The Lesson

Frank couldn’t believe his eyes on Monday morning.  He trudged out to the nativity with snow up to his kneecaps and streams of breath puffing from his mouth and stood there in disbelief.  Someone had ransacked the nativity!  Everything was in disarray. 

Mary lay upon the manger as if she had been trying to protect her precious babe.  Joseph was leaning against the stable wall, as if he had been too drunk to stand and too sober to fall.  The three wise men had been knocked over like bowling pins and the carefully arranged animals were scattered about as if they were trying to escape the carnage.  Frank started to right Mary when he spotted something in the manger.

The righting of Mary was forgotten as Frank bent over to have a better look.  He let out a gasp of shock when he realized what exactly was draped on the babe.  “Dear God, a Red Sox blanket!” Frank whispered in horror.  Snatching the blanket off the babe, Frank hurried over to the one place he knew could help him.    

“What the hell, Frank!” Abe snapped when Frank burst through the police station doors.  “You scared the crap out of me.”

“Sorry, Abe,” Frank said as he rushed to the counter.  “But a crime has been committed.”

That announcement got just the reaction Frank was hoping for.  Abe dropped his book of word jumbles, ripped open his desk drawer and pulled out a gun.

“What the hell . . .er . . . I mean, what the heck are you doing, Abe?”

“You said a crime has been committed,” Abe replied in a reasonable voice.  He didn’t spare a glance in Frank’s direction.  He was too busying snapping a clip of bullets into his gun.   “As far as I know, there’s never been a crime committed that a gun hasn’t been needed.”

Ben, the police chief, hearing the commotion in the lobby, walked out of his office.  He took one look at Abe with the gun in his hand and let out a sigh.  “What’s going on?”

“A crime has been committed!” Abe informed him.

“That’s right!” Frank said swinging his attention to Ben.  “Someone came during the dead of night and covered baby Jesus in this!” Frank slapped the offending blanket on the counter.

Both Abe and Ben stared at the fluffy fleece blanket.  Abe was the first to break the silence.  “Good God, who hates Jesus!”

“Oh, for goodness sake, it’s just a blanket,” Ben said, exasperated.

“A blanket?  That’s not a blanket!” Abe snapped pointing to the offensive blanket.  “That’s a hate crime!  We need to find the felon and arrest him!”

“Now just calm down,” Ben said.  “It’s not a hate crime and it’s certainly not worthy of an arrest.  It’s just a blanket and nothing more.  Toss it out and be done with it.”

“Be done with it?” Abe cried out in disbelief.  “That’s a Red Sox’s blanket!  How can we be done with it?  Someone not only desecrated out Lord but has insulted the town to boot.  I don’t know about you, but I think we need to do something about this outrage!”

Ben let out a resigned sigh.  “And just what exactly should we to do?”

Abe had a ready answer.  “I say we create a stakeout, nab the perp, haul him into Judge Wingold’s chambers then send him to the fryer!”

“Are you planning to arrest a person or eat a chicken?” Ben asked.

Abe’s bushy grey brows snapped down.  “Oh sure.  Laugh all you want but this is serious!  We have all these out-of-towners coming here and they’re ruining this place!  Why just last week Elliot Nussbaum told me someone snuck into his yard in the middle of the night and snatched his inflatable snowman.  When it was finally found, the poor snowman had been caught on the muffler of Margie Wilson’s Cadillac and was dragged all the way to her house,” Abe huffed. 

“Now why would someone from out-of-town steal Elliot’s snowman?” Ben wondered.

“Don’t you get it?  They’re trying to ruin our Christmas,” Abe retorted. 

“They’re doing nothing of the sort,” Ben snapped.  “They’re here to enjoy the holidays just like the rest of us.”  He shot another glance at the blanket.  “They could have better taste though,” he said as he strode into his office.

Abe waited for Ben’s door to shut before he said, “If Ben think’s I’m going to let this go, he’s wrong.  We’re not a part of the ‘Red Sox’ nation.  We bleed blue here like true Yankee fans!”

“What are you doing?” Frank asked when Abe pulled a pad of paper from his desk drawer.

“Filing a complaint with the union,” Abe replied as he scribbled on his notepad.  “The way I see it, a crime has been committed and Ben’s doing nothing about it.  That’s dereliction of duties, if you ask me.”  When he was finished, he tucked the pad back into his desk drawer then stood up.  He grabbed his coat from the rack, put it on, saying, “Come on.  Let’s nab us a felon.”   

