Note: I wrote this dorky story in the 1970s. Enjoy! Or not!
1. A Busy Day
The blond-haired, blue-eyed man walked toward the house. It was obvious that Reuben Kincaid was in a hurry, for he took long strides.
He reached for the door-handle, but his fingers were less than a half-foot away from it when the door slowly opened.
Reuben walked in and looked around the room and behind the door, but no one was there. Reuben had a very strange expression on his face.
“H-hello? Is a-anyone home?” he called nervously.
Shirley Partridge came from the kitchen.
“Oh, hello, Reuben. What’s wrong? You look like something really spooked you,” said Shirley, a bit worried.
“Shirley, I was just about to open that door, and it opened by itself!”
Shirley didn’t look surprised. Instead, she looked stern.
“Danny! Keith! Come down here at once!” she called.
A dark-haired, seventeen-year-old boy and a red-haired ten-year-old boy came down the stairs slowly.
“Yes, Mom?” said the younger one as innocently as he could.
“Don’t ‘Yes, Mom?’ me. Will you two stop fooling around with the door? Cut those wires off it immediately. You scared Reuben to death by that,” she said.
Danny crossed his arms and put a satisfied smile on his freckled face. “Oh,imagine that. Scaring Reuben like that.”
Keith smiled, too. “But, Mom, you always say that we should welcome people to the house with hospitality. We opened the door for him — isn’t that being hospitable?”
“Cut the wires,” said Shirley firmly, with no smile.
“Well, uh, I guess we’d better go and cut the wires. Danny,” Keith said, knowing that their mother could do something drastic.
The two boys quickly worked to disarm the device. Reuben and Shirley went into the kitchen.
“You’re early. I thought you were coming on Wednesday. What did you come over for?” asked Shirley curiously.
“To tell you about the concert,” explained Reuben. “It’s in Reno, on December 23rd.”
“On the night before Christmas Eve?” Shirley sounded surprised. “Oh, well, I suppose the kids will understand.”
Two pairs of ears were listening. Up in the guest room, five-year-old Tracy and eight-year-old Christopher were listening through the air vent.
“Tracy, do you remember what happened last year? We did the same thing. A concert on the 23rd,” whispered Chris.
“And we were stuck in a ghost town. I’m glad that old man was there to tell us that story,” replied Tracy.
“Do you think that story was true? I mean, the town was sure real, but how could Santa find them in such a lonesome place?”
“I don’t know,” shrugged Tracy. “Listen!”
They bent towards the air vent once more.
Reuben was only saying that they should perform their newest songs.
“Of course,” replied Shirley sensibly. “And we can end the concert with the old favorites.”
Reuben nodded in assent, and looked at his watch. “I gotta go, Shirl,” he said. “I’ll be here on Wednesday morning.”
Shirley walked him to the front door.
“See you later,” he said, walking down the sidewalk.
“Bye!” called Shirley.
Pretty sixteen-year-old, brown-haired Laurie came down the stairs.
“Mom, I’m a bit puzzled over this part — it’s one of the new songs. I tried to play it, but I can’t seem to get the notes right.”
“Will you ask Keith to help you, Laurie? I have to get this roast in the oven.”
“Okay,” answered Laurie.
Keith and Danny were sitting on lawn chairs near the garage. Keith was attempting to coil the wires around the door-opening device, which the boys had successfully removed from the front door.
“Keith,” said Laurie. “Mom told me to ask you how to play this part.” She pointed to a spot on a page of sheet-music.
Keith smiled wisely. Anything to get away from this tedious work. Handing the device to Danny, he replied, “Sure.”Danny glared at Keith. “Sashaying out or work again,” he muttered. “He’ll always find a way to leave all the hard work to someone else.”
Keith and Laurie walked into the garage. In the garage were assorted musical instruments — Keith and Danny’s guitars, Laurie’s piano, Shirley’s electric organ, Chris’ drums and Tracy’s tambourine.
Keith sat down at the piano. “Where’s the music?” he asked. Laurie held it out to him. He took it and put it on the piano’s music rack.
“Now, what part arre you having trouble with?” Keith inquired.
Laurie pointed to it.
“Oh. Well, here’s how it goes.” He played the phrase expertly.
He moved over on the bench. “Now you try it.”
Laurie sat down at the piano and tried to play the difficult segment. Once more wrong, she said, “I just can’t get it right, Keith. I just can’t do it!”
“Laurie!” Keith snapped. “Don’t give up. Try it again, but slower.”
Laurie held her breath, and played the phrase slowly. This time she got the notes right.
“That’s good, Laurie!” praised Keith. “Do it again.”
Laurie played it again, and then again, increasing her speed with each repetition.
“Okay, okay!” laughed Keith. “You’ll wear out those keys!”
Laurie laughed, too. “Thanks for helping me, Keith.”
“It was nothing much,” he said. “Besides, I got out of some work.”
