A Chocolate Milkshake for Christmas, story by Jim Bartlett at Spillwords.com
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A Chocolate Milkshake for Christmas

A Chocolate Milkshake for Christmas

written by: Jim Bartlett

 

When I stepped out of Dean Jeffers’ office, my hard-earned doctorate finally in hand, I felt as if I could (and really wanted to – but I was in the stuffy administrative offices, after all) thrust my fisted arm in the air and shout “Yahoo” at the top of my lungs.

It had been a long road, but here I was.

“Congratulations, Krissy…or, I guess at this point I should say, Doctor Watkins.”

The voice caught me off guard and I spun to the side to see Millie Stevens, the dean’s administrative assistant, a sparkle in her eyes, a big smile upon her face. To me, she looked more like a sophisticate from the east coast – I’d put her in Boston – than a California surfer girl, as she’d always wear those tight (usually gray) flannel pencil skirts, a thick blouse exquisitely wrapped in a woven shawl (as if the snow was six feet deep outside), and her hair (not a strand out of place) in a tight bun.

Yet, even at forty something, she’d still head over to the coast during the summer and take in the waves. That Boston “feel” always lost its flavor that time of year, as she’d sport a deep tan under all that fabulous fashion.

“Thanks so much, Millie,” I said, feeling a bit of blush. “It’s sure been a challenging few years, but Stanford has been good for me.”

“Well, you’ve most certainly earned this degree. And right before Christmas Eve, just like you’d hoped. I understand you’re taking your residency at the College Hospital back in your home town of Santa Teresa. Fine place. And Doctor Benson is one of the best.”

“Yes. I’m very much looking forward to that.”

“Can I ask a silly question?”

“Of course.”

“Why Christmas Eve? I take it there’s something about this time of year? And Santa Teresa, obviously, or, I guess it’s Montebello, right?”

“Yeah, Montebello is where I ended up when I was a kid. This time of year, as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, not under the best of circumstances. But something happened during that first Christmas, and everything changed. It took some time—“

“Like your degree…”

“Exactly. But thankfully, Christmas became my favorite time of year.”

Millie slipped into her chair, offering me the nice plush one to the side. “I’m always up for a good story. Can I be so bold as to ask what happened? I’ve got some Christmas hot chocolate…”

“Hard to turn down hot chocolate,” I said. But as I eyed the chair, I took a quick look at my watch.

“Off to somewhere?”

“Yeah…flying back home today. But I think I’m good.” With that, I sat down, the mug of hot chocolate already in front of me.

Mmmmm,” I said with the first sip.

“Okay…spill.”

“Well, let’s see. As you know, my parents were killed in a car crash right before Thanksgiving, and my grandmother got stuck with me. She and her new husband, that is.”

“Stuck, oh, how terrible to have to think that. Especially since you were, what, nine?”

“Yes. I was a mess. My parents were never really touchy feely, but, boy, Hazel and Alfred wanted nothing to do with kids. Absolutely nothing. Thank goodness for Rosa.”

“Rosa?”

“Yeah, she was their cook and maid, and with me showing up, she became a nanny as well. But what a great heart she had. And, mmmmm, she could make some wicked burritos.”

“So, she sort of raised you, I take it? Wait…I keep interrupting, and you’ve a plane to catch. Go on, tell me how you got from there to here.”

I took in a deep breath. How do you tell the story? Especially when it came to those little things that made all the difference.

I guess you start where it all started.

Christmas, 1982. The Montebello Village Drugstore.

“It was the first day of Christmas break, a welcome break for me, as for those first three weeks in my new school, new town, and new house, I was lost. The stares, the whispers behind my back, and trying to make new friends when no one knew quite what to say to me.

“I needed to get out of the house, so I just left. I must have wandered around for an hour or so, no place in particular to go, until I found myself in the village standing at the front of the drugstore. I don’t remember how I got there, everything was a blur for those weeks, and my heart and shoulders just seemed tired. I think by that point I felt like I was out of tears.

“But that day, something was different, and as I walked through the front entrance, a smile found my face. I thought it might be those gigantic candy racks – you should have seen them, there were three of them and to a nine-year-old they looked eight feet tall – or the soda fountain, where they made real milkshakes topped with whipped cream – mmmmm, chocolate! But I realized it was that silly little bell on the glass front door. Every time it would tinkle, I magically turned into Tinker Bell, there to sprinkle pixie dust on someone and help make their day.”

