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Charlotte had his gift all ready when Robert got home from the office party

"The Xmas Present"

by Henry Lewis Nixon



Vol. 1, No. 7,  1956

    Mrs. Davis was one of the more respected persons on North LaSalle Street because she owned property. For seventeen years, ever since her husband had suddenly left Chicago with a fan dancer, she had run a rooming house across the street from the Moody Bible Institute. After her elder son, the one who was taken to drink and late hours, left to join the Navy, she had been even more respectable.
    But all those unpleasant things which come to even the best of wives and mothers, had happened many years before and now she ran a very respectable house. She lived in a comfortable suite on the second floor at the head of the stairs. Across the hall lived her younger son Robert. He was a very reliable young man.
    Mrs. Davis always said her younger son took after her. And this was indeed the case, for he too was very respectable. For seventeen years he had been a book keeper at the State Street Bank and for the last ten years he had taught a Sunday School class at the Lakeview Church.
    Robert was thirty-eight years old and his mother often said that he would live to be eighty because he slept ten hours every night, did not smoke, drank no liquor and took a stroll around the block to fill his lungs with fresh oxygen each night before going to bed.
    One fall day Mrs. Davis received a letter from a friend which read:

Box 56
Route #4
Cherrahoot, Nebraska

Dear Emily:

    I have been meaning to write to you for just ages and see how you are getting along. Nothing much has happened to us. We had a new colt born the other day and the pigs are all doing fine for this time of year. Paul said just the other day that it looked like the Lord was mighty good to us. How are you all?
    My you should see how little Charlotte has growed. My don't they grow just like weeds. She's got it in her head to go to Chicago and study to be a secretary. Paul and I keep telling her she ought to settle down here and get married now that she's going on nineteen, but that one is sort of headstrong and just won't hear to anything but going to Chicago to be a secretary. Paul said if she got to go to that big city the best place for her would be in a fine home like you run.
    I am wondering would you take her in and take real good care of her and see that nothing don't happen to our little angel?
    Do write to me right way.

          Ruby (Gennings)
    The next month Charlotte arrived at the Union Station. When she walked through the vast station, and later when she saw the traffic and skyscrapers, little shivers of excitement ran through her soft body.
    This addition to the Davis household caused only one change in its routine. Robert stopped taking a stroll around the block before going to bed. Instead of walking around the block he chatted with Charlotte the last thing each evening before going upstairs to bed. They discussed current events and cultural affairs and she was always interested in hearing about the funny little things that happened in the Sunday School class which he taught.
    His mother noticed that he had given up the stroll before going to bed. When she asked her son about the change in his habits he told her he had read that deep breathing exercises were better for the lungs than strolls. He said that each night after opening the window he inhaled very deeply a dozen times.
    This seemed to satisfy her, and when ten o'clock came she would walk to the head of the stairs and say, "Robert, it's ten o'clock and time for bed," instead of her former speech which said that it was ten o'clock and time for a stroll.
    He always answered, "Yes, mother dear, I'll be right up," and went upstairs.
    The nightly conversations with Charlotte gave Robert a fuller life, a warmth which was missing before this gentle creature entered the household. It had been his custom at bedtime to smile and think of the pleasant things he had seen during his stroll, but now he smiled and thought about what a fine girl he had conversed with.
    As Mrs. Gennings said in the letter, Charlotte was a headstrong girl, and headstrong girls are usually more normal than younger sons who live at home with their mothers. Charlotte proved to be a reasonably normal girl be cause she fell in love with Robert, the only man the strict Mrs. Davis would allow her to see. As the weeks passed Charlotte's love grew until it reached disturbing proportions. At night she would go to sleep with a pillow hugged close to her full breasts and some times she wanted Robert so badly that her stomach hurt.
    During her conversations with Robert she sometimes walked about the room and stood close to his chair in hopes that the new perfume she wore would cause him to fall madly in love and sweep her into his arms as their eager lips met. The perfume did not change him so she bought a television blouse and leaned far over to look at the names on the phonograph records which they sometimes played.
    Occasionally she leaned far, far over toward him so that the softness of her bosom touched his shoulder, but nothing moved him. When ten o'clock came and his mother called down that it was time for bed, he always said, "Yes, mother dear. I'll he right up." And he went to his room promptly, inhaled twelve times and got into bed.
    Hope held Charlotte to the nightly conversations. With a woman's unfailing faith in the powers she possesses, Charlotte waited each night for Robert in the hope that this man would some day notice her charms but nothing happened until Christmas Eve.

