The Christmas Vacation

The Christmas Vacation

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It was getting late so I decided to head off home. Picking up my bag,
I said my goodbyes to my friends, thanked the bride & groom for
putting on such a wonderful wedding reception & exited the church
hall. I thought I’d try to travel to Trenton station in a taxi,
despite the time. Some taxi drivers will do anything to make a few
dollars even if it means staying up until 3am. I wasn’t under the
influence too much but I didn’t have my car with me. After waiting for
nearly 15 minutes I finally managed to flag down a taxi. After
breaking a nail (despite the protection my gloves provided) exiting
the taxi, I walked down the steps into Trenton station. Because of the
time, the station appeared to be unmanned. I glanced round and noticed
the train timetable conveniently positioned on the wall behind me. It
said that the next train from Trenton was due in 6 minutes & that it
stopped at Newark.

The train arrived 4 minutes later than advertised, but I suppose that
was a good thing as it allowed me to have a cigarette. I do hate when
you’re in the middle of smoking a cigarette and the train arrives
early, meaning you have to extinguish it.

I am very wary of getting on trains at night, but as I looked round
the train, noticed a boy sat on his own. He looked to be about 18
years old and well dressed. The car was very much empty except for a
woman at the back who looked like she had been drinking. I sat down
next to the boy for a sense of security. He wasn’t all that well
built, but he was very tall. I put my bag in the aisle so it wasn’t in
the way of him. The bag contained the bride & groom’s wedding present.
But after I realised that they had already received a food processor
from Mr & Mrs Jackson, (their neighbours) I insisted that I’d take it
back to Macy’s and exchange it for a set of crystal champagne glasses

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that I had seen while I was there.

The boy had a large suitcase upon the bag rack on which I immediately
noticed the Pencey Prep sticker. My son Ernest attended Pencey. I was
extremely fond of the school and was quite interested about what he
had to say. “Excuse me,” I said, “but isn’t that a Pencey Prep
sticker?” He turned to face me and replied, “Yes it is.” I asked him
if he went to Pencey and he nodded politely and responded, “yes I do.”
“Oh how lovely!” I answered,

“perhaps you know my son. Ernest Morrow? He goes to Pencey.” After he
told me that Ernest was in his class, I got quite excited. I hadn’t
spoken to Ernest in over a week and I was quite excited to hear about
how he was going on.

“May I ask your name dear?” I asked. I really dislike talking to
people when I don’t know their name. “Rudolf Schmidt,” he replied
hesitantly. I had never heard of anyone called Rudolf before, apart
from the reindeer that attacked my husband at our visit to Santa’s
village in Texas in 1942. After Rudolf informed me that he liked
Pencey, I told him the Ernest just adores it. “I know he does,” he
replied, “He adapts himself very well to things.” I was astonished.
Ernest never told me any of this on the phone or when he visits during
the holidays. I took off my gloves. He looked at my rings in
amazement. I was very fond of jewellery and had a vast collection. I
never get anything other than necklaces, bracelets, earrings & rings
for my birthday or at Christmas.

My fingernail was really painful after breaking it and the pain
returned when I removed my gloves. I smiled at him,” I just broke a
nail whilst getting out of a cab.”

“Ernest’s father and I sometimes worry about him.” I said,” we
sometimes feel that he’s not a very good mixer. He’s a very sensitive
boy. He’s really never been a terribly good mixer with other boys.
Perhaps he takes things a little more seriously than he should at his
age.” He looked at me rather shocked. “Would you like a cigarette,” he
offered. I wasn’t quite sure whether to or not. This wasn’t a smoking
car & there were more no smoking signs on the windows than there were
empty seats. “I don’t believe this is a smoker Rudolf,” I replied
politely. “That’s alright. We can smoke until they start screaming at
us.” He answered. I was rather astonished at his attitude, but I took
one anyway. As he lit my cigarette, I could feel the smoke drift
gently down my neck.