“Sounds like you could have used a little of that yourself.”

“Yeah, at that time, probably a whole fairy trunk full.”

“Oh, my. I’m so sorry.”

“Thanks. But, you know, for some reason, that first day of Christmas break, I found myself just standing there a bit longer than normal – not that there was a normal yet – soaking in the little store’s unique fragrance. It was an odd mix of medicines and lotions, all swirled in with the smell of hot dogs cooking on one of those little roller thingies they kept in the corner. Even when I finally started trudging down the aisle – and believe me, trudging was exactly it that day – I kept my ear open, maybe even tipped back toward the door. I was hoping someone, anyone for that matter, might wander through, thus letting the little bell tinkle once again.

“But, at least for that moment, it stubbornly remained quiet.

“When I finally rounded the end of the aisle, I stumbled upon Mr. Kimble, the store’s owner. He was this tall, skinny fellow with a wild shock of gray hair and a really big nose. Normally he was always standing behind the counter at the cash register, but on that day, the day that started it all, he was out helping these two ladies.

“All three of them were wrapped up in this deep conversation, but when they realized I was there, it was like their words froze in the air. They spun my way, eyes bugged out, and their faces, at least the two ladies, took a flush of pink.”

“Uh-oh. Something ‘kids’ shouldn’t be hearing,” Millie said with a sly smile.

“Yeah. I knew, or had at least seen the lady who was on Mr. Kimble’s right a couple of times. Her name was Mrs. Vanderhilt, She was tall, skinny, wore really fancy clothes, and way too much makeup. I remember wondering why she would plaster it on that way, but Rosa told me it was because she was divorced, so she was trying to look younger. The first time I saw her I was with my grandmother and my step-grandfather, Alfred, or whatever you’re supposed to call someone when your grandmother remarries. Alfred called her ‘old money,’ though I didn’t have one clue what that meant at the time. What’s funny, is that not too long before that, I’d heard people use those same words about Grandmother at the Village Grocery.

“I think they were hinting that’s why Alfred came a courting not too long after my real grandfather passed away a few years before.”

I sat back in the chair, taking a long sip of the hot chocolate. It was really good. But my thoughts fell back upon Hazel and Alfred. Where was Tinker Bell when you really needed her?

But, then again, there I sat holding my rolled sheepskin, declaring me to be a healer. A doctor.

Well, at least on my way.

Maybe that pixie dust worked after all.

“Anyway, by then I realized they’d all been staring at me for a bit, and I was lost in thought. And the other woman, I never did get her name, not that it matters, was glaring at me. You know that old saying – ‘if looks could kill…’”

“Boy, do I ever. I’ve had that stare a few times myself. Guess, now that I’ve said that, I’ve been both the giver and receiver.” She laughed at the last part, her eyes twinkling. I decided right then and there, I liked that laugh. And Millie as well.

“I gave them a smile, but Mr. Kimble was used to the kids coming in and sort of rolled his head toward the candy racks. I knew I’d wore out my welcome, not that I had any in the first place, so I beat feet that way. As soon as I rounded the corner Mr. Kimble started talking again. He was telling them about some lotion to help with their ‘itching’ issues, yet was gentle on those ‘delicate’ areas.”

Millie nearly spat out her chocolate, as she burst into another round of laughter. “Oh, my, no wonder they were red-faced!”

“Yeah, I laughed later at the thought, but much later. They must have known I had heard as rather than say anything about the lotion, the other lady, Miss Laser Eyes, started talking about me. She said something like, ‘Say, wasn’t that’s the little girl everyone’s been talking about who lost her parents just before Thanksgiving? Can you imagine? A time to give thanks, and her parents are killed! And then the poor thing got stuck living with Alfred and Hazel.’

“Mrs. Vanderhilt was quick to reply, and with a sharp knife. ‘You mean Witch Hazel, don’t you?’ She barely got out the words out before they both broke into a cackle. They sounded just like the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.”

Millie put a hand to her mouth. I could see she was searching for words, but they were nowhere to be found.

So I continued. “I think what made the wound deeper was that the moniker they’d given my grandmother probably couldn’t have rung any truer. I think I stood there in shock a couple of minutes – who knows how long – and then, despite three quarters burning a hole in my pocket, I was running toward the exit. Crying like a baby. But just as I got to the door, it suddenly opened, with that little bell tinkling louder than ever before.

