Edgar started to turn back from the park and decided he’d head up toward the coffee place that all the young people sit and type on their laptops. He thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so crowded today since it was two days before Christmas. It was always too crowded and he hated going in there, but they had such delicious coffee. He just hated going in there when it was crowded because he hated being the old man that everyone had to wait for. He didn’t really mind being old most days, but when he was in the way of the younger folks, he could just feel their impatience with him burning the back of his neck. He remembered how he had felt when some old coot was in line in front of him when he was a young man. He remembered the impatience he’d felt as some feeble codger was trying to make their way through the checkout line at the store. So he understood that maybe the young folks didn’t have the patience for him nowadays.
The children at the park screaming with Christmas break joyfulness started to fade. Edgar thought that the lack of any snow must be unfortunate for the kids these days. He felt like all his childhood winters were completely snow bound. He remember years of snowball fights with the other neighborhood boys and girls, the sledding, the ice skating at Miss Jean’s pond, the constant fluttering of snow falling, endlessly falling all through the Christmas season. Now these kids just had muddy, damp fields to run around in without snow. Edgar had heard it had something to do with the climate, but he’d really stopped paying attention to the news after Margaret had died. She was the real newshound, not Edgar. Margaret would pour over the morning paper all day and watch all the TV news shows. She always wanted to know what was going on in the world. Edgar really just wanted to relax and not get too involved in the goings-on of the world. It was going to roll on without him at some point and he didn’t much care to think about it too much. But he did remember Margaret telling him, “one day Edgar, there won’t be any snow at Christmas because of this Global Warming and Climate Change”. Who know then that she’d be right? Edgar sort of smiled as he walked. Margaret was always right, who was he kidding.
The coffee shop around the corner was one of those chain coffee spots, but the prices were pretty decent. Edgar walked in and was immediately oppressed by the very loud Christmas music blasting from the store’s overhead speakers. It was The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, if you wanted to go completely deaf apparently. Edgar stood at the doorway for a moment and look up toward the smiling cashier girl at the counter. She had said something to Edgar but he couldn’t hear her because of the loud Christmas music.
“Pardon me,” he yelled.
The girl at the counter frowned at him. He hadn’t expected her to frown. Maybe she hadn’t heard what he said so he said it again, louder.
“Pardon me young lady,” he shouted.
She was still frowning but pointed at Edgar to get in line; which was only three people deep. Edgar nodded and limped slowly with his cane toward the back of the line. He was glad the place wasn’t crowded. The middle aged woman in front of him, very wide in the hips, so wide that he big winter coat appeared to have tiers, turned in front of Edgar and smiled. Edgar smiled back. The music was still far too loud for Edgar but he was sure he saw the middle aged woman say something to him. She looked at him and then pointed at her own ear and said something again. It struck Edgar why it was so loud. He had his hearing aid turned up way too high and it was emitting a terrible peal. No wonder The Most Wonderful Time of the Year was so unbearable.
Edgar took out his hearing aid and turned the volume down to a normal level and put it back in his ear.
“Sorry, I usually turn it up when I go for a walk so I can hear all the traffic and such,” said Edgar apologetically.“No problem, my mother does it all the time,” said the Middle aged woman in front of Edgar.
“Thank you for telling me it was squealing so much,” said Edgar.
“No trouble at all. Merry Christmas,” said the Middle aged woman as she turned back toward the counter.
“Yes, Merry Christmas to you too,” said Edgar.
Edgar felt like a stupid old man suddenly. He let himself fall into that fantasy where he wasn’t 88 years old, but he was still young. He didn’t feel old. He didn’t feel like this would be his 88th Christmas on this Earth. He looked at his gnarled knuckles on his left hand as it gripped his cane with such tightness. His hands didn’t feel weak, just his knee really. That why he got the stupid cane, plus he’d always wanted a cane like those proper English gentlemen he’d always read about with their classy walking sticks. His cane was from Walgreen’s but still, it was black and Edgar thought it did the job.
“Sir? Sir? Can I take your order,” asked the young girl at the counter.
Edgar looked up from his hands to see that the two people in front of him were gone off to the side, waiting to get their coffee orders. At least there wasn’t anyone behind him to tell him to hurry up or to, “move it old man”. Edgar stepped up toward the counter.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, wondering why he was apologizing just for getting old, “I’ll have that middle size mint chocolate coffee please,” said Edgar.
The young woman looked a little surprised that Edgar knew what he was talking about as far as flavors of coffee and sizes. He’d studied the menu before and had heard other people order in the past so he knew how it was done.
“Name,” asked the young girl.“Edgar,” he said.
She wrote his name on the mid-sized cup. She took his four dollars and twenty five cents and then she smiled at him.
“Thank you,” she said and she turned to the barista.
Edgar smiled back a little and then shuffled toward the front windows and sat down at one of the tables with a view of the street and the park. The shop windows were decorated with various Christmas lights and garland and were actually pretty tasteful. Edgar looked out toward the park; over his head Frosty the Snowman was doing something on the speakers, the noise of the coffee machines blending things together. Edgar leaned forward a bit on his chair and cane. It had started snowing every so lightly outside. The small flakes were drifting down gently, almost so you wouldn’t notice. Edgar leaned back in his chair, he thought about Margaret and how beautiful she looked all lit up by the Christmas tree lights glow. He thought about rolling around in the snow with her before their first daughter was born. He thought about how the house would smell of gingerbread and pine tree at Christmas time. He thought about the snow piling up, burying the city, deeper and deeper until no one could get anywhere and all they could do was just enjoy the things they had.
“Edgar,” called the young woman’s voice.
Edgar rose slowly from his seat and picked up his coffee from the counter.
“Merry Christmas,” said the young woman.“Merry Christmas to you to,” smiled Edgar.
He went back to his table, sat down, watched the snow start to thicken on the sidewalk and did indeed feel like his 88th Christmas might be a merry one. Indeed.