Time to Dance

by

Cynthia Schuerr

On the First Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me…A Partridge in a Pear Tree… UGH! Jed, sick of all the Christmas cheer, never wanted to hear that song again. January 4, 2010, Monday, he walked into the office with purpose. Excited to get back to work and ready to make the New Year a productive one, he went to his desk. Three   Christmas cards sat by his computer. He picked them up and tossed them into the circular file. His co-workers still caught up in the holiday glow talked about whom they visited over the holidays and what presents they gave and received. Jed sat in cubicle and tried to bury the past two weeks. It’s over, he thought, let’s move on.

     Sifting through the stack of papers on his desk and trying to make some sense of what he would tackle first, he scowled at the chatter. Offers of leftover Christmas cookies and candies came from a woman who worked in the next cubicle. He lifted his head, without looking at her.

     “No thanks.”

     “Oh, are you sure, they’re yummy”

     “Quite sure,” he said still without looking there way.

     “Hmph, why are you so grouchy?

     “My “partridge” died and there’s no such thing as “true love!” Can we get back to work, people? Christmas is over and now we have to get back to the business of paying for it.” The woman walked away wondering what his problem was and actually mumbled something to that affect. Jed just kept working.

     Jed’s boss scheduled a meeting for the whole department at ten o’clock. As everyone came into the meeting room, Mr. Sanders stood at the front of the room, smiling and repeating,

     “Hello, how are you? Hello, good to see you,” as each employee walked in and took their place at the conference table. Jed thought, this would end the celebration and get everyone back on track.

     “Welcome back, everyone. I hope your Holidays were pleasant. I don’t mean to bring your joy to a screeching halt; however, I have some disturbing news to discuss with you today.” Everyone looked around the room and there was a moment of whispering and speculation. Mr. Sanders asked for attention and went on to tell them that their department would be shutting down and jobs would be lost.

     “I will try to move as many of you as I can to other departments. But there isn’t room for all of you.” He continued, “With that in mind, I will have a separate meeting with each of you throughout this week, so you can tell me why I should save your position.”

He handed out a list of names and times for individual meetings. Jed ran his finger down the list once and then again. His name wasn’t on the list. This must be good news, obviously meaning that he would be staying on. No one said a word as they filed out of the room, heads down with worry. He waited until the room was empty, except for Mr. Sanders.

     “Excuse me, Mr. Sanders. My name isn’t on this list. When is our meeting?” Jed didn’t want to seem presumptuous to think that he was spared. He waited for an answer.

     “Come to my office in ten minutes.” Jed had no idea what to expect as he walked back to his desk. Nine years with the company as a study research auditor showed Jed was a responsible employee. He did his job well and hoped very much that he would be lucky enough to transfer to another department. Jed looked at his watch and it was time to see Mr. Sanders. The door was open but the office was empty. He waited in the hall and felt uncomfortable, standing there. Jed glanced at the time again. He looked up and saw Mr. Sanders walking toward him.

     “Sorry for making you wait, Jed. Come on in and sit down.” Jed tried not to appear nervous. He had the confidence to plead his case if he had to.

     “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Jed, but I have to let you go.” Jed felt a rush of disbelief. He wanted to ask why, but knew he had the least amount of time with the company. 

     “I will make sure I sign a letter of recommendation for you. You are a great employee and I am sure you will not be without work for long. Jed couldn’t speak. It happened just that fast.

     Reeling with thought, Jed began to clean out his desk. Now what do I do? Ashamed that he was rude to his co-worker earlier, he thought how he would love to start the day over again. Maybe, if he did things different, maybe if he were a bit nicer, maybe…..well, just maybe, the day would be brighter. How do I tell Meg? Meg, his wife of nine years and the mother of his three children. How would he feed them? He thought of all the money the family spent at Christmas. If he had known this were going to happen, they would have been more frugal. Why didn’t he see this coming? It’s all over the news. company after company, business after business, closing due to the economy. Jobs lost left and right. Why didn’t he have a plan?

     After beating himself up, Jed decided to leave the cynicism behind and figure out a way to tell the family of this news. It would be easier to tell them if he had a plan. He must come up with something before he gets home. The train ride seemed quicker than usual and he found himself standing at his car just fifteen minutes away from home. He set the small box of items he took from the office on the passenger seat. He turned to buckle his seat belt and saw the picture of his family looking up at him from the box. He covered his face with his hands and began to sob. Wiping his eyes, he got out of the car and walked over to the bar on the corner. He had never been in there before, but he needed some time and a stiff drink.

     “Hey, come on in. What can I get ya?”

     “I’ll have a shot of your cheapest whisky and whatever beer you have on tap.”

     “You got it,” said the bartender. “Ain’t ever seen ya here before. My name’s Jake.” He put out his hand. Jed shook his hand.

     “I’m Jed.” The bar was empty, except for the drunk in the corner.

     “So what brings ya in so early in the afternoon?”

     “I’m just trying to figure out how to tell my wife, I’d been laid off today.” He didn’t look up, only into his beer.

     “Ohhh, tough luck, huh? There’s lots a that goin’ ‘round these days.” He hit Jed with another shot of whisky. Jed poured it back and finished his beer.

