The Sky is Falling

end of world

Gladys Clapper woke up on Monday with a tightness in her stomach and her bones aching.  When she looked at the calendar and saw that Friday was not only the full moon but also the 13th, she knew her body wasn’t lying.   Something bad was about to happen.

She spotted Mabel Wilson, her neighbor, snow blowing her driveway.  Gladys grabbed her heavy winter coat, threw on her fur lined galoshes and darted out of the house, to share the dismal news with Mabel.

The frozen ground was covered with freshly fallen snow.  Gladys carefully maneuvered the ice crusted steps making certain she didn’t fall and break a leg.  She wasn’t so lucky racing across her yard.  One of her beloved gnomes, hidden beneath piles of snow, tripped her.

Mabel was just doing another sweep of her driveway when she saw Gladys sailing through the air, her arms flailing overhead.  She shut off the snow blower just as Gladys landed with a resounding thud upon the frozen ground.

It took a moment for Gladys to collect her wits.  When she finally opened her eyes, she let out a gasp of surprise to see Mabel, bundled up like an Eskimo in her faux fur parka and Elmer Fudd hat, staring down at her.

“I think something bad is going to happen on Friday . . .” Gladys croaked out.

Mabel looked at Gladys like she’d lost her mind.  “Are you okay?  Maybe I need to call an ambulance . . .”

“Don’t you understand what I’m saying?” Gladys persisted.  “Doomsday is coming this week!  I’m talking about death and destruction.  The end of the world!  Pestilence and plague!”

“The only plague we’re getting is more snow,” Mabel snapped.

“I’m serious,” Gladys insisted.  “My bones ache and my stomach is in knots!”

“Well of course your bones are aching.  You just flew ten feet in the air.  Don’t you realize you’re old?  Your bones are as brittle as icicles.  You’re lucky you didn’t break something!”

“Okay, but remember, Friday is not only the 13th but there’s a full moon as well!”

“Gladys Clapper, I’ve known you for nearly seventy years and never once did I realize you were so superstitious,” Mabel exclaimed.

“I’m not superstitious!” Gladys retorted.  “But I am worried.  I’m going to see Madam Volta. She’ll tell me if my feelings are right.”

Mabel’s curiosity was immediately piqued.  She’d been wanting to go to see the fortune teller who had just opened for business this past summer.  Now, seeing as Gladys was going, it seemed like a perfect time for Mabel to go.

“Can I come?” Mabel asked as she started to push her snow blower back into the garage.

“Really?  You want to come?” Gladys asked.

Mabel nodded her head.  “I need to find out if I’m going to make it through the summer.”

Gladys’ brows pinched together.  “Why wouldn’t you?”

Mabel shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I’m seventy-five.  I’m rolling the dice every day.”

Seeing as Gladys was a little nervous going by herself, she didn’t think it was a bad idea to have Mabel come along with her.  Gladys ran into the house, careful to avoid the gnomes this time, grabbed her money and keys off the hall table and was out the door in seconds.

They drove the short distance to Madam Volta’s shop.  When they stepped inside the building, they came to a dead stop.  The dark room was covered in red velvet and the smell of patchouli assaulted their senses.  Exotic music played on the stereo and candles were lit on every possible surface in the room.

“Would you look at all these candles,” Mabel whispered to Gladys.

“I think it has something to do with calling up the otherworld,” Gladys returned.

“You mean dead people?” Mabel exclaimed, as a shiver of dread rolled down her spine.  “Why would she do that?”

Gladys rolled her eyes.  “Well, how else would she see into the future?”

Mabel shrugged.  “I dunno.  I thought she’d use a crystal ball . . .”

That was an excellent point and one Gladys hadn’t thought of.  “Well, I suppose she could use one of them too . . .”

Their conversation halted when Madam Volta stepped out from behind the beaded curtain separating the main area from the dark hallway.  If they expected Madam Volta to be dressed in a satin turban and silk scarves, they were sadly disappointed.

She stood before them in a pair of torn jeans and an old sweatshirt that looked like it could use a good washing.  Her face was puffy, her eyes bloodshot and whoever had done her hair, really needed to find a new profession.  The black and red hair stood erect atop her head like a medieval flail.  She didn’t look like a lady who communicated with the spirits as much as she looked one who drank spirits.

“Welcome to Madam Volta Future Teller,” Madam Volta said in a voice that sounded like she’d just downed a pack of Pall Mall’s.

