Merry Christmas, Princess Peach

Merry Christmas, Princess Peach

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

“Luigi!” The beautiful blonde girlchild tore her way across the packed airport corridor.

“Oh,” said her mother, a beautiful blonde womanchild. “Great…”

There is only one Christmas, isn’t there? Holly and mistletoe. A golden retriever by the fire. Mom bastes the bird while dad carols with the choir. Icicles cling to the branches of birch trees and fat, wet snowflakes tumble down, lit by the yellow glow of gaslights. Horses nicker and children giggle and lovers nestle and sigh. We’re all dreaming of a white Christmas — and we’re all dreaming.

And why not? Over the ghetto and through the industrial park doesn’t sound like a very nice way to get to Grandmother’s house, even though the highway really does go that way. There are no trails of tail-lights at Christmas, glinting and glowing in the drops of muddy drizzle on the windshield. The snow is white and windblown into drifts, not plow-piled and gray with soot. The children don’t squabble, the drunkards don’t wobble and the lovers don’t quarrel or cry.

Even at the airport there is only one Christmas, the Christmas-card Christmas of a world without airports.

Luigi was sitting across from me and he leapt up to meet the little girl as she crashed into him. She was seven or maybe eight, really too old to be picked up, but he picked her up anyway. She hugged him tightly and they both had a sudden wetness in their eyes.

He set the girl down as her mother approached. She nodded to him in a way that might have been curt, except the honey gold ringlets of her hair fell forward and robbed her of her haughtiness. She said, simply, “Brendan.”

He answered with a smile that was good-humored at the mouth and mocking in the eyes. “Best of the season to you, Chloe.”

The little girl shook her head furiously, her own white gold ringlets redeeming her mother’s haughtiness with an imperiousness of her own devising. “He’s not Brendan, he’s Luigi. And she’s not Chloe, she’s Princess Daisy. And I’m not Jennifer, I’m — ”

Luigi said, “This announcement wants herald trumpets, I think.”

“I am Princess Peach.”

Princess Daisy smiled weakly. “Home for Christmas?”

“Once a year, whether I can stand it or not.”

“Us, too. But we may have a problem with our tickets.” She gave a look to the long line at the check-in counter and bit her lower lip.

Luigi grinned. “You picked a good day for it.”

“I hate to ask this, but could you — ”

He broke her off with a wave of his hand. “Princess Peach, would you deign to grace me with your company while your mother whiles away her life in line?”

Princess Peach giggled. “You’re such a poet.”

“You’re such a snot,” he returned. To Princess Daisy he said, “I think we’ll be fine.”

Princess Daisy walked back to the end of the line and Luigi took Princess Peach’s hands in his own. “God I’ve missed you…”

“Same here.”

“You’re more lovely every time I see you.”

“Too much flattery,” she scoffed, clearly flattered nonetheless.

“Too much scorn, my lady disdain.”

“Too quarrelsome.”

“Too pretentious.”

“Too — , too — ” She couldn’t find a word and finally she said, “Brat!”

He laughed out loud and that was that.

She climbed into his lap and laid her head against his chest. “Say me a poem.”

“The only one I can think of right now is morbid, so I’ll borrow from someone else.” He stroked her hair and recited:

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief, who loves to add
Sweets to your list, put that in.
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me.
Say that I’m growing old — but add
Jenny kissed me.

“You’ve done that one before. Besides, I’m not Jenny, I’m Princess Peach. Say the morbid one.”

He grimaced. “Don’t say you weren’t warned.”

I wish someone would send me something from somewhere.
Somewhere not too far away.
I’ve got too much of nothing from no one in nowhere.
There’s more in the mail every day.
When I’m laid on the slab in the pathology lab,
There won’t be anything for anyone to say.
I can’t take anything for granted,
I can’t take anything for granted,
I can’t take anything for granted,
So I’d like to have something today.

“That’s more a song than a poem.”

He smiled. “Oh, yes. Very danceable. But now it’s time for ‘As the Worm Turns’.”

“What’s that mean?”

“You have to recite to me.”

“I don’t have any poems. All I have are verses I had to memorize for school.”

“Luke two, I’ll bet.”

“Sister Carmela says I say them better than anyone.”

Very precisely he said, “Ahem. Prove it.”

She sat up in his lap, the more properly to declaim:

And Joseph went up from Galilee to Bethlehem to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass that when they were there her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the brightness of god shone round about them and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people. For this day is born to you a savior, who is Christ the lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising god and saying, “Glory to god in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will.”

His eyes were glassy again and he said, “You did that very well.”

“Mother says you don’t believe in god.”

“True enough. But I believe in Santa Claus. He’s the driver of the airport limo who brought me my Christmas wish…”

She said nothing for a long moment, just looked at him. Finally she said, “I wish you could spend Christmastime with us.”

He pursed his lips tight together. “I wish I could, too. Your mother and I were such broken people. I guess I thought we could fix each other… But even if we can’t, I wish you and I could have time together.”