“Or it sure seemed so at the time.” I took another sip of my chocolate and snuck a peek at my watch. For some reason it felt as though hours had slipped by as I relived those memories with Millie. Yet hardly any time had passed at all.

Millie set her hand on mine. “You doing okay? And I don’t just mean the time.”

“Yeah, thanks. And I’m still good with time, if you want me to go on.”

“Are you kidding? I’m all ears!”

“Okay, but be careful what you ask for,” I said with a smile and a wink. “Let’s see…where was I? Oh, yeah, the bell. The tinkling bell. You know, that bell just grabbed me, pulled me to a stop. It was almost like I’d been lassoed from behind. Then this man stepped through, and his eyes landed straight on mine. He was tall and had this rounded body and a nice rounded face, and he was wearing what looked to be brand new overalls – you know, the jeans type – with a buttoned shirt underneath that was the same color as rust. He had this great white cowboyish hat, the sort that a rancher might wear, but with the brim flattened down. And he was chewing on a long straw of hay, which he held pinched between the fingers of his left hand. I think what caught my eye the most was his red handkerchief. It hung from his back pocket behind him like it was the caboose on this funny little train before me. But more than anything, I saw that smile. Like Rosa’s, it was a great big smile, and once again, like hers, I knew it was meant for me.

“’Well, howdy there, young lady,’ he said. ‘And how are you on this fine day?’ I remember he had to lean down as he spoke; I was pretty short. And only nine. And he gave his head this odd little tilt. His voice had that sort or Midwestern drawl, which I knew from hearing so much of it back home. In fact, I almost expected to see a big green John Deere tractor parked out front. ‘My goodness, Missy, looks like those eyes have sprung a leak. Had that happen out on the well on the back forty once or twice, only one way to fix that right up.’

“And with that, he pulled out his handkerchief and dabbed my cheeks.

“’McDonald’s the name. I know I might look a little old, but I’ve got myself a nice little farm,’ he continued. ‘Cows that go moo, ducks that go quack, and pigs that, well, you know, go oink. What might your name be?’

“I’m sure it took me way too long to say anything, but I finally squeaked out, ‘Krissy.’ But what was really strange was that the burning yuck in my tummy along with that raging river of tears just disappeared. I was trying to figure out if it was him, or the bell, when he handed me the handkerchief, saying, ’Really nice to meet you, Krissy. Why don’t you keep this in case those eyes get leaky again, okay?’

“I think I said, okay, but who knows now.” I smiled and took the last sip from my mug. Millie was on top of it, filling it back to the brim, and pulling out a chocolate-chip cookie – homemade, no less – from her drawer. It was Christmas, how could I resist?

“A down payment for this story you’re telling. Keep going, I’m in deep now.”

Mmmmm,” I said, taking a bite. “You want to know something funny? I turned to follow him down the aisle, but he started whistling and I just stopped. It was Old MacDonald Had a Farm. My dad and I used to sing that together before bed sometimes, my mom popping into the room just as the cow went moo…

“We weren’t really all that tight, I guess, now that I think about it, but that was one of those few special moments. I asked Charlie years later how he knew, but he only winked at me.

“Anyway – jeesh, how many times have I said that?” I shook my head and we laughed together, while I gathered my memories. “I think I heard that bell tinkling in my head all the way back to the house. Or maybe in my heart, as to this day I love walking through the front door of a store that has one of those little bells. Just brings a smile to my face.

“Another thing that still brings a smile is the wonderful aroma of pinto beans boiling next to a grill filled with chicken. That was the smell that greeted me that day when I got back and walked through the kitchen door. Rosa was working her magic.

“But the real added bonus was that it meant the grandparents were gone. Again.”

“I take it they didn’t say home much.” Millie gave her head a little tilt. I think she already knew the answer to that question, if it even was one.

“Hardly at all. But that was okay by me. I had Rosa. I think she got a kick out of my ‘attitude’ back then. I think I asked her something like, ‘Where’d they go this time?’ A sort of snotty emphasis on ‘this,’ but she only laughed and started doing this thing like she was putting on suntan lotion. ‘They go to France I think,’ she said, really working the tan thing. ‘You know, Mr. Alfred, he be reeeeal important.’ I think we both laughed the whole time she was finishing up the beans and chicken and tortillas.”

“Now you’re making my mouth water…”

“Oh my, she could really cook. Still can. I always stop by to see her whenever I go back.”

“Can’t blame you there.”

