Remy hangs his slacks up on his one hanger with the two clips he stole from his employer Macy’s, so the pants dangle ready for tomorrow’s round six in seven days of the holiday shift. Tomorrow’s the big day—the last grab for whatever people can get. He knows he has to press his pants in the A.M. though hanging them out like this—long hang—lets the wrinkles out some. Six days of wrinkles though, might be tough and in the A.M. He’ll likely have to ask Selma next door for her iron (again) so he can steam them on his bed before going back into the store.
He stands in his Levi’s—just changed—and his crew V-neck shirt, hair pasted back when his nine-year old son Paul comes in and says, “Dad can we go, please, Dad, can we? Tonight’s the last night to get one.”
“Yes, we can go. Are you ready?”
Paul’s been ready all night.
“Okay. Let’s go.”
The lights at Sullivan’s lot are on, but the place is empty and the candy-striped awnings are down. Remy’s not sure if this is from the recent terrestrial hurricane that knocked out power and ripped up trees in various parts of South Pasadena. Either way, the place looks ransacked. Not a good sign.
“They’re out,” Paul says. “God damn it. They’re out.”
“Son. The language.” Remy pushes Paul’s shoulder so the boy moves in his seat.
Remy parks and they get out and not even a clerk or the crew is in view. There’s no one cutting of flocking or nailing a tree to a cross.
“Motherfucker,” Paul says.
“God damn it, Paul. What did I just tell you? Now stand still.”
And it occurs to Remy he stands still all day long. He’s been standing still for a month in those slacks, his first job in over a year. Why, he doesn’t know, other than he was told by his attorney Mr. Minshue—and others like his manager Delilah, and Paul’s resource teacher Miss Gloria who he would like to ask out one day but is probably too young or taken—that he has to stand still to get the things he really wants in life. This didn’t work with his ex-wife and Paul’s mother, Margaret.
Young Paul cries. He falls to the pavement and cries so hard it fogs up his glasses and makes Remy want to cry. Remy debates scrapping up all the needles on the ground and slapping them on a wooden post and taking it home and putting the puffy white felt skirt on it just to make Paul stop crying.
A plump man in a black beanie comes around the corner of the last bit of candy-striped awning still up.
“You Sullivan?” Remy asks.
“No, just the name of the outfit. Real Sullivan’s been dead for years.”
“Nothing left, huh?” Remy says.
Sullivan’s proxy shows the empty lot with a flourish of his chubby hand covered in a glove with the fingertips cut off. “You see this?”
Remy flourishes his hand to his son. “You see this?”
Sullivan’s proxy shrugs.
“You better get me something,” Remy says. “Anything.”
Sullivan’s proxy says, “Pretty much all we have is this here wreath.” He points to the center beam with a lone light bulb on it. And that sleigh with the Santa.” He points back to the Sullivan’s sign and a plastic glowing fat elf and reindeer leaping up into the sky. It was probably bought by Sullivan when he first got into the business it’s so worn and tired. The reindeer is the red-nosed one and its hooves have faded from black to white so instead of strong reindeer hooves he’s got little cotton socks on.
“I’ll take ‘em.” Remy lifts Paul up off the ground. The boy’s fists are full of needles and the steam on his glasses disappears from the bottom end, exposing his blessed brown eyes.
“Yes, we’ll take ‘em,” Paul says. And it sounds like he’s about to say an expletive, but holds his tongue. He looks at this Dad for reassurance and Remy pats the boy on his head. It’s going to be fine. It’s going to be just fine.