Mabel’s brows pinched downward.  “Don’t you mean fortune teller?”

Madam Volta shrugged.  “Is it not the same?”

Mabel was going to argue the point but she never got a chance.  “Don’t make her mad . . .,” Gladys hissed.  She turned to Madam Volta.  “I’m Gladys Clapper and I have some questions I need answering.”

“I have many spirits clamoring to talk to you,” Madam Volta told her.

Gladys’ eyes widened.  Many spirits?  That didn’t sound good.

“Are any of them named Jack Daniels or Jim Beam?” Mabel asked because she was positive the lady in front of her had to be drunk.

“No.  But one is named Morton.”

Gladys thought her knees were going to buckle.  What the hell would Morton want to talk to her about?  They’d been married for thirty-five years and the man had hardly spoken two dozen words to her in that whole time.  Now, he’s been dead for three years and he wanted to talk?   It was a little too late in Gladys opinion.

“Well go figure! Morton is here . . .” she exclaimed, looking around the room as if the man would appear at any moment.

“He said to get rid of the gnomes,” Madam Volta told Gladys.  “They scare people.”

Gladys’ eyes widened to the size of saucers.  “But they’re so cute!”

Mabel shook her head.  “Morton’s right.  They’re downright frightening.”

A frown creased Gladys brow as she turned back to Madam Volta.  “Is there anything else?”

Madam Volta nodded her head.  “You’re about to lose a lot of money.”

“I am?” Gladys exclaimed, clutching a hand to her heart.   She turned to Mabel.  “I knew I should have listened to my stockbroker.  He warned me to get rid of that stupid stock Morton bought.  I didn’t though . . .” Gladys grumbled.

Madam Volta shook her head.  “It’s not your stocks.  Your money is falling out of your pocket.”

Gladys looked down to see Madam Volta was right.  She shoved the money back into her pocket then sat down at the table Madam Volta had indicated.  Mabel quickly followed.

The table was covered in a white lacy cloth.  In the center was a large bubble covered in red velvet.  With a sweeping flourish, Madam Volta ripped the cloth off the mound to reveal a crystal ball.

Madam Volta chanted unintelligible words as she stared in fixated concentration at the crystal globe.  Finally, in her deep mysterious voice, said, “I see many unusual things.  Things no one could imagine.”

Both Mabel and Gladys eyes widened at her words.  “Doomsday kind of things . . .?” Gladys whispered in a fearful voice.

“Something unexpected will happen,” Madam Volta murmured as her hands hovered over the crystal ball. “What has always been will be no more.  What once was, will cease to exist.  Things will be new and different.”

“Different good or different bad?” Mabel asked, enthralled.

Madam Volta turned her dark eyes in the direction of the women.  A shiver of fear rolled over them.  It was palatable in the room.

“It is too soon to tell . . .” Madam Volta replied before she slumped down in her seat, a great whoosh of air escaping her.  The room went silent as the woman’s eyes closed.

Gladys and Mabel looked at each other.  Neither was certain whether the reading was over or not.

“Oh, dear Lord, what should we do?” Mabel wondered.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m going to let Ben know!” Gladys replied as she jumped out of her seat.  She tossed the money on the table and bolted out the door.

“Wait!  I didn’t get a chance to find out if I’m going toes up this spring!” Mabel cried out as she chased after Gladys.

“Well, of course, you are!” Gladys said as she darted out of the building.  “You heard her.  The world is coming to an end!”

Gladys and Mabel went directly to the Police Station.  Ben had just come out of his office when Gladys and Mabel burst into the station.

“What’s wrong?” Ben asked when he saw the worried looks on the elderly ladies faces.

“The world is coming to an end . . .” Gladys rushed out.

Abe’s eyes widened.  “You don’t say?”

“It’s true!  I woke up today with a really bad feeling in my bones and my stomach was queasy,” Gladys told the men.

“Don’t forget to tell them how you flew through the air and landed on the hard ground,” Mabel interjected.

“That’s true.  I did fly through the air, but that’s not why my body hurt,” Gladys corrected.

“Well, it certainly didn’t help it,” Mabel pointed out.

“I’m sure that the world is not coming to an end,” Ben said trying to calm the two women down.  It didn’t help.  Neither women seemed interested in being calmed down.

“Oh yes, it is,” Gladys insisted.  “Madam Volta saw it in her crystal ball!”