“What was funny is that she and I would always eat on the counter, a sort of blow to the empire, as the grandparents didn’t allow her to eat with us. They always wanted to ‘dine’ in the formal dining room. So, I let them, and just went in the kitchen with Rosa. I think that sort of worked for everybody.

“You know, until I met her, I’d never seen a Mexican woman before. In fact, until Alfred called her a ‘Mexican,’ not to mention a few other things I dare not repeat, I hadn’t a clue. Back home everyone pretty much looked the same. But here in California there was a whole lot of different. A good different.

“And I really, even then, liked that.”

“Is she still with them?” Millie set her elbows on the desk and leaned in closer.

“Nope. My grandmother passed a few years ago, and Rosa wasn’t going to stay working for him, after all, in his eyes, she was just a ‘Mexican’.”

We both tipped our heads back, laughing. But there was a sad tone somewhere underneath as we both realized that even though it was 1999, almost the turn of the century, there were still many people like that. Too many.

“Oh my, you know at the time I just fell in love with her accent and smile. My god, that was a big smile. It took up the whole kitchen, and it was a really big kitchen, let me tell you.” Taking another bite of the cookie I looked over at Millie, who was totally focused on me. I realize that my eyes were a bit misty thinking back like this, and despite my rambling on and on, I hadn’t got to the how and why I was here of my story yet. “She taught me how to roll that tortilla with the rice and beans and cheese, and as I was doing it, to her satisfaction, I asked her about the man who was a farmer, but not really. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘that’s Mr. Summers.’”

“Wait…Charlie. Charlie Summers?”

“Yup, the one and only. I’d never heard of him at the time. Rosa told me he was a comedian and a big TV star, but the only TV I got to watch was the Saturday morning cartoons, so I hadn’t a clue. She went on and on about what a nice guy he was, but by then, I already knew that.

“So, starting the next day, I made it my routine to head back into the village each and with the high hope of ‘accidentally’ bumping into him again. But, of course, that first day was a Sunday, and other than the Chevron and the Village Grocery store, little Montebello Village was a ghost town. Rosa must have known that wasn’t going to deter me, so she had a little bag with homemade tamales to take along for my lunch. And, fortunately, I’d been assigned to read a book over the Christmas break, so I would bring that along. Old Yeller.”

“That’s the one about the dog that…”

“Yup, that one. But I didn’t know it then. So, with nowhere to really go once I got into the village, I found this really great old wooden bench under a tall, thick oak tree right at the end of the plaza. I sat there and just read and read. Monday came and went, followed by Tuesday, and then, on Wednesday, just as I was checking my Minnie Mouse watch to see if it was time to head back to the house—“

“Oh, I remember always wanting one of those when I was a kid. They were the best. Pink, right.”

“Of course! Anyway, I heard this laughing coming from the Bank of America just across the parking lot. I looked up and there he was, waving at the folks through the open door. That’s where the laughing was coming from…inside the bank. I threw my book in my pack and jumped up, but couldn’t make my legs move. I think I hesitated because I knew that he was a big TV star, and sort of figured the last thing he needed was another wannabee fan pestering him. And, besides, he hardly knew me.

“Yet, even with that solid logic that seemed to make all the sense in the world, suddenly my feet were flying under me as I zigzagged through the cars racing to try and catch him. After all, I was nine. Logic had no effect on my superior reasoning.” I smiled and took another bite of the cookie, chewing it slowly.

“By then he’d let the door close and was heading toward a little alley on the side of the bank and I thought for sure I was too late. But just as he got to the corner he stopped and spun around, letting his gaze meet mine, almost as if he knew I was coming. And just like that first time, I came to a sudden stop. He froze me right to the spot.

“Standing there, I was able to really take him in. He was dressed in bright whites, head to toe, and wore a little white baseball cap. In his left hand, the one that was pinching the straw last time, he carried a shiny metal basket that held several empty glass milk bottles. The name tag on his shirt said “Milt the Milkman,” and just the sight of it made me smile. He stood there for only for moment or two, then, with a wink and a tip of his hat, he disappeared into the alley, as if he’d been nothing but a wisp of smoke.”

“Wow. Your nine-year-old self must have been over the moon.”

“Yeah, I was. And that smile stayed with me all the way back to the house. Rosa kept teasing me about it. The next morning, as she was giving me my tamales—“

“You know you’re making me hungry, right? I’m going to be eating Mexican food for a week now.”

