|I swung open the front door, expecting another set of carolers singing O, Christmas Tree. Instead, I found my neighbor Mr. Rogers and his twin sons standing red-nosed on my porch.
"Hello, neighbor," Rogers frowned and tucked bare hands under his armpits, "The whole block agreed to put up lights and decorations, remember?" I'm sure he was expecting me to invite him and his boys in for hot cocoa, but I only had my special eggnog and I wasn't about to waste it on a couple of snot-nosed kids and their goody-goody daddy.
"So?" I grunted.
Snowflakes began falling from the sky. Thing One opened his mouth and caught a few on his tongue until he caught my glare. Snapping his mouth shut, he rubbed a sleeve against his nose and coughed. I stepped back a pace, feeling my eyebrows knot together. It would be just my luck, getting sick during winter vacation all because the kid didn't have enough sense to cover his mouth when he hacked.
"So...where are your lights? Or your reindeer, sleigh, and Santa? You had a great set-up last year..."
"And I almost broke a hip climbing up on the dang roof to set it all up!" I snapped, "This year I'm taking it easy."
"But...but all the neighbor's agreed--"
"You said that already," I growled, "But I don't recall signing away my soul for a couple of twinkling lights..."
I snorted back a laugh as Thing Two cuffed his brother upside the head, sending an avalanche of snow from his stocking hat. It was really starting to come down. The news had said we'd get a good three or four inches, but my old bones were more accurate. I was certain Jack Frost would be sending a good foot of the stuff.
Mr. Rogers stomped his feet, I imagined his little piggies were starting to freeze in his black Crocs. The boys weren't much better in their rubber puddle-jumping boots. I shook my head in disgust, some people didn't use half the brains the Good Lord gave'em.
"B...b...but what about y...your C...C...Christmas Spirit?" Rogers persisted. His teeth chattered from the cold and his lips were turning an interesting shade of blue.
"The Grinch stole it!" I snarled before slamming the door in their faces. Shuffling to the fireplace, I tossed another log on the flames and settled into my easy chair.
"The dang fools would have become popsicles trying to convince me to decorate for the neighborhood's idiotic holidays..." I mumbled as the warmth of the fire lulled me to sleep.
A pounding on the door had me jerking awake. Falling asleep in my favorite chair had put a crick in my neck so I wasn't in the best of moods when I flung open the door.
I squinted past the reporter and the mic she had shoved in my face to the gaggle of people gathered in my yard. Their boots had already reduced the once sparkling snow to a brown slush.
"What in blue blazes...? Get off my lawn!" As I shook my fist at the intruders my robe flew open. A giggle came from a couple of kids at the front of the crowd as my candy-cane patterned boxers became front-page news.
"How does it feel to have won the Holiday Home Decorating Contest?" The reporter jabbed the microphone so close to my face I went cross-eyed.
"The Holiday Home--"
"I heard what you said, lady. I just don't know what you're talking about."
A man skated up the icy sidewalk and past the reporter. He thrust a giant check into my arms, covering my festive drawers.
"The name's Harvey Pinkler. I'm in charge of the Decorating Contest this year and I just love what you did with your place! All the other houses were lit up with lights or a blow-up Santa," He grinned as a photographer snapped our picture, me with my jaw nearly touching my bare toes. I was starting to wonder if I was stuck in a bad dream. That or every person in my town was becoming stark raving mad all at the same time.
"But you," Harvey paused to push bright red glasses up his ski-sloped nose, "You kept things simple." He threw his arms out as if to embrace my house.
"Just look at this scene!" Harvey sighed, "It's like a picture of days long past! Let me tell you," Harvey leaned in close and nearly knocked me over with his coffee breath, "All the sparkling Christmas lights and glittery snowmen that everyone puts up these days are so overdone! It's refreshing to find a home with no frills or whistles. Just a straightforward, uncomplicated covering of snow!"
I rolled my eyes, "So...what'd my genius decorating abilities win me?"
"One million dollars!" Harvey beamed, tapping the massive check in my hands, "The city had a special tax last year, specifically for this purpose! And you won it all, my friend!"
The reporter must have felt she wasn't getting enough attention. She pushed Harvey off my slippery steps, sending him spinning into the crowd like a bowling ball.
"What do you plan on doing with the prize money?" she simpered, fluttering her eyelashes.
I blinked and hefted the check under my arm, "I plan on taking it inside my house. Where it's warm."
My robe flew out like a cape as I turned my back and with a well practiced kick, flung the door back into place, effectively blocking any more well wishes from the community.
Leaning the huge check against the wall, I thoughtfully rubbed my stubbled chin and studied the row of zeros.
"Shore is a lot of money," I muttered, "I think I'll get that pesky Fred Rogers and his little clones some good winter boots before they earn themselves a case of pneumonia. I'll have to sneak them under his tree...can't have him thinking I've gone soft," I scowled, "Now where did I put my Santa suit...?"