A City Christmas
Kevin R. Hill
It was the day before Christmas, and I was stuck with an eight-hour shift at Home Depot, or Home Cheapo, as the laborers in the parking lot call it.
My Little Hitler boss, a bean pole of a lesbian, with tatts across her neck, met me and assigned an aisle for me to straighten. I mean, I wasn’t even on the floor yet, and she found me in the break room. She must have been waiting for me.
I just nodded as she dished out my chores.
That’s what a job is, right? They pay us to pretend we care about the work.
I was on my knees in the tool corral, surrounded by power tools, wondering if the tweeker up the aisle, who I had my eye on, was going to run out with a Milwaukee combo kit, and add some excitement to my day.
Then a man spoke behind me. “Excuse me, sir, can I barrow a hammer and some nails?”
I laughed and climbed to my feet. “I’m sorry, buddy, but we don’t—
It was his smile that silenced me. He stood about six-foot-four, with wide shoulders and jailhouse tatts on his hands.
“The guys in the Christmas tree lot gave us these pieces of wood to make a stand for our tree.” He held up two pieces of wood.
I’ll tell you, I wait on a lot of people during a shift. But this guy stopped me in my tracks. His eyes had the look of a soldier after a horrible battle. He had nothing left, but was asking, so softly, for help.
Beside him stood a Somoan woman and three boys. One of the boys carried a three foot tall tree that was shedding needles. The branches on one side were bare, but that boy held it like it was a life-raft.
Something touched me. I don’t care what you say. As I looked at that family, I knew that tree was what made them gather. It was something they shared. It wasn’t something to be controlled with Home Depot’s rules.
I took the wood strips. “That’s a nice tree. Let’s lay it down and see about making a stand for it.”
The boy looked at his father. “In the aisle?”
The father smiled and nodded.
Several customers stood waiting for help, but I rushed away and grabbed a framing hammer off the shelf, along with a box of nails. Home Depot could afford it.
Most of the kids I see with family are busy laughing and playing and running around the aisles. But these three boys stood silently and watched as I crossed the planks into an X, and hammered.
When I finished, the smallest boy, about five years old, picked up the tree and let it stand. A smile came to his lips as he touched the tree.
“We want to thank you, Sir,” said the man.
I raised my hand, but the man caught my forearm in a vise-like grip. “Thank you,” he whispered.
The boys walked away with the tree. Behind them walked the man and woman. They stopped before leaving the tool corral, and the woman hugged him and buried her head in his chest.