Abe and Frank walked back to the nativity scene.  They looked at the mess the vandals made.  Intermixed with the chaos was an empty bag of chips, a rotten banana peel, and something that looked suspiciously like the bones of a fish. 

“How are we ever going to find out who did this?” Frank asked.

“We’re gonna do exactly what I told Ben we should do,” Abe replied.  “We’re gonna do a stakeout.”

“A stakeout?” Frank asked worriedly.

“Yup.  That’s right,” Abe returned.  “We’re gonna stay in the car all night if we have to just to find the culprit who did this!”

Suddenly, Frank wished he hadn’t walked out to the nativity scene and he certainly wished he hadn’t gone to the police station.  There was nothing he could do about it now, though.  Abe was determined to find the person who committed such an atrocious act, which meant Frank had to be just as determined. 

Abe arrived just before sunset.  His car was loaded down with all sorts of things he deemed necessary for the stakeout.  Two heavy sleeping bags were rolled up in the back seat right next to a large paper bag and a black nylon duffle bag.

“What’s in the paper bag?” Frank asked as he slid into the front passenger seat.

“It’s for later tonight,” Abe replied as he reached into the backseat and grabbed the bag.  He pulled each item out of the bag, showing them to Frank.  “We’ve got some chips, Ho Ho’s and Ding Dong’s, two bags of cookies, a six pack of soda, a can of that cheese spray to go with the crackers, a dozen of Dainty’s Donuts, two thermoses of Betty’s coffee and . . .”

“That’s all junk food!” Frank said.  “Don’t you have anything healthy in there? You know, like fruits or vegetables?”

Frank held up a yellow bag.  “Of course, there are vegetables.  These are Funyuns!  Onion is right there in the name!” Frank exclaimed.  “And what about this?  This is spray cheese.  It’s protein!  Jeez, you’d think you’d know this stuff.”

Frank opened his mouth to reply then snapped it shut.  There was no point in stating the obvious.   “What’s in the duffle bag?  More ‘healthy food’?”

“No . . .” Abe said giving Frank a sharp look.  He returned the bag to the back seat then hauled the black nylon duffel bag to the front seat.  “Now in here, we’ve got all the things needed for a proper stake out.  There’s your professional grade stun gun, some night vision goggles, a couple pairs of handcuffs . . .”

Frank glanced in the back seat then let out a gasp.  “Is that a semi-automatic rifle?”

“It sure is,” Abe replied proudly as he grabbed the rifle and brought it to the front seat.  “We’re not letting these hooligans get away.”

“Shouldn’t we just use the handcuffs and take them to the police station?”

“Sure, but what if the troublemaker causes us problems?” Abe asked.  “We’ll need to have backup and this here,” Abe added with a pat to his rifle. “Is backup.”

Frank wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of shooting anyone over a Red Sox’s blanket but seeing as he had never dealt with criminals and Abe had, he decided he’d defer to the professional.  Instead, he opened his bible to read, only he couldn’t focus on the words.  It was just too darn hot in the car to do anything but sweat.

When he couldn’t take the heat any longer, Frank snapped his bible shut and said, “I think we should turn off the heater”

“No can do, Suzie Q,” Abe replied.  “The cold makes my bones hurt.”

“But I’m sweating!” Frank complained.

Abe frowned.  “Well, then open the window a crack.” Abe gave Frank a hard look as he added, “But just a crack.”

Frank wasn’t about to complain.  But he did open it a bit more than a crack.  Blessedly cool air blew into the car.  Frank let out a sigh of relief as he picked up his bible and began to read this week’s sermon again.  He had barely gotten through the first passage when Abe intruded into his thoughts.  

“What are you doing?” Abe asked.

Frank looked up from the bible.  “What was that?”

“I asked what you were doing,” Abe repeated.

“I’m preparing for Sunday’s sermon.”

“You know what?” Abe began.  “You should do your sermon about the whole eye for an eye thing.”

Frank’s attention snapped from the bible to Abe.  “We don’t preach about an eye for an eye.  We preach about forgiveness.”

A look of irritation crossed Abe’s face.  “What good is that?  Nobody learns from forgiveness.  You’ve got to do the whole eye for an eye thing . . .”

Frank ignored Abe’s suggestion and continued to read.  A few minutes later, Abe interrupted Frank’s thoughts once again.  “I’m hungry.”

“What?” Frank asked.

“I said, I’m hungry,” Abe repeated. 

“So, eat some of the snacks,” Frank replied without looking up. 

“Those are for later,” Abe replied.  “Let’s go to Papa’s for a slice of pizza.”

