the red roses in the formal beds. He was the spirit of Santa Claus. He might even be Jesus in disguise. And we turned him away. Years passed. My mother and I were both teaching school. We lived in a nice house. We cooked a good Christmas dinner, this time just for us. I looked out the window, and there he was the Christmas visitor another old man, with long white hair that stood out like King Lear’s in the mad scene. He was going through our garbage can. He found some stale bananas. “Wait, wait!” I cried, dashing out. He was frightened. He could 12 The Texas Observer *Ortiz’ Since 1866 The Place in Austin GOOD FOOD GOOD BEER 1607 San Jacinto GR 7-4171 not speak English, but I finally got across to him that we wanted him to have some of ‘our Christmas dinner. We gave him half of it, then worried for fear he would make himself sick eating so much. Father Christmas. The second chance. I had two jobsteaching school in daytime and working on the newspaper at night. I had sufficient money but very little time. I put off Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. We shopped all day, my mother, my daughter, and I. My feet were killing me. I was exhausted. We stopped at an elaborate drugstore for last minute paper and ribbon. Garish neon stained the sidewalk. Piped Christmas music that had been playing since before Thanksgiving didn’t let up. Decorations that had been up since Halloween glittered shiny and hard. I waited in the car for the others. Two people approached from opposite sides. One was a Negro, probably middleaged, but a misused middleaged. He was stooped and scarred and hideously ugly. My god, I thought, if these lights were not so bright, I’d almost be afraid. He looked a thug. Maybe he was waiting around to rob the drugstore. Its interior looked luscious. The other person was a small boy, a beautiful blond little boy, a pre-schooler, coming from the apartment house across the street. Now what had his parents let him out for on Christmas Eve? Probably for candy, to put more cavities in the spoiled brat’s teeth. Or would, if it were not for fluoridated water and dentifrices. The small bay entered the store. The Negro looked through the window. Presently the boy reappeared. Sure enough, he had a sack of candy. He popped an unneeded piece in mouth and chewed indifferently. Then he saw the Negro for the first time. What was he doing now? He was going over to where the Negro lounged by the window. “You want a piece of candy?” he asked in clear treble. The Negro was as astonished as I. He hesitated, then took Decemtet this never December, place of skies and cold air, place of the lonely hands reaching toward warmth, place of the eyes searching the long grey distances of Texas land, dotted with rocks, the lonely mesquite surfacing from the depths of clay and stone and the red-brown cedars spreading their green flat palms to the wind out of the north as to afire this time of the long grey silences and shrill, thin winds, this time of reaching backward through the grey distances to remembered touch \(o I know now why it was I didn’t want you to leavenot then, not time of the year’s lean death is the time to count losses standing, hunched like an old steer, rump to the wind. ALBERT HUFFSTICKLER Austin a piece and smiled. “Thank you, sonny,” he said. “You can have it all,” said the small boy. At my school Christmas party; a fourth grade pupil of mine who was deprived of everything except a pretty face and a loving heart handed me a grubby envelope. The original name on it had been erased and mine put on misspelled. I. opened it and drew out the card. It bore the picture of a baby and bells and ribbon in pink and blue and it said: “Happy Birthday.” I forgot the gaudy holiday red and green. I forgot the yellowing tinsel, the glaring lights, the jaded songs, the blaring commercials, the clang of cash registers. Happy Birthday. fl