    On the day before Christmas the bookkeepers and the tellers and the secretaries at the bank where Robert worked finished their day's work earlier than usual and the President invited them to the Board Room for an office party.
    It was Robert's custom to avoid the party because he had learned that the President had unwholesome ideas in the field of recreation.
    There was drinking of hard liquor and kissing of the secretaries at these parties, and it made Robert very miserable to stand on the side of the room and observe this unwholesome scene. So Robert put on his hat and coat and started to leave. At that instant the President's secretary took him by the arm and told him to be sure and come to the party. Suddenly she pitied this shy man ''Thank you very much for the invitation, he said. "But I have another appointment."
    "But you gotta come to the party today, Bobby," she said. There's a special surprise just for you.
    He blushed and thanked her, "But I really must be going." When he started to leave, she held him by the coat sleeve and whispered in his ear. She whispered very close to his ear because she had been at the President's party since noon and she felt like whispering close to men's ears. "The boss is going to promote you to a teller today at the party."
    Robert was surprised to hear this and decided to go to the party because he knew mother dear would be pleased with his promotion from bookkeeper to teller.
    The secretary went to the board room with him arm in arm and took him before the President, and then she whispered something in the President's ear and the President laughed and stood up. He spoke in a loud voice, "Your attention ladies and gentlemen. Your attention, please." He stood on top of the mahogany table and pulled the blushing Robert after him.
    "It gives me great pleasure to announce that Mr. Robert Davis is hereby promoted from bookkeeper to teller." There was much clapping of hands and many shouts of hurrah. A chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" broke out, and the President's secretary jumped on the table and planted a big kiss on Robert's lips. The President, the promotion and the kiss excited Robert so that his heart raced and his mouth felt dry and bitter.
    "Louise," the President said to his secretary, "Take Robert to the punch bowl and fill a glass for him."
    The President saw the panic on Robert's face and quickly added that it was only football punch made for those not accustomed to alcoholic beverages. He did not say that the punch was made of equal parts soda, whiskey and port wine.
    Robert tasted the mixture and nodded his head in approval. After he finished the first cup the secretary winked at the President and led Robert to the punch bowl again. Someone brought down a radio and tuned in an all rhumba program, and Robert leaned against the wall, near the punch bowl, and smiled at all the nice people. He wondered why he had thought them so wicked all these years. He watched the interesting movements the secretary made with her hips as she danced.
    As Robert was drinking his fourth cup of football punch Louise took him by the hand. "Come on and dance this one with me, big boy."
    And although Robert had never seen rhumba dancing, except in the movies, he felt that he would be a very good dancer. There was a new freedom in his heart that flowed out to his limbs. It was like being a child again. All children can dance and sing. Robert was certain he could dance and sing.
    He walked to the dance floor and swiveled his hips in cadence with the music. He held Louise close and then masterfully swung her away from him as he sang his own words to the sensuous music.
    "Darling, you are a wonderful dancer," she said when they had finished, and she threw her arms about him and kissed him wetly as her hips moved slightly to the music. He was acutely aware of her hips because she held them very close.
    New sensations tingled in his blood and he felt young and strong. Robert drank more punch and danced with other secretaries. He discovered that women were not unapproachable cold goddesses. He decided women liked the way he danced and kissed. I, Robert Davis, he thought, have something which is utterly irresistible to women.
    In such a mood he was driven home by the President and Louise. His mother had already gone upstairs, but Charlotte was patiently waiting for him in the parlor.
    Gravely and with effort he walked into the room. With his usual propriety he discussed current events, but inwardly he was changed. When Charlotte leaned far over to see the names on the phonograph records, he looked down into the valley of her television blouse and the thought came back to him that there was something about himself that fascinated women and that women were not unapproachable goddesses. These feelings surged through his body like mighty ocean waves upon a beach. He looked at his watch and wondered if he had time to kiss Charlotte.
    From the top of the stairs Mrs. Davis called down in her pleasant voice, "Robert, it's ten o'clock and time for bed."
    "I'm not sleepy, Mother," he called back.
    Feeling confused by the answer Mrs. Davis returned to her room to contemplate the implication of her son's strange answer.
    When Robert heard the door close he turned off the light and took Charlotte by the shoulders.
    "My darling," he said as his arms held her close.
    "Oh, Robert," she said, "I do love you so very much."
    He kissed her as she relaxed against him. His hand sought the television blouse.
    "No, no, Robert," she said weakly as she pressed harder against him.
    "No. Please don't, Robert," she said again as he carried her to the couch...

    On Christmas Day the young couple was surrounded by friends and family so that they were unable to find a minute alone. Charlotte gave him knowing smiles, but he looked serious, obviously because he was wise and did not want anyone to discover their secret.
    On the next day he went to work as usual. When he came home he passed the evening studying the Sunday school lesson for the next week.
    Charlotte dressed in her lowest cut blouse and put a dab of perfume in the valley. During their conversation about the cultural happenings of the day she gave him knowing smiles and wrinkled up her nose at him several times. By ten o'clock she was beside herself with anticipation.
    Promptly at ten the door opened and Mrs. Davis walked to the head of the steps and called down, "Robert, it's ten o'clock."
    "Yes, mother dear, I'll be right up," he said.
    Slowly and with a serious face he walked up the stairs and went to his room where he took two dozen deep breaths before going to bed.

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