“Richard, what are you doing?” I asked closing the apartment door.
Richard Cranium carried a Sony Walkman CD player, miniature speakers and a brand new Christmas with The Chipmunks CD into the kitchen.
“Fannie, it’s December 6th, I’ve got to call Knowlan before he calls me,” Richard said setting his supplies on the kitchen table.
“What?” I asked running my fingers through my shoulder length brown hair.
“It’s tradition,” Richard said plugging the speakers into the CD player. “We’ve been doing it since we were kids, only back then we used 45’s.” He removed the cellophane wrap from the CD.
“Okay, you’ve got me, what do you do?”
“We race to be the first one to call and play Christmas Don’t Be Late on December 6th, but we’re not allowed to call before dinner.”
“Uh huh,” I said shaking my head, “I still don’t get it.”
“Maybe you didn’t do this when you were a kid, but Knowlan and me used to get into a lot of trouble together as kids, you know like setting bags of poop on fire, toilet paper bombs, crank calls, blowing up pumpkins, kid stuff,” Richard said putting the batteries into the CD player.
A strong wind blew against the house, the fir trees bent, rain mixed with snow pelted the dining room window. The house creaked and the window rattled. The smell of Mrs. Rose’s famous pot roast filled the air of the bright dining room. Mr. Rose handed the mashed potatoes to Richard.
“So gentlemen, what’s the plan for this evening?” Mr. Rose asked looking from Knowlan to Richard.
“Is it okay if we sleep in the basement tonight?” Knowlan asked.
“The basement?” Mrs. Rose asked looking from Knowlan to Mr. Rose.
Mr. Rose nodded at her with a smile and said, “Sure that’ll be fine. Just remember company ground rules, I don’t want to have to knock a couple of heads together.”
Toward the end of the meal Knowlan said, “I’m stuffed, may we be excused?”
“Knowlan, not everyone is finished, you’ll have to wait,” Mrs. Rose said.
Knowlan elbowed Richard. He leaned back in his chair balancing on two legs. Richard leaned back bumping the front leg of Knowlan’s chair with the toe of his shoe. Knowlan, over balanced, grabbed Richard’s chair. They crashed to the floor.
“Boys, get off the floor,” Mrs. Rose said, “those are Grandma Carlin’s maple chairs, they’ve been in the family for years. Now sit still until everyone is finished.”
They sat at the table.
Charles, Knowlan’s younger brother, jiggled his legs under the table making the water dance in his glass.
“Charles, sit still, you’re making the table shake,” Mrs. Rose said picking up her cup of coffee.
Richard sank down until his nose met the top of the table only his blue eyes and brown mop of hair visible. Knowlan, matching him, slowly slid under the table disappearing from view. Crawling under the table he stole his brother and sister’s napkins tying them between their chairs to the table leg. He crawled back to his seat.
Mr. Rose, glancing at the boys, said, “Boys, sit up properly in your seats.”
He and Richard giggled like girls.
“Momma, the Chipmunks are gonna be on TV in ten minutes, you promised we could watch ‘em, can we be ‘cused?” Sally, Knowlan’s five year old sister, asked.
“I think we’re finished here,” Mrs. Rose said. “Knowlan, why don’t you and Richard go turn on the television and get it ready?”
Knocking the chairs back into the walls, Knowlan and Richard raced for the living room. Charles and Sally shoved their chairs backwards. Caught by the napkins, the chairs toppled over. Both children spilled to the ground. Charles laughed. Sally blinked a few time, sobbed, took a deep breath and wailed at the top of her lungs.
“Knowlan Edmund Rose, get in here this instant,” Mrs. Rose said anger touching the edge of her voice.
Knowlan walked back into the dining room. Looking from his siblings to his mother he said, “I didn’t do it.”
Mrs. Rose arched her eyebrow. Mr. Rose picked Sally up. Tears rolled down her chubby checks. She threw her arms around her father’s neck and continued sobbing, glaring at her older brother.
“This is what we’re going to do,” Mrs. Rose said, “since you have company, your choice is to go to your room by yourself and miss the Chipmunks or if Richard wants to join you, you can go down to the basement and still miss the Chipmunks.”
Knowlan looked from his mother to his father. A single tear spilled down his cheek. He sniffed and wiped it away.
Straightening his shoulders he said, “Hey Richard, wanna go down to the basement? Who wants to watch the Chipmunks anyway.”
Richard peaked around the corner. Torn between the desire to watch the Chipmunks and the lure of the basement he rocked back and forth on his feet for a moment.
“The basement sounds great,” Richard said moving to Knowlan’s side.
“That settle’s it gentlemen, off to the basement with you,” Mrs. Rose said, “and no kicking the soccer ball down there. We’ll be down to check on you in a little while.”
“The last one down the stair is a rotten egg,” Knowlan said running toward the door to the basement Richard on his heels.
Mrs. Rose rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“After Knowlan’s parents went to bed, we found a one pound bag of Tootsie Rolls left over from Halloween Knowlan’s mom stashed behind the laundry detergent,” Richard said laughing, “we ate the entire bag, then spent the rest of the evening taking turns throwing up in the mop bucket. It was a great night.”
“Ooh, I think that’s more than I needed to know,” I said, “but that still doesn’t explain the Chipmunks phone call.”
“That Christmas, both Knowlan and me got the Chipmunks Christmas Album. We decided to commemorate that night. Every year on the anniversary we try to be the first to call and play the Chipmunks over the phone.”
“Why do you have to wait until after dinner?”
“We both got into a lot of trouble calling multiple times a day, so our parents put us on phone restriction,” Richard said, “come on, we were ten at the time.”
Richard put the CD in the Walkman. Pressing the play button. Music spilled from the tiny speakers and David Seville’s voice, “All right you Chipmunks, ready to sing your song?”
The phone rang. Richard and I jumped. Looking at the caller ID it read Kissée Thayer.
“It’s okay Richard, it’s only Kissée,” I said picking up the receiver.
“Hey Fannie, it’s Kissée, is Richard at your place?”
“Yes, he is,” I said looking at Richard puzzled.
“Can you hold the phone so both of you can hear me?”
“Sure, what’s the news?” I asked dying of curiosity. Moving the phone between Richard’s and my head we could hear the tuba and electric guitar start to play. “All right you Chipmunks, ready to sing your song?”
Happy Holidays Everyone.