Comments about this story can be sent to: email@example.comGifts of the (L.A.) Magi - Part 2 by
Gretchen M. CuppAn homage to W.S. Porter & an addendum to K. Hanna Korossy's story of the same name available from: Cinda Gillilan, 1705 14th Street, #412, Boulder, CO. 80302-6321.
Hutch fumbled for the key in his pocket, opening the door to his apartment with one hand, groceries balanced in his left arm. To make things worse, the phone was ringing.... It stopped just as he reached it.
"If it's important, they'll call again," he muttered, hurrying to put the bag down. He had picked up the salad supplies and the wine for the dinner that he and Starsky would fix tonight, regretting his offer to go shopping the minute he pulled into the packed parking lot. The store was jammed with other last minute shoppers, all as pressed for time as he was. And he still had to pick up Starsky's present!
He was thirsty, so he poured a glass of orange juice from the fridge and actually sat down to drink it. He glanced across the room to the small, live tree next to the sofa. He and Starsky had strung cranberries and popcorn to decorate it the old fashioned way. After the holiday, the tree would go out in his new greenhouse. This year, he had no qualms about celebrating Christmas and Chanukah with his friend. Since Starsky had been shot in the parking lot, Hutch had known sacrifice, love, and a true miracle, all wrapped up in his partner.
Finishing his juice, Hutch got up, rinsed the glass, and set it in the drain board. He took his watering can and went over to the tree, smelling the fresh pine needles. Just like getting a tree with grandfather. Smiling at the recollection, he gave the tree more water. If you have one person in the world who loves you for what you are, what other gift could you ask for? He remembered the old man's words as he gently touched the wooden star that his grandfather had made long ago for their country house. Since his grandfather's death, Hutch had kept it hidden away in a box of mementos until now. This was the right time for it.
Purposely avoiding looking at a now bare corner of the apartment, Hutch started gathering the things to take to Starsky's: the bag of salad ingredients, the first good bottle of wine he'd bought in a long time, and a box of See's candy that he'd promised his partner he'd pick up to take to the Dobey's house when they had Christmas dinner there tomorrow. It was still tiring for his friend to drive. The commute to and from work was about as much as Starsky could manage.
Fortunately, the train shop was on the way to Starsky's place. Hutch had bought several other cars at Griswold's Train Emporium, so when he'd called and asked them to save the passenger car for him, they'd been happy to oblige. They even kept a record of what cars Starsky already had, sort of like a registry, so that Hutch or anyone else would know what he needed.
This year called for a special present. The only mystery had been how to pay for it. Adding the greenhouse and then their brief retirement from the department had really eaten into his bank account. Then during the months of Starsky's recovery, Hutch had chipped in often to cover things that neither Starsky nor their medical plan could cover. His account was near zero. He had done the only thing he could; he'd pawned his guitar. He'd felt a little regretful at the beginning of the week, slipping out at lunch to exchange the instrument for cash. After all, he'd only had it about a year and a half. This guitar replaced the one that Diana had destroyed. The owner of the pawnshop, knowing he was a cop, had been generous on the deal, so at least he had enough money for the train car. Checking his wallet, he realized that the money for Starsky's gift was all he had left. Good thing we get paid in six days! He knew that Dobey would have loaned him some cash; the Captain had even organized a fundraiser for Starsky, unbeknownst to his partner. Hutch hated to ask his boss for anything more after all the time off the books and moral support Dobey had unstintingly given them both. After Starsky's grousing that a lump of coal was all he could expect from Hutch, the blond had to come through with a gift that would show his partner how glad he was that Gunther's plan had failed. The sound of Starsky's voice was music enough for him.
The Christmas Eve traffic was heavy, but he made it to Griswold's just before they closed.
"I've come for the passenger car...name's Hutchinson." He said to old man Griswold himself.
"Ah...a fine one, indeed. Here you are."
The balding, plump owner could work as a department store Santa himself, Hutch mused. Of course, here, in this store, he was surely doing St. Nicholas' work.
Mr. Griswold set the car down gently on the glass topped counter as if he had all the time in the world.
Hutch held it up to the light, admiring the detail on the car itself and the figures of the passengers inside. It was beautiful...and would make Starsky so happy.
"It is a gift for your friend?" Griswold asked.
"Yes." He beamed.
"I'm sure he'll like it. I'll make a note in our records. Mrs. G," he called to a woman who could have doubled for Santa's wife, "would you be so kind as to wrap this for the gentleman?"
"Certainly." She emerged from the back room and took the car back there with her.
Hutch could see her working diligently through the not quite tightly drawn curtains that screened the back area of the shop. The car was put into a box swathed in tissues, and then the gift was wrapped in bright paper, decorated with a big red bow.
Within a few minutes, she returned with a package that Hutch knew would be ripped to shreds in a matter of seconds--once Starsky got his hands on it. Ah well...that was the point, wasn't it?
"Now...is there anything else I can help you with?" Griswold asked.
"No, that's it, thanks."
"If we could settle accounts...," the owner said, gesturing to the end of the counter where an old cash register stood.
"Boy...how old's that?" Hutch asked, pointing to the machine.
"It's fifty years old...same as my shop." He rang up the bill, which came within $1.50 of what remained in Hutch's wallet.
Glad they don't charge for gift-wrapping, the blond thought wryly. He paid out the bills and received his package. It rested heavy in his arms, a solid symbol of the season.
He headed down to Starsky's place, looking forward to watching his friend...no, joining his friend as they played with trains together.