     “I could use a bartender on Saturday nights. Can’t pay ya much, but there’s tips.” Jed thanked Jake and told him he would consider it.

     The only thing Jed could do now is to go home and be straight with his family about there situation. He would be positive about it and tell them this will give them all more time to spend together. The kids will like that, won’t they? As for Meg, she will worry, but she’s a trooper. This won’t be permanent and we’ll get through it, like we’ve come through everything else in the past nine years. Meg saw Jed’s car pull into the driveway.

   “What on earth are you doing home so early?’ She smiled and greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Jed was happy the boys hadn’t come home from school, yet. It gave him an opportunity to break the news to Meg and give her a chance to take it all in.

     “It’s not good news, Meg.”

     “What’s wrong?”

     “I’ve been laid off.”

Meg was dumbfounded and listened while Jed explained the events of the morning. She didn’t react, she just listened. When Jed told it all, she put her arms around him and assured him that they would survive. They would put there heads together and work it out. But, for right now, she made him a cup of hazelnut coffee to take the sting out of the drinks he had earlier. Meg smelled the alcohol a mile away.

     The boys, who were nine, eight and six, jumped from the school bus, tickled to see their dad waiting for them.

     “Dad, what are you doing home? This is awesome.” Jed tackled, by all three of the boys, rolled in the snow with them. Meg watched from the kitchen window. She thought it to be a Norman Rockwell moment that had gone a bit askew. She enjoyed what she saw and knew that all would be well. Trying to convince Jed, however, wasn’t going to be easy. She would save that for tomorrow. In the meantime, they would enjoy a peaceful evening with the kids.

                                                           ~~~~~~~~~~

    Meg got out of bed quietly. She knew Jed had tossed and turned all night and finally slept soundly. She put on the robe the boys bought her for Christmas and rambled her way into the kitchen. She had about thirty minutes before the boys had to get ready for school. The house was quiet as she sipped her coffee. She wanted to have good news for Jed when he awoke. She took the monthly budget from the desk drawer and formed a plan. Meg whacked away at it, knowing that they had to make some sacrifices. She drew a line through the super duper package on cable TV and wrote, basic, next to it. Jed didn’t need a train pass anymore, at least for right now. She drew a line through it. A line went through the grocery amount. Meg knew she could make cheaper meals that would still be healthy. She would cancel the newspaper and cut their church offering in half.

     The boys ate their breakfast, grabbed their backpacks at the door and kissed Meg as they walked out to catch the bus. Jed drank his first cup of coffee of the morning and Meg just smiled at him. He grabbed her hand and felt so lucky to have this woman for his partner.

     “You have something up your sleeve, don’t you?” He pulled her to sit on his lap.

     “I sure do. I have a plan. And I will tell you about it when you are fully awake.”

     “I’m awake, tell me now.” Meg showed him the budget she had started earlier. Jed knew she tried her best and wanted to show some excitement, but showed fear instead.

     “Wait, there’s more.” She continued. “This will save us approximately four hundred dollars a month and I have an idea to bring in more money. Maybe now is the time to start our own, work at home business. We have always talked about it.”  Jed was a little skeptical. He was most afraid of losing the home they had built, modest though it was. It was comfortable and the only home the boys had ever known.

     “We can do this,” she said. “We just have to go back to the basics, Jed. You have to believe that we can do it.” Jed, convinced that Meg could pull anything off, gave in to it and they began plotting their next move. They both agreed to give it all they had to make it work.

     They started a website for there product. It was yarn, yes yarn. Meg was a whiz at knitting and crocheting. She could produce a sweater, scarf, gloves, even socks in no time at all. There was plenty of time during the day, while the boys were at school. Jed’s knowledge of computers and the internet was the perfect combination for their success.

     Meg went through her baskets of yarn and knew that they would need to stock up. She went to her parents and asked for a thousand dollar loan. Her parents were supportive of her endeavor and obliged her. She could sell these items with a fifty percent mark-up and still charge less than a retail store. Meanwhile, Jed sat at the computer and honed the website. Meg started knitting right away and couldn’t wait to sell her first item. They agreed that Jed would continue to look for a more stable opportunity, but until one came up, this would at least keep the roof over their head. He decided to take Jake up on his offer and bartend from eight to midnight on Saturdays. Jed was beginning to realize that this wasn’t just happening to him. Many people out there, right now, were going through the same dilemma and it wasn’t the end of the world. His outlook was brighter and really enjoyed the time he had with the family.

     Six months went by and they were not only hanging on, but also starting to see a profit. Meg paid back the loan from her parents. She decided a modest celebration was in order. She asked if her mom would take the boys overnight and planned Jed’s favorite breakfast. She set a beautiful table and lit a few candles. Jed had no idea what was in store for him as he drove home from Jakes. He walked through the door and liked what he saw. There was Meg, looking as sweet as could be, in a white satin nightgown.

     “What is all this?”

     “Oh, I thought we deserved to celebrate a couple of things, so I sent the boys to mothers, so we could have a little private time.” Jed smiled and picked her up, twirled her around and kissed her mouth.