She fell back against his chest and clasped her arms around his neck. “Me, too.”

He stroked at her hair and looked at nothing. After a long while he began to sing softly.

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man’s estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
Against knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas, to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, my song is done,
And I’ll strive to please you every day.

Without looking up, Princess Peach murmured, “What does it mean?”

He smiled wryly. “It means we may grow old, but we don’t always grow up. It’s from Shakespeare.”

“Sing another one.”

“Okay. This is also from Shakespeare.”

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low.

Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.

What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure.

In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

She pulled up her legs and cuddled more snugly in his lap. “Sing the bear song.”

“Why should I? You’ll just go to sleep on me.”

With an imperiousness becoming only to a princess, Princess Peach said, “Sing the bear song.”

Luigi smiled at her and began to sing softly.

I may go out tomorrow if I can borrow a coat to wear.
As I step out in style with my sincere smile and my dancing bear.
Outrageous. Alarming. Courageous. Charming.
Oh, who would think a boy and bear
Could be well accepted everywhere?
It’s just amazing how fair people can be.

Seen at the nicest places where well-fed faces all stop to stare.
Making the grandest entrance is Simon Smith and his dancing bear.
They’ll love us, won’t they? They feed us, don’t they?
Oh, who would think a boy and bear
Could be well accepted everywhere?
It’s just amazing how fair people can be.

I may go out tomorrow if I can borrow a coat to wear.
Oh, I’ll step out in style with my sincere smile and my dancing bear.
Now who needs money when you’re funny?
The big attraction everywhere
Will be Simon Smith and his dancing bear…
It’s Simon Smith and the amazing… dancing… bear…

By the time he had finished, Princess Peach was fast asleep. He kissed her hair and stroked it and sat with a contented smile on his face.

When Princess Daisy sat down next to him, she was seething with frustration.


“One of our tickets — not both, mind you — one of our tickets is on stand-by.”

“Well that can’t work.”

“It can, if it must. My mother’s meeting us, so Jenny can fly unaccompanied and I can go out tomorrow.”

He shook his head. “Here.” He dug into his jacket pocket and pulled out his own ticket. “Take this up to her and tell her to give my seat to you and book me for the morning.”

“Brendan, you don’t have to do this.”

“No, I don’t. But no one’s meeting me. I’ve rented a car. I’ll still make Christmas dinner, and I don’t think Santa’s going to miss me tonight.” Trying not to wake Princess Peach, he pulled a credit card out of his pocket. “Use this if it costs more.”

“She’ll need you to sign.”

“My hands are full. Sign for me. Tell her you’re my wife.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” she joked.

Not joking at all, he said: “I would.”

She may have reddened at the cheeks, but I wasn’t sure because she spun around and stalked back to the counter. When she returned, she said, very carefully: “Thank you.”

“My Christmas gift to your folks. I can’t remember the last time I saw them, but they’ve always been good to me.”

“…You’ve always been good to me.”

He gave a tight little smile, almost a wince. “The words sound like forever, but they’re really just for-now.”

“Must you attach a name to everything?”

He shrugged. “In fact I must.”

“Isn’t it just a little too cloying?” she asked. “Lifelong friends, high school sweethearts, reunited after all these years. So romantic. Isn’t that just a little too pat?”

He chuckled. “With whom are you arguing?”

“With — , with — ” She couldn’t find a word and finally she said, “Brat!”

He laughed out loud and that was that. After a long silence that seemed almost like home, he said, “I miss her a lot.”

Princess Daisy gave a crooked little smile. “She talks about you all the time. She plays those silly video games and she insists we’re in them.”

“I’d like to spend time with her, if you’d allow it.”

“Brendan, I can’t see you. We’ve been through all that.”

“Not you, her. I could take her on Saturdays. Give you a day to yourself, to go shopping, to clean house.”

“To see other men?”

“Do you think you can’t do that now? I miss her. I love her as much as if she were my own daughter. I want to have time with her. I think she’d like to have time with me.”

“Sometimes I think you love her more than you ever loved me…”

“…She erects fewer obstacles.”

“Touché! I am gored but still unsmitten.”

“I don’t want to spar with you, Chloe. Think about it. Let me know when you get back.”

Princess Daisy bit her lower lip and looked at the floor. When she looked up, she said, “We have to go.”

Luigi smiled weakly. “Such horrible words, and you say them so beautifully.” He shifted Princess Peach’s weight in his arms. “Stand up and I’ll hand her up to you.”

When they had effected the transfer, they stood face to face. They looked at each other for a long time, and finally Princess Daisy broke the silence, saying, “Merry Christmas, Brendan.”

There is only one Christmas, isn’t there? Even at the airport there is only one Christmas. Luigi smiled, and his face bore not the smallest hint of sadness. “Merry Christmas, Chloe.” He leaned forward and kissed the slumbering golden girlchild on the forehead. He said, “Merry Christmas, Princess Peach.”

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