Shirley appeared at the door.
“Keith, Laurie. Time for supper.”
The two got up and walked with their mother into the house, and to the diningroom table, where the other Partridge children were already seated.
Just as they sat down at the table, there was a bark at the door.
“Simone,” said Keith. “We forgot to let her in.”
He walked over to the door and let the brown-and-cream, medium-sized mongrel in.
Laurie gasped when she saw the dog. Keith, stunned, just stood there paralyzed, for Simone’s paw was covered with blood.
Tracy bounded over to Simone and tried to pick her up. Keith removed the dog from his sister’s arms as his mother cleaned the dog’s paw with a napkin.
“Why, it’s not blood,” said Shirley. “It’s just some red paint. Laurie, get the baby oil from the bathroom.”
“Simone’s not a baby,” protested Tracy.
Keith and Shirley worked together to clean the paint off of Simone’s paw. Setting the clean dog on the floor, Keith said, “She’s hungry.”
Laurie spooned the dogfood into Simone’s dish.
After the crisis, and supper were over, Chris asked, “Mom, what’s for dessert?”
“Ice cream. Chocolate-flavored, and I’ll put cherries on top.”
Tracy was concerned about her beloved dog.
“Is she all right? Simone, I mean,” she asked worriedly.
“Of course, Tracy,” responded Shirley. “It was just a little paint.”
Satisfied with the answer, Tracy began eating again.
“Oh — I just remembered. We have a concert on December 23rd in Reno,” Shirley announced.
This seemed to be a signal for something. Laurie’s spoon dropped to the floor with a clatter. Danny choked on his milk. The cracker in Keith’s hand crumbled into little bits.
“Mom.” Keith gasped. “Not on the 23rd! It’s bad luck to do a concert on the 23rd.”
“My horoscope reads plainly, ‘On December 23rd. do not leave your home, it may prove unlucky,'” said Danny.
“But, Mom,” protested Laurie. “I’m not superstitious, but I do agree with Keith. I just can’t help it, but I have a strange feeling that our bus will suddenly go on the blink in the middle of nowhere, and then –”
“And then we’ll spend Christmas Eve in a dismal ghost town, right?” finished Shirley.
“Yeah!” yelled five voices at once.
“I’m sorry,” continued Shirley, “but we have to do it. So will you all try and live through it?”
“Yes,” said Laurie quietly.
“Yes,” mumbled Keith.
The other kids just nodded.
Supper and dessert were finished without a word. Shirley dearly wanted to say, “Kids, you don’t have to go,” but she couldn’t have a concert cancelled just because they’d had bad luck on the same date the previous year. Nothing like that would ever happen again!
The next morning all the Partridges were in the garage, ready to rehearse.
“Laurie, before you begin that piano bit, I’d like to talk about what happened after that gig we had on the 23rd of December. Remember the story that man told us?” ventured Shirley.
“It taught us all a very valuable lesson,” said Shirley, and then prompted: “And what was it?”
“I know,” said Laurie. “It was that it’s Christmas no matter where we are.”
“Right, Laurie,” Shirley smiled gently.
“We’re sorry, Mom,” apologized Keith. “I guess some of us got carried away because we always like to spend Christmas at home.”
“Well, the only thing we can do is hope that the same thing doesn’t happen again,” said Shirley sensibly.
“All in favor say ‘Aye,'” said Keith.
“Aye!” everyone shouted.
“What’s going on here, an election?” asked a deep familiar voice.
Reuben was standing in the doorway.
“Why, Reuben,” said Shirley. “I thought you wouldn’t come until Wednesday!”
Reuben entered the garage. “Well, I knew that you were going to rehearse, and I wanted to hear the new songs.”
“Well, you won’t have to wait long. Have a chair, Reuben,” said Keith as he slipped the guitar strap over his head. “Everybody ready?”
“Yes!” shouted everyone.
“Okay, then — a-one, a-two –”
They launched into one of their new numbers. Reuben looked as though he enjoyed it thoroughly.
When they ended the first song, Shirley asked him, “How did we sound?” even though she knew that Reuben would say, “I like it. The people will love it.”
The answer that Reuben gave her, was if course: “I like it. The people are gonna love it.”
Much later, in the kitchen, Keith was talking to his mother.
“Mom, I just can’t understand it. Why do you always ask that question? You know what he’ll say.”
“Yeah,” said Danny. Then. mimicking, “‘I like it, I know the people will love it!'”
“I ask him because he expects to be asked,” explained Shirley. “And Danny, don’t talk about him like that. He’s not all that bad.” Glancing at her watch, she added, “And it’s your bedtime.”
“He’s not all that good either,” mumbled Danny.
“Danny!” said Shirley sharply.
“All right, all right!” And with that. he ran up the stairs.
This year nothing would happen like last year. It really was silly. Nothing like it could possibly happen.
Or could it?
[to be continued]