     “I don’t know what it is we are celebrating, but I like it. What is it that we are celebrating, anyway?”

     “Well, I paid back the loan to mother and we have been making quite a profit.

     “Meg, have I told you how much I appreciate you?”

     “In more ways than you know,” she said. Meg thought a little music would create a bit more ambiance.

     “Meg, why are you playing Christmas music in June?” He heard “On the First Day of Christmas. Meg stood in front of him with one hand on her hip and the other softly swirling her tummy.

     “Because… my true love…. we have a partridge, in this pear tree.” Jed confused, at first, worried and finally…..they danced. Please God, let it be a girl.

 

 

 

BIO:  Cynthia A. Schuerr, born and raised in the Midwest, has been a lover of books and of writing for many years. She began writing short stories for her grandchildren to enjoy and recently decided to try her hand at a Novel.  Without a formal writing degree, her learning experiences came from being an avid reader and from whatever writing tips and advice she could finding books and from other writers. She has recently started a blog, www.theheartofwriting.blogspot.com, where you can find bits and pieces of what defines her. She is, also, a winner of the 2009  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). To have her works published one day is her ambition, however, until that time she is content to write and enjoy the writing life.

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29 Comments »

  1. 1

    What a sweet, poignant ending (from a mother of one son) – I was wondering how it would all round out for them. And there is nothing like Christmas in June.

  2. 3

    OH WOW, what a journey, such is life.
    I love how they worked it out and didn’t get bogged down.
    Such a great story for this time of year. 🙂

  3. 4

    A beautiful ending to a story that could have lead to really difficult times for this family.

    Lovely addition to the Christmas stories!

  4. 5
    Shirley Sorenson Says:

    Cindy,

    I am very impressed. This is very well written as it captures your attention and makes you want to get to the end to find out what happens.

    I think you have a very promising career and are going down the right road. Wishing you the very best success.

  5. 7
    Laura Eno Says:

    Losing his job brought back the true meaning of life and family for him. Nicely done.

    • 8

      Michelle, Marisa and Laura,

      I’m humbled by your kind words. I am so happy you enjoyed reading, as much, as I enjoyed writing this little Christmas story.

      Happy Holidays to you all.

  6. 9

    Cute story. Leave it to the wife to brainstorm a happy ending. It’s true though. Opportunity is there for all who are willing to risk for it.

  7. 11
    Kathleen Gilbert Says:

    Nice heartfelt story. I enjoyed reading it.

  8. 13

    Sometimes when the worst happens, it is opportunity for the best to emerge – beautiful message, Cindy. Your writing is so endearing. I couldn’t help but wonder if learned how to knit? 😉

    Wonderful story to kick off 12 days.

  9. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by MichelleDEvans: Time to Dance – 12 Days of Christmas project by @wisneski https://12days2009.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/time-to-dance/#comment-60 #12days…

  10. 16
    Sheryl Bemcer Says:

    Cindy, this is a terrific story. I really enjoyed reading it! Keep up the good work. Someday I know we will see one of your stories on the book shelves.
    Love you lots,
    Sheryl

  11. 18

    Ah, true love trumps all. Nice ending to what could have been a very sad tale. These two, they’re going to make it just fine.
    ~jon

  12. 20
    Samantha Wisneski Says:

    Very nice to see a family willing to do whatever it takes to protect what they’ve built. This was very well written and, I’m sure, touched home for many people these days. That was an excellent take on a “partridge in the pear tree.”

    • 21

      Samantha, thank you for this beautiful comment on my story. You are so right that many people are feeling a financial stress, especially at this time of year. It’s so important they keep the focus on what is of real importance.

      Have a very Merry Christmas!

  13. 22
    jimcast Says:

    Cindy –

    I loved this story as soon as I got it! I couldn’t wait to post it. You and Jon have realy set up this project. . . but don’t anyone get too comfortable. . . with names like Jodi MacArthur and Laura Eno coming up soon you know things are going to get scary! 🙂

    Jim

    • 23

      I so enjoyed being a part of this project, Jim. And thank you for your supportive and kind words.
      Also, I am very happy to hear of your wonderful news. A baby girl, hmmm! How did I know?
      Congratulations and have a wonderful holiday.

      Merry Christmas!

    • 24

      Congratulations, Jim! I have two little girls (not so little any more). What joy they are. Give my best to your wife.
      ~jon

  14. 25

    Very sweet story. Nothing like a little hardship to strengthen a relationship and I like how she sprung the news.

  15. 26
    PJ Kaiser Says:

    Cynthia – Very nice story – Glad things worked out for them in the end. I’m sure many folks can relate to these characters in these difficult times. To Jim’s point, however, we are being lulled by a couple of happy endings – things might be getting rough 😉 But well done, all the same 🙂

  16. 27

    Lovely story to kick the project off!

  17. 28

    Hi Cynthia,

    This is wonderful story, perfect for the hard times at present because it brings hope, with its happy ending. (and of course, lessons of resourcefulness and hard work.) There should more stories like this in the world!

    Happy Holidays. 🙂

    ~Nishida


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