The Val & Kit Mystery Series

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Deck the Halls

“Tell me again why we’re doing this.” Tom did not look up from his iPhone.

“Because it’s Christmas, and people expect a successful business like ours to be decorated for Christmas.”

“What people?”

“People. Mortgage companies, other Realtors.” I could see I wasn’t convincing my boss, since he apparently couldn’t be bothered to look up. I tried some more. “Okay, clients, Tom. Our clients.”

“All right, Pankowski,” he mumbled. “You’ve convinced me. But don’t go nuts, and keep it tasteful.” Then his face broke into a wide grin as he held up his phone to show me two svelte ladies mud wrestling.

“Right, tasteful; I’ll keep that in mind.”

I left the office and drove immediately to Kit’s house, where I found my best friend in the process of supervising the decoration of her own home for Christmas. This meant an army of professionals in her living room assembling a twelve-foot Christmas tree and adorning it with priceless ornaments. Outside in her yard, I’d passed another team wrapping her roof and windows with garland and silvery lights. The pièce de résistance was a display of three oversize deer, silver with monster red velvet bows, forever caught in the headlights of passing cars.

“Phew, this is so exhausting.” Kit took my hand and led me into her chaotic living room. “You are so lucky that you don’t have to decorate.”

“Well, since I’ll be in Door County for Christmas, I don’t see the point.”

“Exactly. Lucky, lucky, lucky.” She steered me through the room into the kitchen, where she picked up an ornate crystal jug and filled two glasses with a creamy yellow liquid. “Here, drink this—first eggnog of the season.” She sprinkled some nutmeg from a silver shaker over each glass.

I took a sip. “Delicious, Kitty Kat. Cheers. Merry Christmas.”

She sipped from her own glass after offering the same toast.

“So, Tom finally agreed to let me decorate the office for Christmas,” I said, relaxing into the high-backed stool at her counter.

“Oh goody. Does that mean carte blanche at the Dollar Store?”

“Of course not.” I smiled. “He said—”

“Wait, don’t tell me. Is he having you actually make the decorations? Ya know, by hand and stuff, out of old newspapers?”

“Kit, really, you are terrible. I’ll probably go to Hobby Lobby or somewhere.”

Hobby Lobby?” she repeated, as if I’d suggested going to a landfill. “Hey, go easy, go easy.” I realized her remarks were now aimed at the hapless individual standing at the kitchen door swinging a glass ornament precariously in his left hand. “That’s Waterford,” she yelled. “You break it, you buy it.”

I finished my eggnog and said good-bye. It was a little too late to begin shopping for seasonal knickknacks, so instead I went home to my tiny apartment, where I donned my cozy jammies, got comfy on the couch, and cradled a cup of cocoa in my hands. It wasn’t exactly true that I hadn’t decorated my home for Christmas. Quite the contrary, in fact. I stretched out my legs so that my feet could reach the coffee table, and took a look around.

From my vantage point I could take in all the decorations I had displayed, all handmade in another lifetime by my daughter, Emily, who is now grown and married and living in California: a papier-mȃché snowman who was unfortunately no longer white, but an unflattering shade of yellow, his stovepipe hat long since lost; a garland of silver bells, sadly missing a couple of its clappers; and a poor Santa made from clay, his head way out of proportion to his body, but still able to give a jolly smile that showcased his rosy cheeks.

I’d go to Hobby Lobby in the days to come, but I decided I’d take Santa with his oddly misshapen physique and give him pride of place on my desk at the office.

Kit was right about one thing: I was lucky, lucky, lucky.