This was Stevie’s best Christmas yet, yes sir

Published 9:09 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2023

By Lloyd Albritton

Columnist

Stevie gave the nut one final turn and stood back to admire his new bike.  This was his best Christmas yet.  His old bike was still in pretty good shape, but he was mighty proud to have this new one.  It was a lot shinier and fancier.

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Stevie threw a leg over the seat and looked up to see Riley Johnson standing quietly just a few feet away.  Riley had a way of sneaking up on people.  Riley’s family lived in an old dilapidated house a half mile up the highway.   Local citizenry could often be heard expressing the opinion that the old house was an eye sore and ought to be torn down.   To their disappointment, however, the house not only remained standing, but the owner rented it to a family who had all the markings of “white trash.”  Riley Johnson, at age nine, was the eldest of the family’s five children.

“Hey Stevie.  What’cha doin’? Riley asked timidly.

Stevie tried not to show the irritation he felt at Riley’s appearance.  The boys were in the same grade and since the first day of school Riley had seemed to latch onto Stevie’s coat tail and follow him everywhere.   This constant shadowing by Riley embarrassed Stevie a little bit with his friends, but he allowed it because he felt sorry for Riley. After all, poor Riley was new at the school and seemed to have no other friends and not much prospects for getting any.  Still, Stevie had hoped for a break from Riley during the school Christmas holiday, but so far Riley had come over to his house every single day.  ‘Couldn’t he leave me alone for just one day?’ Stevie grumbled silently to himself.

“Mama, he’s always dirty…and he stinks too,” Stevie had complained to his mother.  “My other friends make fun of him and say I’m a nerd for letting him hang around with me.”

“Then why do you?” Mama had asked.

Stevie pondered the question thoughtfully.  “I don’t know,” he sighed.  “I guess I just feel sorry for him.”

“Well, I know you’ll do the right thing,” Mama had said.  “Sometimes it’s not easy to do the right thing, but I know you will.”

“Just fixing to ride my new bike,” Stevie replied to Riley after awakening from his reverie.

Riley’s eyes shone with admiration.  He stroked the bike frame gently and exclaimed, “Wow, she sure is a beauty.”

“Want to see my other Christmas stuff?” Stevie asked.

“Sure,” Riley replied excitedly.

The boys went into the house and played happily for several hours with Stevie’s new toys and games.

“Well, I gotta go home,” Riley finally said.  “Mama’s cooking a special dinner today because it’s Christmas.”

“What did you get for Christmas this year?” Stevie blurted as an afterthough

Riley dropped his eyes and cleared his throat to cover his embarrassment.  “Well, we didn’t exactly get nuthin’ this year,” he mumbled, “but Mama said maybe we would get some new clothes next year…if daddy can find a job.”

Riley waved at Stevie and left the house through the back door. He ambled lazily up the long driveway toward the main road.  Stevie flopped down on the floor, suddently feeling overcome with sadness.

“None?  Nuthin’? Stevie muttered to himself.  Involuntary tears began to trickle down his cheeks.  After a moment he bolted out the door and spotted Riley walking away at the end of the driveway.

“RILEY!” he shouted.  “WAIT UP A MINUTE.”

Riley turned around and trotted back down the driveway to where Stevie waited.

“Did you forget something?” Riley asked.

“Yeah, I sure did,” Stevie replied with a big grin on his face.  “I forgot to give you your Christmas present.”

“Was it a good Christmas for you this year?” Mama asked as she tucked Stevie into bed later that evening.

“Yes ma’am, it was my best Christmas yet,” Stevie replied, as he thought of all the things he liked about his old bicycle.