Christmas With The Grunt

Photo Source: Saul Leiter

It was about four o’clock a few days before Christmas, an’ snowing like a bitch, if I may say so. I was getting slammed, on account of people sneakin’ out of their offices early to beat the snow, an’ my paper kiosk being set up right next to a bus stop. Of course, because of the snow the busses were all running late, but everybody was leaving the office early anyway, an’ they all wanted an evening edition for the commute. It was a lousy day any way you looked at it.

I had a fire going an’ I was moving around selling papers, so the cold wasn’t too bad. But with the wind and the wet of the snow, it was lousy, an’ not at all Christmas-like. I was feeling like a prize heel, to be honest with you. An’ then Robert the Sneak come running over.

Robert the Sneak is a regular at Mulroney’s. They call him Robert the Sneak ‘cause he always seemed to have some inside dope that none of the rest of us at the bar had, whether it was a tip on the horses or who was having a birthday or if someone was falling a bit behind an’ needed a little extra. He just knew these things somehow. So that’s why we called him Robert the Sneak.

I was just about to shut down when Robert the Sneak come running up to my kiosk, slipping in the snow an’ about to bust with excitement. He come over an’ yells at me, “The Grunt is in the hospital!”

The Grunt is another regular at Mulroney’s. We call him The Grunt because he does odd jobs around the bar for his drinks. Grunt work, you could say. The Grunt is old an’ frail, an’ prone to “fainting” spells, if you catch my drift. So occasionally he gets picked up an’ taken to Bellevue to dry out a bit.

So Robert the Sneak tells me that a few of the regulars are gonna go o’er to visit The Grunt at Bellevue an’ sing some Christmas songs to him. He figures if The Grunt can’t be at Mulroney’s for Christmas, we’ll bring Mulroney’s to The Grunt. Of course, I thought this was a grand idea, an’ I shut down my kiosk and headed downtown.

Five of us from the bar showed up an’ headed to The Grunt’s room. He was in his own room, lying in the dark an’ just staring out at the snow. He looked so sad an’ lonesome, it kind of tore at your heart seeing him in that condition. So I snapped on the light, an’ there we were.

You shoulda seen The Grunt light up when he saw us standin’ there! He was like a kid with a new toy. We barged into his room an’ spent probably a good hour there singin’ Christmas songs an’ making like we was all just sitting around the bar like always. An’ The Grunt, he’s the strong, silent type, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d say he was about to cry the whole time. What a scene that was!

Funny, just two hours earlier I was feeling lousy and not at all Christmas-like. An’ after we all left Bellevue an’ headed back to Mulroney’s, all we were feeling was Christmas. It didn’t take much an’ it didn’t cost a thing, an’ we made The Grunt’s night. Just goes to show you that Christmas ain’t about the getting, it’s about the giving. An’ after that night I ain’t had a day where I didn’t have that Christmas feeling.

  1. James Agee said:

    I seriously love that picture!

  2. This is a wonderful story, gritty and gender all at once. And thank you for the “follow” – happy to return the favor!

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