“Well, to be fair, she didn’t say it was coming to an end.  She said that something unexpected was going to happen,” Mabel corrected.  She frowned at Ben and Abe.  “We left so quickly I didn’t get a chance to find out if I was going to make it through the spring . . .”

“Would you let that go?” Gladys retorted.  “Didn’t you hear me?  No one is going to make it through the week!”  She grabbed her keys and spun on her heels.  “Come on, Mabel we need to let the rest of the town know . . .”

And before Ben could stop them, both women were out the door.

“Well, what are you going to do about this?” Abe asked.

Ben looked at him like he’d lost his mind.  “Do?  I’m not going to do anything,” he told Abe.  “Because nothing is going to happen.”

Abe frowned at the casual tone he heard in Ben’s voice.  “Are you kidding me?  We’ve got terrorists coming and you’re not doing anything about it?”

“Terrorist?  They never said anything about terrorists,” Ben replied.

“Well of course it’s going to be terrorists,” Abe retorted.  “Don’t you remember that Red Sox blanket.”

It took Ben a moment to recall what Abe was talking about.  “You mean the blanket found at the nativity scene?”

Abe nodded his head.  “Yup.  Clearly there’s a terrorist bent on destroying our town,” Abe told him.  “I think they’re using it as a warning.”

Ben let out an exhausted sigh.  “As far as I know, terrorists don’t announce their intentions ahead of time.”

Abe wasn’t happy with Ben’s answer.  “You know, you really need to take things more seriously.”

“I’ll take things seriously when they are serious,” Ben retorted.

Ben had completely forgotten about Gladys’ ridiculous worry until the next day when he had gone to Mo’s Deli for lunch.  He was surprised to see the deli locked up tighter than Fort Knox and as dark as midnight inside.  He was forced to go to Burger, Burger, Burger instead.  He would have much preferred a triple meat grinder from Mo’s than the sloppy mess tucked inside the grease laden bag.

“Mo’s is closed,” Ben complained when he returned to the station.  He handed Abe a burger.

“I know.” Abe replied, looking up from the book he was reading.  He grabbed the burger Ben handed him.  “He had to get out of town pretty fast.”

Ben knew Mo’s daughter lived in Florida with her husband and children.  He hadn’t heard there was a problem.  But that didn’t mean anything either.

Handing Abe an order of fries, Ben asked, “Family emergency?”

With a napkin, Abe swiped at the burger grease that dribbled down his chin.  “I guess you could say that.  When your life is being threatened it’s pretty much an emergency.”

That news got Ben’s attention.  “What the hell happened?”

It didn’t take Abe long to regal Ben with the details.  Apparently, bets were being placed how the end of the world would arrive.  Mo made the grievous mistake of suggesting the Aberdeen Ice Men would lose the Frozen Cup, as the trophy was called, to Lake Placid Olympians.  It wasn’t exactly an outrageous prediction seeing as the Ice Men had lost the ice hockey championship to the Olympians the past four years.  The Ice Men took exception to the prediction, though.  There was no way they were going to let the stinking Olympians have another shot at the ‘cup’ once again.

Realizing his mistake, Mo apologized profusely then got the hell out of Aberdeen until, either the end of the world arrived or the fuss blew over.  The way Mo figured, it was better to let Armageddon come to Aberdeen while he was soaking up the sun on the beaches of Florida then being lynched by an angry, frozen mob in Aberdeen.

“The town has gone crazy,” Ben grumbled, only to notice the book sitting on Abe’s desk next to the crumpled burger wrapper.  “What the hell are you reading?”

“The bible,” Abe replied as if it was an everyday occurrence.

Ben looked at Abe in surprise.  “You’re reading the bible and not doing Word Jumbles?”

Abe’s bushy brows snapped downward.  “You don’t have to appear so shocked!  It’s not like I’ve never read the bible.”

“But you’ve given up on religion,” Ben pointed out.

“That’s not true,” Abe argued.  “I’m what I like to call, a distance believer.  Kind of like a distant learner.  I like to keep a nice buffer between me and the church.  However, I’m thinking about going back.  It’s never too late,” he added, then frowned.  “Well, unless Friday is the end of the world.  Then it might be a bit too late.”

“Don’t tell me you actually believe all this nonsense?”

Abe shrugged.  “I guess you could say I’m hedging my bets.”  He paused for a moment before asking, “I’m thinking about going to see Frank and having a confession.  Do you think I need to make an appointment for that?”

“Weren’t you once a Methodist?” Ben asked, confused.

