"Marcus! Marcus! Dinner's almost ready!" Barb cried out as she put the last of the figgy pudding on the hot plate to warm.
Barb's husband, Mark, came into the kitchen, little Timmy hanging off his strong forearm, his legs dangling beneath him. Mark worked days at the Transit Authority bus yard on Second Avenue, which meant he could be close to home if Barb needed to get to the studio early. Although they were starting to make ends meet, they still had a long way to go, and so lived as modestly as possible. Timmy's medical bills as well as some of the debts that Barb and Mark had rung up before they had to go on welfare, were still hanging over them.
Mark sat Timmy down, and tucked his napkin into his collar, then took his own seat, just as Barb came in and pulled her chair out. "So how was church?"
Mark smiled at Timmy. "Oh, the usual...you know, I didn't really want to go, but Timmy insisted. He felt that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see."
Barb scoled Mark, "He's not a cripple, he's disabled!"
"You? With the people you work for are being politically correct?" And they all laughed.
"Timmy, would you like to say grace."
"OK, mom....Dear God, we thank you for the food we are about to eat and for all the blessings of our family. And we thank you for the greatest gift you've given all men, your only begotten son. God, please bless us, everyone."
When dinner was finished, including the figgy pudding, Barb announced that Timmy had to go to bed, and they'd open presents in the morning.
"OK, mom, goodnight! I hope Santa leaves me something nice under the tree!"
Mark carried Timmy to bed, and read to him while Barb cleared the table and put the dishes in the small sink, and ran some water to let them soak overnight. The dinner was small, but filling.
Mark slipped up behind Barb and held her tightly around the waist. "Merry Christmas, baby, you sure look fine tonight."
Barb turned around, and kissed him. "Mark, I couldn't be happier than I am right now."
"Yea, baby, me either...except I wish you didn't have to work for that creep. Damn, but that man makes me want to get a gun!"
"Aw, honey, he's really harmless once you get past his...well, somewhere in there is a heart."
"He probably stole it from someone."
And they snuggled and kissed some more.
"I have to tell you, Mark, I work hard not to be alone with him. I think he's been alone too long, and it scares me to think..."
"It's OK, honey. Don't ever be alone with him, and you have nothing to worry about. All that talk of his about Jesus and Christmas...you'd think he'd have learned by now that being a Christian is about loving, not being loved. All he does is take, take, take, and he never gives. I pity the fool. Until he touches you."
With a thud, Ed landed back in his chair.
Paul looked at him, and intoned, "Just one more, Ed. Just one more."
To Chapter Ten