It felt rather good smoking with another person. My husband doesn’t
smoke & heaven forbid if I ever caught Ernest smoking. I have tried
numerous times to quit, but I can never seem to keep it up. I have no
will power what so ever. To tell the truth, I am a rather big
perfectionist. I like things to be perfect. My family often complains
that I worry too much about things being perfect. If my husband has a
button on his blazer that isn’t quite secure, I cannot stop myself
from sewing it on properly, regardless of how late he is. I don’t
work, so I spend my day shopping and cleaning the house. My husband
invests in Real Estate and provides more than enough to keep us on our
feet.

I looked back at Rudolf and noticed that there was blood coming from
his nose. “I may be wrong, but I believe your nose is bleeding dear.”
After taking out a handkerchief, he told me that he had been hit with
a snowball. “Old Ernie,” he said, “he’s one of the most popular boys
at Pencey. Did you know that?” I gazed at him with amazement. “No I
didn’t,” I replied. He nodded & continued to tell me about Ernest’s
qualities. He told me that he was funny. I found that rather hard to
believe. At home, Ernest was one of the most serious boys I’d ever
known. I was glued to my seat. I wanted to hear more. Rudolf was
describing a side of my son that I had never known. “Did he tell you
about the elections?” He said enthusiastically.

I shook my head. I was astounded when Rudolf told me that Ernie stood
down because of his modesty.

Just at that moment, the conductor came to inspect my ticket. Just out
of the blue, Rudolf offered to take me for a cocktail. I didn’t know
how to respond. ”Dear are you allowed to order drinks?” I asked him.
“Well no, not exactly, but I can usually get them on account of my
height,” he responded. I was fascinated when he showed me the patch of
grey hair on his head. If Rudolf was in my Ernest’s class at Pencey,
then he must have only been around 16 years of age. I declined
politely and told him that the club car would most likely be closed.
To tell you the truth, I really would feel awkward if I’d had a drink
with one of Ernest’s best friends.

I placed my hand on the side of the seat & pushed myself up to prevent
me slipping off. The train was travelling rather fast. As I lifted my
hand back up again, I felt a letter in my pocket. It was the letter
that Ernest had wrote to me to tell me that the Christmas vacation
started on Wednesday & that he’d be home Wednesday night. I was quite
intrigued to why Rudolf was coming home on the Monday. “Ernest wrote
that he’d be home on Wednesday,” I said, “I hope you weren’t called
home because of illness in the family.” I was quite worried at this
point. “No everybody’s fine at home,” he replied,” It’s me, I have to
have this operation.” I was absolutely shocked; I didn’t know how to
respond. “Oh! I’m so sorry.” I felt unbelievable sympathy for him.

He looked as if he wanted to change the subject & started reading the
train timetable that was in his pocket. I took my copy of Vogue
magazine that I had bought earlier and started to read where I left
off. About 5 minutes later, the driver announced that the next station
would be Newark.

“Good luck with your operation Rudolf,” I said, “thank you Mrs Morrow,
“he replied. I left the train in a very good mood. I have learnt
things about Ernest that he had never told me. I was also very excited
because Ernest had said that he would phone that night. I was very
interested in what he had to say.

Before I could walk up the steps and out of Newark Station, a man
grabbed at my bag. It was firmly wrapped around my hand; therefore he
was struggling to take it off me. In desperation, I screamed for help.
But like at Trenton, the station appeared to be unmanned. There was
no-one in sight. It looked as if the man new this, and despite my
screaming, he continued to tug at my bag. Panicking, the man hit me
across the face. He had knocked me unconscious. I remembered nothing
after this, apart from waking up to the sound of a woman.

“She’s awake!” Exclaimed the woman. “Its ok mam, an ambulance is on
its way. You’ve taken a nasty fall, but it’s going to be alright,
we’re here now.” The ambulance arrived almost a minute after, and all
I can remember is the sound of the paramedic’s voice telling me that
everything was going to be alright. I fell asleep in the ambulance on
that cold Tuesday morning unaware of what had happened to me and
unable to tell anyone my name.
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