We laughed at that, clinked our mugs in a toast, and finished off the last of our cookies.

“Go on, go on…you can’t leave me hanging.”

“Mma…okay,” I said, my mouth full of cookie. “So, Thursday Rosa gave me a few dollars and asked me to buy some butter at the Village Grocery. Christmas was just two days away, and she wanted to make sure everything was just right. I knew that meant the grandparents would be back, at least for the day. I remember thinking they’d probably give me socks or something for Christmas. Maybe a little snow globe they found in the gift shop over in France.”

“Oh, you’re terrible,” Millie laughed, more than said. “What about Santa?”

“Oh, I figured I was nowhere to be found on his list with all that had happened that year.”

Millie put a hand on mine. “You poor kid. I feel so bad. But tell me it gets better. It must, you’re here, right?”

“I am, indeed. When I walked into the store, everyone was just standing there laughing. The checkers, the box boys, and even the customers. Just laughing their heads off. I was so confused and it must have shown, as I felt someone come up beside me. Actually, her ‘fragrance’ arrived before she did. Her name was Ms. Grace – she was my favorite checker – and she was a self-proclaimed ‘hippie’ chick that always wore Patchouli oil. I didn’t know what it was called at the time, just how it smelled. I never really figured out if I liked it or not. But I did like the handmade beads and a tie-dyed t-shirt she’d wear under her apron. She tapped me on the shoulder and said I’d missed Billy the Kid. He’d come in for some chocolate milk. ‘Billy the Kid?’ I said, sort of incredulously. But as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew Ms. Grace wasn’t talking about the outlaw, but rather Mr. Summers.”

“Another near miss, eh?”

“Boy was I ever bummed. She said he came in wearing Bermuda shorts, a beanie cap, red Converse high tops, and he was licking a giant lollipop the whole time he was there. I remember she gave her head a shake and said, ‘Just too cool.’ With that, I figured my chances of seeing him that day were nil, so I picked out Rosa’s butter, and dragged my feet all the way back to the house.”

“You know, the whole time you’ve been telling me this, I’ve never heard you once call your grandparents’ house a home.”

“Good catch. Other than Rosa, there was never anything about that house that made me feel at home. So, I always just called it a house.”

“What happened next? I mean it sounds like it was getting close to Christmas.”

“Well, Friday came and as I headed out the door, Rosa gave me my tamales and a quick peck of a kiss on the forehead. Because I had been so focused on Mr. Summers, I hadn’t really noticed it before, but right then, it came to me that she’d been giving me that little kiss it all week.

“And, you know, I really liked it.

“I think that sort of had me off in dreamland as I made my way back to the village. But when I got to my bench – I had decided it was mine by then – something felt different. Off. Yeah, it was Christmas Eve and all, but I could feel a change in the air. Which was really confusing for a nine-year-old, let me tell you. I tried shrugging it off, yet it wouldn’t go away. So, I pulled out the book – I was almost finished by then – and plopped down. As I flipped it open and started to read, I realized that the tone of the book hadn’t been right since I put it down the last time, and that odd edge, that uncomfortable leaning, was starting to upset me. I had a bad feeling I probably knew where things were headed and started thinking maybe, with all the things that had happened, with this terrible fate I had been handed, maybe this wasn’t the right book to be reading right then.”

“Pretty astute for a nine-year-old.”

“Maybe, but just as those thoughts were swirling around in my head, it happened. In the book, of course. Old Yeller died. It was more than I could take. It was like all the terrible things that had been happening had been nothing more than building blocks, bringing me to that very moment. The dog died! I just couldn’t take it. I threw the book to the grass and the whole world seemed to crash down upon me. It was like I had been bowled over by an avalanche of darkness. I cried and cried and cried. I’m sure I was wailing. Lord knows what anyone was thinking if they were walking by. But I just couldn’t stop.

“Then, a hand – strong, yet kind – rested on my shoulder. It turned me ever so slowly until my head found a caring shoulder. Heartfelt words came, but while I really couldn’t hear them, I think I felt them, along with soft, gentle pats on my back.

“I don’t know how long I cried, but in one way it seemed too long, yet, at the same time, not long enough. When I finally pulled back to see who had come to rescue me, my tears turned into a smile.

“’Hello, Mr. Pirate,’ I said.