Frank’s stomach rumbled at Abe’s suggestion.  A slice of hot, cheesy pizza sounded good right now.  “What about the vandals?” Frank asked snapping the bible shut.    

Abe glanced at his watch.  It was barely eight o’clock.  “It’s too early.  There’s too many people out for anything to happen.  The perps probably won’t show up until after midnight.”

They were wrong.  They knew it the minute they stepped out of the pizza parlor and saw the destruction in front of the church. 

“I don’t believe this!” Abe said as he threw up his hands in outrage.  “How the hell did they get the snacks?”

It didn’t take them any time at all to figure out the answer to that question.  Abe swung his hot glare in Frank’s direction.  “You left the car window open!  Why did you do that?”

Sheepishly, Frank shrugged.  “I forgot.”

Abe wasn’t paying him any attention though.  He had spotted something yellow lying on in the mound of snow.   “Is that my bag of Funyuns?” Abe asked as he snatched the bag from the ground.  He tipped it over, frowning.  “They ate every damn one of them!”

They didn’t just eat the Funyuns.  They ripped open the box of Ho Ho’s and Ding Dong’s and ate every bit of them.  They finished off the bag of pretzels and the chips too.  But the worst offense, in Abe’s opinion, was the theft of the powdered donuts.

“Are you kidding me!” Abe burst out, waving the empty box in the air.  White powdered sugar flew about mingling with the snow.  “What are these guys?  Animals?”

“Maybe they’re homeless and this is all the food they have?” Frank suggested, an image of the needy family flashing through his thoughts.

Abe rolled his eyes.  “Now don’t get all Christian on me,” Abe grumbled.  “We’re not here to help the needy we’re here to protect that plastic baby Jesus!”  Abe snapped, pointing to the manger scene. 

Ben’s Jeep pulled up next to Abe’s car just then.  “Abe, what’s going on?”

Abe considered lying then immediately dismissed the idea.  This was his boss and the police chief, after all.  There’s no telling what would happen if he was caught lying.  Abe sighed.  “Well, if you must know, we’re doing a stakeout.”

Ben was certain he hadn’t heard Abe correctly.  “What?”

“A stakeout,” Abe repeated.  “For this.  Remember?” Abe snapped, waving the Red Sox’s blanket in the air as a reminder.

Ben had completely forgotten about the blanket.  “Abe, have you lost your mind?”

“I don’t think I have,” Abe shot back.  “I plan on catching these felons.”

A burst of laughter erupted from Ben as he scanned the trash-filled area.  “Doesn’t look like you’re doing a very good job of it.”

Abe’s brows snapped downward.  “Laugh all you want, funny man! But this here is serious business!”

Ben was about to comment when his gaze landed on the front seat of Abe’s car.  The muscle flexed in his cheek.  “Abe, what the hell are you going to do with an M4 rifle?”

“I’m doing what I was sworn to do,” Abe retorted.  “I’m upholding the law.”

“I don’t think your oath meant shooting someone over a Red Sox’s blanket,” Ben replied in a dry voice.

“Yeah, well, we have no idea what these thugs are up to,” Abe shot back.  “For all we know, they could be out to harm someone and I’m not going to stand around and let that happen.”

“The only person who’s gonna harm anyone, is you,” Ben retorted.  He held out his hand.  “Give it to me.”

“What?” Abe cried out.

“It’s police property to be used for police situations.” Ben’s gaze flicked to the nativity scene then back to Abe.  “And this is not a police situation.”

“I don’t see how I’m gonna teach these guys a lesson if I don’t have the gun,” Abe grumbled as he reached into the backseat. 

He was just about to hand over the gun when a noise sounded somewhere near the nativity scene.  Abe spun about to see what was happening.  Just then, a flurry of movement was spotted near the manger.  Abe burst into action.  He pointed the rifle at the stable. 

“I’ll teach you for putting a Red Sox’s blanket on baby Jesus!” Abe yelled as he cocked the rifle.  “Everyone knows Jesus is a Yankee’s fan!”

A loud blast and a flash of light erupted from the gun.  The sound of a bullet zipping through the air could be heard just a second before a loud explosion broke the silence of the night.  As the smoke cleared, everyone stared in disbelief as the vandal, unharmed, scurried away with a powdered donut in his mouth.  And there lying upon the ground, was Mary, the mother of God, a bullet shattering her in two.

A rumble of laughter sounded from Ben.  “Well, I’ve got to admit, Abe, you really taught that raccoon a lesson,” Ben said before turning to Frank.  “I think you’re gonna need to get another Mary, though.”


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