“Yes,” Abe admitted.  “But the way I figure it, you can never have too many religions praying for you.  Besides, if those aliens come to take over our town tomorrow, I want to be prepared.”

“I thought you said it was going to be terrorists?”

“Flip a coin,” Abe replied.  “There’s a fifty-fifty chance it could go either way.”

Ben thought there was a fifty-fifty chance Abe had lost his mind.  “I don’t think we need to worry about either of them,” he told Abe.

“Now you see, that’s why we need to worry,” Abe retorted.  “We’re so unprepared it’s going to be easy for someone with nefarious intentions to wipe us out.”

Ben rolled his eyes.  “We’re not prepared because there’s nothing to prepare for.”

“Oh yeah?” Abe retorted.  “Well, then if I were you, I’d take this here bible and do a little more reading.  Your soul could probably use some saving.”

Ben let out an exasperated sigh.  “I’d rather do your Word Jumbles.”  And with that he walked into his office.

Abe wasn’t the only one who had gone crazy.  Like a ripple turning into a wave, it wasn’t long before the impending end of the world was on everyone’s lips.  Speculation ran rampant.  From Abe’s terrorist invading Aberdeen to swarms of locusts and pestilence.  Everything was on the table.

George Betts, a local lawyer in town, who once had more available appointments than he did customers suddenly found he didn’t have time to eat or sleep.  He was too busy writing wills for the locals.  Warren Henderson, from Henderson and Sons Mortuary, was so busy meeting with prospective clients that he completely forgot about the funeral for Jasper Martin.  He only remembered when an angry crowd of Martin’s began beating on the mortuary door.

Ben knew things had gotten completely out of control when a good many of the residents started to withdrew their money from the Aberdeen National Bank then they drove straight to the grocery store.  It wasn’t long before Stop ‘n Shop’s grocery shelves were mostly empty.  Only the stuff people didn’t like were left there, like vegetables and tofu.

Wyatt Westerman stopped Ben on Thursday morning.  “Where is the shelter in place?”

“What?” Ben asked in confusion.

“The shelter in place!” Wyatt roared.  “Where are you going to store us until this doomsday is over?”

“There’s not going to be a doomsday,” Ben burst out. “So, there’s no need for a shelter!”

Wyatt’s brows shot downward.  “Oh sure.  Isn’t that just like you to keep it a secret from us just to keep your family safe.”

“Trust me Wyatt, that’s not a concern for me . . .” Ben shot back as he stormed up the steps of the police station.

Father Frank, seeing an opportunity to draw in new parishioners, called for an all-night prayer session.  People flocked to the event, including Abe.  The session started promptly at six o’clock on Thursday morning and ran straight through the night.

When Friday morning arrived and the town was still standing, Ben thought the drama was over.

He was wrong.

He knew it the minute he spotted a popular Albany news station van rolling into town.  When he saw Rose Smith, from the Aberdeen Almanac and Henry Walkman, from the Aberdeen Times, two competing papers, meet with the reporter from Albany in the park, Ben knew he had to intercede.  He had just entered the park when Mack, the fire chief, came up to him.

“Looks like we’re getting our fifteen minutes of fame,” Mack said as they continued across the park.

Ben was about to reply when he heard loud noises overhead.  He looked up to see a fleet of helicopters hovering above.  It didn’t take him any time at all to determine who they were.  The Air National Guard had arrived and with them plenty of fire power.  Even now, Ben could see soldiers clinging to the edge of the landing skids, their rifles poised for defense, as they circled the town square.

The reporter, not wanting to miss the story, waved frantically to the cameraman to catch the action.  Swinging his camera around, the cameraman filmed the hysteria that was mounting when suddenly, the doors to the church opened and the bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived prayer warriors emerge.

It was then that a hush descended on the town as one of the prayer warriors spotted something off in the distance.  “Oh, my God!  It’s here!  It’s here!”

The warriors, realizing they might need to say a few more prayers, dropped down to their knees and clasped their hands together, right there on the steps of the church.  It was only as the object got closer that people began to realize their mistake.

Dressed in a tight neon green and orange sweat suit, was Maybelline, trudging past them, one laborious foot in front of the other.  Everyone swung their gazes to an embarrassed Gladys.

Throwing up her hands and shrugging, she said, “Well, Madam Volta did say something unexpected was going to happen . . .”

Ben couldn’t argue with that.  Maybelline running was definitely unexpected.


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.”