“Mr. Summers sat next to me wearing an eye patch, a three-point hat, and even had a stuffed parrot on his shoulder. He smiled and said, ‘Ahoy, Matey.’ But then he put a hand under my chin. ‘You know, let’s not be pirates today, okay? Today I’m just your good friend, Charlie Summers.’

“’Okay,’ I squeaked out.

“Then he asked me why I was crying. On Christmas Eve, no less. So, I pointed at the book laying on the grass. ‘Old Yeller died.’

“His head sort of jerked back, as if it were a surprise. Then he stood up. ‘Died! Well, then, a faithful pooch such as he deserves a proper burial. Stay here, my dear, I’ll be right back.’

“And with that he spun around and made his way to the Coastal Hardware store, just across the grass. As quickly as he disappeared, he was back, holding a shovel and a bag. He walked straight to a nearby tree, gave the ground a good look, and finally pointed at a spot near the walkway, saying, ‘Here will do.’

“I didn’t have a clue what he meant by that until he actually began to dig. He dug down a maybe couple of feet, then dumped out his bag on the sidewalk. There, before me in a nice little pile, was a couple of pieces of wood, a hammer, some nails, some paint, and a tiny brush. He grabbed the two pieces of wood, and using the hammer, nailed them together in a sort of makeshift cross. Then he opened the can of paint – it was yellow – and dipped in the brush. On the horizontal piece of his cross he painted, ‘Old Yeller. R.I.P.’

“His marker complete, he pounded in the cross with the spade end of the shovel. But the biggest surprise came next as he snatched up the book, tossed it in his hole, and covered it over with dirt.”

I realized at that moment that Millie had gone quiet. When I looked over, her eyes were a little red and she was dabbing them with a tissue.

“That is just so sweet. I can’t believe he did that for you.”

“At the time all I worried about was that it was a school book and I was going to be in deep trouble. But he said he’d take care of it for me. He said that right then we needed to take care of Old Yeller.

“Then he tamped it down with his pirate boot and reached out his hand. I took it and he led me over to the little gravesite. He said some real sweet, heartfelt words about Old Yeller, what a faithful pup he had been, then bowed his head in silence for a moment. I didn’t quite know what to do, so I mimicked his bow and stayed quiet. Then, we spun together, my hand still in his, and he led me over to the drugstore. Chocolate shakes were calling, he said.

“And that has been our tradition every Christmas Eve since. We stop by to pay our respects to Old Yeller, and then catch up over a chocolate milkshake. A few years ago, when I had just started here at Stanford, he met me at the Santa Teresa airport – it’s a tiny thing and people get to come right up to the little wall to meet folks getting off the plane – when I came home for Christmas. Each year when I flew home, he be there waiting, always dressed as a different character. That year he was Carl the Cop, funny hat atop his head, bobby stick in hand. Everyone, including me, loved it. But he was oddly melancholy that day, and as we made our way to the baggage claim, he stopped and asked me: of all his characters, who was my favorite?”

“Oh, my…who was it? Did you have to think about it?” Millie’s eyes popped wide, and she leaned even closer across her desk.

“Nah, that was an easy one. My favorite character, ever since that day with Old Yeller, has been, and always will be, Charlie Summers.”

Millie had to look away. But I could see she was crying. Good tears.

Standing, I leaned over and pulled her into a hug. “Thanks so much for letting me share my story with you. I really enjoyed it, and probably needed it. But now, if you don’t mind, I have to catch a plane. I’m off to have a Christmas chocolate milkshake with an old friend.”

 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Dedicated to the memory of the great comedian, Jonathan Winters (November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013)
And a special tribute to author Sue Grafton, (April 24, 1940 – December 28, 2017), as I’ve borrowed a few of her wonderful fictional names for the Santa Barbara area.

Jim Bartlett

Jim Bartlett

After a long career of tinkering in telecommunications, Jim Bartlett switched to tinkering with words, both, of course, requiring a stretch of the imagination. He has since been fortunate to have a number of stories, ranging from flash to novella, featured in Fiction on the Web, CrimeSpree Magazine, Short-Story.me, Ontologica, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Fairlight Books and a number of other wonderful publications. Most recently one of his stories was featured in the print anthology, The Best of Fiction on the Web, 1996 – 2017. While mentally he strolls along a warm California beach with his wife and golden retriever (shhh, she doesn’t know she’s a dog), physically they reside on a special little island in the Pacific Northwest.
Jim Bartlett

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This publication is part 63 of 70 in the series 12 Days of Christmas