Mary Kate’s Christmas – part 10

Mary Kate’s Christmas © part 10
By: Wayne Engle

Mary Kate stared at Michael, unable to speak for a moment, tears standing in her eyes but not quite falling. Finally she said, “We’ll come. And thank your mother kindly for me.”

“It’s mostly on account of the lad, you know,” answered Black Mike. He didn’t sound for a second as if he meant it. Mary Kate gave him a smile that lit up the winter night, then reached up and kissed his cheek. She could see him blush again in the light of the street lamp.

Then she took a step back, squared her stance and looked him directly in the eye. “Now go along home with ya, Michael J. Kelker, for it’s late and your ma’ll be worryin’.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mary Kate,” answered Black Mike. Then as he walked away she heard him clear his throat and say over his shoulder, trying to sound gruff again, “And see to it that you’re on time tomorrow, Mrs. Skeffington! You was a minute late this morning!”

“Then it’s a minute early I’ll be tomorrow, Mr. Kelker!” she answered gaily.

As Mary Kate reached for the front door knob, she paused, cocked her head to one side and listened — then smiled. For as Black Mike rounded the corner out of sight, he was whistling “The Wearin’ o’ the Green.”

“You didn’t fool me for a minute, Michael Kelker,” she thought. “I knew I’d find the good man underneath all that anger and bluster, if I just looked hard enough.”

Black Mike was whistling a Christmas carol by the time he neared the big old house he shared with his mother. He even danced a few steps of an Irish jig as he used to do when he was young and full of high hopes for his life.

Who should see him jigging but Clancy the cop, well bundled against the night’s cold and snow, and swinging his billy club back and forth as he made his midnight rounds.

“Well, Michael J., is it at the saloon that you’ve stopped this evenin’?” asked Clancy, sniffing Black Mike’s breath suspiciously.

“I’ve never been more sober in me life,” answered the jigster. He grinned broadly at Clancy, and the officer was more than ever convinced that Black Mike had “a few drinks taken.”

“But you — you’re acting so, ah, strange-like, for yourself, that is. If you’ve not had a drop or two, why are ya behavin’ this way — whistlin’ and dancin’ like a young lad on the Ould Sod?”

Black Mike laughed aloud, and gave Clancy a hearty slap on the back. “Clancy, me man, you’d never believe me if I told you!” he bellowed, and laughed again. Black Mike walked up to the door of his house, grasped the knob, then turned and said, “Oh, by the way, Clancy, tell your good wife and the wee ones that I wish them all a Merry Christmas! And you too, of course.”

He entered the house, resuming his rendition of “Deck the Halls,” and closed the door.

Clancy stood and stared. He thought, “Black Mike Kelker, whistlin’ and dancin’, and wishin’ me a Merry Christmas? Maybe it’s MESELF that’s drunk!”

Mrs. McGillicuddy greeted Mary Kate with, “Saints be praised! You’re so late I was sure you was lyin’ murdered out there on the street!”

“I’m fine, Mrs. Mac. Someone was watchin’ over me tonight,” said Mary Kate, giving her a hug. She went over to the couch where Little Paddy was sleeping, and shook him gently. “Your ma’s home, darlin’. It’s time to go back to our place and to bed.” The child awoke, stretched and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He looked around the old lady’s apartment curiously as if seeing it for the first time. Then fixed his eyes on his mother for a moment.

Finally he said, without any preamble, “Can I see it, Ma?”

“See what, sonny?” she asked, tousling his blond hair lovingly.

“The money you got from Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus!”

Had he dreamed it? Seen a vision? Little Paddy, who loved to tease, never would tell his mother how he knew. She decided, wisely, that this was just another in a night full of Christmas wonders — not to be understood or explained, but just to be thankful for.

The old couple? They were never seen in Dinty Callahan’s, or around South Boston, before that night. And they haven’t been seen there since. Odd, isn’t it, how some paths cross only once?

And as to Mary Kate and Black Mike — are you curious as to where their futures lay? Ah, good readers, that’a another story. Maybe I’ll tell it to you — some day.

And for now, a Merry Christmas to you all!

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